I am sore. Very sore. Why you ask? Well, you shouldn’t since the title of this blog is pretty explanatory but I will tell you anyway. I had a session with my personal trainer.
I have been going to the gym now for around 5 years intermittently. 3 months during uni on, another 3 months during the holidays off and so on throughout the year for 4 years followed by 1 year of not going at all (just windsurfing and swimming). All this time I never even considered hiring a personal trainer. I was always under the impression that it was enough to work at the muscles you wanted to improve and just do cardio if you wanted to lose fat. I mean, it is simple enough to work out which machines apply to which muscles and if you are having extreme trouble finding it out for yourself you can read the instructions that come on the side of each machine. For those getting a little deeper into it, the internet is an amazing source of information and workout programmes, nutritional facts and so on but none of this can provide you with the tailored programme and attention you will get from a personal trainer.
Here are the main reasons for which I hired a PT.
1. Setting of Goals: Many people have a very vague idea of what they are striving for in their workout. Usually the goal that is set will be as basic as “lose weight”, “build muscle mass” or “increase stamina”; which if you are going to dabble is fair enough and for which you can find any number of tips and routines, be it through the internet, a friend or the guy spotting you on the bench press. However, you can get much more into depth than that and, to be honest, to reach any objective it is important to have a very clear idea of what it is you are going to be striving for. My PT obviously started with the basic questions that would provide the general answers I just mentioned, but he then continued with more specific ones in order to get more into detail. Things like the purpose of wanting to work out (esthetics, for a specific sport …), which muscles I wanted to focus on most, which ones I thought were best at the moment and what famous person had the kind of body I was hoping to acquire (in my case Brad Pitt in Fight Club or Ryan Reynolds). All my answers to these questions would help in setting up a specific routine that would be aimed at those specific targets.
2. Starting Indicators: This would be another important one. In order to be able to evaluate the progress and know how to reach your goal, you have to know where you are exactly before the process or transformation. Google Maps can’t give you the precise directions to your destination if you don’t give it a starting location. Measuring my height, weight, skin fold size and blood pressure would determine where I was at, and together with the information of where I wanted to go, my PT was now able to determine a procedure to get there.
4. Diet: Another factor in getting the most out of your workout, and the most important, is of course your diet Again, many nutritional facts can be found on the internet, magazines and books. However, after enlisting the foods that you actually eat during a week or two and having someone look over your diet, (someone who has insight into what the combination of these foods do for you and how they impact the results you are trying to achieve) can you really apply the correct changes.
5. Technique: This is often overlooked as usually all the exercises look easy enough to imitate. While this is fair enough to a certain degree, there is always a right and a wrong way to do it, and a way which gets the job done but isn´t quite right. Something as simple as changing the tempo of the exercise, a miniscule change in the angle of body parts, direction of the movement or even the distance covered with the weights: it all makes a difference and ultimately has a huge impact on the results.
6. Pushing me to my limits: It is so easy to back out of that last repetition, leave out a particular exercise or use less weight than you could/should. As human beings we tend to be complacent in our comfort zone, the easiness of a routine without effort, without change, without pain. It is in this bubble that we like to stay as moving out of it would result in discomfort. It is painful to start something new or to quit something you have become accustomed to. In an earlier blog post I talked about the 30 day challenge. Basically after doing something for 30 days it will have become part of your daily routine and therefore make up part of your comfort zone. The trouble is that we usually tend to stagnate in this newly created/modified comfort zone believing we have reached our goal rather than keep on pushing ourselves. This is when an external influence is useful to keep us on our toes since after a month of pushing 22 kg we get used to it and some people tend to stay at that weight longer than they should instead of keeping on pushing the limit and raising to 24 kg, just as an example.
7. Progression log: This is obviously something you can do yourself but the evaluation of this will be easier by someone who can interpret the results of the workout with respect to any changes that might be made to that workout.
How to chose a PT
1. Physical appearance: The reasoning is simple, chose a personal trainer that roughly has the type of body that you are looking for, or at least has the fitness that you would expect from a person your makes a living off of getting people in shape. You know that they have been able to achieve your goal for themselves and will most likely be able to apply their approach to you, with some alterations to it obviously as your starting point will likely be somewhat different to theirs. Basically, I want someone teaching me that has actually done what they know in theory. I guess this point is somewhat subjective but I will more likely trust someone who looks like they take their job seriously and apply the same principles to themselves.
2. Experience: As in every sector, we feel more comfortable putting our trust in someone with a good track record than in a newbie fresh off the course. Of course this only makes life harder for fitness graduates trying to get their foot in the door but I am thinking selfishly here. If they don’t have experience to show for, maybe they should give the previous point a try, as well as working on their social and sales skills 🙂
3. Watch how other clients are tended to: Get at least a little feedback about this new PT. Have a look at how other clients are treated. Are they all getting the same programme despite different body types? Are they being pushed for better results or are they doing nothing more than talking about what was going on in last nights soap opera.
These are my views on the benefits of hiring a PT in order to get the most out of a workout. Naturally the frequency at which you have sessions with your mentor will depend on your (and their) availability and of course your financial capabilities.
If you have anything you think should also be on this list, feel free to speak your mind in the comments below.