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    What to Look For in a Personal Trainer

    Many, many people are always asking me about how do you tell a good Personal Trainer. I have no idea what they are talking about, every single one of us are over the top fantastic. Right?  Wrong!!!!

    I have been training for over 20 years, yep, that is correct over 20 years. And I can tell you there are good trainers and ones that make me puzzled beyond belief. So I have started to compile traits of a good Trainer.

    They Are Professional – Well what does professional mean? See below.

    Appearance – they dress professionally, they are not looking in the mirror at themselves all the time, or wear clothes that are so tight, they look painted on. Mesh shirts are definitely out, or thongs (for those of you who remember them, and I hate to say it, when I taught aerobics classes, I wore one). Flashing the six pack abs is another sign, they are more into themselves than you. There is a big reason uniforms are required in health clubs.

    Responsiveness – I have an 8 hour rule or if I get the e-mail late at night 14 hours, it should never be more than 24 hours. If they can’t get back in a decent amount of time, it indicates one of three things. 1. they are too busy with clients  2. they are unorganized,  3. or their life is more important than their clients. All of which adds up to, they are not going to spend the time on you.

    Follow Up – Good trainers follow up with their clients, they give them homework or see how they are doing depending on the goal. If there are specific conditions, it could entail follow up with Doctors or Therapists. Checking in periodically to see how things are going, is important.

    Has a Nationally Recognized Certification – Certifications have become a dime a dozen in our industry, it used to be there was about 4-5, now there are over 30. I have see some ads on Craigslist for Trainers charging$ 35 an hour, and their tag line “I love to work out, and can work you out hard too” or “I have been working out for over 15 years, it is a passion of mine” Yep, I want to sign up right now, with my newly rehabbed broken ankle, that is just the guy I want to train with. At least a certification means this person has studied,  sat down and taken a test. They have some reasonable amount of knowledge.

    Listens and Pays Attention – Any one who has been in a gym has see the Trainer with their client constantly checking their phone. I always want to ask for what? What is so important that you can’t put that phone down, not even when someone is paying for exactly that….your attention. Or the Trainer who when you first approach, immediately tells you what you need to do, and all you have done is say hi. A Trainer cannot plan an appropriate program if they don’t know your goal. Hence the title PERSONAL Trainer.

    Perform an Assessment & Reassessment – This can be a variety of things, a movement screen, a goal , pure strength and flexibility, it will depend on who the client is. It is an important step, how do I know the program I designed based on goals, and assessment is working unless I test and then retest. Again, it could be as simple as decrease in pain, but unless I follow up (there is that word again) I will never know.

    Keeps the Client Focused – Now there are times a session can be used as what I call a therapuke session. I am paid to keep my client focused on their goal, that is part of my job. My job is not to be a gossip, not that there will not be times we can’t joke around or share, it just needs to not take over the session. (I definitely need to work on this one)

    Give the Client Nutrition Specifics – I am not a nutritionist, I give general no-brainer information. I constantly hear Trainers telling people exactly how much protein they should be eating or the specific time of day they should be eating, the specific protein powder, etc. etc. I know for a fact (my daughter excelled in Organic Chemistry) that our bodies are more complicated than to give  this type of advice. I do know how to spot red flags in diets and appropriately refer to a Nutritionist. Not to say if someone is eating Smackdonalds (McDonalds) every day I wouldn’t step in and suggest they might consider taking it out of their diet.  I give general information on skipping meals or eating a lot one day and nothing the next (as I stated earlier no-brainer guidance).

    Diagnose Conditions – How many times have you heard this? “If you can’t reach your arm overhead, you have impingement syndrome” “if you get sciatica, you have piriformis syndrome” I actually used to be one of these, but then I took a Medical Exercise Course and it opened my eyes to how many different conditions can smell like, look like but isn’t, this is why Doctors and Physical Therapist go to school a lot longer than we do and get paid more. This is why I refer out, if I get a proper diagnosis from a professional,I am more effective.

    Eats During Session – This is one of my biggest pet peeves, I have been guilty of it from time to time due to tight scheduling. Under normal circumstances Trainers should not be chowing down in a session.

    Now you have looked up on the internet, asked around the gym, and found a Trainer you are interested in.  I believe Trainers should give a half hour free consultation (I do not believe in free sessions), this gives you the opportunity to get a feel for personality, training style. Let’s face it, most of what keeps clients coming back is trust and a comfort level with us. Here are some questions to help get the ball rolling.

    • How long have you been in the industry?
    • Tell me a bit about your experience.
    • How long are your sessions, what is included in them? Warm up and cool downs can be included or does the Trainer expect you to do them on your own. I have a hard time paying $100.00+ for them to warm me up on a treadmill and chit chat, unless of course, I can’t get this done on my own.
    • What is your certification (look it up at IDEA Fit, they have them listed with information)
    • What is your approach or philosophy to training?  If you want slow and steady, someone who is into Boot Camp, Insanity, or Crossfit might not be the one for you, on the other hand if you are into hard core training, they would work great.
    • What is your cancellation policy, weather policy, holiday availability? There should be clear concise answers to all these questions, if there is a lot of hmmm, uhh, they have not thought these things through and you might end up either with a charge you were not expecting or a no show trainer.
    • Why am I doing this? (this is more during a session).
    • What would be red flags I should watch for during the training? Heart palpitations would be a correct answer, or sudden joint pain, it will greatly depend on your assessment. They should be able to give you at least a couple of examples, if they can’t, be afraid, very afraid.

    Now to muddy the waters just a bit, there are always exceptions to the rules.  I have been know from time to time to break some of the guidelines above. It goes back to trust, which has to be earned. I strive to keep all my clients injury free, I don’t ask them to perform exercises that are above their level, success is key not pain.



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