Great Advice for Choosing a Personal Trainer Who Understands Your Symptoms

Personal Trainer with Older Client

It’s always a good time to invest in improving your fitness, especially if you are diagnosed with a cancer like mesothelioma.

People who exercise regularly and keep a balanced diet generally handle cancer treatments better than those who are not as involved in enhancing their well-being.

Hiring a personal trainer is a great starting point, but selecting the right one can be as difficult as finding that perfect apartment. Credentials and experience are crucial to you, especially when your cancer symptoms include shortness of breath, minor fatigue, chest pains and respiratory complications, among others that could be challenging for you and your personal trainer.

There are many personal trainers out there to choose from, and surveys show more will be getting their certifications in the coming years.

The American College of Sports Medicine reported personal training as one of the top 10 fitness trends of 2014. The group published a survey that shows “education, training and proper credentialing for personal trainers has become increasingly important to the health and fitness facilities that employ them.”

Top 10 Fitness Trends

  • High intensity interval training
  • Body weight training
  • Educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals
  • Strength training
  • Exercise and weight loss
  • Personal training
  • Fitness programs for older adults
  • Functional fitness
  • Group personal training
  • Yoga

You’ll notice that fitness programs for older adults are also on that list. While secondary exposure to asbestos is causing mesothelioma in some younger adults and children, the average age of diagnosis is 60. People with the illness and in the age group should focus on finding a trainer with some experience crafting workouts for older adults.

But before you commit to a personal trainer, keep these factors in mind: Ask about their training background and certification, and get a feel for the trainer first.

What’s Their Background and Certification?

Not all personal trainers are the same.

There are hundreds of certifications and none is identical. Certifications distinguish themselves based on a personal trainer’s specialties, including corrective, therapeutic and conditioning exercises. One certification is based on the trainer’s experience with workouts tailored for cancer patients.

Many Letters, but What Do They Mean?

If you look at a personal trainer’s business card, a trail of letters usually follows their names.

That alphabet soup represents the acronyms of the companies granting the certifications. It can be a bit confusing to understand.

One of the first certifications to look for when considering hiring a trainer is accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). This will weed out many uncertified trainers who cannot qualify under the agency’s strict standards.

I’m a certified fitness trainer under the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and a certified personal trainer by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). I consider these the top four best certifying companies, also accredited by the NCCA, for someone diagnosed with mesothelioma:

  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM): While it already has an NCCA accredited personal training certification, the ACSM took it a step further by partnering with the American Cancer Society. Together, they created a certified cancer exercise trainer certification. This type of certification may be a good fit for a person with mesothelioma because they likely will be able to prescribe fitness routines coordinated with treatment options.
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM): The organization provides a specific model for progressing clients safely and effectively depending on a client’s goals. NASM accreditations to look for in your trainer include their certified personal trainer or corrective exercise specialist (CES) certifications.
  • American Council on Exercise (ACE): One of the most well-known personal training certifying bodies. They offer a therapeutic exercise specialist certification that could be incredibly beneficial for someone enduring chemotherapy, radiation or both.
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA): A well-respected personal training certification known for its certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) accreditation. If you’re a current or former athlete and like to be trained like one, the CSCS is the best in the business. It’s also one of the few training certifications that require a college degree.

Interview the Trainer

Get a feel for a trainer before you commit to buying a bunch of sessions from them.

Most trainers are willing to give you a free session, even if they don’t advertise it. Just tell them you’re interested in signing up, but you want to see if they are right for you.

While all these letters and long certification agency names can become confusing, the easiest way of finding out more about your trainer is by asking.

Ask the trainer if they have trained someone with cancer. Maybe they’ve had a more personal experience with cancer as a patient or caregiver. That bit of personal knowledge goes a long way with someone you are depending on (and paying) to improve your strength and general well-being.

It’s important that your trainer understand or is mindful of what you’re going through. After all, that’s why there’s an emphasis on the ‘personal’ in training.

  1. ACSM. (2013, Oct. 25). Survey Predicts Top 20 Fitness Trends for 2014. Retrieved from http://www.acsm.org/about-acsm/media-room/news-releases/2013/10/25/survey-predicts-top-20-fitness-trends-for-2014

Adam Lee is a personal trainer and blogger who writes for The Mesothelioma Center and his personal fitness blog. After losing his stepfather to mesothelioma, he offers his training services to raise money for cancer research.

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