Earlier this year, the no-frills gym Planet Fitness announced it would end the use of personal trainers at its clubs. “Most of the people doing personal training are just renting friends,” said Planet Fitness CEO Mike Grondahl in this piece by Stuart Goldman of Club Industry. “Who the hell needs a friend for 50 bucks an hour?”
“For us to be selling personal training is a fraud and downright condescending to anyone who can breathe,” Gronhdahl said in a letter to franchisees.
Perhaps that’s because Planet Fitness, which has monthly dues of $10 to $15, might not be able to attract top-notch staff. Since anyone can call himself a personal trainer — states don’t require certification — the quality varies widely.
Still, hiring a personal trainer is a “great idea for almost everyone,” according to fitness expert Tom Holland, as long as you can afford it and get a good one. “Whether it’s once every few months to change around your program and give you new ideas or several times a week to really make changes, there’s no better investment than in your health,” said Holland, author of “Beat the Gym,” a guide on how to be your own personal trainer.
One caveat: A trainer won’t necessarily help you lose weight. “It’s 80 percent diet,” Holland said. “If you come to me three times per week we are lucky to burn half a pound of fat. Working with a trainer will make you stronger, build more lean muscle which can boost your metabolism, and hopefully inspire you to make healthier eating choices. That’s where the weight loss comes from.”
If money is an issue, find a body you admire. “I started my fitness program as a teenager by watching the people in the gym who had the body I wanted, and I did what they did,” Holland said. “Not what they SAID they did, but what they actually DID. There’s a huge difference.”
To find a good personal trainer, look for four things: certification, experience, methodology and lifestyle. Holland says a good trainer:
1. Is certified by a nationally-recognized organization. The top four, according to Holland, are the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).
2. Practices what he preaches and is fit himself. “A trainer who is out of shape is analogous to a financial planner who is in debt,” Holland wrote.
3. Has good attending behavior when training clients (pays attention, doesn’t talk on the phone or to other people, is totally engaged).
4. Does not practice outside of her expertise, such as giving nutritional advice without having any training in that field.
5. Does not hijack the hour by talking about himself.
6. Does not train all her clients the same way.
7. Is constantly studying and learning.
Related content: The IDEA Health and Fitness Association can also help you find a personal trainer.
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