The fitness industry is a 27 billion dollar per year industry and it’s no surprise that personal trainers are popping up everywhere to fill the demand.

Becoming A Personal Trainer Is Easy

And while there is a strong demand for trainers, unfortunately the educational requirements are low – there are none. Literally anyone over the age of 18 can become a personal trainer and there is no shortage of organizations that offer a weekend course, a simple test, and an official certification paper.

After 16 years as a certified personal trainer, I’ve seen my share of good trainers and more than my share of bad ones. Because the barrier to entry is low in this field, anyone who thinks he or she can make quick cash by taking a basic exercise science test, getting  certification, and hanging a sign out front, can sell himself to the public as a fitness professional.

And because it’s an unregulated industry, people are suckered every day by greedy and unscrupulous trainers looking to cash in on your ignorance about fitness. The good news is there are plenty of qualified and worthy trainers out there and they can be a huge asset to helping you achieve your fitness goals. Here is why having a quality personal trainer is important:

  • Motivation. Let’s face it, most people are not motivated to get off their butts and do the hard work necessary to make a permanent change in their lifestyle. Our society breeds laziness and many people need a push to get them going.
  • Education. Have you ever walked into a gym and felt totally lost? There are dozens of complicated machines, big burly meat heads clunking around the free weight section, and you find yourself sheepishly gravitating towards the only thing you know how to use… the treadmill. A good trainer will help you understand how to use exercise equipment, how to be safe while using it, and why you’re using it.
  • Accountability. We all know that new habits are challenging to form, especially exercising. Hiring a trainer will not only put your wallet on the hook, but you should expect to be held accountable to your goals. A good trainer will remind you why you are paying him and push you enough to take action towards your fitness goals.
  • Self-reliance. The aim of any quality trainer should be not only to help you reach your goals but to teach you to become self-reliant in the gym. When you see the same person working with the same trainer for years on end, it’s a sign that he is still dependent on them. Your trainer should be helping you understand your exercise program and how, when and why to change it in the future.

Hiring A Personal Trainer

If you are in the market for a personal trainer, you have your work cut out for you. Unfortunately, most people use Google to find one or use a referral from a friend. But even then, it’s extremely important to do your due diligence. I’ve trained hundreds of clients over the years and I have rarely been asked for my credentials, educational background, or client testimonials. It’s scary and although I consider myself to be an excellent trainer, I could have easily been a shoddy one.

Now when I meet a prospective client I tell them to ask questions before making a decision. After all he or she will be spending hard-earned money and it’s critical that he or she hire a quality person. So, here are 12 things to remember when you choose your personal trainer:

  1. What is their experience? Make sure you ask them about where they have worked and in what capacity. A trainer can call themselves a fitness professional after working at a local gym as a front desk attendant. You should know where they have trained, how they train, and why they train. The “why” is the most important question of all.
  2. Do you like them? This is very important. You will be spending a great deal of time (and money) with them and if you don’t connect well, it will make for a less than productive relationship. I’ve trained clients who I didn’t like and vice-versa and it’s an uncomfortable situation.
  3. Do you feel they are honestly interested in helping you? I’ll admit it, I am a great salesman when it comes to selling my personal training services. But I’m so good at it because people can tell that I care about them. Beware of slick salesman types who seem more eager in getting you to sign up for 30 sessions and less interested in understanding how they can help you.
  4. Are they insured? Personal trainer (PT) insurance is not mandatory but I strongly recommend not hiring one without it. Why? What if you get hurt during training? Most trainers earn less than $32,000 per year. Do you think they have the financial resources to pay for an extended hospital stay should you get badly injured? PT insurance is cheap and good trainers will understand the importance of protecting themselves and their clients.
  5. Do they have client testimonials? Even if they have multiple testimonials on their website raving about how great they are, be sure to call at least two clients before you hire your trainer.
  6. Do they have experience dealing with injuries? For example, shoulder pain is reported to affect more than 20% of the general population, so a good trainer should know how to work around these types of limitations.
  7. Where are they certified? While certifications are not the be all end all of a personal trainer’s resume, it is important to hire a trainer that is certified through a reputable organization. There are dozens of companies that will certify just about anyone if they pay the $299 fee. Make sure that your trainer actually worked for their certification. A few of the best organizations are the ACSM, NASM and NSCA.
  8. What is their background? If they just graduated college with a degree in Far Eastern Philosophy and got certified last month, how helpful are they going to be? Do they have a history in fitness and sports? Do they look fit and healthy?
  9. How do you feel about their coaching style? If you’ve ever seen The Biggest Loser, you know that Bob and Jillian have two totally different styles of training. Do you prefer someone yelling in your face or not? It’s important to know because you may be the type of person who is demotivated by this form of motivation.
  10. Do they track your progress (or lack of) and how do they track it? How do you know if you’re making progress with your exercise program? Most people don’t have any clue other than if their clothes fit differently. A good program will quantify your results and be based on frequent assessments and reassessments. For example, taking your body fat percentage every six weeks is a great way to track your gains. Just looking at the scale is not.
  11. Do they educate themselves? The world of health and fitness is constantly changing and evolving. If a trainer is not continually learning the newest trends, studying anatomy, physiology, bio-mechanics and human nutrition, then he or she will not evolve either.
  12. Are they good ambassadors of fitness? I’ve seen far too many pudgy trainers over the years and it’s just not good business. A trainer should be the model of fitness and health. They should live the lifestyle you want and look the part.

Ready To Hire a Trainer?

You should now have an idea of what types of questions to ask a prospective trainer and what qualities to look for. Educating yourself is the first step in finding the right trainer, so don’t be afraid to ask these questions.

Featured photo credit: Craig Boyd via flickr.com

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