By: Ron Zacker
Enlisting the services of a qualified exercise professional to help you set up an exercise program is an intelligent decision. Exercise professionals offer the knowledge, guidance, accountability and support that should help you achieve your goals in a safe and expedient manner.
Unfortunately, many people regard the prospect of working with a trainer as being out of their grasp. As you are about to see, this is usually not the case. Let’s debunk some of the more common myths about working with a personal trainer.
Myth: Personal Trainers Are for the Rich and Famous
Accessibility to trainers is at an all-time high. Qualified exercise professionals now work in innumerable settings throughout the community. Chances are good that you will find a resource who can accommodate your specific needs and budget.
Several lower-cost options for working with a qualified exercise professional are available. Rather than private sessions, “group training” offerings can offset costs greatly. Community-based wellness, recreation or senior centers typically offer group strength exercise classes that are reasonably priced.
Your community may also have a junior college that offers courses in a variety of physical fitness selections, including strength training.
If you decide to work with a trainer privately, ask for a 30-minute session rather than a full hour. Thirty minutes of resistance exercise should be more than enough per session and, because you’re taking less of the trainer’s time, you will pay less money.
Myth: I Cannot Afford a Trainer
Working with a trainer may not be financially feasible for some individuals. However, many of us do have at least some income to spend on training. Ask yourself: “On what am I currently spending my expendable income? Cable television? Gourmet coffee? Dining out?”
Most of us could indeed cut back on certain of our expenditures. Take the money you would have spent on the latest fad-diet book or herbal-wonder supplement and spend it on something that actually works: exercise.
Myth: I Have to Join a Gym to Work Out With a Trainer
Again, qualified trainers can be found working in a variety of settings, such as community centers, exercise studios, physical therapy clinics, and so forth. The company I work for, Fitness Wize, not only sells quality home-exercise equipment but also is committed to seeing that its customers get the most benefit out of their purchase. As such, it is one of many outlets that provide in-home personal training.
Myth: I Have to Commit to Several Sessions
Ideally, you would be able to attend multiple, sequential sessions when starting out. That said, one session is better than no sessions. You can learn a lot in one session as long as you’re attentive, ask questions and take notes. You can then apply what you’ve learned when you’re on your own.
Myth: Personal Trainers Are Crude, Spandex-Clad, Grotesquely Muscled Neanderthals
You may be surprised to learn that most exercise professionals are well educated, personable and quite unassuming. And they are both male and female.
Choosing an Exercise Professional
by Ron Zacker, RD, CDE
The following list outlines some of the things you should consider when choosing a personal trainer.
All the qualifications in the world mean nothing if you can’t stand the trainer you’re working with. Speak candidly with your prospective trainer. Ask questions and share your concerns. Listen carefully to the answers, and see if you think he or she is the kind of person you want to work with. Your sessions will become very long and awkward if you have poor rapport with your trainer.
At the very least, a trainer should possess a nationally recognized certification from a professional organization. The American Council on Exercise (ACE), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) program are generally accepted as the most credible and acknowledged personal training certification programs available.
In addition to certification, it is highly desirable to find a trainer who has earned a four-year degree in a related field, such as exercise physiology, kinesiology or exercise science. Obviously, better-educated individuals should possess more knowledge. More important, educated trainers are more likely to admit what they don’t know and will not operate beyond their scope of practice. This is extremely important when dealing with clients who have special medical considerations.
As is true in any profession, the longer you practice it, the better you get at it. Try to find a trainer who has worked in a variety of settings such as gyms, rehab clinics and wellness centers. Many trainers come out of school full of “book smarts” but don’t yet have the experience to properly apply what they know.
Experience with Special Populations
Most trainers are qualified to work only with a “healthy population.” This excludes many of my patients. Clinical exercise physiologists, physical therapists and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are some of the professionals that cater to special populations. If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, congestive heart failure, orthopedic injuries, retinopathy or neuropathy or if your diabetes is poorly controlled, you should talk with your doctor or diabetes educator regarding where you can go for appropriate exercise instruction.