Twenty years ago, few people had heard of personal trainers. In recent years, however, the personal-trainer industry has taken off as women and men call on professionals in an attempt to lose weight, get into shape or address personal health issues.
If you're thinking about signing up for a trainer, here are five things you need to know.
1. Personal trainers aren't just for people who run marathons.
Sure, if your goal is to do exactly that, a trainer will tailor a running program that could get you through the 42-kilometre run in a personal best time. But trainers do much more than that: they design weight-training programs to give you a whole new sculptured shape; they create aerobic workouts to lose weight and improve heart health; and they develop stretch-and-strength routines to ease chronic aches and pains. Whatever the fitness prescription, it's important that it be varied and that you enjoy it. "It's something that you need to incorporate into your life forever, so we'd better make it fun," says David Strand, a graduate of the lifestyle management program at George Brown College in Toronto and one of the first personal trainers to hang out a shingle.
A good personal trainer is a "coach" in the true sense of the word. He or she wants you to succeed with your workout. "The most important thing is to get you to stick with the program," says Strand.
2. Look for a trainer with recognized credentials.
The Toronto-based Can-Fit-Pro, a division of Canadian Fitness Professionals Inc., offers a 25-hour course that provides certification as a personal trainer specialist. Can-Fit-Pro is the largest organization of its kind in Canada, although trainers can get certification elsewhere. As director of this certification program, Janice Hutton suggests that people ask prospective trainers the following questions.
• Are you certified by a recognized agency, such as Can-Fit-Pro?
• What experience do you have?
• How many years have you been a personal trainer?
• What types of clients have you worked with in the past?
• Do you have references?
• Can I contact any of your current clients for a reference?
3. Compatibility counts.
A trainer's philosophy about fitness should fit with your own. This is important, says Strand, to ensure that you share similar fitness goals and expectations. You could be spending a significant amount of time with your trainer, so you'll want to have a good rapport with him or her. You might consider a trainer who is the same sex and a similar age as you are so he or she understands your stresses; for working women, these often include kids, job and no time for themselves, says Hutton.
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4. Trainers can be hired for a day, a month or for years.
You can ask a trainer to design a one-time program that you then follow on your own. "If you travel a lot, you may need a routine that you can easily take on the road," says Hutton. "I will write down the routine, go through it with you, and then you take the plan away and use it."
But constant adaptation and change is important to keep the workout fresh and challenging. Many trainers visit clients regularly -- often every other month -- to reshape a fitness plan. "You have to continuously push yourself to get better or the body will stay the same," says Hutton. "A personal trainer takes the components of training and then changes them so people continue to improve and have fun."
You can schedule a trainer for weekly private workouts, either at a studio or in your own home. Or you could get a few friends together and share a trainer on a regular basis, making it more fun and less expensive.
5. A good place to find a trainer is at a reputable fitness club.
Most major fitness clubs, including the YMCA, offer personal trainer services. Check under Health, Fitness and Exercise Services in the yellow pages and you'll find listings for some personal trainers as well as for clubs.
Depending on the level of expertise and the time involved, fees for a personal trainer vary from $25 an hour for a junior trainer up to $125 an hour for a more experienced one. The higher fees usually apply to trainers who come to your home.
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