How to Pick The Ultimate Trainer…

How do you decide what fitness trainer is for you? With the varied choice of personal trainers, boot camps and classes the difference in standard of practitioner can be pretty varied. Indeed these in my mind are the questions you need to be asking…

What Qualifications Do You Have? This seems to be one of those factors which is overlooked. A certification does not necessarily mean someone is qualified to write  exercise programmes. Personal trainer courses now demand no longer teaching time than it takes to become qualified to teach a circuit training class or aerobics. Why is this important? The advice that you get from your trainer needs to be scientifically backed and they need to explain why you are doing something. When it comes to your body exercise prescription is pretty much as important as medicine and in turn if prescribed incorrectly it can have implications for your health. When it comes to how qualified a trainer is there are a raft of varied qualifications from degree level to basic short course certifications. The top-level individuals I have worked with have continuously strived to improve their qualifications through their career- no matter what their starting qualification. A degree does not necessarily prove competence however, it does prove that an individual has invested in their education beyond a weekend certificate. Buying a new piece of equipment or starting a boot camp does not mean someone is well qualified indeed it is understanding how these things affect the individual you are training. A lot of the time a businesses marketing will cover short comings in qualifications- in the long term the good rise to the top while also rans stay on a level.

What Experience Do You Have? 10,000 hours is generally set as the bench mark for excellence for expert performance. This applies to 10,000 of correct effective practice. Ten years of experience does not quantify what that persons level of professionalism is, indeed without an ongoing process of continuous development and reinforcment of poor programming then this individual may be a weaker trainer than the average new coach. Find out specifically what an individual has acheived in their career. There is such a thing as a good generalist- if an individual can talk with direct reference about people that have achieved their goals then this will help you determine their level of expertise. Ask where they have worked and how those experiences have shaped their approaches- have they worked in associated fields such as nutrition, sport or medicine. The wider a trainers field of reference then the more realistic advice you are going to get when it comes to finding out what programme of exercise is right for you.

What is their “Fitness Product”? There are a range of classes and gym based/ equipment led things to take you to your fitness and health goals. Ask the question though is what this person selling the best thing for me? With a lot of current trends you could consider a lot of current fitness products as “activity” or general “exercise” such as your average aerobics class (Zumba included) or spinning session (useful as a calorie burner if you like biking). Boxing based fitness and circuit training can be useful but most of the time I find this is trainer led- these sessions are usually the most accessible for beginners though there main job is to smash the participant in to the ground and the programme is not necessarily personalised. Here exercise form suffers and to me it is not smart exercise. Bootcamps are a current trend gaining speed in the fitness market- their problem is they suffer a pile them high mentality which means that exercise form is not always policed properly. Once sessions run to above ten it becomes pretty hard to make sure everyone is doing the right thing.

Personal training and small group personal training in my mind are the stand out product. The reason being is that exercise can be prescribed in a sensible format in a measured fashion. As well as this it is possible for the client to be coached at a suitably high level, for more information check out what we do at Results Fast.

Price? Probably the most contentious issue in any type of business, what should you pay for training. Well trainers products and prices vary. Is one trainer worth 10K a week or £160 an hour? Does more expensive mean better? Sometimes yes, but looking from a realistic standpoint it depends on your needs. The question is how confident do you feel in the person to take you towards your fitness goals. Looking at their qualifications, experience and product does it limit you in anyway? Sometimes the trainers availability is an issue. I tend to think you need to buy in to a programme that is progressive and gives you the opportunity to acheive what you want.

Do you want to lose weight? Well do you get a full nutrition plan plus at least 3 sessions of training a week- if you don’t your results will be limited.

Do you want to get stronger? Are you lifting progressively heavier weight on a periodized programme for 3-4 sessions a week? If you don’t your programme will be limited.

Do you want to run a marathon? Has your running form been screened for your specific structural tightnesses and weaknesses, are you running 3-4 times a week? If you don’t your progress will be limited.

Are you trying to rehab an injury? Have you had a full structual screening with a person who has worked with your condition and has access to specialists that can be refered to if need be? If you don’t your progress will be limited.

Of course this paints a picture of an ideal traning programme- the truth is though you can get great results with the right programme being realistic though this depnds on how much time you a willing to make available. If 90% of gym members turned up at their training centre then they would have to close. The “box” gym’s service is as a venue for gym equipment rental, even though they pretend their product is training, it is collecting memberships which pay their bills.

Training led businesses are the future of the fitness industry and those trainers that are investing in improving their service and programming will excel. So when it comes to choosing what works for you consider what you want to acheive and how you want to do it. Going for a stroll on a stepper or cross trainer may be what you are doing now but ask the question- has this really helped me towards my fitness goals. The likely thing is that there are things you want to acheive but your time, money and organization limits what you can do. Find the product that can combine the flexibility you need for the right price with a realistic approach in mind for your fitness goals. If you are frustrated and feel you need to do more then decide if fitness is your priority. If it is find out how to acheive what you want and see if it can fit in to your life.

You are probably kidding yourself if you think one personal training session a week and a spinning class is good enough for any fitness goals. Indeed we believe at Results that anything below 3 hours of activity a week is not really taking you fitness forward. Bear that in mind when you approach your trainer/ fitness professional and ask them what you need to do to acheive your goals- whatever they are and whatever your fitness levels….

Published by ianmellis

Ian Mellis MSc. CSCS is the co-founder of Results FAST ( in Ware, Hertfordshire. Specialising in athletic development, physique improvement and injury rehabilitation he provides personal training, strength and conditioning and nutrition coaching for motivated exercisers and those looking to make a long term change to their health, fitness and performance.

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