December 20, 2013
How to Choose a Great Trainer
What is your goal in regards to your health and fitness? Do you want to look better and feel better? Do you want toned arms, strong legs, or a tight stomach? Do you want to lose weight and shed body fat? Most individuals would like some combination of losing weight and toning up. The next logical question is how do you get there? I can already hear the response that our culture preaches, “you just have to eat well and exercise.”
But how do you eat well and exercise? While eating well can be a topic for dietitians, let’s chat about the exercise portion. There are so many fitness products out there that guarantee results. Beach Body, CrossFit, Insanity, 8 Minute Abs, Jazzercise… all of these are effective exercise programs that can help you reach your goal. The fact of the matter is that everything works. Yes, everything. Any exercise program you take part in will be much better than sitting on the couch. Whether you take up running, weight lifting, boot camps, circuit training, or any other program, you will get some results. But your goals can be faster achieved by tackling each aim with specific focus. Running will not help you build muscle, and lifting weights will not increase your endurance. The program you may be doing may give you results, but it may be giving you results that you are not that interested in. This is where the trainer comes in.
A personal trainer (also called a fitness coach) is there to help guide your training program in the direction needed to attain your goals. While providing guidance and education, they also provide accountability. You are much more likely to get up early to workout if someone is at the gym waiting for you. Also, the trainer can help with motivation. It is much easier to push yourself during exercise when someone is there supporting you. Crushing a workout on your own is possible, but you will provide a greater effort when a trainer is there.
There are all kinds of trainers out there but there are a few things you should consider before choosing one.
Trainers are people, too, and like all people, they have personalities that are unique. While some people feel that a drill sergeant is best, and others prefer a cheerleader, there are some qualities that every trainer should have. These include patience, punctuality, good communication, focus, and professionalism. A trainer should be respectful, understanding, and also willing to call you out (professionally of course) on any nonsense or denial you throw their way. If you are working out at a gym with trainers, hang around and listen to how the trainer speaks and listens to their client. Does their communication style fit with what you need?
Your trainer should be certified, but not all certifications are created equally. If your trainer has some credentials initialed after their name, that means they have done some work to get certified. Some certifications can be taken online while others require coursework. At a minimum, your trainer should be certified as a personal trainer. Organizations such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), all provide certifications and advanced certifications. Ask your trainer about their education and certifications before confirming to work with them.
Trainers increase their skill with experience. The more experience they have, the more challenges they have seen, and the more clients they have helped. Also, each trainer will have specific experience. If you would like to take part in a triathlon, try finding a trainer with that specific background. Training for an endurance event is much different that training for weight loss or muscle gain. One thing to note, If you have the option to choose between an experienced trainer with poor communication skills or a fresh trainer with outstanding communication skills, I recommend leaning (heavily) towards the one with stronger communication. Lots of experience and knowledge is meaningless if it can’t be delivered with care and confidence. Even new trainers know a TON of information and skills, they just may not have had the opportunity to choose a niche. Communication is very important.
If you feel frustrated because you are at a plateau with your results, or if you need more guidance to get you to your goal, I strongly recommend getting a coach. The best athletes on the planet know a lot about health and they still have coaches. The trainer can be a reliable foundation of your support team.