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Finding a Real Wellness Coach or Personal Trainer

One of the most common for abandoning a fitness plan is using gym equipment improperly and, therefore, either hurting oneself or failing to see results. For that reason, I strongly recommend that–particularly if you have never used free weights or professional gym equipment before—you hire a competent personal trainer or fitness coach for at least a few weeks to show you the proper form and teach you how to use the equipment safely. In addition, a coach or trainer can help to keep you motivated during that initial period of three to four weeks until your routine becomes automatic.

It’s true that no one can motivate or coerce you into achieving your goal. That motivation must come from within. But it’s also true that virtually every successful person I’ve ever met (including myself), no matter what his or her field of endeavor, says that he or she wouldn’t have been able to do it all on his own. We all need to learn everything we can about whatever it is we’re about to undertake, and that often means asking for help from someone we can trust and who is an expert in his or her field.

Virtually every gym has several trainers on staff who may differ in their methods, beliefs, and attitudes. You need to find the one who will be the best “fit” in temperament, ideology, and personality. And if you don’t find the right person at the first gym you go to, you need to look elsewhere. If you were buying a new pair of pants, you’d certainly try on several pair until you found the one that fit you best, and finding a trainer to guide you through a fitness program is certainly a bigger, more important decision that buying a pair of pants.

Look for:

• Experience (I recommend no less than five years’ experience working as a trainer or coach. There’s nothing wrong with asking how long someone has been doing his/her job. If you were running a company and interviewing a potential new employee, you’d certainly ask that question. Well, if you’re paying your coach or trainer, he/she is your employee. That’s something you need to remember.)

• Interpersonal skills (Can you have a conversation with this person and convey what you want to get from the relationship? Is he/she responsive? Does he listen and try to accommodate your goals? Can he convey to you what he thinks you need to do in a way you understand? Lack of communication can undermine even your best, most strenuous efforts.)

• Education (Again, if you were hiring an employee for your business, you’d want to know what education he/she has had in the area for which you are hiring him. Your potential coach or trainer should have completed training in kinesiology, anatomy, client assessment, program design, and basic nutrition. In addition, he or she should hold current personal trainer or fitness coach certification from an accredited organization such as the American Council on Exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, or the National Strength and Conditioning Association, as well as a two-year degree in any related field, such as Exercise Science, Exercise Physiology, or Physical Education.

• Punctuality (Yet again, this is a quality you’d expect from any employee. If you’ve made time in your busy schedule to keep this fitness appointment with yourself, you have every right to expect that your trainer will honor that appointment with the same degree of punctuality.)

• Physical Condition (If your coach or trainer is overweight or out of shape, you ought to question how he can help you if he can’t seem to take care of himself.)

• Physical hygiene (This is yet another aspect of physical condition. Good hygiene is an expression of caring for one’s body. If your trainer doesn’t care for his own body, he probably won’t be able to help you care for yours. In addition to which, working out in a gym is sweaty stuff, and you shouldn’t have to be exposed to another person’s leftover sweat.)

I would also recommend that the person you choose have knowledge of the mind-body connection and be familiar with meditation techniques as well as yoga, Pilates, tai-chi and other alternative health and fitness disciplines. Although this is certainly not mandatory, to my mind such knowledge would be an indication that your trainer or coach is well grounded and can increase the flow of positive energy during your training sessions.

Watch Out For:

• Drinking, eating, or chewing gum while working with you. (Doing these things are signs of disrespect, in addition to which they could lead you to become sloppy yourself. Your trainer or coach ought to be your role model as well as your instructor.)

• Appearing intoxicated or hung over. (For obvious reasons.)

• Inappropriate attire. (To me, a T-shirt and shorts or sweat pants would be appropriate; a tank top and spandex pants are not. Again, it’s a question of showing you respect—as opposed to his or her own personal equipment.)

• Leaning on the equipment during training. (If your trainer is lounging on the equipment, he or she is not engaged in the process or totally focused on you. In addition to which, he ought to be alert and ready to jump in and help you if you happen to get into trouble on a piece of equipment.)

• Taking time from your training to talk on the phone or greet or chat with other people. (Remember, you’ve paid for this person’s time and you deserve his/her full attention.)

• Constantly looking at his/her watch. (If he or she is so anxious for the session to be over, he’s probably got his mind on what he’s going to do next and isn’t fully present for you.)

• Sticking with repetitive exercise programs that indicate a lack of innovation. (If your trainer can’t come up with a varied routine, he’s probably bored—and pretty soon you’ll be bored, too.)

• Inappropriate physical contact. (Your trainer needs to be watchful and alert, and may need to touch you while spotting you on the equipment, but any further physical contact is crossing a personal boundary that may signal the crossing of other boundaries as well.)

• Sharing personal problems. (Like inappropriate physical contact, sharing personal problems is a sign that your coach does not understand or honor the professional nature of your relationship.)

• Ignoring or dismissing your questions. (You’re the client, and your trainer should be courteous enough to respond. In addition to which, if he or she ignores or refuses to answer you, it may be because he doesn’t have the knowledge to provide the information.)

• Recommending questionable supplements or herbs. (That’s the job of your physician.)

• Diagnosing your injuries or illnesses. (Again, if you are ill or injured, your trainer should be recommending that you see your doctor, not taking on the role of diagnostician.)

• Failing to return your phone calls or e-mails. (When you’re a professional in any field, you need to act like one—which means responding to messages left by phone or e-mail.)

This article or post is not intended to provide individual advice, which should be obtained directly from your health care professional.

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If you feel that you have a health problem, you should seek the advice of your Physician or health care Practitioner.

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