We are going to show you how to choose a personal trainer who’s right for you by asking the right questions. Whether you’ve got goals of a starting line or you need to exercise safely with arthritis or osteoporosis, there’s a trainer for you. When you first meet a trainer, remember you’re interviewing them as much as they may be interviewing you. Here are a few qustions you should ask:
Are you certified as a personal trainer and by which agency?
Among the 500 different certifications and certificate programs, there are still only a handful of agencies I would preference even as the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accreditation attempts to create higher standards in fitness certification. Fitness is still a self-governed industry.
Top-tier certifications include American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), American Council on Exercise (ACE), National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Within each of these agencies there are certification options. Someone may be certified as a group fitness instructor, for instance, not as a personal trainer, and therefore lack the knowledge to design a custom exercise prescription.
Certified as an NSCA Strength and Conditioning Specialist, a trainer has more specific expertise for sports conditioning. An ACE Medical Exercise Specialist is more focused on designing around the needs for special conditions.
Trainers might reference CPR, AED and First Aid certifications. While this is good, it’s actually mandatory to be currently certified by a national agency. This can tip you off to the fact that they are less experienced and/or are searching for anything to use as a credential.
Is your certification current?
Confirm it. I’ve had mature employees not see value in achieving industry standards by taking an exam once they’ve gone through a training course. Her attitude was “What’s it going to change?” when she was already earning the highest percentage paid and was as full as she wanted to be.
That attitude is poison in the personal training industry. It implies a trainer’s willingness to train a client although they lack the confidence to feel they could pass an exam. That, reader, is backwards. Trainers and clients alike can be guilty of assessing trainer skills by popularity. They must be “the best” if they are the most full.
To remain current with a credible certification, a trainer must take a minimum of Continuing Education credits annually or every two years, depending on the certification. Ask about the most recent continuing education course taken and the content. I would favor a trainer updating their knowledge in a topic area I would benefit from if I were shopping them.
Do you have a degree in Exercise Science?
A unique combination of academics, certifications, years of experience and testimonials will determine whether a trainer is qualified. There may be no degree in exercise science, but a combination of other components might be so great that someone becomes your trainer of choice. Fewer people made the decision to become trainers 20 and 30 years ago when they were in college.
If you discover proof that other forms of preparation allow him or her to make decisions commensurate with those who do have a degree, then you may still feel confident in your choice.
How much experience do you have?
Don’t discount a new trainer, but ideally, age-friendly trainers have at least two years of experience in the industry according to the International Council on Active Aging. I would suggest based on industry standard that a trainer is still a rookie if they’ve worked three or less years.
Remember that they’ve worked with all ages and abilities and probably have not specialized in midlife and older adults. It’s important to ask how many hours a week they’ve worked. Trainers who say they have 4 years of experience of training 10 hours a week don’t have any more experience than a trainer who trained 40 hours a week for a year.
Have you worked with someone with my needs before?
Have you worked with someone my age before? Do you have two or three references I may contact? Age alone shouldn’t be your question. Two 50-year-olds can have very different needs, histories and goals and likewise, with two 80- or 90-year-olds. If your hormones have changed everything, be sure to ask if the trainer is experienced with that.
The response will tell you whether the trainer will relate to you well or not, and you’ll gain insight about the trainer as you talk. When you contact the reference ask open-ended questions and those that pertain to your greatest concerns. “Is there anything else you’d like to add?”
Why are you interested in working with me?
What do you have in mind for me?
Make sure you get an enthusiastic response! Get his or her recommendations. You want to know he or she is confident and hear that he or she has the beginnings of a plan that makes sense to you before you hire.
Which professional organizations do you belong to?
Most certification agencies have a corresponding professional membership group. Similar to other professions, participation in industry associations means your trainer is serious about networking, improvements in the industry, access to recent research and legal aspects of their business.
IDEA Fitness Connect is the largest fitness professional directory, connecting 200,000 fitness professionals verified by 160 certifying and training bodies with consumers. Whether or not your trainer is a member of IDEA, he or she could be listed in this directory.
Together, these questions and your observations of trainer responses can help you determine if a trainer is right for you. Does the trainer listen completely and convey an understanding of what you said? Did you enjoy the trainer’s personality and sense of humor? Can you see yourself spending one to three hours a week with this trainer?
Do you need to choose a personal trainer to watch your repetitions? The internet provides you access to a world of trainers and coaches. You can “meet” via Skype or phone and get weekly plans that meet your needs.
Knowing how to choose a personal trainer is important to the ultimate success of your health and fitness routine. Take the time to find the right one for you.
This post is an excerpt from Navigating Fitness After 50: Your GPS for Choosing Programs and Professionals You Can Trust.