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 sessions with a personal trainer
helps them refine and connect 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
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 indepth 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!