By Roy the ?Fitness Fella?
Hello again, friends, fans and followers of Kim. It?s been a year now since I last blogged on The Kim Challenge, and the lady asked that I contribute again. To those who are new to the blog, just stopping by, or don?t remember me, I?m Roy, her ?fella.?
My previous blog post was ?Instead of a New Year?s Resolution?a New RESOLVE,? in which I explained the basic principles for efficient and sustainable weight loss, muscle addition, or body fat reduction. My professional background in health and fitness is detailed there, so I won?t bore you with it here. But I do encourage you to read (or re-read) it and leave comments, questions, or catcalls, if you have any.
For those of us who?ve been following Kim?s blog (or living with her, which is way cooler) the past few weeks have been a Rocky-like montage of light meals, protein shakes, gym workouts, runs, spin classes, and more runs (Kim has signed up for a half marathon through Team In Training, raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Please sponsor her by donating whatever you can here). As part of her serious commitment to get back in shape Kim wanted my opinion on hiring a personal trainer a couple of times a week. She thought my answer was worth sharing with you, her loyal readers, which (finally) brings us to the actual topic of my post; how to choose a good personal trainer.
Not everyone needs a personal fitness trainer, of course. It?s a safe bet that spending an exorbitant amount of money on someone to show you how to use the machines at your gym is mighty low on your disposable income list. But allow me to make the case for hiring a personal trainer nonetheless: first of all, if you?re not exercising with some regularity?at home, at the gym, in a class, at the beach, whatever and wherever?it?s a good time to start. Simple truth is that you can?t be healthy and look good without it. And if you do exercise regularly, chances are that you?re spending a decent amount of time and money on it already. A gym membership is a nice chunk of change, and investing a few hours a week working out comes at the expense of a million other things you could be doing. But here is exactly where a personal trainer comes in.
Firstly, with a standing appointment that costs you money you?ll actually show up. You?ll actually go to the gym, instead of just having a membership. You?ll actually use the equipment you have laying around the house.
Secondly, when you do show up you?ll have someone to make you work hard. None of the discounts you give yourself when you just don?t feel like it, no lip service going-through-the-motions workouts. A trainer will work you harder than you would (or could) work yourself.
But making sure you show up and work hard you can do with a training partner, or possibly a lot of discipline, neither of which cost you money. The best reason to hire a personal trainer is that they?ll not only work you harder, but also smarter. They?ll make sure you do the right exercises for your goals and limitations and that you perform each exercise properly. So your workouts will be more efficient and less hazardous?getting you better, quicker and safer results. It?s a lot more bang for relatively little more buck.
The thing to bear in mind when choosing a personal trainer is that your relationship with your trainer is no different than any other type of relationship; its success has mostly to do with subjective factors, not the least of which is chemistry, a compatibility of personalities. This is not someone who services your car; they service your body. And, as often as not, your mind, too. Half to two-thirds of your workout pass in rest, so not having anything to talk about makes for awkward sessions. And working out is about letting loose and pushing hard, not adding more pent-up stress to your day. You?re not hiring a new best friend, but if you?re not hitting it off with your trainer, as nice and professional as they may be, they may not be the right trainer for you.
You?d be surprised, but even at the gym that?s important. Intelligent people tend to do things intelligently, whereas unintelligent people tend to do things, well?. If your prospective trainer seems to have a harder time constructing a sentence than squatting 500 lbs., that?s a red flag. Granted, you?re not necessarily looking for an exercise Einstein, but a fully evolved primate is a pretty good benchmark to start with.
A trainer?s educational background is, in my opinion, the most important objective parameter to go by. You?ll find plenty of trainers who?ll boast about how long they?ve been training or how many people they?ve trained over the years, but experience without schooling is blind. Not that it?s not important, but things like physiology, anatomy, biomechanics or nutrition aren?t some esoteric, mystic disciplines; they?re sciences, researched by countless experts in innumerable studies and tests and distilled into knowledge taught at schools. A trainer who?s ?schooled by experience? just isn?t enough. Think of it this way; a personal trainer is responsible for your health, not unlike a doctor (In truth, a bad trainer can cause damage that the best doctor can?t fix, and a good trainer can prevent damage that the best doctor couldn?t fix). Would you allow a doctor who never went to med school to treat you? Why not? But what if they had lots of experience? Same goes for your trainer.
A trainer can be an autodidact, of course, and no less knowledgeable than a schooled trainer, but a diploma or certification from an accredited institution is an objective yardstick. Sadly, there?s no law in any of the 50 states that governs fitness qualification, so the whole field is a bit laissez-fair. If not a degree, look for certification from a prominent institution and, ideally, in more than one field.
Now that I?ve made a big to-do out of a trainer?s education, I?d like to give proper credence to the importance of training experience. All the education in the world, without practice, is just theory. Would you want an inexperienced doctor, fresh out of med school, to operate on you? What if they graduated first in their class? The same rationale extends to your trainer?you want someone who knows what they?re doing but has also done it successfully many times before. Don?t be shy about asking for references; a good trainer will have plenty of gratitude letters and before & after pics of their clients.
What also helps is your trainer?s personal experience as a practitioner of what they preach. A background in competitive sports or military service is a big plus. And while they don?t necessarily have to look like Greek statuary, being in good shape certainly helps.
Looking for the best personal trainer is like looking for a unicorn or an NYC taxi driver willing to drive to Brooklyn; they don?t exist. Don?t get me wrong?it?s important that you distinguish between a bad trainer and a good trainer. It?s just that there?s no point comparing two good trainers. Like any other profession?including yours, I?d wager?professionalism goes along a bell curve; in the middle are the 80% who are average at what they do. On one end of the curve are the 10% who are dilettantes and on the opposite end are the 10% who are brilliant (that would be you, naturally). Personal trainers are no different. If they?re bad or mediocre they?re all pretty much the same, but if they?re good they each bring something else to the table. Each qualified, competent trainer usually has a field of specialty or two, and their own style and method of training. You?d be hard-pressed to find a trainer who?s good at both rehabilitation, bodybuilding, and dance. Comparing trainers to doctors again?you have your general practitioners, but by definition they don?t specialize in anything. Find a good trainer who?s also a good fit for your goals.
I Hope you found this interesting and helpful. Looking forward to your thoughts, and wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!
?The Doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest her or his patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.?