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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 6, 2006

Find your trainer

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

Finding a personal trainer can be a challenge for some as health issues, fitness goals and commitment all come into play.

Associated Press library photo

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Here are some questions to ask when interviewing a personal trainer:

  • What is your training and where did you receive it?

  • What techniques do you employ?

  • What certifications do you have?

  • What experience do you have in working with people who share my health problems (such as diabetes, heart disease, orthopedic injuries, etc).

  • Do you have up-to-date CPR certification?

  • Do you have insurance?

  • What is your approach to fitness?

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    This is probably the busiest week in the year for personal trainers, or at least their phone lines, as Islanders seek help to jump-start their New Year's resolution to become healthier and stronger.

    In earlier decades, a personal trainer seemed a luxury for the likes of Oprah Winfrey or Brad Pitt. In 2006, however, "just folks" are finding these professionals an asset in their fight to get fit.

    Try wait. Before you pick up that phone, there are some important things to consider when selecting a personal trainer. It's not a decision to be taken lightly. The client/trainer relationship is an intimate one, dealing with sensitive issues of self-image and self-esteem.

    Hiring a personal trainer is also an investment of time and money. Make sure you're ready to commit to every appointment and to getting there early to stretch or warm up.

    Don't be embarrassed to ask about fees. Personal trainers in Hawai'i charge $35 to $100 (sometimes even more) per session.

    We are fortunate in Hawai'i to have many highly qualified personal trainers so many, in fact, that choosing one can be a challenge. These tips, from accrediting organizations and local experts, can help.

    Referrals from friends, family members, a physical therapist or personal physician can be the best way to find a trainer. Do the people he or she trained look the way you would like to look or do they have a buffed, body-builder physique while you want to be lithe and lean?

    Before your interview or first meeting with a trainer, define your goals and find out if the trainer has experience working with people like you. For example, if you're just starting out with a fitness program, it may not be a good fit for you to work with someone who specializes in training triathletes.

    If you have a health history that may affect your workouts, the trainer needs to know this and be prepared (and qualified) to work with you in a safe and healthy manner. For this and many other reasons, it makes sense to interview a trainer before signing on.

    Take the time to ask about references and learn the trainer's background and certifications.

    It's important to find someone who will listen and be sensitive to your concerns.

    Compatibility is key to a successful trainer-client relationship. If the trainer seems more interested in impressing you with credentials than listening to your goals and desires, that's a red flag.

    If you have injuries or illnesses, find out if the trainer has worked with similar problems personally and/or professionally, making it easier for the trainer to feel compassion and not try to make you "work through the pain."

    Like most medically related fields, the profession of personal training is a veritable alphabet soup of certifications. Some certifications can be achieved with a weekend seminar, others take years of training and frequent updating of skills and exams.

    It's generally accepted that the American College of Sports Medicine is the gold standard for fitness certifications. ACSM exams require solid knowledge of exercise science, anatomy and kinesiology. Other respected credentials are American Council on Exercise, National Strength and Conditioning Association and Aerobics & Fitness Association of America. Just two weeks ago the National Academy of Sports Medicine became the latest organization to offer trainers' credentials.

    A month or so into your training, it's time to evaluate how the relationship is working. Do you look forward to your sessions? Are you motivated? Are you stronger? Do you like spending time with your trainer? Are you feeling and looking better? If not, it's time to look for a new trainer who will be a better fit for helping you reach your fitness goals.

    Reach Paula Rath at prath@honoluluadvertiser.com.