Just like any other industry, a wide range of trainers can be found from the highly qualified to the totally inept. How do you figure out the good from the bad? Hopefully, these suggestions will help.
- Certified by an accredited institution. Is the trainer you are looking to hire to guide you safely and effectively toward your goals certified? If they are certified, where did they receive their certification? Is it from an accredited institution or did they pay $100 online and have their friend take the exam for them? There are several legitimate organizations which certify trainers and provide good basic knowledge for training clients. However, there are many for-profit fly by nighters which give outdated, incomplete information and do not require much more than a credit card number to certify. The organizations which we find leaders in the industry, and which we require our training staff to hold at least one certification from, are the NSCA, NASM, ACSM, or the ISSA. These four have proven over the years to maintain a level of excellence when it comes to certifying trainers. This is not to say that these are the only certifications from an accredited source, there are others. We are just a little biased toward these four.
- Maintaining credentials. Provided the trainer is certified, is their certification current or have they let it expire? Most legitimate certifications require trainers to acquire continuing education hours annually. The hours range from 8-20 per year depending on the certifying association. If the trainer has allowed their credentials to expire that tells you several things which should concern you. They are not continually learning about their craft and are fine knowing the bare essentials (just enough to be dangerous). Their level of responsibility is questionable, and you need a responsible professional in your corner. Is their ego at a place where they do not believe they need to learn more? Suffice to say, find a trainer with current credentials.
- Check their social media pages. You can learn a lot about someone by what they post on social media. It is one of the first things we do when resumes are dropped on our desk. Does your potential trainer present themselves the same in person as they do on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? If they appear as presentable, mature, and a specimen of clean living yet the photos they post online tell a different story, you may want to keep looking. This is false advertising, and you deserve better.
- Watch out for the “upsell”! Many large health clubs (and some boutique gyms) pressure trainers to drain your pockets by selling you things you do not need. Whether it is supplements, diet plans, apparel, deluxe training packages or long-term contracts, the primary purpose is to increase their profits, not improve your well-being. If a trainer tries to convince you to spend more money outside of your training sessions, this is a red flag, and you should take the time to investigate if there is any benefit to saying yes.
- Do they have a mentor? This is one item that can really separate the great trainer from the average Joe. Does your trainer have a mentor? Are they that invested in you and in themselves to learn all they can to be as effective a trainer as possible? Do they attend conferences? Do they watch webinars? What books are they reading? Who do they turn to for guidance? Personally speaking, I have two fantastic mentors and have had several in the past. Our staff of trainers has a weekly mentoring session with me in our facility. We want to keep up to date with the newest research and information in our industry. It is a young industry and is always changing and maturing. If a trainer has not pursued continuing education in the past six months, they are falling behind!