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6 Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Personal Trainer
By: Jon Gestl

Once reserved only for the rich and famous, personal fitness training has hit the mainstream. A personal trainer is now as common as a pair of good cross trainers and a water bottle.

But unlike your hair stylist, your fitness trainer doesn’t need to be tested and licensed by a state licensing board. Someone with little more than a great body--but no experience--can print business cards, call themselves a personal trainer, and take your money.

So if you’re looking for a trainer, you’re on your own. Here are six questions to ask trainers either in person or by phone before hiring them.

1. Can I have references?

This is the best way to get honest information. A prospective trainer should be more than happy to give you a list of at least three clients whom you can contact. Ask the references if they achieved their goals, how the trainer helped them to do so, and what they liked best about the trainer.

If the trainer refuses to give references or acts as though it is a major inconvenience, look elsewhere.

2. Through what organization are you certified?

Certification is a credential given by an agency or institution with its own educational and testing procedures. Quality credentialing agencies require a thorough, and often expensive, process of certifying trainers. Usually this includes written, oral and practical exam components. Other agencies will literally "sell" a certification as long as the check clears.

Current popular and reputable certification associations include the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and American Council on Exercise (ACE). Certification from any of these organizations doesn’t guarantee trainer excellence but shows only that the person successfully passed the minimum requirements for certification. While important, certification is a factor that should be used in combination with all of the other information that you are collecting.

The trainer also should also be certified in CPR/First Aid and be able to show you the credentials.

3. What is your training/exercise philosophy?

A credible trainer should be able to explain a philosophy of exercise training. You don’t need a doctoral dissertation here, only a description of how they help clients reach their goals. How do they train clients? How do they motivate them? Is there an assessment process? Find out as much as you can about how they work with clients to achieve goals.

What you are looking for here is a reflection of trainer credibility. If the trainer says something like "I kick my clients’ butts…No pain, no gain, dude," thank them for their time and move on. Be an intelligent consumer. Ask for specifics and clarification if you don’t understand something. This person is going to tell you how to exercise, give you lifestyle information and hold very heavy weights over your head.

3. How much do you charge and how do you expect payment?

Prices for personal fitness instruction vary widely based on where you live and trainer qualification and experience. As with everything else, you usually get what you pay for, but there’a no guarantee that the most expensive trainer will be the best suited for you and your goals.

Talk to other people who have used fitness trainers. Or call health clubs near you to determine the average rate in your area. If the trainer is meeting you at your home, expect to pay slightly more than average. If you are meeting at a health club, prepare to cover the cost of a guest fee if there is one.

Get specifics on all fees and how payment is to be made. Some trainers charge on a per session basis, while others offer packages and discounted rates for a given number of pre-paid sessions. Some accept only cash. Others accept checks and credit cards. Most fitness trainers have some sort of cancellation policy. Agree on all financial obligations before the first session and insist that both parties sign a billing contract.

Avoid at all costs the trainer who responds to a question about fees with statements like "How much can you afford?" or "How much are you looking to spend?" This is someone who has their wallet—not your fitness goals—in mind.

5. How do they look?

You should never base your selection solely on physical appearance. A person with a flawless-looking body may not know the first thing about safely teaching you how to achieve your own goals. This is especially true if they have achieved their own results through things like drugs, eating disorders or exercise obsession.

The person you hire will be teaching you skills and lifestyle habits and doesn’t need to look like a model in a fitness magazine. But trainers do need to practice what they preach. Let’s face it. Are you really going to respect someone’s opinion if you’re in better shape than they are? Probably not.

6. What’s your comfort level?

Above all, make sure you choose a trainer with whom you feel comfortable and whether their personality is a good match with yours. Above all, trust your instincts. Hiring someone with superior training knowledge is worthless if you don’t feel comfortable. You need to trust, respect and feel at ease with them.

You wouldn’t buy a pair of exercise shoes without at least trying them on to see if they’re comfortable. The same concept holds for hiring a personal fitness trainer. Set up an interview, ask the right questions, and follow your instincts for the perfect fit.

About The Author

Jon Gestl, CSCS, is a personal fitness trainer and instructor in Chicago specializing in in-home and in-office fitness training. He is a United States National Aerobic Champion silver and bronze medalist and world-ranked sportaerobic competitor. He can be contacted at

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The Power of Stretching    - Dave Snape


Your muscles ache from a good stretch. This is quite
normal and is part of the process. Stretching has
seemingly been with us and particularly with athletes
since the beginning of time.

A very key point to good stretching is to hold the
stretch for at least seventeen seconds. This is a
pearl of wisdom gleaned from a ballet teacher a few
years back. She said that any stretch under 17
seconds was just not effective.

The 17 second rule is exceeded in the high intensity
Bikram's yoga where stretches are held for about 30
seconds. Don't forget the high level of heat that is
used in Bikram's to extract that last little bit of
stretch out of your muscles. An interesting twist that
is not necessary to gain benefits from stretching. But,
it can't hurt, right?

So what kind of benefits can you expect from
stretching? That's an easy one. Have you ever seen the
movie, Blood Sport? Did you know that Frank Dux could
truly stretch his body to the extreme. The actor that
played him was quite elastic as well.

Great elasticity is also something you might see in
well trained Spetsnaz (Russian) agents. They often work
out with Russian kettlebells too. They are for superior
strength gains and the ability to withstand ballistic

Why are stretching and flexibility considered important
to these people? Stretching gives one the ability to
have explosive power available at one's fingertips
without the need to warm up. Of course most of us are
not martial artists or agents. But, you'll be happy to
know there are plenty of other benefits.

Let me give you an example. After learning to sit in
the full lotus position for long periods of time, my
ankles became very flexible. One day I was walking
along and my left foot fell into a pothole. This mishap
pushed my ankle sideways to about 90 degrees from it's
normal position.

Amazingly, this didn't even hurt, not one bit. If my
ankle hadn't been so flexible, I may have suffered a
sprained ankle. At the very least, it would have hurt
for days.

Key point: stretching helps you to avoid injuries.
Not only that but if you do have a muscle, tendon or
ligament injury it should heal faster, theoretically

Stretching actually grows the ligaments, tendons and
muscles being stretched. They really grow longer over

Check with your physician before undertaking any type
of exercise, including stretching.

Here is some good instructional material on stretching:

Dave Snape

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