Since basically anyone can dispense advice on their blog, social media, publications, or TV, everyone’s a fitness and nutrition “expert.” Admittedly, I don’t see a lot of the really poor sources because I’m very particular about where I get my information. But I know it’s out there; every so often I’ll come across something that makes me “smack my head,” so to speak.
Who should you rely on for advice about your fitness goals? Well, that depends on how badly you want to succeed. You could easily be pointed in a crooked line by a well-meaning person who simply doesn’t know enough – but thinks they do. And although I appreciate the support of the online fitness community just as much as the next person, it’s easy to get caught up in the wrong advice. Some of the high-rep “challenges” I see make me wonder if these people are qualified at all to be directing the masses.
So when listening to someone tell you what to do with your health and body – be it a potential personal trainer, a celebrity, or someone on the Internet – ask yourself these questions first:
1. How much education do they have, and are they on top of current research?
After 15 years of lifting weights and educating myself in the process, I started this blog to share my passion and to help others get results too. But at some point I realized that not only did I want to train and write about fitness and nutrition full time, but I needed to expand my knowledge. That’s when I became certified as a personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
But that’s not where my education ended; there are boundless methodologies, concepts, philosophies, and programs when it comes to exercise science and nutrition. So I continue to educate myself by networking with more experienced experts, reading voraciously, and attending workshops and conferences. And of course I’ve trained clients one-on-one and will be doing so virtually right here as well.
Does all this make me an expert? In some areas, yes. I know a lot about reaching certain fitness and weight loss goals and making good nutrition choices. I can help you gain muscle, lose fat, get stronger, get ripped, learn how to eat healthy, fix muscle imbalances, or rebound from an injury. And I can teach you to own your power in the weight room, including what exactly that can mean for your self- confidence and life. But I’m not an expert at winning marathons or figure competitions, or powerlifting or Cross-fit. I wasn’t athletic as a youngster and am not particularly comfortable coaching those with sports-specific goals.
2. How experienced are they with training other people?
Trustworthy sources of information (like myself) take on clients who are a good fit with their expertise while constantly broadening their areas of knowledge. They don’t just hand out advice without knowing quite a bit about you. You are 100 percent different from the next person – one size does not fit all.
I frequently see guys in the gym helping their girlfriends learn to lift. Too often he’s teaching her the things he’s been doing for years – hardly appropriate for a beginning lifter. I saw one guy start his girlfriend out with a 35-pound barbell for bicep curls when he should’ve been teaching her proper form with a couple of eight-pound dumbbells. I cringe thinking about the potential for injury there.
In my opinion, education and experience are equally important. “Education” can mean a certificate or degree, but it doesn’t have much heft without experience.
So back to the question, “Who should you rely on for advice?” Is it a certified personal trainer or someone with good results from weight lifting?
It could be either. There are people I trust in the field who do not have a formal fitness education/certification and there are people I don’t trust who do. There are people getting great results in the gym who do not know enough to be helping you. And there are those who know just enough to help you with the basics, but mostly they just know what works for them.
3. Are they just trying to sell you something? Like shakes or videos or programs?
Look, everyone is entitled to make a living. Businesses sell products or services or they wouldn’t be businesses. But before you take advice from someone, be sure you know if they’re selling something. They may start out asking you what your workout is like and then say that they’ve had great results with P90X. And guess what? They just happen to be selling it too. What’s your credit card number?
I wouldn’t call these people good sources of advice. Just sayin.
4. Do they look fit and healthy?
A hot body or collection of awards doesn’t mean someone is qualified to give you advice. But hello? If someone can’t/won’t get results in their own health and body, how can they help you? ‘Nuff said.
Obviously, when selecting a trainer, you should also look for someone you gel with – someone who fits your personality and temperament. You should feel cared about and validated and listened to. You deserve all of this, and if you want to get to your goals, it’s your responsibility to get help from the right people.
Online personal training is becoming more and more popular. It’s a less expensive alternative if you have the motivation to work out on your own. It can also work for people who:
- Travel or work from home
- Live in remote location
- Feel uncomfortable with one-on-one personal training