January 2012

How to Choose the Right Personal Trainer - with Information from The American Council on Excercise (ACE)

Author: Don Foxe, M.Ed., ACSM Professional Member

As an owner of a health club that provides personal training as a service, I have to be even more selective about hiring personal trainers as employees than the average person seeking a trainer for personal fitness. So here are some of the criteria I look for in a professional trainer. You should consider many of the same points when you decide to hire a personal trainer:

A college education with emphasis in physical sciences. You can certainly find trainers who are not college degreed, but I need to know my trainers have more education than a simple certification. In fact, I will and have hired non-college degreed trainers, but rarely. They really have to impress me with their knowledge of fitness concepts and practical application. An NCCA-accredited certification is the first thing to look for. A personal trainer should hold a current NCCA-accredited certification.

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) has 26-years of experience accrediting allied health professions such as registered dietitians, nurses, athletic trainers, and occupational therapists. Currently, only 10 of nearly 70 certification agencies have achieved this recognition. For a complete list of the NCCA-accredited certification agencies, visit www.noca.org and click on the NCCA link. Never be afraid to ask to see a copy of a personal trainer’s certification to ensure that it is current.

Work experience and area of specialization. How many years of experience does the personal trainer have working with clients, particularly those with special needs or limitations? Does he/ she have expertise in a certain area of fitness or prefer to work with certain types of clients, e.g. sports conditioning, pre-natal fitness or post-rehabilitation?

If you have a medical condition or a past injury, a personal trainer should design a session that accounts for this. If you are receiving care for a medical or orthopedic condition, a personal trainer should obtain your consent to discuss exercise guidelines and contraindications with your healthcare provider. Your personal trainer should also ask the doctor for medical clearance.

References. Ask the personal trainer for names, phone numbers and even testimonials of other clients he/she has trained. Trainers may be more likely to empathize and understand your unique challenges and needs if they’ve worked with similar clients. Talk to fellow members of your health club or friends who are currently working with trainers for their recommendations.

Communication. A good trainer must also be an excellent communicator. Trust your instincts. Ask yourself if you think you could get along well with the trainer and whether you think the trainer is genuinely interested in helping you. Will this person motivate you?

Professional liability insurance. Many personal trainers operate as independent contractors and are not employees of a fitness facility. Find out if the trainer you want to hire carries professional liability insurance.

Schedule, gender and style. Some people like to exercise in the morning, some in the evening. Can a personal trainer accommodate your schedule? What about the trainer’s gender? Some people do better working with a trainer of the same sex; others prefer the opposite sex. The knowledgeable and experienced personal trainer who fits your style is the one to hire, because that is the professional who will help you achieve the best results.

Rates. Personal training fees vary based on a trainer’s experience and reputation, facility prices and geographic area, but they are well worth the investment. Although you may meet with your trainer more frequently at first, your financial investment should decrease as you become more independent, knowledgeable and fit.

Don Foxe and his wife Sarah currently own Beach City Health & Fitness on Hilton Head Island. Don has a B.Sc. degree in Exercise Science and an M.Ed. degree, both from the University of South Carolina. He has been a Professional Member of the American College of Sports Medicine since 1986, and has been certified as a personal trainer by ACSM, ACE, and NASM over the past 25 years. For more information, call (843) 681-6161 or visit info@beachcityfitness.com.

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