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Cindy Says: Save time and money by choosing the right personal trainer

By Cindy Boggs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Recently I spoke with a couple who had made an important decision to take their health seriously. These two were no couch potatoes.

In fact, they had left behind impressive college careers in athletics. Now they found themselves looking at lifestyle and longevity considering they have two children and demanding jobs. They agreed they needed to get physical once again, but this time it was not to win a singles match in tennis or to dominate as a tight end on the football field but rather, to carve out a lifestyle with health as their goal. They wanted a personal trainer who could make their workouts both worthy and efficient.

Where to begin

Whether you need a plumber, a party planner or a personal trainer, you know they aren't all created equal. Furthermore, they don't necessarily grow in their scope of knowledge throughout their careers. Many rely on a certification with little practical experience. More often than not, trainers fall short of the personal part because they are inclined to develop a cookie-cutter program and assign it to all unsuspecting clients. This is a health-seeker's nightmare. Even though mediocrity is present in personal training, there are still those who take their profession seriously. Finding these trainers is the first hurdle toward a healthier life.

A program just for me

Over the years, I've realized that what sets trainers apart is the ability to truly make your experience a personal one. Exercise alone will never be enough to change your body without supporting it with great nutrition, hydration and rest. A trainer who believes this (and any worth their salt should) will constantly be accumulating credits in continuing education and will be practicing what he or she preaches. This will ultimately determine whether you should love 'em or leave 'em.

Have you left them?

Sadly the following scenario happens too often. Lovers of physical activity casually decide they are a natural candidate to become a personal trainer. They figure all they need to do is attend a weekend certification and they'll be equipped to start changing lives the following Monday morning with a treadmill and a few resistance machines. If you've experienced that end of the personal trainer spectrum, I hope you have left them. You are an easy Google search away from a list of reputable and internationally-recognized certifying agents, which is an important part of the process.

What I find surprising is that most people never scrutinize their trainers. They just blindly assume all personal trainers are the same. This is a huge misconception and can be costly in terms of time and money. While good trainers aren't always right around the corner, they are within reach if you are willing to ask the right questions.

Standards

Would you hire a contractor to build your dream home who only had a weekend seminar under his tool belt? Of course not. Most of us would search for a builder with experience, references and bodies of work that you could view and scrutinize. With personal training, it should be much the same. Don't be shy. Interview your trainer much like you would someone you are asking to build your house. Ask the potential trainer for success stories and ask them specifically how they are going to help you reach your goals. Here are some other questions you should ask:

• Who are you certified through and is your certification current?

• How long have you been training?

• Are my goals aligned with my abilities and lifestyle?

• What is your plan to help me reach my specific goals?

• Who have you trained?

• Are you knowledgeable and equipped to integrate nutrition to support my workouts?

Things you need to know

Great trainers are always learning. They love attending great conferences, and are always earning more continuing education credits than they need. In general, fitness professionals are required to accumulate about 10 to 20 hours of CEUs each year to remain in good standing with their certifying agent.

Scan the wall

If you are meeting with your trainer in their office and their certificate is not hung proudly for all to see, they either are not certified at all or no longer keeping up with their certification requirements. Either way, it's a perfect reason to keep your credit card in your pocket.

The skinny on good trainers

Keep in mind that there are decent trainers who are credentialed but lack the knowledge on how to counsel their clients to fuel great workouts. These are the trainers who spend all their time on training and little time on nutrition.

Unless your trainer is a registered dietician or nutritionist, they should not be devising menu plans for you. This would be out of their scope of practice, which is a no-no! However, basic fitness nutrition can triple the effectiveness of your program and should be discussed. Bottom line: If your trainer isn't building a nutritional system around your physical program, you will likely fall short of your expectations. Take the time to find the best personal trainer who can help you succeed at living your best life.

Cindy Boggs, wellness presenter and author, is an ACE-certified instructor/trainer. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to cindysays@aol.com. Look for her award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World" on her website, www.cindysays.com.


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