by Charlene Hutsebaut
You have the gym membership or you finally have the motivation to workout somewhere, home or otherwise and you would like a personal trainer. Choosing one can be very confusing. There are key areas to look at when selecting a fitness professional; secondary education, professional qualifications, programming, personality, location and cost. Many different personal trainers with different backgrounds exist. Here is an analysis of all the listed areas to help you make an informed decision.
Secondary education is probably the most important box to tick on your list of criteria when choosing a PT. A minimum of a Sports Science or Physical Education degree will ensure you have chosen an individual bringing an extremely strong background knowledge to your service. A person who has a degree will have more hours of anatomy, physiology and other human studies that are essential to creating a safe and effective programme. Having said this there are many great trainers who have taken other forms of professional qualifications.
Professional qualifications are usually shorter term courses than secondary education degrees. If you choose a trainer who has this type of background ensure the qualifications are certified through CYQ, Premier, Fit Pro or The Register of Exercise Professionals. There are many companies in the UK who offer Personal Training Diplomas, always check who these courses are certified through. Professional qualifications can also be from around the world. Some of the best are from North America. The NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) offers a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist diploma as well as other levels of certification. To take this course a trainer must already possess a degree. The ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) is another strong certification to possess as is ACE (American Council on Exercise). So a trainer with any of the above they will be a good choice.
If a PT has excellent education and qualification courses they should then be able to offer strong, safe and effective programming for you as a client. A “client-centred” programme is one of the most important features you can look for when shopping around.
Questions to ask would be the following:
- Does the trainer offer a lifestyle assessment all about you?
- Does the trainer have you fill out a PAR-Q form (Pre-participation questionnaire)?
- Does the trainer ask you about specific goals and discuss with you how best to attain these?
- Does the trainer doing fitness and lifestyle tests with you? Ie. Blood pressure reading, strength and/or cardiovascular testing, measurements?
(all of these can help to motivate you to see results and reach your goals)
- Does the trainer ask you what activities you like or dislike? Are they then making you do activities you dislike? This will not help you to adhere to a programme.
- Does the trainer offer to set up programmes for you when you are away from the gym or on holiday/business trips?
- Does the trainer look at you as a whole person? Ie. Lifestyle, foods and exercise? (Health and fitness are about everything, not just the exercise) Or if they are not qualified to deal with nutrition are they referring you on.
- Does the trainer offer to speak with other practitioners in your life such as your physiotherapist, GP, osteopath, massage therapist etc?
- Does the trainer communicate well with you, show up on time etc?
- Does the trainer talk about you during the sessions or about themself?
All of the above can add to a client-centred approach to your health. You can decide how client-centred you want the approach to be. Remember you are paying for a service for your health.
Personality is integral to whom you choose as well. If you click with someone initially this is a fairly good indicator that you will work well together. If after a few meetings you are still feeling slightly uncomfortable or as though there is something not right this may not be the person for you. You will be spending a good amount of time with your PT so having a good working relationship will be important for you to want to attend your sessions. A person who empathizes with your issues is also important. Consider what your issues are and what you want the person to understand. You must be comfortable.
Location is the fourth consideration. Do you belong to a gym already? Then look at the PT board in the facility and read about each professional. The ones who have experience in the areas you need help with will be a good start. Don’t be afraid to “interview” a few of them to make an informed decision. You may not have a gym membership. In this case you may want a trainer who visits your home. Check the internet. A good place to start is on the Register of Exercise Professionals website. You can also look on the net generally or find advertisements in health and fitness magazines. Keep in mind all of the above qualifications mentioned when shopping around.
Cost is the final factor to consider. Ask about prices before you start. Always be comfortable with what is on offer. If a trainer is saying you can only buy 30 sessions up front and there are no other choices you may want to look elsewhere. If they offer you different packages to suit your needs then they are offering a good service.
Overall you want someone with strong qualifications, a personality that meshes well with yours, a location which is convenient and close to either work or home and a cost scheme that you are comfortable with. Good luck on your journey and remember a PT is there for you, be strong and communicate your needs.