An estimated 5 million Americans are working out with personal trainers. This amazing statistic underscores the wellness mentality of so many fitness-minded Americans. People with disposable income and a desire to improve their physical condition feel they can benefit from one-on-one training and mentoring from a motivational trainer with the right skills. The problem begins, however, when the perception of what personal trainers should know doesn’t match the reality of their education.
Since the demand for personal trainers is exceeding the supply, the market has responded by generating more than 200 different certification programs. While some of these certifications require significant knowledge, others can be acquired online with no experience in the fitness field. The glaring problem is that there is no industry standard or single regulatory organization training the trainers. How does an individual know if a particular certified trainer is truly qualified to give advice?
The answer is to become an educated consumer and by taking certain steps before embarking on your search. First, it’s important that you check with your doctor, especially if you are taking medications or have any relevant medical history. This could include diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, asthma or any other condition that may affect the intensity of your workout. Also, any orthopedic conditions, such as back injuries or knee surgeries, may affect what machines or exercises you should avoid. A good personal trainer will want to understand your physical condition and any limitations prior to starting an exercise program.
Next, ask what type of certification the personal trainer has. The five major certifying groups include the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA).
The ACSM is considered the gold standard and requires at least an associate’s degree for certification. It is worth doing your homework to find out the requirements for certification. Ask if the trainer has an education in Exercise Science. This field includes exercise physiology, sports medicine, health and wellness physical education, and anatomy and physiology. These courses give the trainer the necessary background and understanding of the body and the effects of exercise on it.
Some other qualifications should include a certification in CPR and First Aid. A properly qualified trainer should have a working relationship with other medical professionals such as physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, athletic trainers, chiropractors and orthopedic doctors. They should know when to refer you to these professionals.
Ask for references. Has the trainer worked with a wide variety of individuals?
Ask for specifics about experience. How long has he/she worked in the fitness field? The trainer should be able to tailor an exercise program specifically for you—taking into account your present level of fitness and your goals. Can the trainer motivate you? Do your personalities work well together?
Trainers can charge from $35 to $100 an hour, or more. Be sure you are getting your money’s worth!