I remember when I first started going to gym and received offers to receive personal training, it was a hard sell. I was a uni student so paying someone $60 for 60 minutes of training seemed ridiculous when 2 minute noodles were only 90 cents - that's 66 meals I'm giving up! or 33 meals if you get hungry like I get hungry... Anyway, I was already at the gym and doing 90+ minute sessions by myself why would I need someone to come yell at me to get moving?
Remind me to get more photos of me coaching in the gym... For now this stock image is the best I can do so enjoy!
Well, how things have come full circle now that I'm working as a personal trainer. I no longer spend more than 90 minutes at the gym for very little reward. I understand the incredible value a good personal trainer has, yelling at people isn't even a scratch on the surface of what we do for our clients (mainly because we don't need to be yelling). Working with a personal trainer is an investment in your health and fitness which you won't regret as it pays dividends for years to come. Let me explain why.
Now I can't speak for all personal trainers as the term encompasses many vastly different positions and there are good ones as well as bad ones just like in every profession, but when someone decides to spend money on my services I take that responsibility seriously. I keep the 66 low-quality high-sodium meals in the back of my mind and make sure I'm providing value that people can't get anywhere else other than a personal trainer.
There are 3 main roles I try to fill as a trainer:
Get you moving
Do it in a way that is supported by science
Do it in a way that works for YOU
1. Get you moving
The biggest barrier to getting fit is actually just doing it, which is why the first and most important role is to help get you moving. As a personal trainer my main goal is to break down the barriers stopping you from exercising to help you get to where you want to be. To do this, a good personal trainer will make exercising safe, easy, effective and interesting.
Trainers make exercising safe by closely monitoring technique, using exercises appropriate to your skill level and ensuring appropriate recovery between exercises.
Easy because you don't have to think about what to do at the gym, if you've had a busy day at work and want to save your last brain cells for watching Masterchef, a personal trainer will have your program ready to go, help you set up the weights and guide you through your workout.
A good personal trainer will have written up an effective program which follows the exercise science literature - rep ranges, sets, weight, targeting specific muscle groups, rest time, frequency, intensity, duration and type of exercise are all taken into account when creating your program to get the best possible results with least possible resources.
Good personal trainers strive to make the gym interesting as we know how crucial it is to enjoy the time you take out of your day to exercise. Programs are regularly updated with challenging new exercises for you to learn taken from our vast library (we're in the gym everyday, we pick up a thing or two), exercises you love the most can be sprinkled throughout the exercises you will benefit from the most and best of all you get to hang out with your awesome trainer and talk about the coolest lightsaber duel in star wars while working out (or maybe that's just me).
Side note: Ahsoka vs Darth Maul in The Clone Wars is a late contender to that debate
A trainer's number 1 goal is to help get you moving by: guiding you safely as you go through your workout, crafting your program intelligently and keeping you interested in keeping fit. By using this multi-faceted approach I hope to make the decision that everyone faces some days of whether or not you'll go to gym a lot easier.
2. To do it in a way that is supported by science
There are a lot of different ways for you to get fit, but they're not all created equally.
Crossfit creates very well built, athletic looking and strong clients but involves an inherently higher risk than other forms of resistance training because of the high force, high impact, high volume and highly technical training methods (not to mention the level of coaching I've experienced hasn't been up to industry standards...). It works but it's not for everyone.
Some methods are spread online and boast some pretty unbelievable results if you follow it to the letter but it's very hard to tell if it's real people getting these results or just another money making scheme.
Always question why someone appears to have knowledge. Is it because you actually believe what they are saying or are they just charismatic and benefit out of tricking you?
By working with a personal trainer, you now have someone to help you sift through what has been proven to work in replicated studies by people dedicated to finding the facts and what worked once for that handsome man on TV with blessed genetics. Personal trainers, especially good ones, keep one eye on the literature at all times to guide how they achieve role number 1: to get you fit as safely and as effectively as possible.
To explain this in another way: think about the greatest Australian cricketer Donald Bradman using a stump to hit a golf ball against the wall. He claimed using these smaller utensils helped hone his batting skills. While you could certainly argue it helped him achieve his batting average of 99.94 runs, it doesn't mean we should be giving every junior cricketer a stump and a golf ball. It worked for him because he was already doing the usual cricket training - using proper sized equipment and facing bowlers - and adding this unusual routine in on top.
Now imagine Donald Bradman selling a stump and a golf ball for a low, low price (5 times as much as a normal one costs) and throwing in a free book on how he became the best cricketer of all time using these utensils. He would make tonnes of money simply because he has such a wide reach but it wouldn't create a nation of top cricketers.
