- Certification: There are numerous associations that offer personal training certification, but all certifications are not created equal. Some certifications simply require applicants to pay a one time fee and pass a short, simple exam. These are the lowest tier certifications. The highest tier certifications may require applicants to have an undergraduate degree in health fitness, kinesiology, or a related field, pass an exam lasting numerous hours, and also complete ongoing education to receive a set number of continuing education units (CEUs) every few years. The most highly regarded associations within the fitness industry are the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Each of these certifications has in-depth exams and requires trainers to obtain CEUs in order to maintain their certified status. The American Council on Exercise is also viewed as a very strong certification program. If the trainer you are considering is not certified by one of these three associations, it is smartest to either research the requirements for their current certification, or look elsewhere for training help.
- Experience: Although it is not essential, it is nice to have a trainer with some previous training experience. Even trainers that are fresh out of school will often have experiences with sports teams, relatives, or friends. It is a good sign if they are extremely open about their past experiences, as this exhibits their confidence in their training abilities. It is also good to discuss with the trainer what his or her strengths are (sports training, weight loss, performance, special populations), as you probably don't want to hire a trainer that specializes in weight loss if you're looking to improve athletic performance.
- Education: As stated before, some certifications require college degrees; however, don't focus too much on education. A college degree is a welcome bonus, but some of the best trainers in the world do not have college degrees and are driven enough to learn about workout techniques and health topics on their own. If the individual does not have a college degree in a fitness-related field, significant explanation of their past experiences will help you determine if they are knowledgeable enough to be effective as a trainer. In this case, client testimonials are also be beneficial.
- Personality: A major thing that many individuals fail to consider is a trainer's personality. A trainer can have an endless list of certifications and credentials, but if he or she doesn't have a personality that meshes with yours it will be extremely difficult to build the relationship necessary to train efficiently, effectively, and most important, enjoyably. Because of this, it is often beneficial to complete a single session with the trainer before buying any package deal. This will allow you to determine whether the trainer meets your expectations and is therefore a good fit.
- Customization: Many trainers use generic templates for training people, while the best trainers will sit down with you, ask you your fitness goals and interests, and tailor a completely custom workout for you. If this is important to you, inquire about the methods used to prescribe workouts, and whether assessments will be utilized every so often to determine progress and restructure workouts.
This may seem like a great deal of work, but in the end, the search is well worth it. Spending a few days in advance to make sure you are hiring a quality trainer will not only ensure that you will see better workout results, it will reassure you that you are making a worthwhile investment regarding your health and well-being. Good luck with the search!