Inside: Personal Trainers

With January promotions filling your mail box and free trials provoking you, let’s increase your chance of finding a successful fit with a Personal Trainer (PT below, not to be confused with Physical Therapist).

Trainers range from gym fanatics that wish to pass the love of workouts to others all the way to college/medical professionals that have a fascination with human function. So what information should you consider when finding the right one for you?
  1. Education: Although it is becoming more common to see college degrees in the field of fitness, a National Certification is still priority (and college degree a HUGE secondary A+).  Some of the top PT certifications come from ACSM, NASM, ACE, and NSCA.  PT certifications cover anatomy/physiology, training, legal and ethical practices.  It is also required that a PT be currently CPR certified (usually Red Cross or AHA).  Certifying sites, as well as IDEA, have trainer search engines that verify credentials.  Utilize the web and check them out.
  2. Range of Experience:  Training is not a full-time desk job, and the longevity of a trainer at one gym can be anywhere from one year to 5-10 years.  It is not uncommon (and almost a plus) to have both background and current employment at multiple locations.  If they have only ever worked and trained at one location, expect the trainer’s best to be for that facility’s equipment, staff, and practices. 
  3. Pay:  Large clubs that offer every type of fitness dream to a client pay their trainers on a sliding scale with based years of experience, education, and client draw (how many people want to be seen by that trainer).  Rates for you can range from $20 an hour for basic help with equipment and alignment, to nearly $100-$200 and hour for a full routine and multiple visits with an expert.  Fees range also due to commission to the club, equipment you may need to purchase, and the amount of sessions you pay in advance.  Tipping is not common.  PTs can also charge for testing, given you a baseline on your strength, flexibility, body composition, and endurance.  Any food related topics or supplement information should be discussed with a nutritionist or PT with nutrition credentials.
  4. Specialties:  These will often appear as hours of training under an expert (common for Pilates and Yoga) or additional certifications.  For a Prenatal/Postpartum, Child, or Older Adult Specialist, further education is critical for the safety of the participants.  Don’t forget about your kiddos; “parent” and “primary educator” are great but are not enough for active classes.
  5. Personal Trainer versus Athletic Trainer:  An Athletic Trainer (AT, state board and/or  NATA certified) has much more medical/injury rehabilitation knowledge, usually a Masters or PhD college degree in AT, and is often sport-specific for athletes in a team (such as soccer, football, baseball, basketball, etc).  ATs are often employed at schools and hospitals.  You can find a PT with credentials in a sport (golf and racquetball are very common), but it is not common to find an AT at a fitness club.

Wishing You (Successful/Worthwhile/Continued…) Workouts!


  1. I wrote a long article about certs & licenses for the Feb. 2009 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal and love the ones you've listed here because they are all accredited by a 3rd party. One minor point - IDEA is NOT a certifying site; it's a membership organization. They are now working w/ACE to provide the magazine, but are separate. Confusing, eh?

  2. Thanks for clarifying IDEA, I should not have placed it so close to certifying sites, I see now the confusion. Great eyes and great info, Alexandra!


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