So you started the year with lots of resolve to get your fitness program back on track, but spring has sprung, and you're no closer to achieving your fitness goals than you were three months ago. You're thinking about hiring a personal trainer to help you meet your goals, but how do you choose from the hundreds of personal trainers in your area? (A search of the American Council on Exercise directory found 840 ACE-certified personal trainers within 25 miles of downtown Denver--yikes!)
Know What You Need
Before you can make a good decision about which personal trainer to hire, you need to have a good idea of why you think you need a trainer and what you expect a trainer to do for you.
- Motivation: Many people seek out a personal trainer when their own motivation to exercise is flagging. It's not unusual to find that your daily obligations and other priorities routinely encroach on your good intentions to exercise. Especially if you feel you are working hard but making progress too slowly, a good personal trainer can help keep you inspired, interested and motivated to keep going. Look for a trainer whose values align well with yours, so that he or she can help you develop the ability to motivate yourself.
- Accountability: Probably the first thought that comes to mind when you consider hiring a personal trainer is that having a trainer means no more excuses. If you're the kind of person who is too busy or too easily distracted from exercising regularly, having a personal trainer on your side may be just the ticket to keep you accountable. It's easy to tell yourself "oh, I'll make it up tomorrow." It's a lot harder to explain to your personal trainer why you haven't been keeping up with the workouts you agreed to.
- Instruction: One of the best reasons to hire a personal trainer is to get good, clear instruction on proper exercise technique. A good trainer will help design a program that gets you the results you want, but will also teach you the correct form to acheive your goals efficiently and safely. Before you choose a personal trainer, think about how you learn best. Do you need to hear a description, see a demonstration, and then perform the task with feedback from your trainer? Discussing your learning style up front with your trainer can ensure that you get a better learning experience.
Location, Location, Location
No matter how experienced and wonderful your trainer is, if the training location is inconvenient or uncomfortable, you won't continue with your program. Look for a trainer that has a convenient, clean and comfortable studio or gym. Or, if it suits you better, look for a trainer that will bring the workout to your home or office. In-home personal training can be a great option for someone who is crazy busy or someone who is just uncomfortable working out in a public facility.
Your relationship with your personal trainer really is personal. Because much of your fitness success has roots in your emotional and psychological responses, finding a trainer you can relate to is essential. You may be looking for someone who will push you beyond your boundaries with a drill-seargent style. Or perhaps you'd prefer someone with a warm, supportive, encouraging style. Do you expect a trainer who is entertaining, or do you want someone with a clinical, technical approach to training? Give some thought to the style of interaction you hope to have with your trainer, and pay attention to personality in your interviews.
Check Credentials and References
Unlike many other allied health professions, personal trainers are not required to meet a state or national credentialing standard. Anyone can call himself or herself a personal trainer with no training or experience whatsoever. However, a "certified" personal trainer will hold current certification from one of a dozen or so reputable certifying agencies. The certification ensures that your trainer has demonstrated a basic level of knowledge by passing an exam. Most certifications require ongoing continuing education and periodic recertification. While many agencies offer personal trainer certifications, some of the most respected certifications come from American College of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise or the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
In addition to checking professional credentials, be sure to ask your personal trainer for references from current and former clients. Your trainer should be able to connect you with clients who will answer your questions about the trainer and give you their honest feedback.
You may need to interview or even try out several personal trainers before you find the one that works for you. Most trainers offer a free initial consultation to answer your questions and give you an opportunity to get to know their personality and training abilities. Take your time, do your homework, and be clear about what you need from a personal trainer so you can be sure to get the right fit.
(photo credit: istolethetv)