Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Guest Post: What to Look for in a Fitness Pro (Trainer or Dietitian)

As promised for the Fat-Rat Challenge, I have asked some pro's for some advice that we can all use.  Say hello to Georgie!

Georgie Fear is a Registered Dietitian and personal trainer.  She works as the nutritionist for Rutgers Athletics, which puts her in charge of 21 Division 1 NCAA athletes.  It's her job to help them eat right, stay lean and strong, and perform at their best. Her areas of speciality are counseling for body fat loss (not just weight loss), healthy and delicious cooking, and practical strategies for eating right while keeping one's sanity! Being a student-athlete has it's own hurdles, being a busy working mom has it's own difficulties as well. She's not a fan of crash diets, excessive supplement use, or "diet food". She teaches strategies that work in real life, and that her clients enjoy and can continue forever. 

Thanks again to Georgie for doing this guest post!!  Georgie will be in NJ until she relocates to Colorado in the Fall of 2010.

Feel free to contact her with any nutrition or diet questions through her website http://www.askgeorgie.com/.


When you consider hiring a fitness or health professional, there are important factors to consider. After all, beyond the money (and effort) you’ll be investing, this person has your health and safety in their hands! Here are some things you should look for in a dietitian or personal trainer, to make sure you get the best experience possible.

1. Personality. Simply, you should like the person you are working with! If someone’s personality, language, or sense of humor rubs you the wrong way, it probably isn’t a good match. They may be a reputable, knowledgeable professional, but opposing personalities can decrease how much you look forward to your sessions. After your initial or first few sessions, you should be excited to work with this person and find their company enjoyable. You don’t want to work with an incompetent trainer just because they’re nice… but simple being likeable goes a long way to creating a productive and enjoyable working relationship.

2. Professionalism. Health and fitness professionals should always treat you with respect and consideration. Expect a fair, established policy on attendance and billing issues – and don’t be afraid to ask what their policies are. You may recognize a lack of professionalism in a professional who makes small talk for a large portion of your session, talks on the phone during your time, or is habitually late for sessions. They also should not let their personal lives or emotional state influence the productivity of a session. Talking a bit about one’s life is normal and friendly, but spilling dramatic stories or being overly emotional is not the mark of a professional. You should also talk with your fitness professional early on about what your goals are – and reassess them periodically. A high quality professional will also be able to guide you toward more appropriate goals if your initial objectives are unrealistic. They should be able to tell you exactly what they expect from you, and what you can expect if you choose to purchase their service.

3. Expertise. While diplomas on the wall are a good indicator of past education, you also want to know that the professional you work with continues to keep abreast of the latest research and continues to educate themselves. Ask other professionals for recommendations – dietitians know good doctors, trainers know good physical therapists, etc. You should also ask questions. If your trainer or nutritionist cannot answer most of your basic questions, they may not have much expertise. You will be best able to gauge a professional’s expertise by asking hard questions, and asking for more explanation if the answers seem hazy.

4. Communication. Even the most expert fitness professional isn’t worth to their clients if they can’t communicate their knowledge. A trainer should be able to clearly explain and show good technique for each exercise, in just a few sentences. They should not need an hour explaining one move. (If so, the move is probably too advanced and not a good choice for you.) A dietitian should be able to explain why they recommend certain dietary strategies, and what effect nutrients have on your body and health. They should be able to answer all your questions clearly, and eliminate any confusion before you leave the office.

5. Assessment. Right from the get go, a fitness professional should begin with assessing your current fitness, diet, and/or health.

· Health/Physical parameters may include a medical history, medication usage, blood pressure, and cholesterol tests, circumference measurements, body fat% testing, and weight

· Fitness assessments may include tests of strength, endurance, flexibility, range of motion, and biomechanics

· Dietary assessments may include food recalls, questions regarding supplement usage, allergies/intolerances, and analysis of nutrient intake

Assessments should also occur at regular intervals throughout your relationship with a professional. This is essential for monitoring progress and judging the success of the current program.

6. Your own safety. Some soreness is normal, especially during the early stages of a fitness routine. But be wary if you are routinely left feeling injured after personal training sessions, or if your workouts are exacerbating a condition you already had, such as worsening sciatica or foot pain. Discuss this type of problem with your trainer immediately; your trainer should be able to modify your program accordingly. Likewise, nutrition programming should also lead to you feeling well, energetic and improving your health – if you are left feeling unwell or your health seems to be deteriorating due to dietary recommendations you received from a nutrition counselor, it’s likely time to seek help elsewhere. In sum, you should never feel as if your health or safety are at risk.

If you have a weight loss, health or fitness goal, working with a personal trainer or registered dietitian can provide accountability, professional guidance, and individual attention that will enhance your chances of success. But be sure to make educated decisions when selecting a professional to work with. Individuals within a profession bring unique personalities, experience, methodologies and specialties to their clients. Don’t be afraid to “shop around” until you find the right person to provide the service you need.

I’d like to wish every one out there lots of success in meeting their fitness and health goals!

Go forth, well-fueled, and pursue your passion!

Georgie Fear RD
Registered Dietitian
Sports Nutritionist, Rutgers University Athletics


  1. Awesome Post, Missa! Thanks for taking the time to get someone as knowledgeable as Georgia to share such valuable info. And thank you Georgia for sharing such great insight into the world of personal trainers!

  2. great info, thanks georgia and missa!

  3. Thanks for the kind words on my blog today. If I ever decide to work with a trainer/nutritionist, I'll definitely go back and re-read this post, looks like lots of good thoughts. For now, I'm still winging it.