What a chartered accountant is to the management of our money, a personal fitness trainer is to the ramble and scramble of personal fitness. For many of us, hiring the services of a personal fitness trainer is no longer a luxury but a necessity towards the pursuit of a healthier life.
What should you expect from your personal trainer?
The personal trainer essays several roles while taking you towards health and fitness.
As a coach - The personal trainer will teach you how to carry out exercise in a safe and effective manner.
As a spotter - Will often work within your personal space to ensure that you lift weights correctly and will be on standby to ensure you are never trapped under a weight if you fail to lift it.
As an educator - Will teach you to understand your body and its response to physical challenges. S/he will also help you to learn the "how" and "why" of exercise to some extent.
As a counsellor - Will help to identify barriers in your pursuit of fitness and offer solutions to overcome them. S/he will also help you get realistic about your fitness regime and offer options and modifications to keep boredom and injury at bay.
As a motivator - Will apply motivational strategies to get the best out of you. S/he is also a role model for you and thereby motivates to adopt healthful behaviour.
As a programme manager - Will customise the fitness programme to your fitness status. S/he will also help to set a goal after analysing your wants and needs and design a programme incorporating your time availability and preferences. Most of all, s/he will ensure a flexible programme design to accommodate your changing status and needs.
As a health facilitator - Will carry out basic health screening and identify risk factors for various health disorders which may be worsened by exercise. The personal trainer will also assess response to exercise through a fitness test. This helps not only to identify an abnormal response to exercise but also to quantify your current fitness status.
Moreover, the personal trainer will recognise signs and symptoms of a health challenge including an acute injury and refer to a physician for medical clearance and recommendations. Often, the personal trainer and the physician work hand-in-hand when exercise is a cornerstone in the management of disease.
What should you look for before hiring a personal trainer?
The personal trainer should, of course, be a qualified professional from a reputed organisation. Standard certification exams provided by top-notch international organisations [The American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise, International Sports Sciences Association, Progressive World Fitness, The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. to name a few] are now easily available in India for personal trainers.
These certifications require the trainer to have an adequate knowledge of:
- Exercise anatomy and physiology
- Kinesiology and biomechanics
- Health screening and fitness testing
- Programme designing, implementation and monitoring
- Modifications in exercise for challenged populations [diabetics, obese individuals and pregnant exercisers]
- Injury prevention and exercise in environmental extremes
- Health psychology
- Legality and professional ethics.
The more varied clients that s/he has dealt with, the better equipped will the trainer be to offer a wide choice of programmes, advise regarding equipment and accessories and will also easily recognise a problem that is beyond his scope of practice and may warrant a referral to other healthcare providers. Added skills and qualifications like nutrition management, relaxation and stress management techniques, Pilates, cardio kickboxing or core training will add to the repertoire of the personal trainer and enrich his store of exercise options.
You should change your personal fitness trainer when:
- S/he has not screened you before starting exercise
- S/he changes your exercise routine day-to-day according to his/her mood
- S/he keeps emphasising on "no pain, no gain"
- S/he asks you to pop pills [medical drugs]
- S/he decides your goals for you without taking into consideration your wants or needs
- S/he is always late for sessions or often cancels appointments at the last minute
- S/he is constantly tired or bored during sessions
- S/he interferes in your personal problems
- S/he has discussed you or your body with other clients
- S/he refuses to educate you about exercise and would rather have you dependant on her/him for the rest of your life
- You are uncomfortable with his/her proximity to your body or his/her spotting technique
Questions you should ask before hiring personal trainer services
- May I see your certificate or certification card?
- Are you currently CPR certified?
- May I know which services are included in the professional charge?
- How are we planning to monitor progress?
- Will I need to invest in equipment to get an effective workout? And what amount? [there should be no big investment to start with]
- Will you provide me with knowledge and exercise technique that will make me self-dependant for a basic fitness routine after a period of time?
- Will you provide me with a practical exercise plan for the period when I travel?
- Will you put me on a maintenance plan after I achieve my goal?
- Will you address motivation issues with me?
When it comes to personal training, it is easy to misconstrue the relationship at several stages. At no point should the personal trainer claim to be the "one-stop-shop" for complete wellness. To build trust the trainer must be particular about adhering to professional ethics and should never go beyond his scope of practice. Ultimately, the healthy client - trainer relationship is one which cannot exist without mutual respect, genuineness and empathy.
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