It can be hard to hit the gym everyday on your own, especially if you’re just starting out or if it’s been awhile and you want to get back in the habit of exercising on a regular basis. If you’re the kind of person who gets bored easily, has a hard time getting motivated, or you just aren’t sure where to start when it comes to working out, then a personal trainer or group fitness program may be right for you. However, just as how all body types are different, not all trainers are one-size-fits-all. In order to get the benefits of a personal trainer or group fitness instructor, you need to find one that understands your body and your goals, and can come up with a plan specifically tailored to your needs. Before paying for a package of sessions or signing up for a class membership, there are a few things you need to find out first. Use this checklist of things to look for in order to determine which fitness program or personal trainer is right for you.
1. The Proper Certifications
You’d be amazed how many fitness trainers are under-qualified due to either insufficient or complete lack of proper personal training certifications. Many gyms will hire people without certifications, then provide them with a days’ worth of training before letting them loose in the gym. I’ve watched countless trainers teach their clients improper form, or use the same workouts for every client instead of tailoring workouts to each different individual. Make sure your trainer has a current NCCA-accredited certification (it’s ok to ask!). Also, check as to whether the trainer carries professional liability insurance if they are not employed by a fitness facility. This is especially important when signing up with a fitness class or boot camp program that is held somewhere other than a gym or club.
Make sure their training is legit!
2. A “client first” attitude
A good trainer will sit down with you before your first workout and find out about your fitness level, health history, lifestyle, schedule, and goals before prescribing a program. They should ask about any areas of pain that you may have, any health conditions that could affect your abilities, your current weight and BMI, as well as what you are trying to achieve by hiring them. They may also give you a fitness assessment so they can Answer their questions honestly in order to give them a better picture of what they’re working with and how to help you reach your goals.
Be sure your trainer is asking questions!
3. A willingness to listen
I’ve heard people say before that they stopped working with their trainer or dropped their boot camp membership because their instructor simply didn’t understand them. A good trainer listens to their clients and trains each according to their individual fitness level. Not every client can go from 0 to 100 in a day, and their trainer should be able to recognize this and help them progress in a way that’s natural and comfortable for them.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
4. A compatible personality
Just as different methods of learning work for different people, there are different methods of training for everyone too. Some may find that a group fitness class is more fun, while others may prefer the one-on-one approach to working with a personal trainer. Either way, be sure the instructor or trainer is one you can see yourself working with on a regular basis, and that their approach to training is one that you feel will help you reach your goals. Most trainers and fitness programs will offer one free class or session so you can check them out before committing to a membership or package.
You’ll spend a lot of time with your trainer, so be sure you like them!
5. A desire to keep learning
While it’s only required that trainers update their certification every two years, a good trainer is interested in continuing their education. There’s always more to learn in the field of fitness, and there are additional certifications available to trainers such as group fitness, youth fitness, nutrition, metabolic training, and sports conditioning to name a few. Your trainer should want to continue learning about their field in order to provide you with the best fitness counseling possible.
It takes a lot to be a great trainer!
6. The need to practice what they preach!
While this one is somewhat debatable due to the idea that “those who can’t do, teach,” I think it’s important to have a trainer who is passionate about what they do, and demonstrates that through their own personal dedication to health and fitness. Hiring an overweight and out-of-shape trainer would be like going to a dentist with rotten teeth, and most people would certainly never do that! Make sure your trainer recognizes the importance of physical fitness by practicing it in their own life, and not just in their clients’.
While it’s great to have a trainer who’s personable and comfortable with you, you don’t want a trainer who’s too comfortable and says things that are inappropriate or unprofessional. A trainer should never discuss other clients with you, or bring up questionable topics such as religion, politics, or sex. They should also never demean or insult you, and a trainer of the opposite sex really shouldn’t physically touch you during an exercise. These are all topics that are discussed in personal training certification classes, so your trainer should be well aware of what they can and cannot say and do. If you feel uncomfortable around your personal trainer or fitness instructor, do not feel obligated to continue training with them.
Your trainer should never yell at or insult you!
8. A genuine desire to help you reach your goals
The most important quality a trainer can have is a real desire to help others by training, motivating, tracking progress, and ultimately leading their clients to success. Your trainer should take a genuine interest in you and find the most effective ways to both challenge and motivate you. They should monitor and keep you updated on your progress, and help to challenge you in a way that is positive yet pushes you toward your goals.
Challenge + motivation + positive reinforcement= success!
*All of the trainers at Firefighter Fitness have NCCA accredited certifications in personal training and group fitness, and also serve as Peer Fitness Instructors for their fellow Atlanta area firemen. As firefighters and EMTs themselves, they are highly trained in CPR and injury prevention and treatment. A free introductory class is available to anyone interested in the Firefighter Fitness program, as well as a fitness assessment to help our trainers provide unparalleled fitness instruction to each of our members.