Finding a Personal Trainer

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Sometimes going to the gym just isn’t enough. You may need to find a personal certified by at least one of the major national organizations, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, or the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

But remember, a list of accreditations doesn’t automatically translate into superior training skills. “Too often people focus on education. But if you have a trainer with average knowledge but excellent people skills, you’ll get better results,” Ross says. ”The best trainer in the world can’t help someone unless they can effectively communicate their knowledge.”

And don’t neglect client recommendations. They’re often the best, most accurate way of determining whether the trainer will be the right fit for you. Potential personal trainers should be ready and able to provide a list of sources. “Any trainer doing a good job should have a long list of satisfied customers,” Ross says. “I periodically ask clients who’ve had good results if it’s okay if people contact them. If a trainer is iffy about doing that, that’s a big red flag.” It either means the trainer doesn’t have much experience or, worse, doesn’t have a good track record.

Last and not least, make sure your personalities click. Nothing will kill a trainer/client relationship faster than dislike or discomfort between you. “Make sure you hit it off,” Florez says. “Do they listen to you, or do they seem like robots who are going to program you?”

Personal fitness training: It’s business, not personal

Having a personal fitness trainer can be a bit costly, especially if you want to use their services more than once a week. The National Strength and Conditioning Association’s survey of trainer prices found an average of $50 per hour, with a range of $15 to $100 per hour. Prices depend on region (urban areas are more expensive than rural areas), experience, and demand.

Even if you have a friendly relationship with your trainer, don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re paying for a service. If a trainer is flaky about scheduling, cuts sessions short, or seems indifferent to your needs, it’s simply not acceptable, trainers say. Would you put up with shoddy workmanship from a plumber or mechanic? You shouldn’t put up with anything less than professional quality work from your trainer either.

“I think it’s critical to have a set policy — both trainer and client should treat this as a business relationship,” Ross says. “If the trainer has a lax attitude about scheduling, that should be indicative that they’ll have a lax attitude about other things.” Make sure your prospective trainer has a clear-cut cancellation policy and has liability insurance, trainers say.

Ross says having set-in-stone policies helped improve his relationships with clients. “It makes people more serious about working with you, and it makes people follow through on your exercise program more because they recognize you’re a professional and they will want to get the most out of the money they’re spending,” he says.

It’s not forever

One thing many successful personal fitness trainers say is that they don’t consider their role to be to remain by your side always. Rather, they see themselves as a temporary means for you to learn how to exercise well.

“My philosophy of training is to educate my clients so they can work out on their own,” Ross says. “Most people don’t hire a trainer with the belief it’s going to be three times a week for the rest of their life. Many of Ross’s longtime clients meet with him only occasionally, perhaps once a month or so, just to fine-tune their own exercise programs.

It’s all about the journey

Your trainer should have a week-by-week progression mapped out, which includes types of exercises to be attempted and the goals you should attain. “If I’m going to show up and just get a hard workout every single time, I’m not going to learn anything,” Ross says. “I’m just getting a workout partner, and that shouldn’t cost anything.”