You see them in every fitness center on the planet. Men and women behind the counter with four percent body fat who seem to have all the answers about what you need to do to get a body just like them. But what do you really know about that person other than they found an exercise and diet formula that works for them? Does that make them qualified to give you advice? Not hardly and, in some cases, your personal trainer might be little more than a salesman dressed in workout clothing.
Human beings are a complex system that’s built upon relatively unique blend of genetics, upbringing, environment and aptitude. The diet and exercise program that works for one person may not work for another and, in some circumstances, may actually cause harm. So, how do you know the person you’re paying for advice is worth the money? The answer is, increasingly, that you don’t. As an industry, the products that most personal trainers are selling are false hope and unrealistic expectations.
Not An Aspirational Career
With the exception of a relative handful who are personal trainers to the stars, the job is one step above flipping burgers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are no requirements for education or experience to be a personal trainer. The average salary is a menial $36,000 a year, about $17 an hour. That pay scale is simply not going to attract the best and the brightest, it attracts people who are looking for a way to get paid for working out.
There is no one central regulating certification authority for personal trainers. While there are many certifications available, some of which require a great deal of education and experience to obtain, others are little more than diploma mills. It’s not always possible for the layman to tell which certification is the best. Few states regulate personal trainers and some clubs may let them continue to operate even if their certification lapses. Horror stories about poorly qualified people filling the jobs and dispensing bad advice abound.
They’re More Likely To Be Salespeople
In most clubs and fitness centers personal trainers are in the business of selling training services and nutritional supplements. Even getting answers to basic questions like cost or length of time you’ll need to be in the program can be challenging. What a personal trainer really wants to sell you is more personal training services. So, the answer to how long they think you’ll need to be in the program is, basically, forever.
There’s An App For That
Fitness isn’t something you do at the gym three days a week. Being fit and healthy means adopting a lifestyle that works for you. It also means monitoring your progress and making changes when you hit setbacks. For most people simply charting their fitness level over time will give them all the feedback they need. These days there are apps and fitness trackers with a bewildering array of capabilities. Before spending money on a personal trainer, investigate the universe of fitness apps and wearable devices.
Finding Your Own Path
There are also groups, like Reddit’s FitIt where people come together to exchange information about fitness equipment, training and diet. There are other boards where people come together to encourage one another to stick with the program. What’s always surprising is the level of sophistication that you can achieve by studying community advice over a long period of time. Many of the regulars are getting blood work, body fat analysis and some fairly sophisticated tests for things like their resting metabolic rate.
Like with any public forum on the internet, caution is advised and a visit to your doctor before you start any diet or exercise program is a wise first step. Even if you go back to the gym, maybe work out your own fitness plan before you go in.