What To Look For In Selecting A Personal Trainer

Visiting the gym can be a lot like visiting a foreign country, if it's not something you do on a regular basis. Seas of sweating bodies, patrons fluent in the mechanics of each machine, and unfamiliar fitness jargon can be overwhelming to newcomers. Luckily, tour guides are available to assist anyone's foray into gym culture and give direction to any workout routine. If you're totally out of shape, beginning a new fitness regimen, or simply looking for motivation, personal trainers can be an asset to your gym experience. However, trainers aren't just for newcomers; they can equally benefit gym veterans, as they can give you focused training for specific goals or can help update your fitness program by providing direction and motivation.

Tee Ezell, director of fitness at The University of Tennessee's Rec Sports offers tips on personal training. In addition to fitness certifications ranging from yoga to personal training, Tee holds a bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in sports administration from the University of Tennessee, has taught a wide variety of fitness classes the past 10 years, and has produced and starred in several fitness videos.

• When should you consider a personal trainer?

"Seeking out a personal trainer should always be taken very seriously. You should seek out a personal trainer when you feel you are ready to make a mental, physical, and time management commitment," Ezell says. "A trainer who has sound knowledge of basic anatomy, weight training, and nutritional knowledge, just to name a few, will know how to find the right balance to get optimal performance and results out of a client. He or she will know how to cross train the body in ways to bring about noticeable change and to help clients reach their goals." However, deciding to utilize the expertise of a personal trainer is only the first step in the training process. Like tour guides in a foreign country, some personal trainers are more qualified than others and can help create a better training experience.

• What should you look for in a personal trainer?

Tee advises choosing a trainer who is certified by a reputable and nationally known health/fitness organization such as ACSM, AFAA, NSCA, ACE, and who has a sound and broad knowledge of exercise safety, anatomy, physiology, and program design. "It helps to have a degree, but that's not always the case," she says. "Beyond gathering the medical, nutritional, and fitness information, trainers must know their clients and what they prefer. Also, a trainer should have coverage, policies, and contracts, and everything should be spelled out clearly for both trainer and client." One of the primary reasons to hire a trainer is for the personal connection that comes with individualized instruction which can be vital in overcoming fitness obstacles.

• How can personalized instruction benefit your workout program?

"Clients need to know that we are human too and experience the same pitfalls as they do," Ezell says. "This means, as trainers we are helping clients make good choices and live healthy lifestyles. By being ourselves and sharing some of the experiences we encounter as trainers and everyday people, it helps to put trainers in a better position to give sound advice to put our clients on the right path to being healthy."

• How much should you pay for this personal connection and individualized instruction and motivation?

"On average, $50-$60 per session," Ezell advises. However she stresses that this is just on average, and that the relationship between the trainer and his or her facility plays a huge part in determining cost. For example, does the trainer have his or her own facility? If not, what percentage goes to the facility, and what percentage goes to the trainer? Are you purchasing a package of sessions or paying individually?

Most importantly, keep in mind that the road to fitness is a two-way street. You may have the best trainer available, but if you are unwilling to commit to a regular fitness regime, individual training can be a waste of your time and resources, as well as that of the trainer. So how do you make the most out of a personal training session? Simply showing up is the first step. The next is to leave the whining and excuses at home. "Come mentally focused and try to give 100 percent of yourself during that hour of training," Ezell says.

But making the most out of your personal training sessions goes beyond what you do in the gym. "When eating, do so in moderation and try to follow the Food Pyramid Guide," she adds. "Eat slowly, drink plenty of water, and last but not least stay active. Even if it's only 30-45 minutes a day, stay in motion doing something that will help you to consistently burn those calories."