SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY: The right trainer is a personal choice, responsibility

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You have been thinking about hiring a personal trainer to help you start or revamp your workout program or to help you train for an athletic event.

But what should you look for when deciding whom to hire? Here are a few simple guidelines to help you pick the best personal trainer for you.

The first thing to do is check to see if they are a certified personal trainer, then check to see if their certification is from a National Commission for Certifying Agencies organization.

The NCCA accredits many allied health professions including nurses, athletic trainers and registered dietitians.

A few examples of accredited organizations are American Council on Exercise (ACE), American College of Sports Medicine, The Cooper Institute and National Strength and Conditioning Association.

To verify that your prospective trainer's certification is current ask to see a copy of the person's certification card.

To keep certifications current, trainers must participate in continuing education, which helps them keep current on information and trends in the fitness industry.

Next, ask how long the person has been in practice and areas of specialty. Does this personal trainer have experience with what your specific goal is -- working out for the first time, athletic performance or rehabilitation?

If you are still unsure, ask for references or testimonials from clients. Talking with former clients can be a great tool to learn more about particular trainers, to find out whether they were on time, professional, interested, etc.

Before signing up, be sure to check whether the trainer has liability insurance. Trainers at fitness facilities typically are covered under the facility's insurance policy.

Also ask about the cancellation policies.

One of the biggest determiners of whether a trainer is right for you is whether your personalities mesh. This is the person who is going to be helping you reach your fitness goals, so you need to be able to work together.

Will this be the style of training you need? If you have watched "The Biggest Loser," think Jillian versus Bob. Is this person in-your-face, comforting, or laid back? What is it that you need?

Before you sign on the dotted line, be sure to take a few moments to make sure you've found the best fit.

Valerie Rankin has been working in the fitness industry since 1998. She has a bachelor's degree in health education and fitness promotion. She is the group exercise director at the YMCA, where she manages and instructs fitness classes.

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