Let’s Get Personal – How to Choose a Personal Trainer
I was a personal trainer for more than 20 years. I witnessed the personal training industry shift from no education or certifications, to a dizzying amount of both. For the consumer, it can be confusing when hiring a qualified trainer. As in any industry, there are great trainers and there are bad trainers. You can avoid the pitfalls by understanding what makes a personal trainer a true and trusted professional.
Rodney Corn, COO and co-founder of PTA Global, and a leader in professional fitness development, believes a quality certification is a must. “Many major clubs have up to 60 percent of their training staff with expired certifications. From a credential standpoint, if someone is interested in finding out if a personal trainer is currently certified, they should contact the certification organization and inquire,” said Corn. “Ultimately, the proof is in the trainers’ delivery—how they treat, what they do with, and what results they achieve with their clients,” added Corn.
Unlike the United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia, there are no certification standards in the United States. Trainers can get a certification simply by completing an exam successfully. Prior education is not necessary and many trainers get into training because they like to exercise. Lack of formal knowledge can potentially put clients at risk. So it’s imperative that your trainer have a clear understanding of the human body. Additionally, the ability to communicate and set reasonable goals with each client is also important.
Alexandra Williams, co-owner of FunAndFit.org, says consumers need to ask questions. “Besides knowing about their certification or education, a consumer should ask about recent experience or training (i.e., workshops),” said Williams.
Corn believes a legitimate certification should be one that is accepted and recommended worldwide. “Australia and the UK have the two highest standards of personal training educational curriculum, respectively. If a certification is approved, and meets the standards of these educational processes, than there is a high probability that they have a very sound educational legitimacy,” said Corn.
Choosing a qualified trainer:
- Talking vs. listening. When I used to present lectures to other trainers I would tell them that God gave us two ears for listening and one mouth for talking which means we should do twice as much listening as talking. Trainers should be good listeners. If they are always monopolizing the conversation, move on.
- What do you want? “A trainer should ask up front what your expectations are, what your prior experience has been, and what you’d like to accomplish,” said Corn.
- A personal connection. Besides a solid background, there has to be a solid connection between a trainer and client. “There are advantages to all levels of experience, so a few minutes’ chat will reveal if the trainer and consumer are a good match,” said Williams.
- Solid evaluation. Trainers need to be able to see and understand the musculoskeletal imbalances a potential client has in order to train them properly. If you’re not properly assessed, you won’t be properly trained.
- Taking notes. Every client should have their workouts logged and the experience following each session. It’s responsible training to take copious notes and track training sessions regularly.
- Feedback. Trainers should ask to be graded. Every six months trainers should ask clients how they’ve been performing. If trainers are confident in their ability to help clients succeed, they’ll be interested in honest feedback from their clients.
- Distracted trainers. Over the years I have witnessed trainers checking their cell phones during a session. When I trained, my cell phone was in my purse far away from my session. The client should be the sole focus of any personal training session.
When it comes to your body, be discerning. Get a referral, ask around and then do your homework. Finding the right personal trainer can be a rewarding experience, and ultimately help you reach your fitness goals safely and efficiently.