It can be intimidating to contact a personal trainer (PT) for help reaching your health and fitness goals, especially if you’ve never set foot in a gym before. I want to clarify what a personal trainer can do and how they can help guide you on your fitness journey.
Choosing a Personal Trainer
A PT’s “scope of practice” is to train an individual to become stronger through effective resistance training. Also, he/she should provide motivation and help hold one accountable to their health and fitness goals.
Usually, a PT will have a variety of certifications or a degree to enhance their knowledge, practice and expertise. As every PT is also an individual, each PT may have a specific focus or method of training based on their experience and success. Without diving too deep into training methodologies for the general public, any successful method of training works if you do it consistently. Focusing on other aspects of training like the camaraderie and environment can help narrow what you’re looking for.
This is why choosing the right PT will always boil down to the relationship. You want to feel comfortable and at ease communicating with your PT. There is no one right training methodology; it just needs to work for you. Let’s focus on the initial meeting between yourself and a PT you want to work with, which is the first step in establishing a relationship with them.
The first time you meet your PT, there should be an initial assessment or consultation to get a clear picture of your current state of health, how you move and fitness goals before commencing a training program. The initial consultation is often offered at a reduced price.
Your consultation will focus briefly on your past and current habits within the realm of exercise, stress management, recovery and sleep patterns. Your trainer will then listen to your health and fitness goals. He/She may ask you to perform some non-strenuous basic movements. There is minimal coaching at this time. Without judgment, the PT will learn what you know and assess how you move.
To make the most of a consultation, I prefer to deliver a questionnaire online through the Trainerize platform beforehand. Then I review the answers with you during the face-to-face meeting for clarifications. You and your PT will then agree on what you want out of your training experience. This will allow your PT to develop an effective strength, weight loss, and/or holistic program for you with realistic but attainable goals.
Attaining fitness goals can take time. So it is also important you and your PT also discuss the right way to structure future visits. For example, if frequent in-person visits don’t work with your schedule, PTs can use online tools such as Trainerize to provide you with programming straight to your mobile phone, complete with stat trackers, calendars, and instructional videos. As a PT, I find the best results for my clients combine a mix of in-person visits and Trainerize programming. The combo is cost-effective, personalized, promotes accountability, and allows for scheduling flexibility!
First in Person Training Session
Based on your consultation your trainer will design a personalized mobility, stretching and appropriate strengthening routine. Then your trainer will take you through your first workout. Expect to be challenged but not put at risk of injury. At this point you really get to evaluate training styles and if the trainer is right for you. Remember your trainer wants to help you by getting you to do things you never thought possible for yourself. A good trainer will be patient and positive, as it’s a victory you showed up ready to work hard while also living a full life outside the gym!
At the end of your first session, you will set up your next appointment. At this time you may be ready to commit to a program to further your fitness goals. By this point, you will have gotten an idea of how this trainer can help you and whether the relationship is right for you. Often a trainer will provide a full action plan regardless of a guest’s decision to proceed or not. Even just attending one PT session and taking time to think about an action plan has brought you one step closer to attaining your fitness goals!
Practice + Review
If you do decide to commit to a fitness program, this is where the relationship between you and your trainer becomes key. It takes 21 days to create a habit and up to six months of maintenance to begin making it a lifestyle. So your PT’s job is to not only instruct you but support you and promote accountability along the way. The first month of a program is often about developing consistency and learning what works for you. Sometimes it’s only simple tweaks, but there are always a few hurdles. A good trainer will discuss solutions going forward and avoid focusing on the negatives of past behaviour.
An effective exercise program should be focused on first strengthening the weaker muscles in your body while mobilizing tissue restrictions and stretching tight muscles based off your initial consultation. You need to do this before overloading your muscles and nervous systems with heavy resistance or you put yourself at risk for injury.
The true value of a PT is the face-to-face guidance, motivation and instruction they provide as you progress through a program, whether it’s in-person or by video chat on Trainerize. A good trainer will celebrate your successes and encourage you through tough spots. A good trainer will also listen to your feedback. He/she will adapt your program accordingly while still challenging you and focusing on your fitness goals.
I hope this blog has helped explain what someone new to exercise can expect, and what they should look for when selecting a trainer they want to work with.
It’s ok to get a consultation from a few different trainers to find the one that is right for you. Once you find a PT that teaches your preferred method of training and who you feel comfortable with, choose one that has your best interests at heart while continuing to further their own education and practice. That foundation will allow you to build a great relationship that will help keep you moving, motivated and change your life for the better!