We take for granted that doctors, lawyers, nail technicians and others we depend on for their expertise have gone through a series of requirements before they are allowed to interact with us.

We don't worry that some bozo is calling himself a doctor, when he's never stepped in a classroom. There are groups and laws to protect us.

This is not the case for all professions, including personal trainers and nutritionists. Some might argue that "those professions" don't need certifications and degrees, that experience is enough. Experience is important, but of the two, education and certification wins. Here's why.

I've been rained on when it's cloudy - many times. My "experience" is clouds often mean rain. Starting today, I'm a meteorologist! I'll predict the weather for a living.

Experience doesn't always mean you actually know what you're doing. It might have been luck, or narrow circumstances.

I'm not discounting the importance of experience; we have formalized apprenticeships on paths to licensure for that very reason (plumbers and electricians, for instance). The key word there was "formalized."

I want a trainer (like other professionals) who went to some trouble to establish themselves. I don't like thinking they woke up and said, "Hey, I'll be a trainer today," then interacts with me.

I prefer to think they had to prove their knowledge, and can apply it properly. I don't want them regurgitating "gym myths."

You should interview trainers. Ask for their credentials. Write them down - you'll forget. Get on the Internet. There are lots of certifications and reputations vary.

You want an accredited certification (NCCA). You are also looking to see what the certification covers - some only prepare the trainer for "general populations" (18-55, healthy, no issues).

Some cover "special populations" (pregnancy, seniors, youth, obese, diabetics, asthmatics, etc.).

Many trainers have degrees in related fields, and that's a plus. But look for the "certification," too. Certifications have continuing education requirements, degrees do not.

Check for the trainer's current CPR/AED and First Aid certifications. Not to sound catastrophic, but also ask if they are insured, both under the facility's policy and personally.

Chat with your potential trainer. Tease out their passions. Qualified trainers can cover lots of training needs, but they'll be better suited for you if they have a passion for your goals.

Don't hire a guy who does 98 percent of his work with soccer teams to help you lose your baby weight. Don't hire a woman who does 99 percent of her work with seniors to get your 13-year-old son ready for baseball.

Lastly, ask for references - past and current clients. Granted, the trainer will share the names of people they know like them, but you can still get a feel for how they train, their style, and their quirks (we all have them).

Since anyone can call themselves a trainer, it's left to you to do the homework before signing a contract and paying. You are also entrusting a portion of your health to them.

Your small amount of up-front effort will be worth it.

• NSCA certified personal trainer Shannon Sorrels has a bachelor's degree in chemistry and an MBA. Her Ahwatukee company, Physix LLC, works with Valley individuals as well as groups to improve their overall fitness. Reach her at (480) 528-5660 or visit www.azphysix.com.

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