The New Year is off to a good start. You’re eating better, sticking with that new diet and taking your vitamins and supplements. Maybe you’ve even signed up for a gym membership, which includes a free consultation with a personal trainer. It’s a great offer, especially for gym newbies who don’t know their way around and need help planning a fitness routine. But before you meet with a fitness salesperson (remember, sales is part of his or her job!), it helps to do some homework and to know what you’re looking for.
If you’re planning to hire a trainer beyond that first free consultation, here are some things to consider to help you feel more in control of the contract and your overall gym experience.
Don’t: Be talked into programs you don’t need. If you’ve never worked with a trainer, it can be easy to nod and agree. Before you know it, you may be signing up for a plan that’s unnecessary for your goals. Remind yourself that you are in charge. Ultimately, you know what you need and what you can afford. If you feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed, tell the trainer you’ll think about it and let him or her know.
Don’t: Sign long-term contracts. A three-month contract, meeting with a trainer twice weekly, should be the maximum for a first-time sign up. What if you discover you don’t click with the trainer, or he or she relocates and you’re stuck with a replacement you don’t like? If three months feels like too much of a commitment, or something you can’t afford, request a one-month contract. You can always re-sign when you’re ready. Also be sure to read and understand terms fully before signing. Often, you can cancel, but you may have to pay a fee.
Don’t: Sign a contract without meeting the trainer first. If you’re considering more than one session, insist upon meeting the trainer. Even better, request a session with him or her before agreeing to sign up for more.
Do: Make sure the trainer is experienced. Ask questions about, or do a little research on, your trainer’s qualifications. Is she certified (ASCM, NASM, CPR, etc.)? How long has she been training? Does she work out herself? (While it should be obvious, that’s not always the case. Anyone can pass a written test, but a trainer who doesn’t practice what she preaches may not be the best fitness guide for you.)
Do: Make sure you’re comfortable with your trainer. You don’t need to be besties – that’s not why you’re at the gym. But you should feel comfortable enough to ask questions and feel that your trainer understands your needs and goals.
Do: Make sure the trainer teaches you how to use the equipment. You’re paying to use all of the equipment in the gym, not to spend your hour in a corner with a ball and a step. A good trainer will teach you how to use everything so you’ll be comfortable doing a workout even if he isn’t there. You don’t want to be so dependent on your trainer that you can’t exercise without him.
Do: Observe the trainers. If you’ve met with one trainer and aren’t sure she’s a match, do a few solo workouts (cardio machines are a great place to start). Watch the trainers working with their clients. Are they paying full attention? Do they appear engaged in the training, making sure their clients are using correct form? Just by observing, you may spot someone who you think you might like to work with. Sign up for a session with him or her.
Don’t: Feel like you’ll fail if you don’t have a trainer. Not everyone needs a trainer. There are many other ways to learn how to use equipment in a gym and to get a good workout. Buy fitness magazines. Download fitness apps. Research strength training programs and exercises online. Another way to go is to hire a qualified online personal trainer. It costs less, and you’ll still receive a personalized workout program, nutritional counseling and support by phone.
IFBB figure professional Melissa Transou, a fitness expert, wife and mother, blogs about the unique sports and nutrition needs of women and female athletes exclusively for Vitacost.com. Learn more about Melissa in this recent RXMuscle.com spotlight article, connect with her on Facebook or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.