One of the perils of being a self-proclaimed “pretty ‘ok’” trainer is that you have to read non-trainers give [typically horrible] advice to people on social media. I know, it’s my own fault for reading it, right? I’ve never claimed that I don’t have some self-destructive habits.
Today I’m going to help you decide (convince) if you should hire a personal trainer. And if you do (probably do), help you pick a good one. At the very least, I’ll describe the traits a good trainer may posses.
As recent as this morning I saw one of my RL friends (that is: “real life” friend, for those of you just joining me for the first time) ask for some advice on how to speed up his fat loss. On Facebook. Oh boy! Anybody that has ever tried losing weight (and probably failed) *knows* the *best* way to go about it. So of course, there were numerous comments. I couldn’t help myself. I just had to see the train wreckage for myself.
What I “learned” is that bananas will make you fat. Rice will make you fat. Gluten will make you fat (without asking if he even has an allergy/intolerance). Sugar will make you fat (without mentioning quantity or pyschological states). Whole grains keep you skinny (without mentioning quantity, preference, or asking how well his body handles carbs). Because infants need to eat every 2 – 3 hours, full-grown adult males need to eat like that too (backed by the fact that the commentor worked with NPC fitness for 11 years “until the FDA banned all the good supplements”, and he was an ISMA — never heard of them — personal trainer for 4 of those years — what was he the other 7?). Oh, and the same guy says to limit red meat to 2 small portions a week. A self-proclaimed “fat chick who is working her ass off trying to lose weight” told him to cut back on lifting weights and do more cardio so that he doesn’t gain more weight while trying to lose fat. Apparently, I’ve been doing it wrong for a very long time. And, by their accords, I should be Jabba The Hutt.
Two portions of red meat? I eat two per day. Bananas? I only buy the bundles of 8 and have them gone in about 4 days. Rice? My girlfriend is Viet; need I say more? Eat like an infant? You ever heard Arnold: “Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer.” (Arnold was only kind of kidding.) As you can see, anyone that has read a Yahoo! health article knows a lot about losing weight and close to nothing about losing weight (other than you probably need to clean up your diet — but how? — and probably need to start moving more).
Not all trainers are created equal
As you saw above from Mr. NPC with his “good supplements”, not all trainers are created equal. “Everyday Joe’s” are probably even worse. There are good trainers and bad trainers. Ones that want to help and ones that want your money. Some of them may even want your phone number, if you know what I mean. So how do you tell the good from the bad?
A good trainer should be able to defend his/her point of view, both scientifically and with real-world experience (and better yet, previous client examples).
A good trainer should listen to you. When you (the client) tell him/her your eating habits, they should listen intently. They should not be scopin out the hottie on the Smith machine, and then dismiss everything you just said to give you a cookie-cutter “eat this, stop eating that, carbs are bad, eat every 2 hours” presentation. That’s the easy way out and probably incorrect anyways.
A good trainer should ask you how experienced you are. You may be an ex-college athlete that let yourself go and now just want a little nudge to get back into it. If he/she takes you over to the ab machine for the first exercise followed by the isolated, behind the neck military press machine, they aren’t aware that you’re probably familiar with free weights and the “big 3″ that you should be testing out.
A good trainer should ask for your history. Any major injuries at any time? How long since you last worked out? What does your daily activity look like now? Wife? Kids? Divorce? Sports? All of these things tell a good trainer why your body moves and functions the way it does now, in the present. It may also tell them some of the psychological things you may be going through. Believe it or not, you brain controls your whole body. Science.
A good trainer should be able to take ALL of that information (plus more) and design a nutritional and training program tailored just for you. The program should focus on constant, incremental improvement. It should focus on behavioral changes, not quick fixes. It should focus on self-experimentation and not just blindly listening to Yahoo! Health (and even the trainer him/herself).
If you notice that your trainer puts everyone (big, small, old, young, healthy, injured) through the exact same workout and gives out the exact same advice, they are more interested in your money than your results.
Do you need to hire a trainer?
Now that you know what you should be looking for in a quality trainer, do you really even need one? In short: probably.
If you’re new to working out entirely, you should hire a trainer. If you’ve injured yourself trying to do it yourself, you should hire a trainer. If you’ve stalled, you should probably hire a trainer. If you need to increase your performance for a sport, you should hire a trainer. If you’re asking questions on social media, you should probably hire a trainer.
It’s true, anyone can be come a trainer without a college degree and a 2-hour weekend certification. It’s true, there is no governing body that regulates good vs. bad (sadly). It’s true, anyone that has ever tried to lose weight thinks they are just as smart as a trainer. It’s true, anyone that reads mass media health articles probably think they’re just as smart as the trainer writing it. But when it comes down to it, *good* trainers are highly skilled, highly intelligent people. Don’t dismiss them just because they may charge $80/hour or more. If your toilet is backed up, you’d gladly pay a plumber to come fix it ASAP, regardless of price (most of the time); so why not pay someone skilled to help you live better and live longer?
P.S. My services are for hire.