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Do you need a personal trainer to help you achieve your fitness goals? If the trainer is skilled and experienced, he or she can help you maximize your results in a shorter period of time than would otherwise be possible. A trainer can keep you motivated and help you adhere to an exercise plan. He or she can take the guesswork out of which types of exercises you should do, how many times you should do them and for how long. Most importantly, a trainer can teach you how exercise will increase your energy and stamina, make your body stronger and more flexible, protect your from injury and increase your self-esteem.

On the other hand, an unskilled, uneducated trainer or one who does not know how to meet your specific needs or your specific situation (if, for example, you are disabled or have medical problems) may not be able to help you.

Here are some questions to ask when you are looking for a personal trainer:

  • What kind of education does the trainer have? Make sure your trainer has some kind of college degree in the fitness field or a certification from a nationally recognized certifying organization such as ACSM or AFAA. However, having a piece of paper doesn’t necessarily mean a person is a good trainer. Along with being certified or degreed, he or she should have received practical, hands-on training working with clients. Because the exercise industry is expanding all the time, trainers need to update their knowledge regularly. Ask if the trainer belongs to a professional fitness association, such as IDEA, and regularly attends workshops or conventions.

  • What kind of references and business documentation does the trainer have? Is the trainer running a legitimate business (assuming he or she is working alone and not as a club employee)? Can the trainer provide proof of professional liability insurance, a copy of his or her college diploma or fitness certification and references you can call? If the trainer meets these criteria, chances are he or she is running a legitimate business. If the trainer is working for or through a fitness facility, what criteria did he or she have to meet to work there? How long has the person been a trainer?

  • Does the trainer exhibit professional behavior? Is the trainer prompt and well groomed? Does this person teach and communicate well? You should be asked to fill out a medical history form and answer questions about your lifestyle and eating habits. The trainer should ask abut your fitness goals and if applicable, weigh and measure you and perform a bodyfat assessment. All of this information should be kept on file and compared to your measurements several weeks later so you can see your results.

  • Does the trainer provide excellent customer service? Find out what happens if you cancel an appointment or if the trainer is late or misses an appointment. Ask for these policies in writing.

  • Does the trainer’s personality align with yours? You should feel that the trainer has a sincere interest in your well-being. You should feel that the trainer is likable and fun to be around. You probably won’t want to hire a trainer you don’t like even if he or she is a great educator; trust your gut feeling. The trainer should be able to talk to you and motivate you in a way that is meaningful to you. Also, consider if you would prefer working with a trainer of the same or the opposite gender. Look for someone who is healthy and fit because you want a good role model.

  • Does the trainer’s pricing fit within your budget? Personal trainers can charge anywhere from $20 per session to $70 and up. The average "full-fee" session (without frequency discounts) costs approximately $40. Pricing structures vary widely depending on geographic location, number of years of experience, education level and knowledge of special populations. Many trainers will discount their per-session fees if you pay for multiple sessions in advance. Some trainers will also train two people at a time, charging each person a lower fee per session.

Most trainers are good-hearted and sincerely interested in helping other people. That is why they chose personal training as a career. However, like with other health care professionals, styles and levels of expertise vary widely. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, shop around and take your time choosing the best trainer for you.

You want a trainer who promotes a balanced approach to fitness that combines cardiovascular training, strength training and flexibility training, because developing a strong, healthy body requires all three.

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Note: Information on this site is intended for general reference purposes only and is not intended to address specific medical conditions. Information on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice or a medical exam. Prior to participating in any exercise program or activity, you should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional. No health information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition.

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