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Personal Fitness

How To Find A Personal Fitness Trainer
by Michael J. Merlino, BBA, ACE, BSMI (CPFT, RES, SCS)
Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research
Owner, Merlino Fitness, MerlinoFitness.com

This month's feature article was originally published in the August, 1998 issue of
Houston Sports News magazine.

How to find a trainer
Personal training is a booming business and there is no shortage of qualified trainers no matter what your personal goals may be. So where do you begin? Word of mouth is probably your best bet. Other options include asking your local gym or YMCA for a recommendation or taking a tour of some of the more private personal studios that are popping up in most major cities across the nation. Local magazines and newspapers are another source. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) can also steer you in the right direction by giving you the names of reputable trainers in your area by calling them toll free at 1-800-825-3636. ACE's on-line Internet personal trainer directory is also available at the following link:

American Council on Exercise (ACE)
Click on the "Find an ACE Pro" link

Choosing a trainer that is right for you
Once you have asked around, made a few phone calls, searched the Internet and obtained the names of a few trainers to check out, set up some face-to-face interviews and consider the following items before making your final selection. These tips are intended as a guide, not an end-all list. Pick a personal trainer just as carefully as you would pick a doctor or dentist, realizing that in the end your comfort level with the trainer will probably be the most important factor with any qualified trainer.

CPR and First Aid - Is the trainer currently certified in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and First Aid? This is a must and a potential lifesaver in the event that an emergency occurs during one of your sessions.

Experience - Probably one of the most important factors. How long has the trainer been in the personal training business and with what types of clients has he or she worked? Does the trainer's experience and area of expertise match well with your personal fitness goals? If you have a specific medical condition(s) such as arthritis, diabetes, asthma, coronary artery disease, etc., has the trainer had experience working with other clients with similar conditions? If you are a Senior citizen, pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, has the trainer worked with others with similar situations? Does the trainer have exercise rehabilitation experience or worked with others that have certain limitations due to previous injuries or conditions? If you are a weekend or amateur athlete, does the trainer have sports-specific training experience to help you excel at your sport and reduce your risk of injury?

Education & Certifications - Does the trainer have an exercise-related degree (exercise physiology, kinesiology, anatomy etc.) or personal training certifications? This can get very confusing and is a subject of constant debate. Currently a trainer does not have to be licensed or certified to train clients in this country, but a college degree or certification does show that someone has had at least basic training in exercise physiology, anatomy, proper exercise programming and nutrition. Most certifications also require continuing education classes to keep the certification current, which is just added assurance that the fitness professional you hire is at least somewhat current with his or her skills and the latest fitness information. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is the gold standard of fitness certifications. Most of the other certifying bodies use the exercise principles that have been developed by ACSM. Another nationally recognized certification is The American Council on Exercise (ACE). ACE is probably the most well known certification to the general public. BSMI, is the popular choice for trainers in the Houston area. BSMI certified trainers complete a rigorous training school with Professional Fitness Instructor Training (PFIT), which includes instruction from a highly competent staff of Physicians, Orthopedic Surgeons, Ph.D's, athletic trainers and experienced fitness professionals. The Cooper Institute of Aerobics Research (CIAR) in Dallas, Texas also offers a wide variety certifications to trainers such as Physical Fitness Specialist, Biomechanics of Strength Training, and Dietary Guidance. Other certifications include The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), The National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) and many more. Search for a personal trainer who is well grounded in exercise skills, education and knowledge but also realize that all of the certifications in the world are meaningless if the trainer does not apply techniques learned on the gym floor during each session.

Ask for references - Most qualified trainers should be more than willing to refer you to a current or previous client. If not, then you may want to look elsewhere. This is your chance to ask some very specific questions about the trainer's style, personality and how he or she conducts business.

Ask for a test drive - If you are not sure about your commitment to personal training or your choice of trainer, ask if you can purchase a few sessions and try it out before you commit to anything long-term.

