How to choose a Trainer

Why should I hire a trainer?

Whether you’re a weight-lifting newbie or a seasoned gym rat, you can benefit from hiring a trainer. If you’re a beginner, a trainer can help motivate you, teach you how to use exercise machines safely and efficiently, and help you develop a workout that matches your goals and abilities. If you’re already physically fit or training for a particular event, such as a marathon, a trainer can help you build stamina, avoid boredom, and work toward your specific goals. Trainers are also great if you’re recovering from an injury.

What should I look for in a trainer?

Hiring a trainer is a little like choosing a spouse: Your number-one priority should be compatibility. If you find him condescending or his voice makes you cringe, you won’t have a good experience.

Since anyone can put on a pair of spandex shorts, print up business cards, and call himself a trainer, make sure your trainer is well qualified. Look for a minimum of two years experience; a college degree in physical education, sports medicine, or fitness management (or a related field, such as anatomy or kinesiology); and certification by an organization such as the American Council on Exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine, or the YMCA/YWCA. Your trainer should also possess the following qualities:

  • a willingness to help: Your trainer should be able to accurately evaluate your current level of fitness and teach you how to realistically achieve your goals. It’s the nature of his job to make himself dispensable, and he knows it. So learn all you can while you have him.
  • broad skills and knowledge: Don’t just hire the guy who teaches your aerobics class; he might not have any knowledge of weight machines. Likewise, an equipment addict may not be able to provide you with a good cardiovascular program.
  • attentiveness: While this person’s on your payroll, you should be his main focus. You might need spotting or pointers on how to correctly use a machine. You don’t want someone who’s off doing his own workout or talking to another client. He should be listening to you and adjusting your workout to meet your specific goals.

If you’ve hired a trainer for a long period of time, he should be constantly re-evaluating your progress to ensure that you’re on the right track. A good one will do so every six to eight weeks.

What should I ask a potential trainer?

Make sure you spend time with several possible trainers, interviewing them as you would potential job candidates. When talking to a trainer, it’s a good idea to ask about background and experience, as well as training preferences. You should also inquire about work-related policies: Will you be charged if you have to cancel at the last minute? And what are your options if you show up at the gym and he doesn’t?

Also, ask for references and check them out. Call current or former clients if possible, and ask if he was dependable and prepared. If he gets good reviews, see if he’s open to giving you a trial session before you sign on the dotted line.

How much does a trainer cost?

That really depends on where you live. If your home is in a small town, you may be able to find a good trainer for $25 per hour; the average cost for a trainer in a metropolitan area is $50 per hour.

Ask your friends how much they pay to get a general idea of the going rate in your area. While you’re at it, see if they want to train with you. Hiring a trainer with someone else will save you money and help you stick with your workout. But make sure you and your friend share the same general fitness level and goals. You don’t want to be training for the Olympics if you’re only interested in fitting into your favorite pair of jeans.

You can also sometimes hire trainers through your gym. Not only will they know the terrain, but trainers affiliated with clubs usually charge lower rates. Check out the gym bulletin board, or ask the staff for a recommendation.

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