As a certified personal trainer myself, I often get pawned as the “one stop shop” for health and wellness.
“You can help with my knee issue right?”
“Oh! I really need a diet plan–especially since I have diabetes!”
“I can’t lift my shoulder above my head, but I haven’t seen the doctor yet–can you help?”
Trainers, including myself, hear comments like these a couple of times a day. This a growing issue because the general public is not informed on what a personal trainer actually does, and how to actually utilize one.
So today, I am here to inform you of what a Personal Trainer does and how to pick the right one. Also, I’ll help you figure out if you are really ready for a trainer, or if you actually need one at all.
Becoming a Personal Trainer
The criteria to become a personal trainer are not as strict as in the medical field–however, they are getting better. Your trainer could have gone to school for a 4+ year degree in Exercise Science or could be fresh out of their weekend-long personal trainer fitness certification course. So, be sure to ask any potential trainers that you want to work with what their background is to make sure that you are comfortable with their level of knowledge.
Now, with that being said, a personal trainer doesn’t have to go to college for 4+ years to be considered knowledgeable. As someone who took an online certification course (that took about 6 months of self-guided study) I can vouge for this. There are some college graduates who may be book smart, but when it comes to training the client, is sub-par. On the flip side, I have seen trainers who have completed an online certification course but cannot apply what they have learned properly.
Along with education, be sure to look for how many years of experience they have, social skills, presentation, and other client feedback and reviews.
Anybody can read a book and pass a test. Actually applying what you have learned to the various population along with getting results for people both physically and mentally takes a good personal trainer.
We are required to be CPR certified for your safety, as well as perform CEUs (Continuing Education Credits) every few years to stay up-to-date with the latest scientific research and studies in the health and fitness field.
How Personal Trainers Serve YOU
So, what is within a personal trainer’s scope of practice? This fitting description is taken from the NFPT website:
- Having and maintaining a working knowledge of human anatomy and the concepts of functional exercise, basic nutrition and fundamental principles of exercise science
- An ability to design and execute individual and small group exercise fitness programs, tailored to the needs and attainable goals of the individual, apparently healthy client, in a safe and effective way
- An understanding of the need and importance of screening and client assessment; proficiency in conducting these evaluations initially and progressively
- A desire to help clients reach their health and fitness goals through appropriate cardiovascular, flexibility and resistance exercise
- An ability to motivate others in an encouraging and uplifting way towards improving their overall fitness and health
- A dedication to maintaining personal integrity, client confidentiality and professional standards for best practice
- A dedication to self-improvement, self-awareness, continuous learning, personal growth, and development with regard to personal health, fitness, and mental capacity
In this section, I wanted to take the time to address working with injuries or limitations. Yes, personal trainers can work with individuals who have certain injuries, restrictions, and limitations–if they choose.
They cannot diagnose or prescribe anything for these restrictions, but rather work around them. Any work done by the trainer isn’t meant to focus on these medical limitations–unless they are also a trained professional. However, one may find that working out and eating a healthy diet may indirectly help to alleviate any of the medical issues.
Additional Speciality Certifications
I mentioned in the last section about how some personal trainers can be trained professionals. There are individuals who have or are working in the medical field that may perform personal training on the side. There are trainers with PhDs who publish scientific wellness studies and trainers that specialize in training professional athletes. That’s why it’s up to you to see what types of clients a potential trainer trains and make sure that their target clients align with what you are looking for.
A trainer can work with many different types of clients:
- Bodybuilding Competitors
- Corrective Exercise
- High school/College Athletes
- Elder populations
- Those with disabilities
- Under 35 looking for general fitness
- 35-65 looking for general fitness
- Etc….the list goes on and on
So there are many different routes one can take. You wouldn’t go to a marathon trainer for a bodybuilding competition, would you? So think and choose wisely for what you want to achieve.
Do You Need a Trainer?
A couple of red flags in my head for when I know someone isn’t the right fit for a trainer right now:
- Clients say the services are too expensive: If you can’t afford a good trainer for your goals, you don’t need a trainer right now. You need to get other areas of your life in order, or cut corners somewhere else (shopping for clothes, coffee, discontinuing unwanted subscriptions) before focusing on a personal trainer.
- Clients say they don’t have the time: If you can’t find the time to fit your health and fitness goals into your schedule, again, we have a problem.
- Clients having constant difficulty adhering to the program: This along with the other examples really, goes along with not being mentally ready. If you are not mentally ready to do what the trainer tells you: trust the process, get rid of the junk food and prep meals, and get your workouts in–you aren’t ready. You have to be ready in your head. You have to be mentally ready to EXECUTE.
If you find yourself using these excuses, you are wasting the personal trainers time and effort. So, sit down and really think if you: have the funds to invest, have the time to invest, and are mentally ready for a change.
I Just Want Someone to Make Me Workouts!
I had to include this little segment in here because I get this one A LOT. If you are just looking for workouts because you can’t make them yourself? I’m not sure you really need a trainer.
Consider experimenting with group fitness classes or a workout generator of some sort. But if you don’t want to track your progress and goals, do your OWN research and create your own workout plans!
Trainers Can’t Do The Work For You
“It’s been x amount of weeks and I still am not seeing results”. “I’m doing everything you said and I still can’t lose the weight”. Trainers hear this A LOT. Us trainers are like a GPS. We will show you the road to get you to where you want to go. To your goals. But ultimately, YOU have to drive the car to get there. You can sit in the driveway and you won’t get there. You can completely ignore the directions and you won’t get there.
Are you telling your trainer everything you are eating? The snacks, the bites, the licks? The alcohol? The stress? The lack of sleep? Are you working out intensely enough? Are you challenging yourself and progressing? Or are you just going through the motions? Are you cutting the workouts short? Don’t cheat yourself. Let your trainer know how you feel and they can customize things to fit YOU so you enjoy it.
Trainers Aren’t One Size Fits All
Sometimes, trainers may not be a good fit for you. And that’s OK. I have had to have this tough conversation with quite a few clients. It’s never easy, and it’s hard to not offend anybody.
So, please know if your trainer says you aren’t a good fit to TRUST them. They just want what is best for you. They may even refer you to someone else who better suits your needs. Sometimes, you will get referred to a Physical Therapist or specialist because you may need to get some medical issues dealt with FIRST. The right way is often slow and steady and never really is the easiest (or cheapest). But in the long run, it is better for your health.
Do Your Own Research
Lastly, you have the world wide web as a WONDERFUL resource to you. You just have to develop some good researching skills. There is some god awful information out there. Make sure that you are getting advice from true professionals that isn’t some gimmicky sales scheme or quick fix.
With that being said, you can find thousands of workouts or look up the correct form for certain moves. If there is a certain trainer you like on social media and they offer workout guides that you can buy for a very reasonable amount of money–try them! You usually do all of the workouts yourself, while learning how to work out safely along the way.
So, find a trainer to fit your needs. Make sure that they have the proper qualifications. Most importantly, make sure YOU are ready to have a trainer. You can have the best trainer in the world, but you won’t see results unless YOU put in the work. Sometimes doing your own research may just get you what you are looking for! I hope you have a better understanding and appreciation of what personal trainers do and when to use one!