Your Comfort Zone - Does the trainer seem motivational, passionate about his or her work, and truly have your best interests and goals in mind? It is imperative that you feel comfortable with the trainer and how he or she approaches your fitness program. Don't ignore your gut feelings. You are unlikely to reach your goals if you have poor rapport with your personal trainer.

A Healthy Investment
Investing in your health now and consistently building fitness into your lifestyle is nothing more than preventative medicine. Every day, more undisputed research is pouring in to reinforce the benefits of consistent, life long exercise. There is nothing more important than your health. If hiring a trained professional to get you started or to improve your workout program and that can help you reach your fitness goals and promote a more healthy lifestyle, it is an investment that will pay you big dividends for the rest of your life.

Michael Merlino is a Certified Professional Fitness Trainer and owner of Merlino Fitness and MerlinoFitness.com. He trains his clients at the Houston Downtown YMCA and his private fitness studio. Michael can be reached at 713.523.2577 or e-mail him at michael@merlinofitness.com. Click on one of the links below for more information on Michael and his fitness services.

View Michael's Bio
View Merlino Fitness Services




Weight Training
Lat Pulldowns
Pulldowns are a great exercise for the back muscles but avoid pulling the bar behind the head. Pull the bar down in front of the body toward the collar bone and with the bar just below your chin. Pulling the bar behind the head puts undue stress on the shoulders and rotator cuff.
Running
Avoiding Shin Splints
Do you have lower leg pain or shin splints from running? Running on hard surfaces, worn out running shoes and weak calf muscles could be the culprit. Try running on soft trails, buying a new pair of running shoes or adding calf exercises to your weight training routine.
Walking
The Talk Test
A great way to make sure you are staying in your aerobic fat-burning range is the talk test. If you cannot comfortably carry on a conversation with your walking partner you probably need to bring down the intensity to assure yourself that you are burning fat.
Fat Burning
Your Anaerobic Threshold
A great way to make sure you are burning fat during cardio sessions is knowing your anaerobic threshold or where your heart rate zone needs to be to burn fat stores. Find a gym or fitness center that offers anaerobic/VO2 testing. Merlino Fitness offers anaerobic threshold testing every month. Check out the link below for more details.
Merlino Fitness Metabolic Testing
Nutrition
Keys to Weight Loss
If you are trying to drop weight make sure you incorporate the following to get you on your way. Drink lots of water, don't skip meals (especially breakfast), do not eat late night meals or snacks after 7 or 8 pm and build as much activity into your everyday life as you can. Michael also recommends joining weight watchers to anyone trying to lose weight and keep it off long term.
Nutritional Supplements
Stay Away From Ephedra!
The weight loss/energy supplement is in the news again. Supplement companies that market this controversial supplement claim it is safe although many have died from this dangerous supplement. Make sure you check the labels of your nutritional supplements as many are laced with ephedra, also known as ephedrine or ma huang (the actual herbal).
Quick Tip Archives
Our archived collection of fitness and nutrition tips to help you stay focused and fit.
Tip Archives

Soy Dream
Ice Cream Sandwiches
Take the edge off those sweet cravings with this healthy soy alternative to an ice cream sandwich without the unwanted calories and guilt.
Product Website
Eggology Egg Whites
Take the edge off those sweet cravings with this healthy soy alternative to an ice cream sandwich without the unwanted calories and guilt.
Product Website
Grocery Store Archives
Our latest collection of on-line articles to help you stay focuses and fit.
Grocery Archives
 
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Pamela from Chihuahua, MexicoI work out 5 days a week and can't loose weight. I do spinning, tae bo and many types of cardio. Where am I going wrong?
Answer
Nutrition
Ross from Sidney, AustraliaI am currently trying to eat six small meals per day. Apart from breakfast and dinner, I always seem to forget or skip my meals during the day. I also need some simple, easy meals (snacks) that do not require refrigeration or preparation, apart from the obvious fruits.
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