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How to Hire a Personal Trainer

Check it out. If you're thinking about working with a personal trainer, those may be the three most important words in your vocabulary. Before you start any program, you need to know some important information.

1The first thing you should ask for is a current certificate from one of the national personal training certification companies. If your trainer hasn't taken the time to get certified, you need to ask yourself how they learned what they're trying to teach you.

You can confirm their license is current by making one phone call. If you don't know what companies are reputable, here's a list of the top ones in alphabetical order.

SCAM ALERT! In 2012 IDEA Health & Fitness Association found that 36% of people who CLAIMED to be a certified trainer were NOT actually certified! When someone tells you they're certified, CHECK UP ON IT.

Aerobic and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)
http://www.afaa.com/

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
http://www.acsm.org/

American Council on Exercise (ACE)
http://www.acefitness.org

American Fitness Professionals Association (AFPA)
http://www.afpafitness.com/

Cooper Institute
http://www.cooperinst.org/


National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
http://www.nasm.org/

National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)
http://www.ncsf.org/


National Endurance and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA)
http://www.nestacertified.com


National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA)
https://www.netafit.org/


National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT)
http://www.nfpt.com/


National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
http://nsca-lift.org/


Certification by one of these organizations is no guarantee of a good trainer, but it's a start.

2Your first visit with a personal trainer should NOT be a workout. They should go over your goals (making sure they are realistic) and assess your physical condition. Serious health problems will require clearance from a doctor.

3Get in writing the hourly fees and any rules about whether you pay for sessions you missed or have to cancel. Be wary if a trainer tries to sign you up for a non-refundable long-term commitment or asks for cash under the table.

4Your trainer should also have a current CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) certificate and a first aid certificate. They're easy to get from local charities like the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association. Because working out is a strenuous activity, you want someone who's trained to help if an emergency happens.

5Speaking of emergencies, ask your trainer for a copy of their liability insurance certificate and then call the company to verify they're covered. If they work as an employee, make sure the facility you're working out in covers them. In many cases trainers will work as independent contractors so they should carry their own insurance. A policy covering them for $500,000 is a reasonable minimum amount.

If your trainer doesn't have insurance and the facility they're working in won't cover them, run away as fast as you can. In order to get insurance, trainers must have current certificates and credentials. If they don't carry any, that means they're either not insurable because of previous problems or they simply don't care enough to make sure you'll be protected. If an insurance company won't take the risk on them, you shouldn't either.

6A trainer is hired to push you, but there is a fine line between a healthy push and an unrealistic shove. Generally workouts should not increase by more than 10 percent each week. Consider it a warning sign of a poor trainer if you are experiencing extreme muscle pains or injury. Mild soreness should be expected, it shows your muscles are being torn down and rebuilding themselves stronger. But if you can't walk up stairs or wash your face, your muscles are seriously inflamed and you might have been pushed too hard.

7You should get a new workout routine every 6 to 10 weeks. Changing routines keeps your muscles challenged and helps you avoid boredom.

8Your trainer should never leave you alone on a piece of equipment. You are hiring them to help YOU improve, not chat with their friends.

9You should get a workout program customized for YOU. Someone who wants to improve their tennis game would have quite a different workout from someone who wants to put on 20 pounds of muscle.

10A good personal trainer will write down every set, rep and weight. Plus they should make notes if you have any particular problems so they can work with you to improve. Nobody can remember every detail of every client. If your personal trainer isn't writing everything down they aren't doing their job.

11If your trainer guarantees you will lose weight, tries to sell you supplements or is pushing a diet plan, dump them. Some trainers are given basic instructions on diet and nutrition. But it's just that, basic information. For detailed dietary information or a nutritional plan a trainer should always refer you to a registered dietician.

12A personal trainer is not a doctor. If you ask your trainer about drug interactions and working out, or the medical consequences of certain actions they should say, "let's talk to your doctor together."

13Ask for references. What do other clients think of their training style? Did they help them make progress? Would they use them again? If they don't use them anymore, why not? If you've got specific health issues try and talk to other clients they have helped with the same problems.

14Inspect the facility you'll be working out in as closely as your trainer. Here are some basics to look for. If you're doing a lot of cardio, make sure the air is clean and free of mold. Look at the equipment and see that it's well maintained and that cables don't show signs of fraying or wear. Weights should be on racks, off the floor and there should be sweat towels available for everyone.

15Confirm that there's a first aid kit nearby to handle minor cuts or bruises. One of the most important safety things you should look for is an AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) and ask if anyone is trained to use it. Each of those things may seem minor, but the last thing you want to do is hurt yourself and have your trainer scramble trying to figure out how they'll deal with it.

16Finally, protect your wallet. Because anyone can call themselves a personal trainer, you don't want to be scammed. It's easy for a "trainer" to take your money up front and then disappear without providing the service. You can protect yourself by paying with a credit card. Then, if you don't get the sessions or services you paid for, your credit card company will reimburse you for the balance.

Hiring a personal trainer is a big decision. You'll be working closely with whomever you choose, so take a few minutes to "check it out" and make your decision with all the facts.


    Are you paying to have your personal trainer workout with you?

    Don't do it!

    Would you like a waiter that ate food off your plate? How about a bartender that took a drink from your glass?

    When you hire a personal trainer, the focus should be entirely on YOU for health and safety reasons. Unless the sessions are free, paying a personal trainer to workout with you is cheating you out of a good workout.

Call for a FREE Consultation (305) 296-3434
CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.

4/26/2009
Updated 5/16/2010
Updated 1/9/2013