In this months edition of our tips page we sat down with the Program Director of our facility and asked him a common question that comes up when people are shopping for a Personal Trainer, “Does it really matter if my Personal Trainer has a degree in Exercise Physiology?”
Q. Does it really matter if my trainer has a degree? Is a certification good enough or should I expect more from my instructor?
A. Personal Trainer certifications are designed to provide a competent instructor to enter the field. They typically take anywhere from one month to one year to prepare for and a person with some background in fitness should be able to pass if they studied adequately. They are merely a minimum standard much like a drivers license is a minimum standard to allow someone to drive safely on a public road.
Q. What is taught in the context/coursework of an Exercise related degree?
A. The first year student will take all of their requirements like: Biology, Communications, Math, History, and introductory courses like: Intro to Physical Education, Intro to Kinesiology , Intro to Nutrition, Intro to Fitness Assessment. All of these courses are very important because Personal Trainers must be very effective communicators. Personal Trainers often track statistics on clients so math is used often. Intro to Nutrition ensures that the Personal Trainer understands nutrition science and is able to add legitimate nutrition information to their service. Biology teaches the student the origins of life and the evolution of how the body has become the magnificent working organism it is today. Field specific coursework starts the student in motion to understanding how to be a legitimate fitness professional.
Q. Do the certification programs cover all that?
A. They do in very brief context. A certification course may have a few pages in a book or study guide designed to summarize months and months of intensive learning that takes place in a college classroom. It’s very similar to a “cliff notes” version of what is taught at the University.
Q. My buddy knows a lot of exercises and works out a lot… Could he be a trainer?
A. This is something we hear all the time. A highly skilled Personal Trainer does much more than just point people in a direction and say, “Okay that one’s next.” During the educational process we learn how the body works. We study all of the systems and how they work together to function optimally. After many courses on basic body anatomy and physiology we then move into courses geared to understanding how training can influence the body and bring about adaptations that produce, “fitness.” Someone who has been a “gym rat” for years may know the gym well and know how to use all the machines but they are missing the deep understanding of how each system can be affected by the exercises a person may be given.
Q. If I am a young, healthy person, can I get away with buying the cheapest trainer I can find?
A. If cheap price is your motivation you can certainly find a trainer to work with. I have seen trainers advertise for as little as $15-$20 a session but here’s what you will be getting: someone with no education above minimum standards, someone who probably has not had any other significant clientele or experience, someone who likely isn’t even sure if being a trainer is the right job for them or not, someone who has no place to train you or professional equipment, no insurance or professional credibility.
Q. Is it safe to work with that type of trainer? Even if I’m healthy going in?
A. It’s your body. When you hire a Personal Trainer you are trusting them to make decisions about your health, fitness, and wellness. You should always use common sense and if the trainer tells you to do something that hurts your knees, shoulders, back, etc… ask them to give you something else. If they cannot readjust the program and give you something that allows you to train the muscle and not cause pain you should move on and find someone else to work with. An educated trainer is very versatile. An inexperienced trainer will likely crumble under pressure.
Q. If I just need a trainer for a few sessions does it really matter?
A. If it’s just a few sessions you could probably get away with it. It doesn’t make that much sense to me to do that because if you buy three sessions and the trainer just herds you around to jump start a routine then you are really not getting much value from them anyway. If you just want a trainer to quickly show you how each machine works then buying a few sessions might make sense. Most gyms give one free session to show you around before they do a hard sell on you to buy a big package. You can use that free session to learn the machines you do not understand.
Q. Okay so if I want the best how do I find them.
A. Websites are a great resource nowadays. READ EVERYTHING they have to say on their sites. This will give you a very good indication of how professional they are. This will give you information about their qualifications, experience, testimonials, years in business etc… Call them on the phone or schedule a tour. Talk to them. A five minute phone conversation can tell you a lot about a person. Do they answer your questions directly or are they incapable of listening to you and staying focused. Do they sound like an expert or not. Take a tour of where they work. This can be the best indicator of who you are working with. Is it a professional environment or a dirty warehouse? Is it 97 degrees in the gym and they try to tell you that, “It’s better…you’ll sweat more.” If a trainer says something that just does not seem to make sense or be a safe recommendation to follow, it is most likely not good advice. This is when you have to ask yourself, “what are the credentials of this person?”
Follow these tips and you’ll find the right trainer for you. It’s your health. It’s your fitness. It’s your well being that’s on the line. Choose wisely.
If you have any questions about anything you’ve seen on our site or to schedule a consultation or tour please call: 702-405-0618