Picking the right personal trainer takes work

By George P. Matysek Jr.


It takes some work to find the right personal trainer.

Whether it’s researching credentials or visiting gyms to find someone who will best meet a person’s goals, there’s an investment of time that’s needed before a person can get down to pumping iron or hitting the treadmill.

Ben O’Donnell, a certified personal trainer with Brick Bodies in Perry Hall, said it’s critical to put in the effort to make sure a qualified trainer is found. He noted that with hundreds of Web sites offering personal trainer preparation courses – including some that can be completed in two days – it’s possible for someone with no fitness expertise to pass himself off as a trained professional.

O’Donnell recommended looking for trainers who have undergone rigorous preparation through an accredited program. Potential clients should ask trainers where they were certified, O’Donnell said, and then check the Web site of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association to see if their certification program is recognized as a professionally accredited one.

The site, www.ihrsa.org, lists programs accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

“Most of these programs involve at least six months of bookwork, a proctored test and a live test with a practical exam,” said O’Donnell, noting that legitimate programs also require trainers to be certified in first aid and CPR.

Once a person knows that potential trainers are qualified, O’Donnell said the next step is to talk with them about their approach to exercise and coaching.

“You want to find out how you connect emotionally and personality-wise,” the 29-year-old trainer explained. “Do you feel comfortable? That’s really so important because they are going to become your right-hand man, your supporter and your counselor. It’s important that you mesh with them and relate with them.”

Different trainers have different approaches. Some adopt the persona of drill sergeants while others take a more sensitive approach, he said.

“The best trainers are the ones who adapt to the needs of the client,” said O’Donnell, who has worked in the field for eight years and instructs other trainers. “We’re like chameleons. We have to adapt to their personality.”

O’Donnell recommended visiting several gyms to examine the conditions of where the training sessions will be held. Most trainers work through fitness clubs, while others will come to a person’s home.

“You’re not just buying into a person,” he said, “your also buying into a company that buys into that person.”

O’Donnell noted that the longer a person has worked as a trainer, the more experience he or she will have. That could be another factor in choosing a trainer, he said.

“When you practice something,” he said, “you get better at it.”

Those looking for a trainer shouldn’t be afraid of asking questions about fees, he said. Prices vary from region to region and gym to gym, he said. At Brick Bodies, the fee is about $35 for 30 minutes and $85 for an hour. Other gyms can charge between about $40 to $70 an hour. Prices are usually lowered if clients purchase a package of sessions.

“Cost is a factor,” he said, “but you should keep in mind that it’s something you are going to benefit from. It’s going to help you live longer and feel better.”

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.