Think of the professions that demand a high level of expertise. From medical practitioners to auto mechanics, we all want to know that we have someone who takes care of us. Someone that’s honest, ethical and, most of all, knows their stuff.
Fitness is no different. If you’re investing all that hard work (and money) you want to ensure that your personal trainer is much more than abs and sinew.
After recruiting and developing fitness staff for close to 30 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the good ones excel in four basic areas. If you’re shopping for a personal trainer, first consider these four important pillars.
Pillar Number One
A sound understanding of exercise physiology should be obvious. Without it your trainer is like an accountant who can’t add.
That said, let’s move on to something just as important — exercise application. Don’t worry, this won’t get too complicated.
Many exercises are prescribed not because they are effective but because they are popular. Dynamic, athletic movements may be OK for You Tube stars. But, without a proper foundation, these movements can be both discouraging and damaging.
I’ve heard too many horror stories from frustrated exercisers who threw in the towel after being pushed into routines that made them feel uncomfortable.
Your trainer should understand the relevance and suitability of each movement specific to your individual conditioning and ability. Popularity is never a sound motive. Squats, dead lifts and chin-ups can be great functional exercises — for the person who has had hours of preparation.
Tip: If you feel your routine is over your head, it is.
Pillar Number Two
Some may argue, but I say human psychology is just as important as exercise physiology. Any trainer can pull together a balanced routine. But if the client isn’t on board, the routine will be as effective as inner and outer thigh exercises are at reducing your saddlebags (not).
The clues to goal achievement are hidden within each client’s history. Uncover these truths and you uncover the road to success.
What is your relationship with diet and exercise? What barriers are preventing you from exercising? What strategy will you use when things get tough? What are your body image concerns? If you dislike gyms, what are your options?
An effective trainer is constantly asking questions to ensure the client is on course. Yes, exercise and proper nutrition work — but only if the exerciser shows up!
Tip: If communication between you and your trainer travels in only one direction, you may want to see other people.
Pillar Number Three
Try to recall the last time you had to perform under pressure. Remember when people were handing in their exams before you had even read all of the questions? Panic does not foster success!
As with any situation, learner readiness, proper progression and confidence is critical. Over-prescription confuses most people, especially when they must perform in an uncomfortable environment. Three or four exercises is more than enough for beginners. Better to do a few things well than many things poorly.
Mastery comes from subtle but regular change. The journey should be about proper timing and client comfort, not any individual trainer’s agenda.
Tip: Learning takes place in staged, bite-size pieces only when the client is comfortable and ready.
Pillar Number Four
Remember, as the customer, you are in the driver’s seat. Exercise can be intimidating so suppress those grade-school phys-ed flashbacks and assume control.
A trainer that is both knowledgeable and empathetic is worth his or her nine per cent body fat weight in gold.
Tip: Evaluate your trainer as you would any other service provider. They should make you look good and feel good.