Making the Most of Personal Training

Making the Most of Personal Training

By Barbara A. Brehm, Ed.D.

Once found only in the homes of celebrities and the very wealthy, personal trainers are now seen in fitness centers across the country. Many people find that just a few sessions with a personal trainer helps them refine and recommit to their exercise programs.

What do personal trainers do?

The personal trainer's basic job is to help design an exercise program tailored to your health concerns, fitness goals and schedule. A personal trainer can also provide information on training principles and give motivational advice to help you stick to your exercise program.

While celebrities and the very wealthy might hire a personal trainer to help them through each daily exercise session, most people are content to invest in a few initial meetings to get started, and then periodic check-ins to assess progress and further refine exercise program design.

How many training sessions will I need?

The amount of sessions you need is usually up to you. Some trainers have a required minimum for getting a new client started, others let you sign up for one at a time. Some people already have a fairly successful exercise program, and simply want an introduction to the weight room or unfamiliar exercise equipment. In these cases, a single session might be enough. Other people want more in depth help that includes a fitness assessment and extensive assistance with exercise program design. Such help might take four or more sessions. If this is your case, check with your trainer to see if he or she offers a discount for the purchase of several sessions.

How do I find a trainer?

Many fitness centers have trainers on staff or those they recommend. Your exercise instructors may also know of good trainers, or may be a member of a fitness organization that can recommend personal trainers in your area. Colleges and universities may have personal trainers associated with their physical education staff.

What will happen at our first session?

What takes place at your first session will depend upon your trainer and the purpose of your meeting. When you make your appointment, ask your trainer what he or she is expecting from you at the first meeting. You will usually be asked to complete medical clearance procedures. Be sure to find out whether you will need your physician to sign your form, and whether you will need a medical exam or a stress test.

Your trainer may also request information about the health concerns and fitness goals that will influence the design of your exercise program, so think about these before your first meeting. Health concerns refer not only to current health problems, but conditions for which you are at risk because of family history or lifestyle. For example, you may be interested in an exercise program that helps prevent heart disease if heart disease runs in your family -- even if you are currently in good health.

Before your first meeting, take a little time to think about your schedule. When will you make time to exercise? You might also wish to think about what has interfered with your plans to exercise in the past. What could help your new program be more successful?

This input can help you and your trainer design an individualized program that is truly tailored not only to your health and fitness concerns but to your schedule, personal preferences and personal circumstances.

I know some people who met with a trainer for several weeks, but never stuck with their exercise programs. What happened?

Personal trainers are not magic. While they can provide guidance and great recommendations, you are still responsible for the exercise. You must work with the trainer to be sure the exercise recommendations match the time and effort you are willing to spend on an exercise program. Be ambitious, but be realistic. Better to do a little bit and continue for the years to come than to do a great deal for a few weeks and then quit entirely. Remember that spending money on a personal trainer does not get you in shape; exercise does!

Reasons to Hire a Personal Trainer

Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Personal Trainer

By ThirdAge News Service - Posted July 10, 2008 9:40 PM

Many automatically equate personal training with gyms full of hard-core strength trainers and body builders. This is only part of the picture. More and more people, novice and veteran exercisers alike, are working with personal trainers because they offer a practical and affordable means of getting and staying healthy. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) shares the following top 10 reasons why you should hire a personal trainer.

1. Motivation. Personal trainers wear many hats, serving not only as a coach, but also as an educator, confidant, role model and a major source of motivation and encouragement.

2. Consistency. Do you find it difficult to stick to your program? Scheduling regular appointments with a personal trainer helps eliminate any excuses you may come up with for not exercising.

3. Safety. Are you unsure about how to use the chest-press machine at the gym or how to perform walking lunges without hurting your knees? A personal trainer will show you how to exercise safely (including which exercises to avoid), and instruct you on the proper and safe use of exercise equipment.

4. Individualized instruction. An exercise program that works for one person may not work for another. A personal trainer will develop the most effective program for you based on your fitness evaluation results and personal goals.

5. Effective workouts. Today's hectic lifestyles mean you don't have time to waste on ineffective exercise routines. Personal trainers help maximize your time by providing workouts designed to meet your goals quickly and efficiently.

6. Supervision. Personal attention during exercise is the primary function of personal trainers. Need someone to spot you while you do pull-ups? Looking for feedback on your running form? That's what your personal trainer is for: to observe, assist and, if necessary, correct as needed.

7. Sports-specific training. Many amateur and professional athletes work with a personal trainer during the off-season to prepare themselves for in-season competition. Whether you want to shave some strokes off your golf score or beat your brother-in-law at tennis, a personal trainer can tailor your program to your sport of choice.

8. Injury rehabilitation. Injuries and accidents can prevent you from participating in your favorite activities. An experienced personal trainer, however, can make the road to recovery a smooth one by recommending exercises that emphasize overall muscular balance to prevent future injuries.

9. Special-needs training. Research confirms that individuals with health challenges such as diabetes, asthma, osteoporosis or heart disease benefit greatly from regular physical activity. These conditions, however, can make exercising safely a challenge. Many personal trainers are experienced in designing programs that address the special needs of these and other conditions.

10. Ego boost. It's a fact -- feeling good makes you look good, and vice versa. Not only can personal trainers help you achieve your health and fitness goals, they can provide you with positive feedback on your performance and bolster your confidence to take on new challenges.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE), America's Authority on Fitness, is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of physical activity and protecting consumers against unsafe and ineffective fitness products and instruction. As the nation's "workout watchdog," ACE sponsors university-based exercise science research and testing that targets fitness products and trends. ACE sets standards for fitness professionals and is the world's largest nonprofit fitness certifying organization. For more information on ACE and its programs, call (800) 825-3636 or log onto the ACE Web site at

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