Things to consider when selecting a personal trainer

Finding the <i>right</i> trainer is just as important as following the exercise routine that trainer designs for you.
It seems like every time I turn around, I see another advertisement for personal fitness training. From signs on street corners to fliers in the mail, trainers are increasing visibility to solicit business these days.

But before you run out and hire one of these trainers -- or anyone else, for that matter -- I recommend you do your homework.

Personal trainers can be wonderful instructors to help you slim down, tone up and improve your athletic endurance. Finding one that's a good fit for you might be just as important as following the exercise routine that trainer designs for you.

"A lot of people will pick a trainer based on what the person looks like," said Robin Diamond, a certified personal trainer for 15 years who owns the Fitnessman Studios in Richmond. "That person may or may not know what they're talking about."

For instance, many personal trainers specialize in body building, Diamond said. If your goal is weight loss, a bodybuilding trainer probably is not the best person to design a workout program for you.

"If you want to be a bodybuilder, then the bodybuilder trainer is the guy you want to go to," he said.

Another consideration is your health history.

"If you have any specific health problem, you want to be sure the trainer knows how to work with that or around it," Diamond said.

Tips for choosing a trainer

Fitness industry professionals generally recommend the following tips for choosing the right trainer:

  • Figure out what you want to accomplish before starting the search. Do you want to lose weight, gain muscle, improve your cardiovascular health? After you determine your goals, you can ask trainers more specific questions about their expertise in those areas.
  • Check for credentials. When interviewing trainers, check to see if they are certified through one of the national organizations, such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) or the National Strength and Conditioning Council (NSCC). The YMCA and some other fitness organizations also provide education and certifications.
  • Assess personality. After all, this is the person who's going to be instructing you and providing motivation to stick with an exercise program. Diamond said, "It makes sense to find a good fit, personalitywise."
  • Ask about cost. In the Richmond area, trainers generally cost $30 to $45 per hour in health clubs, Diamond said. That range goes up to $55 to $75 per hour in a private studio, he said. Some trainers may charge even more for in-home instruction. Nationally, personal trainers can cost anywhere from $25 to $200 per hour.
  • Consider the trainer's location. Do you like working out at a health club? Would you be more comfortable in a private studio? Are you the type of person who doesn't want to leave your own home? You'll pay more for privacy, but if that's the only way you'll stick to the program, it might be worth it.
  • Ask around. Word of mouth is a great tool for discovering more about the trainers in your area. If you are determined to lose weight and you have a friend whose trainer was integral in motivation and weight loss, there's a good chance the trainer could do the same for you.
  • Consult the Internet. Many of the national certification organizations, mentioned above, will provide individuals with lists of certified trainers. There also are find-a-trainer tools on a few Web sites, such as

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