Will Your Personal Trainer Help You Achieve Your Goals?
Hiring a personal trainer can be a significant investment - even with hourly rates differing vastly across regions and countries - you are still paying a fair amount of money for the expert knowledge that will help you achieve your health and fitness goals and look after one of, if not, THE most important assets you have - your body.
So how should you choose a personal trainer and what are the things you need to look out for, ask them and receive from them?
First and foremost, you MUST ensure your personal trainer is fully and properly qualified. This means they should hold, at the very least, the following:
A CPR certification - if you do have any accidents or problems your personal trainer must know how to deal with them and ensure your safety to the best of their ability.
A recognised personal training qualification - this obviously differs from country to country and there are only a few internationally-recognised qualifications. Most countries have a self-regulating body - in the UK this is REPS (the Register of Exercise Professionals) and you should ensure your personal trainer is registered here before you even consider hiring them. If in doubt, ask your trainer which qualifications they have - most won't be offended but will be keen to show them off.
Once you are satisfied they hold the necessary qualifications, here are a few pointers to look out for. A 'good' versus a 'bad' personal trainer should:
1. Carry out initial health & fitness assessments. You should be asked to complete a PAR-Q (Physical Activity Readiness questionnaire) at a minimum and your trainer should perform some basic tests such as weight, blood pressure, perhaps body composition, girth measurements, lung capacity and aerobic fitness or strength. This is essential if you want to know whether what you've paid them has been worth it - if you can't see the progress or differences working with a trainer has made because they forgot to measure a baseline when you started with them, then although you may feel fitter, slimmer or stronger you won't have hard facts & figures to prove it.
2. Discuss your goals with you and adjust any unrealistic expectations you may have. To get your business, a trainer may promise that you will lose half a stone of fat in 2 weeks or you'll get the body of your dreams in a month even though you've never exercised before and are 3 stone overweight - this does you no good. You will have unrealistic expectations & goals from the outset and will be much more likely to become de-motivated & disillusioned when you realise you haven't lost a stone in a week. Whilst a good trainer will not discourage you from your ultimate goals, they should at least educate you on the realistic progressions you are likely to make.
3. Design a programme that is tailored especially to your needs and your body. This may sound obvious but I have seen plenty of trainers run through identical training sessions with every one of their clients. This ties in with the first point - if they haven't completed assessments & initial tests on you, then they won't know what your individual needs are. You are paying them to provide you with a fully customised service - that's why it's called 'personal'.
4. Track your progress at every session - you may not see them carrying a clipboard or doing this during the session but your trainer should know when they need to adjust your programme and what adjustments to make. If they've been winging your sessions and haven't been planning & tracking your progress, how will they know what adjustments to make after a few weeks?
5. Show you how to exercise safely & correctly - again this may seem a given but if your trainer gives you a programme and then just leaves you to it, they are putting you at risk and not only will you probably struggle to achieve your goals without their attention, you may even injure yourself. Similarly, even if they are supervising you, they should constantly be giving you tips, adjustments or even just positive affirmations that you are performing your exercises correctly - not watching the sport on TV or chatting to other staff & clients.
6. Advise you on your diet & nutrition. Exercise is only part of the equation - a good personal trainer will ensure they are also taking a look at your dietary needs to compliment your training programme and ensure you are eating the right things, at the right times to achieve your goals.
All of the above are nothing however, if you don't actually get on with your personal trainer! They may be the most highly qualified person you can find - but if spending an hour with them (sometimes 3 times a week) is like spending an hour in the dentist's chair or worse, then you probably aren't going to get the full benefit of working with a trainer. They don't have to be your best buddy, just ensure that you feel comfortable with them, can trust them and that you do enjoy your sessions - in a masochistic kind of way!