Scottsdale resident Paulette Laster had been disappointed in the past by personal trainers. Some gave bad nutritional advice; others based their workout program on the latest fads.
So a few years ago, when she decided to hire a new trainer, she had a definite idea of what she wanted.
“I needed someone focused and motivating that would give me a solid hour of training,” says the 55-year-old. “I know how to do all this on my own, but I need help to take it to the next level.”
Laster was referred to Scottsdale personal trainer Cameron Bradford. And after meeting with him and going over his exercise strategy, she knew his training philosophy would work great for her.
“My muscle tone has improved. I have a lot of energy and I feel great,” she says.
Hundreds of personal trainers operate in the East Valley, but not all are there to genuinely help improve their clients’ lives.
To get satisfying results, like Laster, it is important to know what to look for, says Fabio Comana, exercise physiologist and research scientist for the American Council on Exercise.
“You shouldn’t just train with whoever the gym assigns to you,” Comana says. “Clients need to be savvy.”
Experience, proper certification and education are qualities a good personal trainer will possess, Comana says.
“A strong educational background is something the client should look for,” he says. “Ask the trainer about their areas of study, ask how long they’ve been training, ask for customer testimonials. The client has a right to ask those questions.”
Because the personal training industry is largely unregulated, just about anyone can call themselves a personal trainer.
Although there are certifications, not all are legitimate. Some require rigorous study of exercise physiology, while others may only require applicants to pass a simple online quiz.
“For the most part, you can do a quick exam online and you’re certified,” says Bradford, of Fitness Delivery, a personal fitness business that operates in Scottsdale and Tempe. “It goes on because the trainers know they can get away with it.”
Ask the trainer what certifications they hold and then do your own research to see what it takes to get those, he says.
“For all you know the person’s been certificated for one day or they’ve been doing this for 10 years,” says Bradford. “An experienced trainer will be able to translate the knowledge they learned in school to the floor.” Besides education and certification, personality is a big thing to look for when hiring a personal trainer.
“About half the people I work with have trained with someone else and they weren’t pleased with it,” says Kevin Freeland, a personal trainer for Body Focus Fitness in Tempe. “The No. 1 complaint I hear is that the trainer didn’t have their needs in mind.”
Trainers who are compassionate and invested in their clients are the ones who help make serious life changes.
“To be a decent trainer, you have to really care. You have to be personally invested in helping them become a better person,” says Freeland.
That extra attention can pay off in results.
Mesa resident Lisa Pettyjohn, 45, has lost 76 pounds in the year and a half she’s been training with Freeland.
“I was never a workout person,” she says. “Now I can feel the results, I can see the results. I can’t believe my body’s doing what it’s doing.”
What to look for when hiring a personal trainer
Certification: A personal trainer should be certified by a nationally recognized certifying organization. Programs certified by the National Collegiate Athletic Association ensure the program provides a proper exam procedure. The seven agencies that have received this certification are the American Council on Exercise, National Council on Strength and Fitness, National Strength and Conditioning Association certification commission, National Federation of Professional Trainers, National Academy of Sports Medicine, American College of Sports Medicine and the Cooper Institute.
Education: A bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in exercise science, exercise physiology, physical education or sport management is not necessary to be a personal trainer, but it shows they have a solid knowledge of exercise.
References: Ask your prospective trainer for client names and contact information. Good trainers have satisfied customers who are willing to share their experiences.
Insurance: Liability insurance is important for personal trainers. A trainer who works out of a fitness facility will likely have insurance. If your trainer operates as an independent contractor, make sure to ask about professional liability insurance.
SOURCE: American Council on Exercise