It's really important to find the right personal trainer for you because personal trainers are not created equal nor is ever trainer right for every person. Just like any other profession personal trainers specialize in working with different groups of people. Some love working with seniors, some with pregnant women and new moms, some with taking athletes to the next level, some with kids and others specialize in helping beginners start exercising so it's important to know what you need and want from your personal trainer.
Here is a list of the most important things to look for when choosing a trainer.
1) Education and Credentials - This is the most important by far because there are no state or national requirements for certification. Anyone at any time can call themselves a personal trainer whether or not they have any education in the field of fitness. The number one thing that all top fitness professionals have in common is a degree in fitness. After the degree come the certifications - the top personal trainer certifications ranked in order are: American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) trainers need to have a degree in fitness to even take the exam, ACSM is considered the 'Gold Standard' in the industry. Next is National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) followed closely by National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) which is affiliated with ACSM. For Group Exercise the best certifications are Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA), Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), then American Counsel on Exercise (ACE). Note: I did not include ACE in the personal trainer certifications because it does not measure the breadth and depth of a trainers knowledge as the other certifications do and does not include a practical aspect to the exam. The requirements to pass the ACE personal trainer exam are minimal compared to the ACSM, NSCA and NASM exams.
2) The Trainers Speciality - As I mentioned at the beginning of this post different trainers specialize in working with different types of people. Professional trainers are qualified to train any type of client but we all have our favorites to work with. Mine happens to be inactive overweight people, my friend Annelise Digiacomo loves taking beginners to the next level of fitness. Other trainers specialize in working with women who are pregnant or new moms, with seniors, with kids, with brides or with athletes. The trainer that you're talking to may be a fantastic trainer for athletes but if you're new to exercise they may not be the best fit you you now, they might be later however. It's important to know what you need and want and what your trainer specializes in.
3) The Who, Where, What - Can you meet them (who), see their training facility (where) and try them out (what) before making a committment? It's important to me to talk with a potential client on the phone to determine if we will be a good fit for each other or if I may need to refer them to another trainer who specializes in what they need. If it seems like it's may be a good fit then I invite them to come and meet me and see my studio. I do offer different opportunities for clients to see how I work so that they can make an informed decision if we will be a good team. It's extremely important that a level of trust is established at the very beginning of the relationship. Your potential trainer should welcome your questions, address your concerns and make you feel as if they hear and understand your concerns and is qualified to help you reach your goals.
4) What do they offer - It's okay to ask what different types of training they offer. I offer a variety of training options to my clients whether they want to work with me one on one or with a friend, in a Small Personal Training Group of 4, virtual personal training (eTraining), be a member of Club Wuhoo or choose one of my specialty programs they have options to work with me at different levels that offer different price points. If all they offer is a one size fits most I would ask if they would be willing or open to offering a new training option that might work better for you but only if it's a trainer that you really want to work with.
5) Testimonials and references - Your trainer gladly provide you with both numerous testimonials of current and past clients as well as referencesof present and past clients that they have worked with. I strongly recommend reading through the testimonials and talking with the references to make sure that those people have had the same or similar needs and that their needs have been met by the trainer.
As with hiring any professional do your homework to make sure that they are the best fit for you. Working with a personal trainer is major decision as well it should be. Working with an unqualified trainer can lead to injury end even death so it is extremely important to know the level of education and training your personal trainer has had as wll as who they specialize in working with. Working with a personal trainer can and should be the most positive experience you have ever had and hopefully this information will help you find the trainer that is just right for you.