Going to the gym or doing any fitness routine and not having a fitness professional guide you is like bringing your car to the mechanic, parking in his garage and telling him, "I got this", as you proceed to use his tools to fix your broken carburetor...and you know very little about carburetors. It won't work. All the tools are there for you to fix your car, but you do not know what you are doing. In reality, most of us turn the car over, pay the hundreds of dollars it will take to fix it, and let the pro do what he does best. However, when it comes to our bodies, which are WAY MORE complicated than a car engine, we think we can just go to the gym (garage), start using all the machines and dumbells (tools), and expect to fix our bodies (entire car). Oh yeah, just because you read that auto mechanic magazine (fitness magazine) doesn't mean you know how to do it now either.
My point? Let the professional guide you through it and invest the money into him or her teaching you how to do it the right way. Now the real problem...finding a good trainer (mechanic). Here is what you should be looking for and REQUIRING from your trainer, or will you just give your car (body) to anybody??
What to look for in a great trainer:
1. MORE than one accredited certification. It shows a willingness to get better as a trainer.
The sad part about this is that anybody can pay the fee, study the curriculum and pass the test to become a certified personal trainer. There are usually NO fitness requirements to become certified. Some certifications you can literally take in a weekend and take the test there while the teacher basically gives you the answers. Make sure your trainer has more than one certification and make sure the associations are accredited through the NCCA ( National Commission for Certifying Agencies). Some of the more reputable certifications include ACE (American Council on Exercise), NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), and NCSF (National Council on Strength and Fitness). I currently have five different certifications and am working on my fitness nutrition specialist certification.
2. Past experiences in sports or some kind of fitness field. It means they have actually used their body before.
Would you give your car to a mechanic that has never driven a car? There are many trainers that get into training that have never actually trained themselves or have gone through what they are about to put YOU through. Find someone with an extensive fitness or athletic background. For example, I lettered in six different sports in high school, was an All-Conference football player in college that won three championships, and have competed all my life in endurance events including marathons and triathlons. In other words, I have felt the burn, felt the pain, pushed my limits, sacrificed for my body, puked, cried, and have changed my body composition. I KNOW what it feels like when you say it burns, hurts or you are going to die. I have been there and KNOW through personal experience how to get you through it, and that you aren't going to die. That is something that CANNOT be taught in a book.
Does that mean there aren't any fantastic trainers that don't have a fitness background? Absolutely not. I know many trainers that didn't have a background in fitness that are great trainers, they are just much harder to find.
3. Watch them in action, ask their co-workers or get a referral.
When I bought my car I asked a ton of people where they go to get their car fixed. I wanted to go somewhere that people had been before and had a great experience. Same with trainers. Ask the front desk people at the gym or the sales counselors. Even ask other trainers who, besides themselves, think is the best trainer. Usually, it is the same person...and the busiest trainer. Also, results never lie. Look for success stories from a trainer. Watch them train their client in person. Do they look like they care? Are they engaged? Is the client having fun? Is the trainer having fun? Are they playing on their phone? Usually it doesn't take long to see who the best trainer is...they will reveal themselves to you.
4. Do they walk the walk? Is their personal fitness important to them? It should be!
Does your mechanic only fix cars on Wednesdays or just on the weekend? Or does he fix cars daily? Does your trainer look fit? Do they work out daily or at least as much as they are asking you to? They should. However, don't make the mistake of comparing what type of body you want to which trainer has that body. Every great trainer can change anybody's body whether it is to gain mass and muscle or to lose weight and get lean and ripped. Also, every body is different and you may never have the body of your trainer no matter who you work out with. Many times clients will look at the biggest trainer and assume that is the trainer for them if they want to get big. That is not necessarily the case. A pro can transform any body, just like a master mechanic can fix any car.
5. Do they have experience? Is your car their first car?
Obviously we all have to start somewhere so there will always be people who don't have a ton of experience to start out, but when it comes to you and your health, we can't waste any more time or money on someone that is trying everything out for the first time on you. Look for someone that has done it before and still loves doing it. In most gyms, to become a master trainer, you have to train over 2000 sessions and have more than one certification. This is a great requirement for a client to have of their trainer. It means they have fixed many bodies and probably know how to fix yours.
6. Do they get their clients REAL RESULTS?! What are you paying for? Do they hold you ACCOUNTABLE EVERY SINGLE DAY?
Any trainer can work someone out. It really doesn't take a genius to give someone a good workout, you can get that in your living room with a video if you want. When working with a trainer you should EXPECT GREAT results as long as you are even partially committed. A great trainer can get them out of you. Do they hold you accountable to your food? Do they weigh you every session? Most studies say that your food intake accounts for over 70% of your results! Why would you work with a trainer that only focuses on the 30% that any trainer can do? Do they have the confidence to guarantee results? Do they take measurements? If you work with a trainer that doesn't take your measurements it's probably because they can't get you the results you are looking for or are not brave enough to deal with the backlash they will get from clients with weight issues. I weigh every client in every session and track their food every day. For example, I had a client that was 225lbs when he started working with a trainer. He worked out three times a week for six months. In those six months he lost 5% body fat, was much stronger than when he started and felt better about himself. When that trainer moved and he got me I told him those were TERRIBLE results for someone that was still 40lbs overweight and working with a trainer for six months. After only three months of me holding him accountable, he dropped over 30lbs and 6% bodyfat. Now those are REAL results. His old trainer never held him accountable to his eating or his results. Make sure they hold you accountable to your food...its 70% of your results!
Remember, there are thousands of mechanics out there ready to fix your car. Are you just going to hand it over to anybody or are you going to put it in the hands of someone that is a professional. Find the right trainer to help you with the most important thing you possess...your health. I hope you take these tips and find the right personal trainer for you and for your fitness goals. Remember, if you do all these things and still don't like your trainer, there are always other trainers (mechanics) out there. Take care of your body in 2013 and let a professional help you do it! Get FIT...or ELSE in 2013!
To your fitness!
Corey Enman-NASM CPT, PES, CES, AFFA CPT, TRX Certified Instructor
Founder & CEO