How to Hire a Personal Trainer

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Whether you want to become the next Demi or Arnold, or just get back in shape, working with a personal trainer will do the job. Trainers' expertise and workout styles vary enormously: Here's how to find the best person for you--and that six-pack just waiting to be discovered.

  • Determine which fitness activities are most likely to keep you feeling happy, enthused and committed: Kickboxing, spinning, free weights, Pilates, walking, step aerobics, dance, rock climbing, gospel aerobics, circuit training or cardio-focused training. Doing what you love will keep you doing it.

  • Get a referral from a satisfied (and buffed) friend or call nearby fitness centers, gyms or studios and find out what programs are offered by their personal trainers.

  • Find out if the trainer is certified by a nationally recognized body such as the American Council on Exercise (acefitness.org) or the American College of Sports Medicine (which requires a health-related academic degree). Check if dance or martial arts teachers have had proper training as well.

  • Schedule a trial workout to see if a trainer is suited to your personality and shows a genuine interest in you and your goals.

  • Choose a trainer or teacher with a good grasp on your workout level--and limitations. You want someone who motivates and challenges you without setting impossible goals or pushing you too fast or too hard. Creative workout planning will help avoid burnout.

  • Some gyms employ trainers who only have a college degree in physiology or kinesiology. However, there are lots of graduates of weekend programs or, worse, home-based or Internet classes, out there claiming to be qualified. Standardized fitness certification guidelines for the industry are imminent; meanwhile, check credentials carefully.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check on your trainer's cancellation policy to avoid wasting money on classes you can't make.
  • Look into mobile gyms if you've got more money than time. Some personal trainers can drive a gym on wheels straight to your house, but it will cost you.

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