The same thing happens in the fitness industry all the time: if you just copy what you see or hear about how others train you could be missing the bigger picture. The Ab-King Pro doesn't just give you a six pack for using it (although for $49.99 + shipping & handling they'll certainly try to convince you it does!), all those fitness models in the ads will definitely have other exercises as the base of their routine. You can't know if the ads are telling the truth because they're trying to sell you something, of course they are going to say it's revolutionary!
As a personal trainer I commonly hear from my clients about a celebrity endorsed workout or an exercise which they saw on instagram or exercises their mother's friend's son's totally fit cousin uses and they want to do it too. Using physiology and biomechanics knowledge I can tell them whether it's a good exercise, they're ready for the exercise and how to implement it well and most importantly, put things into perspective: the exercise won't suddenly turn your entire life around.
If you have a personal trainer watching, you can be sure you'll be exercising in the most effective manner possible in accordance with the leading experts in the field (as opposed to a leading expert in social media). A personal trainer highly reduces your chances of ending up in a "Gym Fails!" video.
3: Do it in a way that works for YOU
There are many different ways to get fit that work. You can train once a week, you can train twice a day, you can train with heavy weights, light weights, with a bar, rings, bodyweight, you can go on a low-carb diet, high-carb diet, no-carb diet, reduced fat, no fa- I just want milk that tastes like real milk.
All these different approaches have worked. To different degrees of fitness. For some people. When done correctly.
A personal trainer is there to help you carve out your own approach to health and fitness by taking what the literature says and mashing it together with what works for you to achieve your personal goals. We know that just because some scientists have found an effective method doesn't mean it will be effective for everybody. If it gets amazing results but it isn't sustainable, it doesn't get amazing results.
I love it when my clients ask questions because it means they're taking control of their own fitness. As a personal trainer I'm not trying to force my own training regime on you, the only time people do that is when they have something to sell. A good personal trainer will find what tools work best for the client and throw out everything they don't need.
Flexibility is great for the general population who sits at a desk all day but if a contortionist walks through the door a stretch isn't going to do them any good. Similarly for someone who already lifts heavy but gets knee pain on squats we're not going to keep loading them up heavy on squats. A personal trainer is unlike any ready-made program you can find online because they can adapt the plan specifically to you.
If a client comes to me with a goal I will show them what has been scientifically proven to work and they will inevitably hit a bump in the road.
"These workouts are great but my work schedule has changed so I can't make 3 nights a week anymore"
Then we work together to find a solution. Remember a personal trainer spends their days at the gym working with clients who are in a similar position as you, we get to know what works for some people and what doesn't. Remember when I said a trainer keeps one eye on the literature? Well the other eye is fixed firmly on the real people in the gym who are actually finding ways to fit fitness into their everyday lives.
"Could you wake up a little bit earlier on one morning and do your session then? Or use the gym at your work during your lunch break? Or we can shorten the sessions and spread them out over more days? Still no bingo? Perhaps we will have to take our foot off the pedal while you go through this busy time at work, we can meet once a week to maintain our current momentum and help you relieve a little bit of work stress. We can pick up where we left off after these holidays when your work dies down a bit and then we can push hard for your goal of putting on muscle."
I know not everyone enjoys working out and not everyone wants to eat super healthy so we can create an approach around that and alter you goals as needed. I can help plot your fitness plan based on what your priorities are because then you'll be much happier taking that path.
As the client you are the king of your own fitness journey, personal trainers are your trusty advisors providing the options with the best chance of success, pushing you when you need to be pushed and giving slack when you need it most to get YOU the success that you desire.
A personal trainer isn't just for people who don't exercise on their own. A personal trainer is effective:
When first starting at a new form of training
When beginning a new routine, phase or goal
When issues begin occurring with your regular training
When you want to take your regular training to the next level
When training to look good for an event such as a wedding
When training to compete in an event such as a fun run
For athletes to build up strength, power and resilience
When returning to training from an injury
If regular training feels boring
If you or someone you know wants personal training, get in touch with me using the "contact me" page to get a fitness plan built entirely around YOU.
As you can see, working with a personal trainer is about so much more than just someone to push you at the gym. When a client hires me, I try my best to provide the most value I can by filling these three roles:
Get you moving
Use the scientifically proven methods
Build the plan entirely around YOU
So next time you see an ad for a personal trainer, instead of thinking about how much money you have to lose, think about how much value a trainer will give you. Remember it's an investment in your long term health, can you really afford not to invest?