Visit ten commercial gyms or fitness centres and ask them why you should use a Personal Trainer and you will get ten different answers, based around why you should use a Personal Trainer from their facility. The problem with the advice you are receiving from these professional sales people, is that the advice is driven by sales targets and is designed to help build the businesses of the resident Personal Trainers.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am a Personal Trainer working out of a large commercial gym and I also want to build by business. Gaining access to gym members who have been sold on the virtues and values of personal training certainly makes that job so much easier. But, I would much rather have my clients decide to use a Personal Trainer (preferably me) for valid reasons and with a realistic view of what they can expect to receive in return for their hard-earned dollars.
Let’s start at the beginning; why is it best to workout with a Personal Trainer? Essentially, there are ten reasons why most people choose to engage a Personal Trainer and they are:
1. You are not seeing results. Many people will begin an exercise regime with a general goal in mind, usually weight loss, and work like crazy for weeks, months and even years without getting any discernible results. A good Personal Trainer will begin your journey with a comprehensive Pre-Exercise Screening questionnaire and will have an in depth discussion with you about your goals, motivation and previous exercise history. Only then, after gaining an understanding of where you currently are and where you want to get to, will they begin formulating an exercise and nutrition plan specifically for you. Included in the pre-exercise screening, will be body weight assessment, girth measurements and possibly even skinfold measurements taken to establish a baseline against which your future progress will be measure.
2. You don’t know where to start. No Personal Trainer worth spending your money on will assume that you have any prior knowledge of anatomy & physiology, nutrition or exercise science. The reason is that if we assume that every client is a blank canvas and develop the workouts based on the principles of sound technique and progression, every client has the opportunity to learn the safest, most effective way in which to build their strength, cardio vascular fitness and insure against unnecessary injuries. Most people who join gym don’t know how to exercise effectively or safely and there is no-one better to teach you how to do that than your Personal Trainer. A large number of people will download a templated workout from their favourite website or get advice from their “fit” friends. The problem with this approach is that you may not know how to use the equipment safely and the workout has not been tailored to suit your individual needs and/or limitations.
3. You are bored with the same old workouts. I know from personal experience that if you do not change your workout on a regular basis, or add interesting cross-training options into the mix, you become very bored with the workout and are less likely to even attempt to do it. Bang, there goes your motivation. A good Personal Trainer will be continually reviewing your progress, how your body is adapting to the exercise and, assessing your motivation. If any, or all, of these indicators show signs of plateauing or you are less motivated, he will change your routine and add some variety into your workout to keep it interesting and to continually challenge your body.
4. You need to be challenged. If you are like the majority of the exercising population, there will be days when you simply don’t feel like pushing yourself to your limits or, you just feel like slacking off. A Personal Trainer will not allow you to bring out the BS excuses to not workout. He will push you to complete that last two reps and encourage you through the set when the weight seems far too heavy. He will be your conscience, your mentor and your cheer squad, but he will not be your Mother.
5. You want to learn how to exercise on your own. Even if you want to exercise on your own, it is a great idea to engage a Personal Trainer for a few sessions to learn the right way to exercise. This is especially true if you want to learn about the muscles in your body, how to target those muscles and how to complete the exercises with good technique. Just a few sessions can teach you about your body, how it works and what you can do the get the best out of it through exercise.
6. You need accountability and motivation. Personal Trainers come with built-in motivation. You are investing both money and time in your health and fitness and there is nothing like a standing appointment to get you off your butt and moving. A good Personal Trainer will also provide accountability; so if you don’t turn up for an appointment, they will be straight on to you to find out if you did the missed training in your own time. They will regularly quiz you on your eating and sleeping habits to make sure you are staying on track.
7. You have a specific illness, injury or condition. If you have specific conditions like, Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, arthritis or old injuries, working with a Personal Trainer, who can work with your Doctor, Physiotherapist or Chiropractor, can help you find a program that suits your particular circumstances, help heal injuries and, avoid further problems. Keep in mind that you want to find a trainer who has experience with your issues and make sure that trainer works closely with your doctor and/or physical therapist for the best experience.
8. You are training for a sport or event. If you’re training for a marathon, the football season or some other type of sport or event, an experienced Personal Trainer can help you decide what you need to do to stay strong without detracting from your other training. He can also help create a training program and map out a periodisation plan for the coming event. Just make sure he’s experienced in the sport you’re training for since not all trainers do sport-specific training.
9. You want supervision and support. Some people do know how to exercise for best results and do know how to exercise safely but still want to have a Personal Trainer around to supervise their workout and provide support (including spotting heavy weights) during the workout. The Personal Trainer then becomes more of a training partner.
10. You want to workout at home. Many people have a good collection of exercise equipment at home but aren’t sure how to use what they have or, lack the motivation and discipline to actually exercise. A Personal Trainer can show you exactly how to use what you have got and the knowledge that your Trainer will be arriving at a particular time in the specified day will help motivate you to do the work.
Now that you have some really compelling reasons why you should use a Personal Trainer, the next question is: How do you pick the best one?
I could be facetious and simply say, “pick me!” but there are some fundamental, and non-negotiable, criteria that you should insist on seeing. The first of these is an appropriate, recognise qualification in fitness or exercise science. As an absolute minimum, the Personal Trainer must have a Certificate III & IV in Fitness. If they have a Diploma in Fitness or Under Graduate Degree in Sports or Exercise Science, then so much the better.
Secondly, if they do not have additional qualifications, e.g. Certificate or Diploma level, in Nutrition or Dietetics, they should not be offering nutritional or dietary advice beyond the scope of the National Dietary Guidelines. If, on the other hand, they do have additional qualifications in Nutrition and/or Dietetics, they can help you analyse your diet and offer nutritional guidance and advice.
The third factor to consider is their specialisation. Every Personal Trainer has been educated to a level that will allow them to offer support and guidance to a broad range of people with a broad range of objectives and challenges. However, I have yet to meet a single Personal Trainer who does not have a specialisation or, a preference for a particular type of training. If you have been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and your goal is to lose weight and control your condition, it would be pointless teaming up with a Personal Trainer whose specialisation or preference is for body building and competition. It would be equally pointless for an aspiring body builder to team up with a Trainer who specialises in post-pregnancy weight loss. The experience would be underwhelming and frustrating for both parties.
Finally, compatibility is a key factor in deciding who you should entrust with your health and fitness journey. You might have found the best Personal Trainer on the planet but if he has a huge ego and has difficulty relating to you, on your level, he is not the guy for you. Spend the time to sit down and have a chat, find out something about the Trainer’s background, their personal fitness journey and what they enjoy doing in the gym. If you find a kindred spirit who has all of the qualifications and a specialisation that fits your needs, they are the Trainer for you.
When you do find that perfect Personal Trainer, don’t make the mistake of putting dollars in the way of achieving your goals. The investment in the right Personal Trainer will be worth every cent. Let’s say you are asked to invest $50 per session twice every week to get the Trainer of your choice. In isolation, $100 can seem like quite a large amount of money but you need to put it into context; what is your life and long term health worth? If you eliminated all junk food, cigarettes and alcohol from your diet, how much would that save you each week? If you were able to stop taking the drugs that are currently keeping you healthy, how much would you save? The dollars should not be the determining factor.
It is very easy for me to state “I can get you into the best shape of your life” and in fact, many of my contemporaries do exactly that in their advertising, but what does that mean in the context of your life? I would much rather say: “I can help you find the strength of purpose and discipline to be fit and healthy for the rest of your life.” This is a reality that we can both commit to and make it happen. Only you can change your life; I can teach you how and help you achieve it.