Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Should You Hire a Personal Trainer?

Tips from Jeanne Johnson, the trainer Anne Kelly has been working with for just over a year now.   Jeanne trains in the Twin Cities of Minnesota and can be reached at Jeanne Johnson [jchombody@gmail.com]

When do you think a person should consider hiring a personal trainer?   Will I need a trainer forever or just to get me started or over a hump? 

If new to exercise, especially weight training, hiring a trainer to teach proper form and workout design is very important. If you are motivated and disciplined, hiring a trainer for a few sessions or periodically will work well. If you start and stop often with exercise and feel unmotivated to work out, hiring a trainer is a smart decision. You will be more consistent and get the most out of your workouts. Even if you are disciplined, hiring a trainer will help you keep your workout fresh and challenging. Also, we tend to not push quite as hard without someone watching over us, so another great reason to hire a trainer.

What is the difference between a trainer session and a boot camp/class?  Is the extra cost of a trainer worth it?

Classes can be great alternative to hiring a trainer, but I would recommend still hiring a trainer initially for proper form and helping you decide which class to take (a good trainer will determine your current fitness level/capabilities and recommend classes based on that.) Classes are definitely a less expensive option and can be a good choice for people familiar with exercise. Another alternative would be small group personal training which would keep costs down but still give a more personal/individual experience.

What can I expect to pay a good trainer? 
Cost for a trainer can range anywhere from $50-100/hr and up depending on location.

What qualifications should I look for?  
Definitely look for a trainer with a certification through a respected organization such as American College of Sports Medicine (ASCM), National Academy of Sports Medicine or National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Experience is equally important especially if you have any health conditions or injuries.

Do I have to sign a long-term contract?  What if we just don’t “click?”  
It depends on where you are working with the trainer. Independent trainers usually require you to purchase a set number of sessions, but not a contract. Trainers at larger gyms may have you sign a contract for a period of time, but it just depends on the gym. Definitely meet with a potential trainer before working with them to make sure that you are a good fit. Most trainers will want to have a consultation with you before working with you for that same reason. A good fit is very important - many people spend more time with their trainer than with anyone other person in their life - so you have to keep that in mind as you make your decision.

I’m a larger person and not very fit.  I’m nervous about starting with a trainer who probably has no idea what it is like to be overweight and under-fit.  What questions should I ask a trainer to make sure they “get it?”  
Obviously you want to work with a trainer that you feel comfortable with and who you think will motivate you. This will be different for every person as some people like a more in your face, aggressive trainer, while others will appreciate a trainer with a softer approach. You should ask your potential trainer if they have experience working with people similar to you, also you could ask for names of clients that would be willing to talk to you about their experience working with the trainer.

Should I look to a personal trainer for nutritional or equipment advice?  
Unless your trainer has a specific certification or degree in nutrition, I would recommend that you work with a professional in nutrition to guide you with your diet and food choices. Most trainers will have a network of professionals that they can recommend or refer you to. Your trainer is a good resource for equipment purchases. They will know what to recommend based on your level of fitness and preferences.

In-home or studio?  Sharing a trainer?
Location is up to you, what you are most comfortable with. Typically in-home trainers are more costly, while small gym trainers are more affordable. Small group training is a great option - usually 2,3 or 4 people sharing a trainer for the hour. This can be fun and motivating for the clients, but again it is what you are most comfortable with and what you think will keep you going and stay committed.

How should I find a trainer?  Do they allow sample sessions?
 A referral is probably the best way to find a trainer. Ask your friends, coworkers, family who they work with. I think this is the best way to go, rather than using a Google search. It doesn't hurt to ask for a free session or partial session. This is really up to the trainer or gym policy. At the least, paying for one session as opposed to several sessions initially would be a smart move so that you can get a feel for the trainer's style and expertise.

Comments from Anne Kelly
My friend Christine recommended that I come with her and share a workout session with Jeanne once a week.  It took me about six months to warm up to the idea.  The thing that pushed me over the edge was realizing that I was losing upper body strength. I had a canoe trip planned with my strong son, and I wanted to be strong for the portages—and I didn’t want to get injured on the trail.   I have really enjoyed it—well, in the middle of the hour, when Jeanne pulls out those slider-things to make us work on our abdominal muscles, there are a few moments of whining!  Overall I feel much stronger and more balanced. Jeanne also offers her clients a once a week early morning boot camp and I have started doing that as well.  It’s a bigger class with less individualized help on form, but we keep moving!  I can tell in my posture that I am moving more freely and comfortably. I can’t say I have lost weight during the year, but I have stayed stable, and some parts of me are definitely a little firmer.  I am clearly stronger and feel great. Sharing the hour with Christine has also been really fun.  The three of us chat about everything from movies, to family, to politics.  Somehow sweating makes the conversation better.  Jeanne is correct in her comments that really liking your trainer is important.  Don’t settle for someone you don’t really connect with.  Jeanne is a wonderful trainer, highly organized so we can just do the workouts without thinking too hard.  That is really nice if your life is at all stressful.  She is always ready to offer a way to modify an exercise if a knee is twinging, or something is awkward for your body.  But she always pushes me just a little harder than I would on my own.  Even though you are working hard, the hour with Jeanne is refreshing.  She also keeps the boot camps fun, holding them outside in a park whenever the weather allows. She attracts nice clients, and I’ve loved getting to know everyone in her circle. Jeanne trains in the Twin Cities area.  If you’d like to connect with her, just email her at Jeanne Johnson [jchombody@gmail.com]

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