You’ve finally made up your mind. You’re going to get in top shape; you’ve purchased some new workout “duds’, dug out the old gym bag, dusted off your running shoes, unburied your treadmill and renewed your gym membership. What more do you need to do?

If you’ve ever avoided exercising because: A) you get caught up in work and decide that’s more important; B) you can’t get out of bed in the morning or you’re too tired at night; C) you feel too self-conscious to go to the gym: D) you’re afraid to, due to past injuries, a history of heart disease or other physical ailment, then perhaps a personal trainer may be just what you need.

Although having your own personal fitness trainer may sound like a luxury, reserved for the rich and famous, hiring one may well save you time, frustration and money! More and more people, novice and veteran exercisers alike are working with personal trainers because they offer a practical and affordable means of getting and staying healthy. A trainer can make a difference in the success of your fitness program.

Personal trainers wear many hats, serving not only as a coach, but also a confidant, role model, educator and major source of motivation and encouragement. Some people may want to hire a trainer on a long-term constant basis, so they are accountable to someone else for their exercise time. Others may prefer to hire a trainer on a consulting basis to help design a workout and update it periodically. At any rate, whether you are a seasoned athlete hoping to enhance your sports performance or an out-of-shape individual seeking to improve your general appearance and health through body changes, a personal trainer’s assistance could prove priceless.

A good trainer lives, eats and breathes educating others about a healthy lifestyle and must also live one him- or her-self. They can help you enjoy exercise that you may never have imagined wanting to do. They should teach you how to tune in and adjust the intensity, duration, and frequency of exercise, to train without strain. They also can identify and retrain dangerous movement habits that can throw off form and possibly result in injury. He or she will ask you for a medical and fitness history and make a complete evaluation of your lifestyle and physical condition in order to tailor a program to your needs.

The most important thing you should expect from your trainer is the knowledge and expertise to prescribe a safe exercise program. You want a trainer that has a background in exercise physiology, anatomy and injury prevention. They may have a related degree and should have a nationally recognized certification and professional liability insurance. Don’t hesitate to ask for references from other clients or established industry professionals familiar with the trainer’s knowledge and abilities. Rates will vary depending on trainers’ experience and the length and location of the workout session.

Last but not least, in order to have the best working relationship, you should like your trainer’s personality and attitude. You need to ask yourself if you could get along well with this person and whether or not they seem genuinely interested in helping you reach your goals. Your trainer should be able to motivate you in a way that is meaningful to you. They should exhibit good listening skills, communicate well with you, and encourage questions so you can learn more about fitness and health. In the end, no trainer can get in shape for you, but they can help you through the process of becoming your own expert on yourself.