Choosing a personal fitness trainer in Japan that delivers results

Tokyo American Club Fitness CenterPeople are living longer than ever before. To maximize present wellness and the quality of those extra years, experts suggest that you stay fit through daily exercise. A personal fitness trainer can help tailor a fitness program to suit your needs. But how do you choose a personal trainer who will deliver the results you seek?

Before choosing a trainer, first decide what your objectives are. Are you looking to lose weight? Are you seeking to build strength and endurance? Or, are you seeking rehabilitation for back pains caused by sitting at the computer all day?

As many trainers specialize, knowing in advance what results you want to achieve is critical if you are going to avoid getting stuck with the wrong trainer.

Here’s the rub – most people make a hiring decision without an understanding of what to look for in a personal trainer. Many gyms in Japan are flooded with trainers who have great people skills but offer little else. If your main purpose in going to the gym is to socialize, read no further. Almost any trainer will do. If, on the other hand, you are a busy professional in search of results from gym time, consider the following:

Paolo New

Paolo Olivieri, Manager
Tokyo American Club
Fitness Center

While a good personality is an important trait to hold, it is only one of several attributes of an effective trainer. Paolo Olivieri, fitness center manager at the Tokyo American Club, thinks that social interaction between the trainer and the client is important because clients like to talk while training. But, Olivieri says, beyond a good personality a trainer also needs to be both qualified and a good teacher.

Some clients gravitate to an athletic-looking trainer. Athleticism however, has nothing to do with being a good trainer. “Teaching is an innate skill,” says Olivieri. “If you can train alone, it does not mean that you would be a good teacher. Some trainers who don’t have prototypical physiques make really good teachers.”

The Tokyo American Club upholds standards of its thirteen independent personal trainers by requiring that they hold accreditation from an organization recognized by the International Health, Racquet and Sports Club Association. Trainers are also required to re-qualify every year.

Nampei Shinjo, Manager Gold's Gym - Omotesando

Nampei Shinjo, Manager
Gold’s Gym – Omotesando

Gold’s Gym maintains quality control by training employees at Gold’s Gym Academy. Staff must study a minimum of three to four months before they can work with clients as personal trainers. Independent trainers, on the other hand, must hold a certification issued by one of six certifying bodies. Gold’s Gym employs about fifty independent personal trainers within the greater Tokyo area.

Furthermore, both TAC and Gold’s Gym require staff and independent trainers to have had previous work experience in the field.

As for accreditation, it is difficult to know if any one certifying organization is better than any other. There are over 30,000 certifying organizations worldwide. ACE, NCSF, NASM, NSCA, NFPT, NATA, ISSA, AFFA, NESTA, ASCOM, ISCA, NSPA and JATO are to name but a few. If you have nothing else to go by, it is probably better to choose a personal trainer who holds one or more certifications over one who holds none at all.

However, not every qualified trainer is certified. Some trainers believe the bar set by accrediting organizations is too low. A few have taken the initiative to educate themselves.

Jeff Libengood

Jeff Libengood

Take Jeff Libengood for instance, an American who specializes in functional training and posturology in the treatment of lower back and musculoskeletal pain. He’s been a personal trainer in Japan for the past 25 years.

Libengood believes organizations like ISSA, NSCA, AFAA and NESTA provide only a rudimentary training. So instead, he has self-studied under professionals like Paul Chek and Dr. Bernard Bricot. Paul Chek of the C.H.E.K Institute is credited as being a leading educator in health and fitness. Dr. Bricot, a French orthopedic surgeon, is considered by many to be the father of modern posturology.

Perhaps the best guide to qualification are references. Libengood’s clients for example, include Olympic table tennis silver medalist Kasumi Ishikawa, and wheelchair tennis gold medalist Shingo Kunieda, as well as top golf swing coach Yuji Naito.

What’s good for one person may not be good for another. So shop around before making a selection. And, always seek the advice of a medical doctor before embarking on any exercise or rehabilitation program.


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