Before I met my husband Dan I naively assumed that all “trainers” working in fitness clubs had degrees in the field. I’ll never forget a conversation we had in Janesville, Wisconsin, that changed my perception.
Dan trained clients at a facility there while getting his Master’s degree, and one of the perks was that we both got to work out. It was a great facility framed with big windows facing the Rock River and stocked with the right amount of machines and space. A number of trainers were on staff, and one in particular seemed to have a following of his own. He was fifty-ish, worked at GM full-time, and did personal training on the side. I observed him doing small group training with clients almost every day.
One day Dan and I began talking about him, and I was shocked when Dan told me that this popular trainer had no formal training or education in the field. I was baffled. I thought that if I walked into any health club, they would have to provide me with an educated, certified trainer.
Not the case. Not even close. It’s quite the opposite. It seems anyone with the right personality or gym experience can call themselves a trainer (Look up some of the celebrity trainers and see if you can find their degrees).
I can’t help but ask: Shouldn’t people be educated in anatomy, physiology, and exercise science before working with something as intricate and important as the human body? Do I really want to entrust my health to a weight-lifter with no training and/or no certification? Does winning a weight-lifting contest, playing football in college, and/or just being pretty and fit qualify you as a trainer?
For me, the answer is a firm “no.”
So how does one find a qualified personal trainer? One you can trust? One that can prevent injury? How can we raise expectations in our local gyms and in the fitness industry as a whole?
Here are 5 things to ask before deciding who you want to trust with your body and health:
- Does the trainer have a degree or degrees in the field? If so, what are they?
- Does the trainer have certifications from reputable organizations like American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), American Council on Exercise (ACE), or the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)? Not all certifications are equal!!
- Does the trainer have experience? How many months/years?
- Does the trainer have a mentor? Is he or she be coached and advised in the field?
- Lastly, is the trainer continuing his or her education? Is she working on a Master’s degree? Is he attending conferences? Is she getting on-line training or reading top journals in the field?
To some people, this may seem a little extreme, but why do we expect so little when it comes to this field? Why do we look up our plumber or electrician on Angie’s List, but when it comes to our own bodies, we don’t ask questions or raise our expectations?
If anything, raise the bar for yourself. Ask questions. Don’t settle for less. Your health, fitness, and well-being are worth it!