Because this blog is read far and wide (at least that’s what Google tells me) and because there are only so many hours in the day, it pains me to say I’m not going to be able to personally guide each reader’s fitness pursuits. And since I’m a believer in the value of some outside help on the path to health and hotness, it’s worth taking a moment to look at some quick ways to decide if your potential trainer is qualified to make your dreams come true, or if they’d be better suited making fries at McDonald’s.
“Hey Mrs. Rossini, I’m gonna deliver this real quick and then we’ll
hit those hack squats HARD!!! Hope you’re ready to puke!”
It’s also worth noting that a potential trainer needn’t ace every question below. But if he only has answers for one or two… buyer o’ fitness expertise beware.
QUESTIONS FOR A POTENTIAL TRAINER
1) Are they certified? By what certifying body?
– This one is kind of mandatory methinks. While a certification is just a baseline and not necessarily indicative of being a great trainer, they at least spent some time and money acquiring a basic credential. Within the industry the most respected ones tend to be the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), but again the certification is just the tip of the iceberg (albeit an important tip). That said, be wary of crappy internet certifications.
2) What kind of continuing education are they involved in? What are their three favorite books about training?
– Again, the specific answer is less important to me than having an answer at all (without a blank look and obvious scramble; “Um… yo, I read like Flex magazine, bro.”). Attending seminars and pursuing multiple certifications is a very good sign. Having an extensive reading list of books on the topic is going to mean, if nothing else, this person really has taken an active interest in their education. Watching Biggest Loser doesn’t count.
3) Do they design programs or workouts?
– Now we can parse over the absolute necessity of having a clipboard, but again, I think its not a great sign if they don’t. We could argue that demonstrable progression is less important for certain goals (fat loss, as opposed to strength or muscle gain), but nonetheless, if they’re not writing it down, they’re not keeping track. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it. You want a trainer who designs programs for you specific body and goals, as opposed to one who makes up random workouts.
4) Do they have any before and after pics?
– This one is by no means a deal breaker because some trainers just don’t take the time to do it, but wouldn’t be nice to see actual proof of they’re expertise instead of taking them at their word? At the very least ask for some testimonials or to speak with their clients.
5) Do they have any other sources of income?
– A semi-loaded one. There are some great trainers who are poor business people and have to take on other work to pay the bills. Be wary of trainers who train as a side job to their true calling.
FULL DISCLOSURE THAT YOU ALREADY PROBABLY KNOW: I personally fail 5 as I am also a professional actor. I know, I fail my own criteria; good thing I’m such an obvious fitness badass that we can all overlook it, huh?
BONUS) Can they name the four muscles of the rotator cuff?
– I LOVE this question and stole it from Fitness Super Hero Tony Gentilcore. Again, is it the end of the world if they can’t name the rotator cuff muscles? Not necessarily, but I’d sure feel better knowing they at least know basic anatomy.
These questions should give you a feel if the trainer has the credentials to give your body and your fitness goals the care they deserve. Then the other logistical elements come into play; location, availability, finances, etc.
Mid-Session Texting Makes My Eyes Bleed
Also worth noting, you will be spending a LOT of time with this person if you’re in it for the long haul and you want someone you can enjoy your fitness adventure with. Find a trainer who LOVES what they do. And if they happen to stay in shape by spending their free time fighting dragons and ninjas, all the better.