Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What to Look For in a Fitness Coach

Half way through my year at UAA studying the fine art of Personal Training, my instructor asked us to write a mission statement and define what a Personal Trainer should be. I was already in the business before enrolling in this class so I thought I knew everything...wrong! It was really hard to define myself; so I had to think outside the box and then it became clearer. Let me share with you what I would define as an exceptional Trainer.

There are about 10 main elements that make a Coach outstanding. I will list them and then try to elaborate on each.

The most important factor a Trainer should possess is knowledge. Knowledge of the correct and safe exercises a client should be executing as well as sound nutritional advice. A knowledgeable Trainer should work with the population that she has expertise. A Trainer should be able to know the difference between "fads" and what really works. The Trainer should read and learn from creditable sources. She should know how to determine if an article is written by an educated individual or someone who is just trying to make a fast buck. A Trainer needs to be certified in her area of specialization.

The second element that I feel a Trainer needs to have is reliability. Reliable to me not only means that the Trainer will be where she's suppose to be on time and ready for work, but also that what she says can be "taken to the bank". Reliability and dependability are synonymous and should be equally important. The two words are interchangeable in the dictionary and another synonym is trustworthy. These are all qualities that I would look for if I were choosing a Personal Trainer.

When we mention trust we also bring up the issue of confidentiality. The relationship between a client and a Trainer should be along the same lines of Doctor/Patient relationship. More goes on between a Trainer and a client than just counting reps and changing weights. The Trainer is a helper and educator to the client. A helper is one who enables another to change. The Trainer's role is very complex because she acts as a teacher, a coach, a counselor, and a supporter. Trainers need to be very aware of their limitations and must never exceed the confines of their own expertise.

A good Trainer needs to be a people person. A trainer is asked to work with a lot of different types of people and she has to know how to relate to a number of distinct types of personalities. If a Trainer is personable she will be considered pleasant and friendly and I believe those are valuable tools for a Trainer to possess. A trainer needs to be a good listener. It's very important to listen to the client; don't just assume that you know what she wants. It's important for the trainer not just to listen.... but hear what the client is telling her.

A Trainer should be a role model. A Trainer should "practice what she preaches". A Trainer should exercise and eat well. The Trainer should promote healthy eating habits. A Trainer should not just "talk the talk" but "walk the walk".

A Trainer should consider safety above all else when setting up a program for a client. A Trainer needs to get medical history from his client and perform some basic fitness tests in order to set up a safe and effective training program.

A Trainer needs to be prompt and well organized. The Trainer needs to show the client how to keep accurate exercise logs to track fitness goals and strength gains.

A great Trainer will educate a client to become self-reliant. The Coach has done a great job when she can empower a client to go on alone. You need to ask a potential Trainer how long she thinks you will need to work with her. If she is unsure or says indefinitely, I would interview a few more Coaches and find one that wants to teach you how to workout on your own using your built in motivation.

A professional appearance is an important factor to me. While a Trainer is working with a client she should be in casual clothes that exercises could be easily demonstrated. My pet peeve is to see a scantily dressed Trainer working with a client. Some Trainers I've watched look at themselves in the mirror more than they ever look at their client.

Positive attitude and enthusiasm should be closer to the top of this list. All ten of these elements are important so don't think that they are in any order of significance. A Trainer works very closely with her clients and attitude and enthusiasm really count on the motivational meter. When you are searching for a Coach, talk to several and then pick the one that works best with your personality.

Sense of humor and availability. These two elements don't have anything in common or do they? If a Trainer has no sense of humor she is not going far. A Trainer should be able to laugh at herself and be able to joke with the client. One on one exercise is serious, but we must be able to have fun at the same time. I list sense of humor with availability because most people want a Trainer to be available at ANY time! I've been asked several times to be in two places at once!! Yeah, right!

Communication is a very important factor in the training world. If you and the trainer work together three times a week then a phone call in between sessions probably isn't necessary. If you are together less than 3 times a week it's a good idea to correspond with your trainer either by phone or email just to keep in touch and keep yourself motivated.

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