You have decided once and for all that you want to make a change when it comes to your health and fitness! You go to your local gym or personal trainer and they start talking circles around you. You begin to feel overwhelmed and you think “he must be correct, right?” There are so many people working in the health and wellness field today that it can feel impossible to choose who to listen to. When you start to look for an individual that will help you reach your goals it can begin to feel like you are at a car dealer working with a sales person. Is this really the right person to work with me? How do I know? What questions should I ask? Hopefully this post today will give you a few tips on what to look for when it comes to working with a fitness professional and what types of questions to ask when you are visiting with them.
There are different degrees that can help you in the health and fitness field. There are also many things that you cannot learn from a book and that you only learn from working with others. So, what should you look for as far as education is concerned? And what should you look past? A degree in the field of health and wellness would be preferred. This can be exercise science, kinesiology, nutrition or some other type of degree that would ensure that they had basic schooling on anatomy, exercise science or other related coursework. A 4-year degree may be more desirable than an associates but when it comes to formal education, more does not always guarantee better. An associate’s degree may be all they need to learn the basics that will help them in the future. What you may want to be skeptical of would be those with a degree in a totally unrelated field. A history degree, for example, will not teach you much in the way of anatomy of the human body or the effect that exercise will have on it. This does not mean that everyone with an unrelated degree is bad, it may just be something that you need to ask more about during your first visit.
This is another area where more is not always better. Most professionals will have many more certifications than they care to list on their website or business card. They typically only use the ones that are the most applicable to their field of work. When asking about credentials, be sure to ask them what they mean. Don’t be afraid to go home and look them up. (I actually encourage this) There are some certifications that require continuing education to maintain and others that are a one-time course that do not require any additional follow up. There are come credentials that are a weekend or online course that you just have to pay money to get and others that require rigorous testing or criteria to hold. Be sure to ask any questions about these and be weary of the “alphabet soup” that can be after someone’s name on their business card. It may not be as impressive as it seems at first glance.
Programing/Openness to share
When you are going to pay for a service, you will want to make sure that it is the service that you want before you invest (potentially) thousands of dollars. Any fitness professional should feel comfortable disclosing and explaining the rationale behind the programs that they use. An unwillingness to share or a very vague description could be a cause for concern. There shouldn’t be a “secret recipe” that they are unwilling to fill you in on or if they are unable to actually explain the reasoning for their plan, the red flag in your mind should be raising.
Another question that should be asked during your initial visit should be the goals that you personally have. It could be great that they have the goal to increase your muscle mass or decrease your weight, but if they are not asking what YOU want, you may have concerns. After all, it is your money and your time that you are entrusting with these individuals. Make sure that your goals are at the forefront and that they are measuring your progress toward these goals.
Type of person
You may be thinking to yourself “well they don’t look big/strong/muscular, why would I want to take his/her advice?” First point, don’t judge a book by its cover. Looks can be very deceiving when it comes to strength and conditioning. Bigger is not always better or stronger, please look at the other attributes above before looking at a person’s exterior image. Second, do you want your “coach” to be more concerned about how they look rather than being able to coach you? Just like a traditional sport coach, you do not need to look the part to be a great coach. Don’t confuse what I am saying here, you should have a professional that works out regularly and looks “fit” but you will not want someone that is more interested in their own goals over yours. Don’t base the reason you work with someone on the way they look on the outside. It is an art to be able to work with different body types and help them reach their goals. Find that professional that helps their clients reach their goals and not just their own.
These are just a few things to arm you with some knowledge when looking for a fitness professional to work with toward your goals. Go to more than one, shop around, this is a big decision so treat it like one. We spend hours looking up reviews for the TV we are going to purchase, take the time to do your research when choosing a professional to work with.
Ian is a Certified Athletic Trainer, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Corrective Exercise Specialist and all around active person. Comment below to ask questions, give feedback or interact with him!