You finally did it. You dove in, head-first, sprang for the cash, and committed the time to a personal training package. Good for you. You will finally reach every fitness goal you’ve ever had, right? Here’s what most trainers won’t tell you: you just took a huge leap of faith in someone who might not have your best interest in mind. What do you mean– you might ask- he/she said everything I wanted to hear? This is a guaranteed success. As much as it pains me to say it, my industry is chock-full of ego, selfishness, and downright ineptitude.
Let’s start with the basics: What is personal training? Personal, of course. Should be a pretty simple concept to grasp, but all too often trainers adopt the attitude that they are smarter than their clients. That they can fool them into believing they are being given a customized, individualized, personalized workout crafted with careful consideration for previous injuries, overall goals, muscle imbalances, troublesome movement patterns, relevant lifestyle applications… and so forth. Program design involves many layers of thoughtful planning if progressive improvement in health and fitness are expected.
Now let’s discuss what personal training isn’t. Cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all, generic workouts pulled verbatim from the latest fitness magazine sitting on the counter at the front of the gym. In the span of my career I have seen countless “trainers” develop one workout for that day and run every client through it. In reality, while you might be getting a solid workout, you are not addressing the specific areas that are going to help you move more freely, correct bad habits, or prevent predisposed injury. If a workout is all you are looking for, there are countless group classes or videos to help you accomplish that. Your trainer needs to train you and you alone during the time spent with him or her. You don’t need to be paying personal training prices for a group exercise workout.
Years ago, I met with a new female client in her mid-50s. She had been working out with another trainer for several months, and decided after awhile that they weren’t the best fit. She had sustained injuries to her shoulders and dismissed the damage as being “just part of getting older”. When we examined what could have caused the injury, evidence revealed that her former trainer had been training her — a fifty-something who taught school and liked to jog in the park– the same way he had been training himself— a 20-year -old basketball-playing bodybuilder. It’s a small miracle that her injuries weren’t more serious. The dangerous truth is, trust is an essential component to a successful client/trainer relationship, and sometimes that trust is abused or disregarded.
Here are some empowering questions you can ask your potential trainer to ensure you are going to have the best chance for success:
Do you have a plan for me? Big-picture intentions will lead to big-picture results.
Will you keep records? If you don’t know where you started, how will you know how far you’ve come?
Do you have experience with others with my condition/past injuries/goals?
Be sure to create an openly communicative relationship with your trainer. Your feedback is just as valuable to the effort toward your health as the effort put forth by the person who poses the question, “Can you can do two more?”. Forgive me if my soapbox rant seems negative or redundant. I just happen to take this subject very personally. Laziness and arrogance strike me as a personal affront against what I do and what I believe in. Listen to your instinct. Don’t settle. Demand better. If you find yourself in a toxic relationship with a trainer, don’t give up. There are plenty of us out there who will help you get to where you are going.
Jodilyn Stuart is the owner of ModaBody Fitness and has been a fitness professional since 1997. She has recently begun contributing to 303 Magazine as a fitness and health writer. Jodilyn has been nominated for Denver’s A-List as Denver’s best trainer. Add your vote at: Denver A-List.