Walking into an unfamiliar gym can often be as uncomfortable as your first day of school. Everything is foreign. You recognize no one. Desperately you hope to see a familiar face or some sign of hope. If you fall into this group, a personal trainer can be your best friend. They can help you familiarize yourself with the gym, teach you how to properly use the equipment, and help you develop achievable goals. You probably won't need to look to far to find a personal trainer who can do the job. Almost any certified trainer at a reputable gym (24 hour fitness, L.A. Fitness, etc.) will be able to help you. Make sure to have at least a few conversations with them before you decide to hire to make sure your personalities mesh.
Almost any certified trainer at a reputable gym will be able to help you. Make sure to have at least a few conversations with them before you decide to hire to make sure your personalities mesh.
Personal trainers are not only for gym novices though. Trainers can also help professional and amateur athletes prepare for their next competition. Many trainers specialize in individual sports and help fine tune their athletes with highly specialized workout programs. This has become an ever-growing trend in the past decade.
If you're looking for a home workout program, private personal trainers are also an option. To be sure, private trainers are a more expensive route, but they are much more convenient. Remember, though, your home will need to be equipped with the proper exercise equipment in order to get the most out of your trainer. Some private trainers will supply equipment but it is not guaranteed. Inquire about the details when you speak to a private trainer so you know exactly what to expect.
Whether you fall into the group of beginners or athletes or somewhere in between, keep these things in mind before you dive into a commitment with a trainer.
It is truly amazing how few questions most people ask about their personal trainer. Most people see someone with a clipboard and think "they must know what they're talking about". With personal trainers, you must be on the lookout for people who claim to be professionals and look the part but have no certifications whatsoever. They are hobbyists, not trained professionals. They may be in tremendous shape and look like they do all the things required to achieve a great body, but that doesn't mean they know how to teach someone else to do it. Teaching and doing are two very different things. Don't feel bad about asking for your trainer's certifications. They worked hard for them and a good trainer will be happy to show off their certifications. They may make you do a few extra sets to show you who is boss but it'll be worth it.
It is truly amazing how few questions most people ask about their personal trainer. Most people see someone with a clipboard and think "they must know what they're talking about".
Personal trainer certification level
Trainers should show you some certification that clearly states their specialties. Two of the most common accredidations are:
- Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)
- Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
Some other certifications may be appropriate if you're targeting a highly specific area (such as nutrition).
In addition to what they're certified to teach, it is also very important who issued the certification. Make sure your trainer is accredited by a reputable association. There are literally hundreds of accrediting bodies with varying degrees of reliability. Research the accrediting body to see what was required of your trainer to earn their stripes. Some of the most reputable accrediting bodies are listed below.
- National Strength and Conditioning Center (NSCA)
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- American Council on Exercise (ACE)
This list is by no means all inclusive, but these are the heavy hitters. You can bet your trainer is worth the money if they have a certification from one of the above associations. For costs associated with each level of certification, visit our article detailing personal training costs.
Motivation can be hard to maintain. Often the first time you decide to get off the couch and start working out you have all the motivation in the world. Then, about halfway through the second workout, that motivation begins to wane. Be sure to choose a trainer that will blend well with your personality and continually motivate you. Positive reinforcement works for some. Negative reinforcement works for others. The key is knowing yourself and knowing what it takes to get you off the couch and into the gym.
Remember, you're going to be spending a lot of time with your trainer. Make sure you know all you need to know about their coaching style and reinforcement techniques. If they have a very passive motivation style and you need somebody to whip you into shape, the relationship probably isn't going to work. Do your best to figure these things out in advance. Ending up with a trainer you don't like can be as bad as a failing relationship.
If you're not just a beginner looking for a tour of the gym equipment, you want to take your time and shop around a good bit before choosing a trainer. Certification levels are only part of the battle. You've got to like this person. Or, at the very least, you've got to be able to tolerate their presence a few hours a week and want to do it again the next time.
You've got to like this person. Or, at the very least, you've got to be able to tolerate their presence a few hours a week and want to do it again the next time.
Voice your goals
Goals help create a roadmap. If your trainer is on the same page with regard to your goals it will be far easier to achieve them. If you have any limitations or special special needs, be sure to let your trainer know about those as well. Your relationship with your personal trainer will work best when you were upfront and honest with them.
The Bottom Line
Personal trainers can be a fantastic asset or a terrible liability. A good personal trainer can motivate, instruct, and help ensure you get the most out of your workouts. A bad personal trainer can not only in drive you insane but also cost you precious time and potentially cause you to injure yourself. Don't make the mistake of relying on well-intentioned friends who think they can teach you a workout program. Friends are great for motivation to help you show up to the gym. They are great for keeping you company and taking some of the boredom out of your workouts. But they seldom have the expertise required to make sure you are performing exercises correctly to prevent injury. Unless your friends are certified in personal training they are not the people to listen to about how to perform your exercises properly.
Personal trainers can be a fantastic asset or a terrible liability. A good personal trainer can motivate, instruct, and help ensure you get the most out of your workouts.
Selecting a certified personal trainer with a proven record of results can be a somewhat tedious process but one you'll be glad you took the time to pursue. If you're going to invest your money in a personal trainer it is important to make sure you're getting good value for that money. Simply hiring the best looking trainer at the gym is not the best strategy. Find a trainer who is certified in the areas you wish to improve and make sure your personalities are compatible.