Choosing a personal trainer

Look for someone who's qualified, registered and with good interpersonal skills.
 
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01.Choosing a personal trainer

Personal training should be a holistic, lifestyle approach to health and fitness — not just having someone make you run around for an hour! A good personal trainer can:

  • Help you make the best use of your exercise time. Woman with personal trainer
  • Help motivate you.
  • Help you with technique (efficiency and safety)
  • Monitor your progress
  • Adjust your exercise program in response to your changing fitness level
  • Offer sound information on good nutrition
  • Vary your exercise options to keep you motivated, interested and enjoying your workouts.

Objectives can include:

  • Fat/weight loss
  • Body toning and shaping
  • Strength and endurance training.
  • Fitness training.
  • Flexibility exercises.
  • Specific forms of exercise, such as boxing for fitness, yoga or Pilates.
  • Programs for children, adolescents and older adults (if the trainer is appropriately qualified). 

Training and qualifications

Good personal trainers will have completed:

  • Education in the foundations of good health and exercise, including human anatomy and physiology; biomechanics (body movement), posture and flexibility; nutrition for health and performance; and exercise physiology.
  • Instruction in fitness assessment, designing exercise programs, exercise instruction (including the use of equipment such as exercise balls) and a range of activities.
  • Skills and knowledge updates through continuing education programs, subscribing to relevant professional journals and conducting research.

Many personal trainers have completed a Certificate IV in Fitness qualification, specialising as a personal trainer. Alternatively, they may have done an exercise science or human movement degree at university, which would allow them to register as a personal trainer with the relevant association of fitness professionals if they can demonstrate they have competence in required areas. Without this competency evaluation, though, a sports-related degree on its own doesn’t guarantee a competent personal trainer because they may not have covered all aspects of designing and delivering personalised programs.

A Certificate IV in Fitness also contains elective specialisations in older adults, children and adolescents, and advanced aqua training. It’s not unusual for a personal trainer to have expertise in one or more of these areas — which may be appropriate for you — in addition to personal training.

Registration and insurance

  • Around 60–70% of personal trainers are registered with Fitness Australia or Physical Activity Australia, which are health and fitness industry associations.
  • Requirements for registration as a personal trainer include a Certificate IV in Fitness (Personal Trainer) or equivalent, and a current industry-approved first-aid certificate; continuing education (or professional development) credit points are required to maintain registration every two years.
  • Some personal trainers choose not to register as one, yet may be just as experienced and knowledgeable as a registered trainer. But unless you’re experienced and knowledgeable enough to judge this for yourself, you’re better off playing it safe with a registered trainer.
  • Personal trainers should also have public liability and professional indemnity insurance. Trainers registered with Fitness Australia or Physical Activity Australia have access to insurance through these bodies, though it’s optional.

Warnings

Steer clear of personal trainers who:

  • Can’t or won’t provide proof of professional credentials and insurance.
  • Can’t or won’t give references.
  • Try to get you to commit to a long-term package before you’ve had a chance to see if you’re compatible.
  • Sell or insist you use dietary supplements, such as protein powders, amino acid concoctions or vitamin supplements, or magic weight loss formulas. Occasionally some of these things may be appropriate, but do your own research on them and then buy them from a shop if you’re still interested.
  • Advocate useless or dangerous exercise or weight loss techniques, including passive exercise devices (such as abdominal electric shock devices or vibrating belts) and procedures that cause fluid loss such as saunas, wraps or fasting to give the impression of weight loss (but which in fact will largely make you lose water for a time, not fat).
  • Advise you in areas where they’re not qualified — for example, for in-depth nutrition advice and special diets, they should refer you to an accredited practising dietitian.
  • Promise immediate and spectacular results — realistically you’d expect to see some sort of improvement in around six weeks.
  • Don’t look as though they practise what they preach — a good role model will look fit and healthy.

Whether you decide to go with a registered or unregistered personal trainer, it’s in your interests to check they have appropriate insurance.

  • Fitness Australia is the national health and fitness industry association. It's a not-for-profit, member-based association: 1300 211 311, fitness.org.au.
  • Physical Activity Australia is an independent, not-for-profit organisation which works with the fitness industry to promote physical activity and active lifestyle. (03) 8320 0100, physicalactivityaustralia.org.au
 
 

 

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