Questions to Ask When You’re Hiring a Personal Trainer
And not because you’re delicate. You’re not. Part because you need a trainer who knows you by ability not by age. You need one who has experience not with hormones and not a blanket exercise prescription. If you’re stressed, if you’re at risk for adrenal fatigue or thyroid dysfunction will a trainer know the signs and symptoms? Will a trainer know how to push you enough and stop you from overdoing it? These are the questions you need answers to and the next nine is how to know.
What are your qualifications?
You want the Personal Trainer who quarterbacks for you to have a degree in Exercise Science or related field and a nationally accredited certification. The problem with “are you certified?” is there are 500 certifications. There really are only a handful of top-tier certifications that you want to ask about. They are ACSM, ACE, NASM, and NSCA.
If you have a special condition, look for someone with a Medical Exercise Specialist certification, Rehabilitation certification or something similar.
There is an array of alphabet soup there. Be sure to take those with you if need be and do your homework. A certification should require continuing education annually, be a computer scored exam, and be nationally accredited. The best trainers are constantly reading, watching and seeking credible sources of information because this industry research is advancing so quickly.
Like medicine is moving toward more functionally integrated healing, so too do some trainers help you with the whole-person approach. You are so uniquely built. If a trainer tells you that everyone should eat 5-6 meals a day, or drink a gallon of water a day, run. Your needs right now are unique. That is, what you need to eat, drink, how you need to move, how much you need to sleep and rest, and how you deal best with stress are personal.There is research to back some general habits and then there is your personal systematic trial to find what works for you.
The trainer who speaks your language and who doesn’t “have a philosophy” or way of training that looks the same for all clients, is what you’re seeking. These intangibles are also a part of qualifications you should include on your list of must-haves.
How long have you been a Personal Trainer?
Experience is valuable. You don’t want your personal trainer cutting their teeth on you. Most good academic programs include practical experience opportunities so that even just-out-of-college a trainer could have some prior experience you’re your trainer on the other hand has simply worked out their whole adult life, and taken a certification test, they have book knowledge from review of study guides and quizzes. Unfortunately, your workout may look very much like theirs even if your goals and needs are quite different.
Don’t discount a younger trainer immediately simply because of age, but do consider all of their responses and whether they are truly able to answer in a way you feel comfortable with. Ask if they have ever worked with someone similar to you in age, in goals, or in conditions. Ask also if they have a team of trainers they can consult with. A younger trainer who has a staff and experienced supervisor means you have a team of opinions contributing on your behalf.
How long have you been working at this business and how long do you plan to stay?
If “when I get a real job” is an answer: run! If you hope to develop a relationship with your trainer you’ll want to know that they have some longevity. What will happen if they leave? Find out about money that you pay in advance and whether that can be returned or if you then are required to use another trainer or lose it.
What do you like about Personal Training and working here?
Beware of the trainer who talks openly about behind the scenes business. No business is perfect, but the employee who is willing to share information about their discontent with business policies, compensation, or dish about other co-workers probably has a short life span at that business and also may not keep your information confidential either. Look for a trainer who observes professional boundaries, focuses on being friendly and personable but who does not disclose information that does not honor their employer or other customers.
The conversation should all be about you, your health, wellness and fitness during sessions. The trainer who has time to focus on other topics isn’t paying 100% attention to your form, technique, effectiveness, intensity, emphasis, risk of injury or able to document your session so that your progression is optimal.
What is the cancellation policy?
Most Personal Trainers truly conducting as a business and not a hobby will require you to give advance notice of need to cancel in order not to forfeit that session. In fact, this tells you that the business is serious and not casually training for extra income. Would you go to a “part time” doctor? A sometimes-plumber? If they allow you to cancel freely, they in turn may also be cancelling you spontaneously.
Just confirm the timeframe of canceling with out loss; often 24 hours notice. Ask if you do forfeit a session because something suddenly comes up, if you benefit somehow. Some personal trainers will “work” on your behalf during that hour they would have met you. That could mean doing research on exercise options for an upcoming trip you have planned, or creating a short video clip for at home exercises or stretches that you otherwise wouldn’t have had. Define the terms and ask about these possibilities and then get them in writing.
What if my schedule (or yours) changes?
It’s not unusual for a job or a season change to mean that you need to train according to a different schedule. Your trainer can’t work around the clock, so ask what would happen in that event. Likewise, what if your trainer’s schedule changed for some reason? Make sure there are no surprises about your being matched with another trainer, or the possibility of a refund if you can’t have the schedule you need.
Do you carry liability insurance?
Though this a something you never want to need to know, it is a good indicator of whether the trainer is in business for him or herself and seriously committed to the profession of personal training. If you were to be hurt based on recommendations of your trainer, you want to know that they are covered.
A trainer may be an employee of a business that carries liability insurance, but the nature of Personal Training being that the individual trainer has latitude and responsibility for the decisions they make regarding your training, they also should carry their own liability insurance. It speaks of the professionalism of the personal trainer if they carry their own liability insurance regardless of where they are employed.
Describe the process of getting started with Personal Training: What Can I expect?
Before your personal trainer moves you, there should be a lot of talking….about your goals, your health and activity history, the time you’re able to exercise and the recommendations the trainer has for your program now and progressing. You should get a good feel for the trainer’s philosophy during this meeting.
You should also expect that there will be a thorough assessment that includes your posture, your body mechanics as well as resting values of weight, blood pressure, measurements and body composition. A cardiovascular assessment of some type (bike, treadmill) may or may not be appropriate depending on your goals and needs. If weight and fat loss are a goal, it’s important! Of course if you’ve come in on a referral from your physical therapist, your focus will be on following the protocol they’ve set for you and gradual integration into other activity.
If baseline assessments aren’t provided it would be impossible to have a trainer design a personalized program for you. You want a trainer who treats each client to a unique program design.
Do you have references?
Ask about a list of current or prior clients, similar to you if possible, that you can contact. Do follow up and ask questions as if you were interviewing a potential employee, because essentially you are! Ask not only about how the trainer responded to their questions or inquires, how flexible they are in regard to scheduling, but how attentive, how accessible between sessions if you have a question, and whether they’d hire the trainer again.
Observe your prospective personal trainer in action if possible. Do clients look like they’re having fun? Yet, do they still look like they’re getting things done and not just chatting? Do you overhear chatter about what the trainer did last night? Comfortable and warm but professional and focused on you will likely get the best results. You’ll know easily by observing a trainer in action, even if only at a complimentary session with you if it’s a good fit (pun intended) or not.
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