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Do I Need A Personal Trainer?

Consider hiring a personal trainer to help with your New Year's Resolutions? Read this first!

It’s that time of year again when we start to assess where our lives are, where we want them to be this New Year, and how we’re going to get there. If your goals are health and fitness-related, you may be considering hiring a personal trainer.

Having been the one you invest in to help you reach those goals, as well as hiring (and firing) several personal trainers over the last few years for my own business, I hope I can help you select your trainer with a bit more thought and preparation.

I have to gives props to my clients and friends on Facebook for helping give me writing material for this article. I asked these folks what they expected from their trainer and was a little surprised at some of the replies. Things like accountability and motivation were givens, but suggestions like “I don’t know much about weight lifting for my body/goals specifically”, and “To give me exercises I would never think of” were a bit surprising but make total sense.

First, I highly advise you look for a personal trainer certified by an organization accredited by the NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies). When I owned my studio, I only hired trainers holding one of these certifications. There are over 200 personal trainer certifications available in America, yet the NCCA only accredits around a dozen of them based on several factors—difficulty of exam and continued education requirements being two of them.

After you find a trainer meeting your certification requirements, the next biggie is going to be personality match. Do you want a drill sergeant trainer who will show you no mercy, or do you need a softer, more emotionally available support source? There are happy mediums, too, as well as trainers who have further education in post-rehab therapy, injury-prevention, sport-specific training, etc. Bottom-line, you are going to frequently be in vulnerable positions both physically and mentally during your time with your trainer, and if you don’t feel comfy with him or her, you won’t stick with it.

Versatility in your training is also an important offering a good trainer should provide. Constant change of the stimuli you throw at the body is what keeps things interesting for you as well as what keeps the body “guessing” and therefore never adapting and hitting a plateau. Your trainer knows anatomy hopefully better than you do, so they know things like there are different exercises to work the little muscles within your rotator cuff and there are three heads to your triceps that are trained with different exercises. Creating a balanced, full-body routine that is always changing to keep you toned, strong and healthy should be one thing you can expect you’re paying for.

Most trainers will also help you with some nutritional help, depending on their education. At the very least, expect them to want you to keep a food journal so they can provide that level of accountability as well as help identify any nutritional gaps or errors that could be impairing your goals. If you need more detailed nutritional help to the extent of wanting them to tell you exactly what to eat every day, you need to invest in a nutritionist or dietitian just for your own safety.

Accountability! In more ways than one. First, you’re making a pretty substantial financial investment. Well-certified, respectable trainers can cost anywhere from $50-80 per hour, and from personal experience, you need to meet with them more than once a week, depending on your goal. That investment forces you to keep appointments and pushes you to make the most of your time together. We all have days when we’re especially tired, stressed, depressed, and it’s all too easy to skip that group fitness class, not put that exercise DVD in (just this once) and come up with excuses. As a trainer, I only accept sickness as an excuse for a last-minute cancellation. Nine times out of ten, my clients feel much better after a good workout that they otherwise wouldn’t have made themselves do. Which brings me to my next point…

We can play a pretty good therapist. We’re certainly not doctors, but we play the role of listener, shoulder to cry on, motivator, teacher, encourager, and sometimes the only support system you may have in this journey. Going back to the personality match I mentioned earlier, you need to make sure you feel comfortable enough with your trainer to share all your goals, frustrations, obstacles and failures. You’re putting yourself out there to feel pretty vulnerable in many ways. Trust is imperative…both ways. You have to trust that you’re in good hands and you will arrive at your goals safely and in one piece, and your trainer has to trust that you’re being honest so they can be sure they’re providing the help and follow-up necessary to get you there.

Your relationship with your trainer can be a wonderful, life-changing thing if you go into it with the right research, expectations and attitude. I am happy to say I have a personal attachment to each of my clients and invest a lot of myself into seeing them successful. My job can be incredibly intense, emotional, exhausting, yet rewarding in a way not many have the opportunity to experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I hope my insight helps you get started on your health and fitness journey to becoming the healthiest, happiest and fittest YOU possible this New Year. Good luck and get moving!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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