In a day and age where fitness and wellness knowledge is as accessible as candy, it is surprising to learn how many people are uninformed on these topics. People often have to learn the hard way that simply joining a gym does not fulfill their innermost, most important fitness goals. Even an introductory training session with a gym staff member demonstrating the proper use of equipment leaves most prospective trainees in the dark.

September 2003 – For those of you who don’t have the time to sift through the mountains of fitness information bombarding us through various media, and who are legitimately seeking first hand help to achieve fitness goals, there is a solution. It may be expensive, depending on the venue, and it may seem a frivolous expenditure, but hiring a Personal Trainer to guide you down the slippery slope of the road to fitness is a great investment.

The first question that comes to the minds of a lot of people is ”why?” Why is a personal trainer important when you are dedicated to really improving your fitness? There are many ways this question can be answered. From my experience in the fitness field, I’ve worked out three solid reasons to hire someone for this job.

One: Education: It should be the primary goal of every trainer to educate his or her clients, whether explaining basic anatomy, or describing the latest piece of training equipment to hit the market. A trainer who neglects the important educational basis of personal training philosophy is doing a great disservice to his or her clients.

Two: Motivation: Besides education, motivation is the driving force behind a client’s success. A good personal trainer should understand each clients needs, and know when to push and when to hold back. Some novice trainers forget about a client’s lack of training experience, and push them too hard too fast with sometimes disastrous results.

Three: Feedback: Feedback from the personal trainer provides a client with concrete information regarding their progress. Trainers should provide their clients with as much verbal & written feedback as possible. The more a client sees the results of his or her progress, the greater chance they will stick with a program.

Now that some reasons for hiring a personal trainer have been outlined, an important step in finding the right trainer is to locate one with the right credentials. Since the fitness industry is a multi-billion dollar a year business, there are many companies that offer personal training certifications.

Unfortunately, a result of the diverse scope of the personal training profession is that it is generally unregulated by state and federal agencies, which leads to the employment of many unqualified personnel.

What are some of the qualities and credentials that you should look for in a personal trainer? First and foremost, a qualified trainer should possess a strong educational background, ie someone who has studied Exercise Physiology, Pre-Med, Biology, or Physical Education, at the collegiate level. Also, some psychology course-work is a plus.

With the many certifications that exist in the field, there are two, in my opinion, that stand out: one is issued by the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA), and the other is issued by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). The common factor shared by both is they require all applicants to possess a college degree in order to sit for their certification exam.

Acquiring certifications demonstrates the depth of knowledge a trainer has and his or her commitment to being a cut above one’s peers.

In contrast, there are many trainers who take weekend workshops supported by different organizations that do not require a prior education. Granted, anyone undertaking this course of training will benefit from it. However, the problem lies in the depth and scope of information presented. Basic fundamentals alone do not provide an aspiring trainer with sufficient knowledge.

A good trainer needs more than a weekend or a week’s time to learn human anatomy and physiology along with the essential principles of exercise physiology. When you finally decide you want to hire someone as your personal trainer, ask a lot of questions. Request information on your trainer’s educational background, certifications, and request copies of this information. Especially, certification paperwork.

Looking for a trainer in the myriad of gyms, and fitness centers can be a daunting task, but with some research and perseverance, it can be done pretty quickly. Trainers usually work out of a variety of environments: personal training studios, gyms, wellness centers, golf courses, or sports complexes, and their rates will vary depending on the location.

According to sources in the central MA area, personal trainers charge anywhere from $25-$75 an hour. This is also dependant on how many sessions a client purchases. Usually, trainers lower their rates as clients purchase packages that include more sessions. For example, a trainer may charge $250 for a package of five sessions, or $400 for a package of ten.

In any case, whether you’re new to the fitness scene, or looking to improve upon what you already may know, planning to invest in a personal trainer is a sound decision provided you do your homework and place your trust in someone based on their knowledge, experience, and credentials. No matter how you look at it, getting fit is an investment in your future!

John Rinaldo is president of Northcoast Fitness, (508) 450-0044,