When choosing a personal trainer, the ultimate question is: Does the trainer work for you? Are you making progress toward your goals? Are you motivated? Are you looking and feeling better? Do you look forward to your sessions or are they yet another chore?
Well, it may take a while for you to figure out if all this is working.
While it’s difficult for a non-medical person to determine whether a personal trainer is qualified, there is one thing you can check out: professional certifications.
The field of fitness has a surprising number of letters in its alphabet soup. Trainers can be certified by dozens of organizations. However, all certifications are not created equal. Some require nothing more than a high school diploma and CPR certification, while others demand science degrees and stringent exams and annual re-certification exams. Some forms of exercise offer a weekend of training for which participants earn a certificate; others require years of training and hours of interning before those letters can come after their names.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) generally is accepted as the gold standard for fitness certifications. ACSM exams require formal training in exercise science, physiology, kinesiology or physical education.
Other respected credentials are issued by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) American Council on Exercise (ACE) and Aerobics & Fitness Association of America(AFAA).
Regardless of your age or health history, it’s important to ask a trainer if he or she has current CPR certification.
Insurance is another issue. A health club generally carries insurance for any training done on site. An independent trainer must self-insure. In either case, ask before you sign on.
If the trainer seems to offer the same advice and workout plan to several people, beware. A trainer should never offer cookie-cutter recommendations.
Also watch out for trainers who push nutritional supplements. Many of these are pyramid schemes or money-makers for the club or trainer and they may actually be detrimental to your personal health.
Bottom line: Do your homework before trusting someone else to help you take care of your body. And remember, you are paying for the trainer’s time, so make it all about you. This is not a narcissistic attitude, it’s just a practical and fair approach.
- Paula Rath