The time has come. You’re serious about shaping up for the new year or high school reunion or just because you know you need to. You’ve tried it on your own. You fell off the fitness wagon within a few weeks. You’ve given yourself pep talks in the mirror until the mirror is tried of listening. What’s a body to do? Perhaps it’s time to hire a personal trainer.
But before you flip open the Yellow Pages or hit the Internet, here are some considerations. After all, this is a decision that will require putting your money where your muscles want to be. You might want to write out your answers. You might want to read this column and then consider your options.
1. Fitness goals: Have you been fit and now recently, because of pregnancy or a disability have been sidelined? Are you healthy enough to work out? What are your health goals? How often do you now work out? Are you going to work out only to lose weight? How much weight do you want to lose? When can you work out? Do you like working out alone or are you most comfortable with a small group?
2. Health goals: Are you a healthy eater? What can you change in the way you’re eating now to help you once you begin to work out? Have you consulted a nutritional counselor or had a weight management program recommended by a professional? Are you comfortable with it? Why or why not?
3. General goals: What do you want to achieve with a fitness trainer that you cannot do on your own? Are you comfortable with personal accountability? Do you need an exercise buddy? Do you want someone to tell you how to build up or streamline your body? Are you more interested in weight loss than muscle building?
4. Budgetary goals: What are you willing to pay for a trainer? Is this realistic? Remember paying bundles at an upscale gym or having a fitness trainer to the stars come to your home or office doesn’t necessary mean you’ll get a dynamite workout. You’ll want to ask the trainer how much he or she charges and how the payments are to be scheduled. If you’re hiring the trainer through the fitness center where you have a membership, are the trainer’s services part of the cost of the membership or is this an additional charge?
5. Skill questions: What skill area are you seeking in a trainer? Fencing? Aerobics? Ballet? Dance? Is the trainer you’re considering able to cross over to other forms of fitness or provide help with a sport you’re anxious to learn, such as cycling or inline skating? What about certification? Where did the trainer train? You might want to read the code of ethics for one group of trainers on the IDEA, health and fitness association, website at www.ideafit.com.
6. References: Has the potential trainer offered references? Have you talked with the folks that this persons trains? You’ll want to ask questions such as: When did they begin with the trainer? How long did it take them to accomplish their fitness goals? Where the goals realistic? What was the biggest concern working with the trainer?
7. The fitness philosophy: Most trainers have a set idea of what being fit means and how to achieve that. Ask the trainer you’re consider, “What is your ‘fitness philosophy’?” Does he or she believe in a specific type of program, diet pills, or specialty equipment? Does the trainer sound like a fitness expert or a drill sergeant? What advice does the trainer provide? Only oral communication? Written materials? If so where did the trainer gather the materials? Is the information based on sound health principles or wacky ones along the lines of a “Cabbage, Creampuff and Chocolate Diet”? Can the information be verified by looking at other reliable materials?
8. Your comfort zone: Are you going to be comfortable with this person? Be honest with yourself. You’re not there to flirt or chat, but you don’t want to feel like your comments are inane or unnecessary either. After talking with the trainer, did you “click” with his/her style?
9. Looks matter: When you’ve met the trainer, what was your first impression? If the trainer looks like she’s been burning the candle at both ends or he reeks of an aftershave that went out in the seventies, you may want to consider other trainers. If she’s into yoga and you’re not, keep looking.
10. Talk it through. How well can you talk with this person? Are you able to state what you want from the workout or do you feel bullied into using whatever regimen he always prescribes for clients?
11. Where’s the bottom line? Did the trainer you’ve interviewed seem encouraging? Were there catches or contracts to buy vitamins, fitness equipment or clothing items? Can you afford what’s being offered? Do you have the time?
Choosing a fitness professional doesn’t have to take a bundle of time. Select one you are comfortable with, you want to learn from and who motivates you to stay fit for life.
Sheila Cluff, fitness expert, television celebrity and owner of The Oaks at Ojai, is the author of Take 5: How You Can Benefit from Just Five Minutes of Daily Exercise and The Ultimate Recipe for Fitness by Sheila and Eleanor Brown. Visit Sheila’s Spa on the Internet and see all that’s happening at the resort: The Oaks at Ojai www.oaksspa.com.
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