YOU Magazine - July 2008 - The Ultimate in Exercise Professional Advice for Hiring a Personal Trainer
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The Ultimate in Exercise
Professional Advice for Hiring a Personal Trainer

The Ultimate in Exercise - Professional Advice for Hiring a Personal Trainer

As the weather continues to get warmer we have no choice but to trade in our sweaters and jeans for tank tops and swimsuits. In other words, the ability to cover up our physiques diminishes with every passing day. As a result, many of us view the summer months as a time to improve our bodies in order to look our absolute best. But that's easier said than done, right?

Before you give up on the idea of improving your physique, you should ask yourself if you've done everything in your power to make it happen. Eating right and putting in time at the gym is a good start, but for many people it's still not enough. If this sounds familiar you may want to consider seeking out the help of an expert. In this case, the expert would be a certified personal trainer.

The problem with hiring a personal trainer is that many folks don't know where to begin, or what to expect. To shed some light on the subject, YOU Magazine sat down with the owner and creator of one of LA's hottest private workout facilities. We're speaking of Juliet Kaska, certified personal trainer and a bona fide expert on all things exercise.

Meet Juliet
A dancer, a marathon runner and an avid participant in outdoor sports, Juliet Kaska has been exercising all of her life. But, it was during her sophomore year of college when she hired her first personal trainer, an experience so positive that she decided to learn the trade. By 1999, Kaska had become certified as a personal trainer and began working for one of largest gyms in the country.

Kaska cites her work with a female client who'd just come off knee surgery as the genesis of what she does now. With an innate understanding of the human body, and a firm grasp of the client's physical issues, she designed a regimen specific to her needs. Kaska's program not only resulted in the client's full recovery, but it also helped her avoid a second surgery.

In 2000, Kaska started her own business of training people one-on-one. She built a name for herself and in 2005 she opened Emerson Hall Fitness in West Hollywood, California. Celebrities such as Madonna, Jessica Alba, Pink, Kate Walsh, Rachel Lee Cook, Stacy Keibler, Jessica Simpson and Robert Downey, Jr. have all worked out at her gym.

Emerson Hall is not a corporate gym, nor a trainer's gym. Rather, it is a private facility staffed by trainers that Kaska handpicks for their overall fitness acumen and specific skill sets. Kaska does not sell memberships to her gym. Instead, she takes appointments for one-on-one sessions, matching each client with a trainer that best serves their individual needs.

"Some people want to lose weight while others are looking to strengthen their body, or rehab an injury," says Kaska. She added that no matter a person's goals, she's got a trainer that's right for them. Depending on the client's needs, sometimes it can take more than one trainer to do the job. Teamwork is Kaska's trademark and in terms of personal training, it is a concept that is unique to Emerson Hall.
Advice from the expert
We began by asking Juliet about the advantages to hiring a personal trainer. "You're getting the expertise of someone who knows fitness," replied Kaska, adding that anyone can buy an exercise magazine or DVD, but few people are able to effectively apply the information. According to Kaska, "A good trainer will understand where your body is compensated and how it needs to improve."

Accountability is her second point. When you are scheduling appointments and paying for an expert's time, the likelihood of blowing off a workout diminishes. She also says that during a workout a client will never push him or herself as hard as a personal trainer can. In addition, the trainer provides an objective "third eye" in terms of your performance and improvement. You should know that Kaska herself has a trainer.

Regarding the questions we should ask when hiring a trainer, Kaska told us that you should first find out if the person is certified. But here's the trick. You also need to find out how they are certified. Our expert explained that there are over 600 different certifications, but only a handful of them are actually accredited by the NCCA. Since many trainers don't know themselves, here is the list of accredited certifications:

  • American Council on Exercise
  • American College of Sports Medicine
  • Cooper Institute
  • International Fitness Professionals Association
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine
  • National Council of Strength and Fitness
  • National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association
  • National Exercise Trainers Association
  • National Federation of Personal Trainers
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association

The next question to ask is do they hold a college degree in any related subjects? She says extra points can be awarded to trainers with backgrounds in either exercise science or physiology. It's also important to find out a trainer's area or areas of expertise, as well as how they've helped past clients achieve their goals. Doing so will help you choose the right trainer for your specific needs.

Kaska advises to never hire a trainer based on their own chiseled physique, as it's not an indicator that they can do the same for you. Instead she recommends approaching the process the same way you would if hiring an employee. Start with personal recommendations and interview at least three to five trainers before making your decision. Ask each trainer for references and make sure to call them.

Find out how many years of training experience a trainer has and the places where he or she has been working. You also want to find out if they are insured, as well as if they are certified in CPR. In terms of what you'll pay, Kaska says the national average for a trainer is between 45 and 65 dollars an hour. She says it's important to know that number increases to between 85 and 125 dollars an hour in metropolitan areas.

We concluded our interview by asking for a little advice on how to prepare both mentally and physically before hiring a trainer. "Get over the idea of having to lose weight before you start working out with a trainer," she claims, likening it to cleaning your house before the cleaning service arrives.

Instead, Kaska suggests getting a physical. Not only will it clear you for starting a workout program, but it will also help to benchmark yourself. Weight, body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol levels can all see positive changes as the result of working out. Having them checked prior to starting a program will allow you and the trainer to see how far you've come.

Kaska says if you're really nervous about your level of conditioning, it may be a good idea to start a walking program 4 to 6 weeks before beginning with a trainer. She recommends starting out by walking around your neighborhood for 10 minutes every day. Increase your time by two to five minutes every week.

Out of all the advice we received from Kaska, the next bit is not only the most interesting, but also the most potentially beneficial. Believe it or not, Kaska recommends changing trainers on a regular basis, as doing so keeps both the client and the trainer from burning out or developing bad tendencies.

She suggests hiring a trainer for a predetermined period of three to six months. Do so with a list of specific goals and the notion that you'll be moving on to another trainer upon completion. Kaska says that a nice touch is to offer an incentive or a small gift to the trainer if your goals are met. When your time with the trainer is done, you can ask them for referrals. Chances are they will have someone perfect to recommend.

We hope that you found Juliet's advice as useful as we have. Be sure to watch YOU correspondent, Jill Wilderman's interview with Juliet, as it will include some of her favorite swimsuit season exercises that anyone can do at home.

Juliet Kaska has two accredited certifications: The National Academy of Sports Medicine and The American Council on Exercise. She is Pilates certified as well as CPR certified. Kaska is also a member of IDEA, a professional organization for personal trainers; IHRSA, a professional organization for gym owners; and PMA, a professional organization for Pilates instructors and studio owners.

Juliet was chosen to be one of this year's co-hosts for OK Magazine's Body and Soul, a day-long event where the public participated in seminars and classes, and got a first look at some of the latest exercise products.

Juliet Kaska's Emerson Hall Fitness is located at 8816 Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, California. The phone number is (310) 274-0700 and you can visit her website by logging on to

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