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Finding a Personal Trainer

How to get the best match between your personal trainer and your fitness goals

Guy or gal? continued...

Some guys feel having another man training them removes any potential distractions, and a few have admitted to trainers that their wives would “freak out” if they had a woman working them into shape. But for the most part, personal trainers say that sex shouldn’t matter when it comes to finding the best trainer.

“Don’t pigeonhole yourself,” Florez says. “Female trainers are as good motivators as male trainers, so don’t discriminate by sex.” He notes that over the years of running his business, his most popular and best trainers have tended to be women.

Nor should you necessarily seek out a male trainer if you have men’s health issues. “There’s no reason a female trainer can’t understand things related to male health. It’s more important to find someone you can connect with,” says Jonathan Ross, the personal training director at the Sport Fit — Total Fitness Club in Bowie, Maryland.

Where and how to look for a personal trainer

If you have a good gym, that’s likely the best place to find a personal trainer. Trainers who work out of commercial health clubs tend also to have lower rates than those who have private studios. So get a list of your gym’s trainers and break the list down into specialties. For instance, one could be more of a weight trainer, and another might be more of a physical therapist for injured clients. Then read their biographies to get a sense of their history.

If private training appeals to you, it makes more sense to use the Internet than the Yellow Pages to find a personal trainer in your area. A lot of personal trainers are independent business owners with limited promotional budgets, so they tend not to buy ads in more traditional outlets such as phone books or newspapers.

Certification is critical — after all, anyone with a mat and a few weights could pose as a trainer. Make sure your personal fitness trainer has been certified by at least one of the major national organizations, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, or the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

But remember, a list of accreditations doesn’t automatically translate into superior training skills. “Too often people focus on education. But if you have a trainer with average knowledge but excellent people skills, you’ll get better results,” Ross says. ”The best trainer in the world can’t help someone unless they can effectively communicate their knowledge.”

And don’t neglect client recommendations. They’re often the best, most accurate way of determining whether the trainer will be the right fit for you. Potential personal trainers should be ready and able to provide a list of sources. “Any trainer doing a good job should have a long list of satisfied customers,” Ross says. “I periodically ask clients who’ve had good results if it’s okay if people contact them. If a trainer is iffy about doing that, that’s a big red flag.” It either means the trainer doesn’t have much experience or, worse, doesn’t have a good track record.

Last and not least, make sure your personalities click. Nothing will kill a trainer/client relationship faster than dislike or discomfort between you. “Make sure you hit it off,” Florez says. “Do they listen to you, or do they seem like robots who are going to program you?”

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