Perhaps, like me, you’re a bit of a novice when it comes to fitness. Perhaps you’ve found yourself on a gym floor trying to execute an exercise move you saw on Instagram a while ago, only for a personal trainer to come up to you to tell you that you’re doing it wrong. Too breathless to tell them to go away, you sit with them as they show you how much better they are at moving their body than you, all with the premise of trying to coax you into paying for some training sessions with them, so that you too can be that good.
Maybe you’ve caved and bought a few personal training sessions. But how do you know that you’re getting a good deal for your money? How do you know that the wide eyed, toothy personal trainer stood in front of you, actually knows what they’re talking about?
I spoke to Tome, who has written something for Not Plant Based before, to offer some guidance, given she’s a PT herself with an honours degree in dance and an expertise in coaching to ballet dancers.
Let’s start with the basics.
How do you become a personal trainer?
In order to become a practising PT, there are a few bullet points that you need to hit:
Level 2 – This is the very first step and qualification needed to become a fitness instructor. Tome describes it as “very basic”, as it basically just qualifies you to deliver gym inductions. You learn about basic physiology and fitness, but nothing very in depth.
Level 3 – This is your personal training qualification, and can normally be done in five weeks to six months, “depending on how intensive a course you register with”.
“I personally consider it quite a basic qualification. It’s the minimum that you need in order to say that you are a PT”, Tome says. “It’s a good baseline”, but certainly not enough to call yourself an expert.
Getting insured and your first aid certification Once you get these, you’re technically ready to go out and market yourself as a PT.
Tome explains that you should not be practising as a PT should you not have hit these four points.
After this stage, comes specialisms, should you chose to do them. This comes in many forms, including Level 4 in Specialist Exercise, strength and conditioning degrees/courses, ante/post natal training courses etc. Tome considers further training to be an important step if you want to become more skilled in a specific area, “for example, I don’t think someone with just a Level 3 should train someone who is pregnant”.
Finding a good personal trainer?
First up, if you’re thinking of paying for a personal trainer, ask for qualifications and make sure they have a minimum of a Level 3. If you are looking for your PT in a commercial gym, this should definitely be the case as companies are required to request certifications and proof of insurance prior to hiring PTs.
Tome says that a good PT should not take their eye off of a client when they are training. “If your PT is texting, filming you for their Instagram account…no. If the client has agreed to be filmed that’s fine, but someone other than the PT should be filming.” They should be watching you and listening to you and you should feel comfortable.
When it comes to PT’s, Tome notes that “everybody is different in their approach. The most important thing is that the client feels safe and supported throughout the session. If they don’t…say, bye!
This is a tricky one, as you’d assume that a PT would know how you should be feeding yourself, right?
Tome always works with a dietitian as a PT because “we are absolutely not qualified in Level 3 to give anything but very basic nutritional guidance”. Level 3 covers the very, very basics – things like digestive health, nutrient properties and basic sports nutrition. “Mostly things you would learn in GCSE biology”, she adds.
Tome isn’t a fan of the ‘one size fits all” approach when it comes to fitness, and the same is said for nutrition. “I do not recommend that anyone buy nutrition plans found on Instagram, for example, especially if they are being sold by “fitness professionals” who aren’t qualified to tell you what to eat. Trust expertise over online fame. Always seek professional help from an outside dietitian when it comes to altering your diet.”