In this hard economy we are all counting our pennies and trying to make sure we put them to good use. That being said, there is no greater investment than your health and that comes with some pretty important questions that we all should be prepared to ask. Whether you decide to invest in a trainer (which in and of itself is a serious decision) or decide to join a gym, you have every right to make sure you are getting your money’s worth while protecting your own safety in that decision.
Here are the most important questions and suggested answers that you should consider.
1. What are your trainer’s/instructor’s qualifications? Every trainer should have a nationally accredited certification and CPR/First Aid and for gyms AED training. If you are hiring privately, this information should be made available to you upon contract agreement. If you are signing up at a gym, this information should be publicly available and you definitely should check this out with the training and group fitness department.
2. Do I need a medical release? Most trainers and gyms will ask you up front if you have any preexisting medical conditions. For most, they will require a medical consent before beginning any kind of workout regimen. This is for YOUR benefit, so don’t be afraid to mention anything that might be an obstacle to reaching your goals.
In some cases, a simple understanding is all that is needed, but if you do have a medical condition, don’t be discouraged when you are asked for approval from your doctor. Approval is to protect both you and your trainer/instructor and it will ensure you receive the best program for your needs and goals.
3. Can my trainer/instructor diagnose my problems? NO! Any trainer or instructor can offer you a regimen that can accomplish your goals, but we are not doctors or physical therapists, so we always encourage you to get a recommendation from a medical professional first. If we have the information regarding a muscle/physical/cardiovascular disability, we are better able to help you reach your goals successfully without injury.
4. How much is too much? That depends on your pre-existing fitness level. While you should try to push yourself to reach your goals, you must consider your limitations. Trainers and instructors who are properly certified and insured can guide you down the right path without compromising your health, but it is up to you to provide all information with regard to your current fitness level.
5. If I am a healthy individual, do I need medical release? In most cases, no, but that means that you should be open and honest about any reservations or limitations you feel you have when starting a new program. Don’t feel you need to “prove yourself” because we (fitness professionals) are here to assist you. We are tools to your success and should be looked at as such.
Every person who decides to start a new fitness program, whether it is for strength, fat loss, muscle gain or simple peace of mind, needs to be open and honest to make sure that the program that is decided on is one that works with lifestyle, time, ability and desire.
6. What kind of nutrition advice can a trainer/instructor provide? Typically, trainers and instructors are not certified nutritionists. There are nutritionists who are instructors/trainers, but for the most part a trainer/instructor cannot “prescribe” a diet.
Of course, suggestions can be made based on example and that is perfectly acceptable, but unless you are certain that your instructor/trainer has nutrition and diet education you should focus on the basic model of healthy choices that include a balance of food groups and moderate consumption of fats.
7. What is the difference between pain and discomfort? Any trainers/instructors who are doing their best will tell you that pain is not good.
“No pain, no gain” is no longer the motto and never should have been. Exhausting your muscles is not painful and at the same time, if something hurts, then you shouldn’t be doing it and that is when open communication is most important. The “burn” that most people feel is the muscle working to exhaustion and that is lactic acid buildup, which is normal when working out for both strength and cardiovascular gain. So, remember, pain is not good.
Of course, generalizations are made with regard to fitness regimens, but the bottom line is this: you should find a trainer/instructor you connect with and who will provide you with a routine you can commit to following. That is what will keep you on the road to fitness, and variety in that commitment will ensure that you live a life of prolonged fitness. Whomever you choose to guide you in this path should be there because of his or her own passion for fitness, which will then relay to you. After all, there is nothing like the inspiration of another to jumpstart your own desire to change.
Yours in health and fitness,
Victoria MacKenzie is the group fitness coordinator for Ramona Fitness Center. A Ramona resident, she has been a fitness instructor and personal trainer for 11 years.
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