|Associate Director, Amy Rauworth|
Education and Experience
All trainers are not created equal. Don't hire based on appearance: education and experience are the two key factors which should guide your decision. Currently, there are no national standards or educational requirements necessary to utilize the title of personal trainer. While some individuals have only attended an online course or a weekend seminar, for example, others have earned a four-year degree.
If you have specific health considerations, need disability-specific exercise information, and/or would like to locate a trainer with experience in training individuals with a specific disability, investigate the following sources: a) Begin by asking your doctor or other health care professionals for a referral. Many qualified personal trainers have a resource network of doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurses, and registered dieticians whom they refer to for questions outside of their area of expertise. b) Local support groups or chapters of national health and disability-related organizations such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society, may be able to provide referrals. c) Log onto NCPAD's new personal trainer database, or contact NCHPAD directly if you do not find a trainer in your area. Check back with us often, as this is a new service, and we will be adding new personal trainers daily.
Be sure to ask potential trainers for their resumes, which should list their educational background, experience, current certifications, and provide client, employer, or other professional references for you to contact. Particularly if you have any specific health considerations which need to be addressed in your exercise program, I would strongly encourage you to choose an individual with at least a four year degree in Exercise Science, Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology, or Physical Education. In addition, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) issue certifications recognized nationally by exercise professionals. Some of these organizations even provide a service that allows you to find a certified professional in your area, such as the ACSM ProFinder. When verifying your trainer's certifications, ensure that they are current. Most certifying entities require their professionals to obtain continuing educational credits to maintain current certification status.
It is important to consider your personal preferences when choosing a personal trainer. Do you prefer a male or a female? What type of personality will work best with your own? The quality of the relationship established with your trainer can directly correlate with the success of your program.
Do you need to meet with a personal trainer regularly or simply use the trainer's skills to establish an effective program for independent practice? If you are highly motivated, you may only need to meet with a trainer for a few sessions in order to learn the program, followed by check-up sessions every 8 to 12 weeks to adapt the program as needed.
Would you prefer training in a gym or at home? Personal trainers can often provide high-quality workouts in your home with only a few portable exercise modalities or everyday items. However, before admitting a trainer into your home, check all references, and if possible, ask a friend to accompany you during your first few sessions. Also note that in-home training sessions are often more costly than those offered at a gym.
Though cost can be an issue, it should not become a barrier to receiving services. Average prices for personal training sessions can vary from $35 to $125 per hour. More qualified trainers often charge more for their services. If cost is a barrier for you, ask for package deals or group discounts where you can train with other individuals at the same time. If your doctor provides a medical prescription for exercise, such as weight training for osteoporosis, it may be possible to deduct the personal training fees on your itemized taxes or use funds from a flexible spending account to pay for these services. Some insurance companies even offer a discount on your premiums if you engage in health promotion activities.
Key Items a Good Personal Trainer Should Review in Developing a Comprehensive Exercise Program
In order to establish a comprehensive program for you, a good trainer should obtain the following information, at a minimum. a) Your complete health history should be detailed, which includes questions regarding current medications, past surgeries or injuries, and overall health status. Personal exercise history should also be discussed in order to develop a tailored program. b) The following fitness measurements should be recorded at baseline and over the course of your program to help assess your progress over time: body fat and body circumference measures; flexibility testing, such as hamstring flexibility or the Apley's Scratch Test for shoulder range of motion; and basic strength measures, such as grip strength or chest press. c) Moreover, to tailor the program more uniquely to you, your personal trainer should dedicate one interactive session to determining your goals and objectives.
Finally, remember that while a personal trainer can provide external motivation, you are the only person who can develop the internal motivation to successfully incorporate your New Year's resolutions into your life!