Every week I get many e-mails from readers asking me for specific fitness advice. While I am not an expert, one of my goals has been to bring the experts to you to answer your questions. And while the questions I get are very wide-ranging in topic, the number one thing people want to know is how to find a personal trainer.
Since I have never hired a personal trainer, I asked Dr. Adam Naylor, who leads Telos Sport Psychology Consulting and is a clinical assistant professor in Boston University’s School of Education. He has a decade and a half worth of experiences working with professional and amateur athletes, and has hired and worked with many trainers through the years.
Here's my Q&A with him on what you need to know when looking for a trainer:
Q. What qualifications should you look for in a trainer? What certifications are important?
A. For certifications the National Strength and Conditioning Association (www.nsca-lift.org) and the American College of Sports Medicine (www.acsm.org) are good places to start. For academic degrees, Athletic Training, Exercise Science, and Physical Therapy are strong knowledge bases for personal training. If someone is looking to improve athletic performance I’d seek out a NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and/or a certified Athletic Trainer. For general fitness, an ACSM certified professional and/or Physical Therapist should have credible wisdom to share.
Certifications are important because they show some level of professional competence and curiosity. While they do not tell how well someone coaches, there are a fair marker of aptitude and professionalism.
Q. How do you know what kind of person will work well with your personality?
A. By talking to her/him a bit, hearing how your goals resonate with the personal trainer, and by trying a class or session on for size. Having the same personality of you is not always the best for you, as it could lead to an unbalanced approach to exercise and training. A great trainer supports your strengths and complements your areas for development.
Q. Should you interview your prospective trainer? If so,what should you ask them?
A. You should absolutely interview a prospective personal coach. For two reasons: 1. It is an investment of time and money. Investments are most lucrative when we research them a bit, 2. For confidence and commitment. If questions are answered, they do not linger in the back of your head, allowing you to get fully engaged in the workouts ahead of you.
Things to ask:
- Certifications and educational background.
- Types of individuals with whom they have worked. Have they worked with someone of your age and fitness level?
- Ask what they think of your goals are healthy and reasonable.
- Really a big thing during any interview is notice the balance between the personal trainer talking and listening. Are they hearing you and responsive to your goals.
Q. Where can you find trainers if you don’t belong to a gym?
These are good places to start:
Q. What should you expect to pay a trainer? How do you know what’s reasonable or what’s outrageous?
A. About $50 to $125 – Reasonable is what your bank account can hold. Outrageous is when you are paying for smoke and mirrors (i.e. a pretty website, slick marketing, little education or responsible experience) or when you receive little attention.
Q. Any other tips for people trying to find someone to work with? What about group training? Is that a good option?
A. Group training is an excellent option, especially if you are going for general fitness. It builds community and can fuel motivation. The precision of coaching can be lacking and attentiveness to your individual needs sometimes missing, but if the goal is to break a sweat and enjoy it – groups are a terrific option. Having an exercise community to be part of can be a powerful motivator.