This recent post by the Wall Street Journal on the 10 things you’re trainer isn’t telling you got me thinking…
First, the most important thing from that list is #2; if you have weight loss goals then changing your nutrition is as important as exercise. Notice I didn’t say “diet” but nutrition, a diet is short-term, nutrition fuels the body for your favorite activities and good nutritional intake should be a long-term habit not a short-term solution. To put it another way: would you invest your hard-earned greenbacks on a Porsche and then put cheap gas in it expecting a high level of performance? No? Then don’t make poor nutritional choices and be surprised when you’re not getting the results you want.
A good personal trainer is part exercise scientist, part motivational coach and full-time working in your best interest. If you are currently working with a trainer or looking for a personal trainer here are 6 things you should look for to know that you’re working with the right one. Most trainers have their hearts in the right place in terms of helping their clients live a healthier lifestyle through exercise. However exercise is physical stress applied to the body, the right amount of it done in the right way = extraordinary results. The wrong kind of exercise, or doing stuff that’s too difficult too soon = disaster. A good trainer knows how to gradually apply the stress (intensity) to get the results you want, an inexperienced trainer could have you doing stuff too hard too quickly which could lead to injury or worse.
If you have any questions at all about the level of service or the safety of your workouts then don’t hesitate to find another trainer. This is a serious issue because the wrong exercise program could cause serious injury or even death. Listed below are some tips that will help you know that you are working with the right person for your needs:
1. The 80/20 rule:
When you first meet with a personal trainer you should be doing 80% of the talking and he or she should be listening. The trainer should do approximately 20% of the talking which should be spent asking you questions about your exercise and health history and, more importantly, what you expect from an exercise program and are looking to acheive.
2. Each exercise should have a specific purpose
A good trainer will be able to tell you exactly why you are doing a certain exercise and explain exactly how it will help you with your goals. If a trainer is just having you do different exercises with no rhyme or reason or can’t explain what they’re building towards (and how that relates to your goal) then they’re not the right one for you.
3. A good trainer will either have a current certification or a degree in the field
Did you know that a trainer doesn’t HAVE to be certified to call his or her self a personal trainer? Read about the certification issue here. Your trainer should be able to tell you about their educational background and how their experience can help meet your needs. At the minimum a trainer should have an accredited certification and most good to great trainers also have a degree in an exercise science field. Whether your trainer is certified or degree’d they should stay current with the ever-changing field of exercise science by participating in continuing education.
4. A good trainer already appreciates your business and shouldn’t try to sell you stuff you don’t need.
Another way to look at this is that a good trainer should not be trying to sell you vitamins or supplements. Vitamins and supplements may have interactions which can cause serious side effects if you’re taking certain types of medication and most trainers do not have the training or expertise to know how to properly screen for any issues.
On the other hand a good trainer might have a post-workout recovery drink available for sale but they should not be pushing it on you. The science of nutrient timing tells us that to enhance muscle growth it is important to have protein and carbohydrates within the first 45 min or so after a workout; if you wait too long to eat, especially after a really hard workout, your body may already be using protein for fuel instead of to build new muscle tissue. Recovery nutrition is important and a good trainer knows that you need it and is simply letting you know it’s available if that’s the case.
Likewise a good trainer might offer you some equipment for your home that will help you move closer towards your fitness goals. Trainers can set up affiliate plans with many equipment companies that can offer top-quality equipment at good prices; it should be stuff you’re going to use, not let sit in the corner. Yes, the trainer might get a commission but if it’s excellent equipment that you’re going to use at a good price there is nothing wrong with that.
5. A good trainer will try to help you make training services affordable
The Wall Street Journal pieces covers this well; it’s important to note that the recent trend in fitness is towards small group and semi-private training programs. These programs are a win-win-win scenario: by grouping people together at busy times (mornings before work or evenings after) a trainer can reduce his price to $25/person (instead of $75 for a private session) and create a group workout that can be more fun and often more challenging then working individually with a client. If the trainer gets a group of 6 people, he has just doubled his money (to $150) and offered a 67% savings on his normal hourly rate (from $75 ot $25). Research shows that working in groups can cause people to exercise a little harder AND it helps them establish relationships with others in the group that can keep them engaged in the program for a longer period of time.
What we’re doing at my studio: www.functionfirst.com is offering both semi-private and small group training sessions. We want to offer our services to more people at a lower price, so we now offer semi-private sessions of 2-5 people per hour along with small group workouts at the busy times of 7am and 6pm. What we’re finding is that clients are enjoying the savings and making friends with others exercising at the same time.
6. A good trainer should be asking about your energy level and mood before every workout.
Let’s face it, we all have some great days and some that are not-so-great. A good trainer knows that she can push you harder on a great day and needs to back off a bit on a not-so-great one and give you a workout that won’t add to the existing stress level. A good trainer will ask about you and how you’re feeling before every workout in order to see if you have the necessary level of energy and focus for that day’s exercise session and will adjust the intensity of the session accordingly.
There you have it, a brief list of some traits of good trainers. There are many hard-working, well-meaning people in the fitness business but, as in any industry, there is a top 20% and everyone else. Good, top trainers want to help change your life; they’re not there to sell you stuff you don’t need or beat you up with exercise. If you’re working with a trainer you should be able to tell whether or not her or she fits the bill you don’t want to spend your money on something that’s not going to provide returns. If you’re looking for a trainer, use these points to help you find one for your needs.