Is a Personal Trainer Right for You?

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With increasing chronic health issues like obesity and rising healthcare costs, a changing approach to health in the U.S. and globally is clearly called for. Unfortunately, we are not born with an owner’s manual for our bodies. Whether the goal is to look good, feel better, prevent disease, treat overweight or obesity, or slow down the aging process, there are many strategies that one can implement to reach these goals.

Two excellent strategies are eating better and exercising. The big question is, “What are the best ways to begin adding these strategies to your lifestyle?” This is where employing the expertise of individuals in these areas can help you come up with the best game plan. Hiring the services of a dietitian or nutritionist can help with the eating part but what about the exercise part? This is where having a personal trainer comes into play.

What Is a Personal Trainer?

A personal trainer is someone who is a professional in the field of fitness and will provide an exercise prescription and instructions on how to do the prescribed exercises correctly to prevent injury and maximize benefit.

The fitness arena is not completely regulated, so knowing what to look for when searching for a personal trainer is important. Primarily, a personal trainer should have some type of credential such as a license or certification from an accredited organization.

This will show that they have some education and training in the fitness field.

There are many organizations that offer licenses or certifications in the field of fitness.  Two highly respected organizations are the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

Other respected organizations include the American Council on Exercise (ACE), Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA),  and the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA).  Each of these organizations will also have specialty certifications for working with different populations ranging from sport specific athletes to senior citizens.

What Does a Personal Trainer Do?

The field of fitness is constantly evolving. Personal trainers used to focus primarily on helping clients lose weight and/or gain muscle. Although they still have these goals as a focus, they are now dedicating more time to helping people move correctly in the real world.

For instance, we all squat multiple times a day getting in and out of the seated position. If you learn to squat correctly in the gym it can translate into better mechanics in everyday life. Good personal trainers will implement an assessment prior to beginning an exercise program to look for strengths and weaknesses, faulty movement patterns, and muscular imbalances. This assessment along with a prior medical history, daily habits, and goals can pay big dividends to help you reach your overall health goals, which is not only to look good but to feel good as well.

How to Find a Personal Trainer

Finding a personal trainer is usually pretty easy. Check the websites of the organizations listed previously, as they will have a directory of their members and where they are located. Fitness facilities will employ trainers and sometimes allow independent trainers to use their space. One can inquire about personal trainers in these locations. A quick web search of personal trainers combined with the city in which one resides can turn up numerous trainers and businesses that employ trainers, nutritionists, and other health professionals.

How Do I know if I’ve Found the Right Personal Trainer?

Once you have found a potential personal trainer it is time for an interview.

This can be done over the phone or in person. Taking into account your goals and current health status you should ask the trainer if they have experience working with people that have similar goals. Remember, many personal trainers today have certifications to work with specific groups. They may work with all kinds of people but will specialize in one or two areas because they have an interest in those areas. A personal trainer who has a golf fitness certification may not be the best choice if you don’t play golf and your goals are just to tone up and lose some weight. On the other hand, if you are looking to improve your golf game then you may have found the right trainer. As with any relationship, you want to have a connection with your trainer as well. During the interview, does the personal trainer get you motivated to want to reach your goals? Do they make unrealistic claims? Do they tell you that you will need to buy their supplements or other products? These are just a few questions to think about during the interview. The right personal trainer for you should be focused solely on your well-being and on helping you reach your goals.

About the guest author: Mr. Randy Pendergrass is a personal trainer, nutritionist, and licensed massage therapist in Nashville, TN.


Malek MH, Naibone DP, Berger DE, Coburn JW. Importance of health science education for personal fitness trainers. J Strength Cond Res 2002;16:19-24.

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