Article and photos courtesy of Kristin Charboneau

If you have a goal in life that you want to achieve, you must first have a plan.  Let's say you want to become a millionaire by the time you're 62, and you're 35 now. How are you going to get to your goal? What steps do you need to take? Because you'll need a detailed plan with a timeline to reach your millionaire status, you'll need to consult a professional, such as a financial planner who'll be able assess your finances. Then you and the consultant will be able to work together to design the right plan for you.

An Idea vs. a Goal vs. an Accomplishment

Just as you do with your financial goals, you'll need to plan to reach your weight loss and fitness goals. What if that goal is to lose 20-30 pounds, be able to climb a flight of stairs without being winded, and learn to eat healthier food. Without a start date and end date on your timeline to reach these goals, you don't have a true goal—it's only an idea. If you decide, "Today I'll start and in six months I want to reach my fitness goal," then you have turned your idea into a true goal. Next you'll need a plan, the step-by-step actions you'll take to reach that goal.

How do you create a plan? Through education. You could read books, go online and do research, or,  to be most successful, hire a professional fitness trainer.

Of course, being that I've been a professional in the health and fitness industry for 18 years, I recommend that you hire a professional because most people need the expertise and encouragement that a professional can provide. Many people think, "Oh, I can do it myself. I don't need anyone's help." Yet many people who try to lose weight and change their lifestyles to make better health choices don't succeed because they use a temporary fix. Weight loss supplements, like fat burners, and other fad diets are often risky, and they are not a plan that can be followed for the rest of your life. Many people also try to work out at a gym or at home with fitness videos, but they don't succeed either. Why? Because they don't have a realistic plan and the self-discipline to do it alone.

Here's where the fitness professional can help. By obtaining the services of a health and fitness professional, you can save both your precious time and money because the trainer will help you establish realistic goals and a timeline to reach them. Most importantly, once you have reached your weight loss goal and implemented a healthy lifestyle, you'll be able to maintain your weight because you've changed your lifestyle in the ways needed to be healthy.

Tips for Hiring a Personal Trainer

First, consult friends, family members, and co-workers to see if they are currently working with a trainer or know of anyone who is. Word of mouth is the best. Next, contact local health club facilities near you and ask if there are professional trainers on the staff. If you are referred to a trainer or are choosing one on your own:

1. Ask if you can observe the trainer at the health facility and watch that person's technique.

2. Interview a couple of the trainer's clients and ask them if they are happy with the trainer and are reaching their fitness goals.

3. Set up a consultation with that trainer and ask these specific questions:

a) What education do you have? Do you have degrees or certifications? If so, from where?

b) How long and where have you been a personal trainer?

c) What populations and age groups have you worked with (for example, diabetics, heart attack or stroke patients, the elderly)?

d) Do you have on file any letters of recommendation from past clients, along with before and after photos?

I refer to professional trainers as "doctors of fitness," and since you wouldn't just look up a doctor in the phone book and trust that person without investigating further, don't be shy about evaluating possible fitness professionals. By the time you have gotten all the answers to your questions, you'll not only have lots of data on his/her qualifications, you'll also have gotten a feel for that trainer's sincerity and enthusiasm. Don't be discouraged if the first trainers you interview aren't a good match for you. Keep looking until you find the right person to meet your needs. After all, you are the boss, and even with the trainer's education and ability to motivate you, you'll be the one sweating.

When you find a professional who'll help you determine your needs and set meetable goals, you'll be setting yourself up for success—instead of the failure and frustration that so often come when you don't have goals, or you have the poor health that comes from crash or fad diets. Think about what you want out of life. Then with help, work toward getting what you deserve.

© Kristin Charboneau, 2009