Maybe you’ve been someone who has been active your whole life, or perhaps you’re deciding to finally make your health a bigger priority in your life. No matter your reason, working with a trainer can influence how you set and meet your goals in this next chapter in your life. My initial description of a personal trainer might be similar to yours: the big guy at the gym, giving advice to everyone who walks through the doors, plugging supplements and making people feel guilty for not dropping everything to make fitness the most important piece of their life. This, however, is not the reality.
What is a personal trainer?
The National Federation of Fitness Professionals suggests that “personal trainers possess the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to design safe and effective fitness programs” (NFPT). Trainers are resources, coaches and professionals who have studied the many facets of the body. Some trainers studied in college; others have learned independently through an accredited program such as ACE or NASM. Note that not all fitness facilities require their trainers to be certified.
On top of the science behind fitness, trainers are taught to support goal setting, motivation and program progressions. Age, physical health, and experience in activity are huge factors in designing a program; that’s what makes it personal. Some people want to lose weight, some want to stay active as they get older, and no matter the motivator a trainer can help you set and reach those goals.
What does a training session look like?
Most likely, your first and second sessions will mostly be about learning about your history, your goals, and how you move. You may be asked to sit down and review your health history and participate in a few drills for your trainer to get an idea of how you move, taking into account flexibility, balance, coordination and general strength. After this, expect to discuss your results and create an action plan.
Before even signing up at a club or calling a trainer, you may have had a pretty good expectation for what you expected to hear and what results what you want to see. My previous clients have come with predefined goals for weight loss or muscle growth and that is a great place to start . . . if the goals are realistic. Does the client want to lose 10 pounds for a wedding in a month or for a wedding in 6 months? For long term goals like this it is important to do some research to find out what is attainable, sustainable, and healthy. Personal trainers are a great resource to learn more about reaching these goals and they can help you set additional other goals on the way to reaching the big one.
Once you have set goals and picked an action plan, your program can move in a number of directions. Personally, I have encouraged some clients not to pay to meet regularly in the gym and instead recommended that they start by going for a walk in their neighborhood every day. Depending on your experience in a gym, decide if you want to meet with a trainer twice a month for new workouts or if you want to work with someone three times a week to coach you through each exercise. Again, the emphasis is on personal training—it’s all about you!
How do I get started?
There are many places to turn if you are looking for a person trainer. If you found your way to this page then perhaps that’s me! Some gyms have free personal training offered to new clients or as part of a membership package. If a single session is offered as a promotion at your gym, it can be a great way to meet a trainer and learn about the programs offered.
While I strongly encourage you to make fitness a lifetime commitment, your commitment to your trainer may not be the same. Often, the first free session is an opportunity to for new trainers to give their pitch on personal training, but remember that it is not your only option. Take time to reflect on how you liked the experience—did you feel heard, challenged, or inspired? Or did you feel pressured, confused, and uncomfortable? Connection is important for your success, so if you do not click with one trainer then it can be worthwhile to ask for recommendations from friends or try a session with someone else.
My goal with each client is to teach them to be independent and confident in a fitness setting so that they are empowered to take ownership of their health. Other trainers specialize in building programs for people who want to supervised workouts on a regular basis. Some trainers work online to send programs and monitor progress for hundreds of clients at a time. There are so many types of personal and group fitness instructors in the market that you have the opportunity to get as specific in your preferences as you choose.
Feel encouraged to try out as much as you can, be it weightlifting, jogging, hiking, dancing, or whatever gets you moving. Personal trainers are an excellent resource, and remember that you will always be in control and responsible for your own results. Best of luck to you as you embark on your own journey to a healthier you!