Personal Trainers: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

bad personal trainerThere are a LOT of personal trainers out there.  And the one-on-one attention you get by hiring one can be just what you need to reach your fitness goals.  But how do you tell apart the ones that are effective and qualified from the ones that aren’t?  If you’re looking to hire a personal trainer, or are wondering about your current one, here are a few things to look for, and a few warning signs:

1.  Does he/she have a  reputable certification?  Is it well-known and accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies?  Ask the individual who he/she is certified through, and when the certification was received.  He/she should have a card or other proof of this certification.  It’s also important that trainers do not let their certification expire, and that they stay up-to-date on new health and fitness research.

2.  Did he/she ask about your health history before designing your workouts?  Does he/she ask you about your fitness goals and fitness history?

3.  Is the trainer completely engaged when with you, or seemingly bored, dismissive, or constantly interrupting your session with phone calls and other distractions?  Does he/she keep your appointments and is he/she on time?  Is the trainer talking to you at length about his/her personal life?  Hopefully the answer is no.  If you have a question, does the trainer make sure it gets answered, even if the answer can’t be given right away?  Does he/she return your phone calls?

4.  Is the trainer giving you explanations of why you’re doing certain exercises?  Explaining the mechanics of the moves?  Demonstrating proper form?

5.  Is the trainer trying to sell you nutrition/fitness supplements?  I can tell you, he/she is doing this to earn extra money from you, and you may want to ask yourself what this person’s biggest motivation is.  A trainer shouldn’t make you uncomfortable when it comes to your wallet.  Also, if this person doesn’t know your health history, he/she could be putting you at a health risk by trying to sell you supplements.  Trainers usually are not registered dieticians.  If the trainer calls herself a “nutrition specialist,” what exactly is that?  Find out.  Resumes are falsely enhanced all the time.  In many states, it is not illegal for a person with little or no training and education to use this title.   Check with the  American Dietetic Association for more information about a person’s credentials  and training.

6.  Is the trainer sensitive to your feedback?  Or is the trainer more like a military drill Sergeant, running you into the ground every session without regard for how you’re doing?  A good trainer knows that there are other, more effective ways of challenging clients.  A good trainer should not apply a “one-size-fits-all” workout to you.  He/she will challenge you within your fitness level.  He/she will ask for your feedback.  There’s a difference between being sore and feeling actual pain afterwards.  Sore is normal.  Pain is not.

7.  Does the trainer refer you to the appropriate health professional(s) when you have an issue that is out of a trainer’s realm of expertise?  A trainer should not be in the business of diagnosing people’s injuries or illnesses.

8.  Do you feel comfortable with this person?  Is there a relationship of respect and trust with your trainer?  There most definitely should be.  If not, look for another.  Like I said, there are a LOT of trainers out there.  Finding a good trainer is kind of like finding a good hair stylist.   Once you do, you’ll be so glad you didn’t settle.

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