Getting in shape can be difficult – especially if you’re unsure of where to start. There is so much information out there with very little context. Since the 1970’s getting into shape meant joining a gym, but due to the spread of CoVid-19 and depending on where you live, gyms may be inaccessible for you or you may feel uncomfortable going back right now. Before CoVid-19 affected the world, virtual fitness had already been on the rise. Now platforms such as Peloton and Mirror are soaring. On social media, fitness enthusiasts and so-called “influencers” are showing off their workouts, half-naked bodies, and coolest photos in exchange for likes, followers and buying their program.
While you may not have considered going virtual or utilizing a coach/trainer before, working with one can benefit you in more ways than you think. For instance, a professional coach will assess exactly what your body can and can’t do before handing you a list of exercises. It takes the guess work out of which exercises are appropriate for you, how often you should do them, and how intense you should be working. Professional coaches also teach you about proper exercise form and progression, which can protect you from following any random Internet program or lifting too heavy when your body isn’t ready. Professional trainers have an extensive education in the areas of exercise science, physiology, kinesiology, biomechanics, anatomy and more. They help and social support and provide accountability for “showing up” to your goals. Even if you just use a trainer for a few months to learn some basics, it’s worth it. However, before you hire just anyone, learn how to hire the best coach/trainer for you.
Finding a Trainer/Coach
Almost all big gyms have personal trainers and come with a free training session to help guide new members. If that sounds like you, give it a try. You have nothing to lose, but don’t hesitate to try a different trainer if you don’t connect. Look for trainers who are actively engaged with their clients and not constantly checking their phone or sitting down while they train. Another great way to find a trainer is to ask for a recommendation from a friend who can give you an honest opinion.
Can you search Google for a trainer? Sure, but even there you have to be diligent. It can be a mix of who pays for the top searched phrases or who’s website has a better SEO. If you’re scrolling through Instagram you’ll also find “fitness influencers” trying to sell you workout programs and fitness challenges. However, being on Instagram doesn’t automatically make you a professional. So how do you know the fitness program they are selling is appropriate for you? Do you rely on how big their following is? Client testimonials? Because you want a body like theirs? Does posting shirtless & revealing pictures qualify them as a good coach for someone else? How do you determine if they are the right fit for you and your unique place in life?
At least in gyms you can watch trainers while they work with clients. Online you can’t and a lot of them seem to be more into their ego and making a quick buck than into their clients. Here are the top questions you’ll want answered:
Q. What are your Qualifications?
Is your trainer new to the profession? Have they ever worked at a gym or just online? What’s the trainer’s experience level and how many clients is that trainer servicing? Did they go to college for any Exercise or Food Science? What certifications does the trainer hold? Do they have insurance? These questions will give you insight into your prospective trainer’s background, knowledge, experience, and price tag.
If your trainer is new to the field, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she won’t be any good. However, if you have specific needs, such as a history of back pain or knee surgery, an inexperienced trainer may not be the one for you.
Q. Are you Certified?
Certification requirements vary, with the most stringent mandating a four-year degree (NSCA-CSCS). The next best are accredited by the NCAA and have high testing standards and continuing education guidelines (NSCA, NASM, ACE, ACSM, NCSF). Then there are other certifications recognized by most commercial gyms (AFAA, ISSA, NCCPT, NESTA, NFPT).
Keep in mind, arguably the biggest fault in the fitness industry is that there is no state licensing or strict federal regulations on giving fitness advice/recommendations to a client. Anyone can get certified by purchasing a text book, studying at home, and passing an exam within a few weeks.
Q. How do you think you can help me?
Listen carefully here to see if they really care or if they are just trying to sell you the biggest package they offer. It’s important that any trainer you decide to work with understands your needs and goals. Also, it is imperative that what a trainer suggests is realistic for you based on your lifestyle. If the trainer wants you to go from 0-100 overnight, e.g. train 7 days a week or gives you a list of supplements to start taking, you may want to talk to a different trainer.
Q. How does pricing work?
Simple. You get what you pay for. For 1on1 training it will cost anywhere from $60/hr to $150/hr+. Why is it such a big range? Compare it to the big box gyms. Think of Planet Fitness where they serve bagels, pizza, and tootsie rolls vs. Equinox Fitness Clubs where it’s like exercising at a spa. There are trainers that are in it to sell a lot of generic workout programs vs trainers who pay attention to the little details. Here are the big factors that will determine the cost. Education – how much they’ve invested in college and in continuing education. Experience – ask to hear about their professional journey, who have they worked for and for how long, and other professional accomplishments. Cleanliness of a facility – Pre-CoVid people use to brush this off! Privacy – some people prefer a more exclusive studio with less people. Any additional Resources – extras they may provide you with : software/applications make doing business with them easier, online learning tools, etc.
Once you’ve found a coach/trainer to work with, your first session should be a fitness assessment. After discussing your health history, goals and priorities, you should be guided through a series of movements so that your trainer can evaluate your physical capabilities. From there your coach should be able to design an effective customized workout program and that’s when the real training begins.
Goal setting and vision boards alone don’t make change. Action makes change and coaches make action happen. With great coaching you’ll go from:
Goals = what you want to move towards
To skills = the abilities required
Into Practices – exercises that help build the skills into small actions done daily repeated over time
That become habits – automatic behaviors built seamlessly into your lifestyle.
No one’s life or body is the same, so you’re going to need a plan that is unique to you. Most of us weren’t taught how to live a healthy lifestyle alongside of juggling work, family, injuries, and other life stresses. However, when you prioritize your body life has a tendency to follow.
-Stephen Wickes, CSCS
About the Author
References : “Getting Personal” by Melyssa St. Michael, CPT