Hiring a personal trainer for the new year? Do your research, experts say

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Now that a new year is here and many of us have resolved to get into shape, hiring a personal trainer might be an option on the table when it comes to sticking with that resolution.

But if you’re not careful, hiring the wrong trainer can be both counter-productive and disastrous to your health and finances.

Doing your research can keep you safe from injury and on the right path to complete your fitness goals.

Anytime Fitness Owner Darrell McKay said never just walk into a random gym and hire the first person claiming to be a fitness expert.

“What I would suggest is looking at the certifications of the trainer -- their education and their experience,” McKay said.

Some trainers can get certified by simply taking a weekend course through the gym that hired them, so they might not have a formal background and training in kinesiology, while other trainers have earned a degree in sports medicine.

“You, as the consumer, should be asking the trainer before you commit to them... 'Can you tell me about your education? Do you have a degree in exercise science?'” McKay said.

Any gym that has personal trainers should have the trainers' certifications posted in plain view. That way, customers can review the trainers' qualifications and bios to get an idea of their professional backgrounds.

Nationally certified personal trainer Mary Airheart said once you have narrowed your search, get to know the trainer you are considering.

“Usually we do what’s called a discovery session, where we go into a private room and talk about your goals and where you are in your fitness and your health,” Airheart said.

Experts also warn of red flags to look out for, such as a trainer promising unrealistic results in a short period of time.

“In fitness, you want to be safe and have nice slow progressions,” Airheart explained. “You want to get fit in a healthy, safe manner.”

McKay said in a worst-case scenario, an unqualified trainer could cause injury to a customer.

“(If) they don’t know what they’re doing, they (could) over train you, injure (you) and you get burned out. And then guess what happens? You never want to train again. You never want to commit,” McKay said. “You want a coach that cares about you.”

While state and federal laws do not require personal trainers to be certified, many of the major gym chains do require trainers to hold a certification if they are to be employed as a fitness expert.

Some certification organizations, like the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), allow you to go online to verify and review a trainer’s credentials. That way, you have an idea of what you’re getting into before you sign on the dotted line.

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