How to Shop for a Personal Trainer

Monday, June 25, 2007

-- By Hannah Foster

When Stiletto Jungle asked me to be Sports and Fitness Editor, my response was “Hell yes!” After the initial excitement wore off though, I kind of began to panic. The truth is, I find women who rock the cute little outfit with perfect hair and makeup at the gym kind of annoying. I believe the effort required to reach most sports/ fitness goals will probably ruin any fashion statement you are trying to make, and if it doesn’t you aren’t working hard enough.

This being the case, I wondered what I could possibly have to say that might interest Stiletto Jungle readers. Then I realized that most of my fashion conscious friends aren’t the type to hit the gym in a little gold lamé track suit and lazily stroll the elliptical while chatting on their cell phone. Furthermore, most of them would agree with me that being inappropriately attired for your activities is not good fashion sense, regardless of whose name is on your lapel (or rear end, as the case may be). Note that this doesn’t mean you’re barred from looking decent, and while I don’t “dress” for the gym I’ve noticed I do pay a lot more attention to my appearance than I thought I did. Besides, when I get bored or upset, I shop... I think we can get along.

So, one doesn’t generally think “fashion” when they think “sports.” One tends to think more along the lines of block color and high contrast stripes. This is in part because the vast majority of athletic attire options make us look like smaller athletic men: turn it pink or slap a flower on it and it’ll do. While I can appreciate this from a production standpoint, it is ludicrous that millions of normally fashion sensible women are forced to choose items that either bring to mind a mu-mu re-created in swimsuit form, or make them look like a 12-year-old at soccer practice. We shouldn’t have to give up being feminine (and adult) to be fit, or vice versa. We are long past having to prove that men don’t have the corner on the sports market, and it’s high time we dress accordingly. So, while we won’t be much into the zebra print velour here, I also won’t simply be recommending the standard Nike/ Reebok/ Adidas, although they will make their inevitable appearances.

That all being said, we begin our sports fashion saga very simply with some tips regarding the ultimate gym accessory (and I mean this in more ways than one): the personal trainer. Your situation will vary with the type of training program you choose (independent vs. one at your gym), but here are 5 things everyone should consider before hiring a personal trainer:

1. Qualifications. Don’t be afraid to ask for credentials. Many of the larger gyms do not require staff to hold anything beyond a trainer’s certificate of any kind, but certification is actually fairly easy to come by. The better trainers will not only hold certification, but will also have a degree in an athletic specialty like kinesiology. The best trainers will have the certificate, a degree, and a certificate in nutrition.

2. Compatability. Whichever program you are considering, you should get a trial session with the prospective trainer. Each trainer has his or her own training style and personality, and if you have problems with either your experience will become more of a chore than a successful path to a healthier you.

3. Program content. In addition to work outs, a good program will have an introductory session which will orient you to the program, establish some preliminary fitness and nutrition goals, as well as review any injury history. The program should also include assessment sessions at regular intervals where you measure your progress and review your physical condition. Also, does the reality hold up to what you are promised? If you are told your fee is for an hour session but after half an hour you are left on an aerobics machine by yourself while your trainer attends another client, then perhaps it's not the value you thought it was.

4. Contract. If they are asking you to sign a contract, read it before you sign it. All of it. You may be surprised by what you find in the fine print. Like hefty fees for cancellation or suspension of sessions (even for medical reasons), automatic renewal clauses, and time frames within which sessions have to be used or lost.

5. The trainer-gym relationship. This may sound silly, but find out as much as you can about the gym your trainer uses and how they treat training personnel. You may get a pretty decent idea about how the gym/program is likely to treat their clients from the way they treat their staff. For instance, are trainers allowed breaks? Do they have a staff room where they can rest or prepare/keep healthy meals? Do they appear fit themselves? If the training staff is in a position where they are tired, or eating out every day, or can be found smoking in the parking lot in front of the gym (really happened), it is perhaps not going to be the comprehensive program you are looking for.

Till next!

Hannah Foster is the Stiletto Jungle Sports & Fitness Editor. Hannah's current athletic pursuits include snowboarding, motocross, yoga, and avoiding the high school guys in the gym. She's played soccer, volleyball, and football competitively, loves swimming, hates running, and is certain being Captain of a 30 girl cheerleading squad gave her grey hair. Her degree is in biology/genetics.