31 December 2009 ~ 0 Comments

Women and Personal Trainers – Part 2 – Getting the Most from your Fitness Trainer

Now that you have selected your trainer, negotiated the price and number of sessions, how do you get the most for your money?  And as a reminder – this is a business relationship  –  each party has obligations to make the relationship function productively.

I have had personal trainers for short periods occasionally over the years, and I have been a personal trainer.  I have seen what works and what doesn’t work from both sides.  I am also a keen observer of current personal trainers when they are training others.

I have a little checklist below, and perhaps during the course of the relationship, it might be a good idea to go back to the checklist  –  make sure the personal trainer relationship is still working for you – and that you are doing your part to keep it productive.

  • Show up  –  consistently and on time.  You may wonder why I have this as the first point; it is a reminder that 50% (sometimes 90%) of being successful is showing up.  It brings to mind the times I was preparing for a bodybuilding contest  –  we didn’t have personal trainers, I was my own trainer – and the schedule toward the end was working out three times a day.  Initially it was fun, then became quite grueling, and it was tempting to miss a workout.    However, if I just got to the gym and didn’t think about it too much, I would get into my workout and leave happy!  So just get there!
  • If you and the trainer have agreed that you will do a warm up and stretch  on your own before your session, then make sure you arrive 30 minutes before your session time, and do your warm-up and stretches.  Of course guidance on the warm-up should be part of your first session with the trainer.  And if this was not specifically covered (unlikely with a good trainer) then ask – and get really clear on what you will do prior to the session.  I really like to do my warm up and stretching on my own  –  it means I have more time with the trainer for the really good stuff!!
  • Ask questions.  Don’t assume you have to know stuff  –  that is the trainer’s job.  Don’t think you have to appear knowledgeable to impress the trainer.  You will get more from your sessions if you ask lots of questions.  Go in with a thirst for knowledge and ask for clarification if you need it.  You are paying not just for a session of exercises but for knowledge transfer.  If the trainer is or becomes unwilling to share or consistently brushes the questions aside…… then see Part 3 of this trilogy – knowing when to fire your trainer.  Even if you think you’ve hit on a stupid question, ask it anyway.
  • Be aware of the muscle groups you are working on in a session, and more specifically in an exercise.  Connect that exercise to the muscle group so that when you next see that machine or exercise you know exactly what it is for.  And for the next step in this:
  • Make sure you are feeling the right muscles working.  So if an exercise is for upper back, and you are feeling it in your  arms or worse your lower back or, Stop!  Don’t continue if the exercise isn’t working what your trainer said it was working (and of course you asked!).  For one thing this is not valuable and in fact it could be injurious.  Know your body – distinguish between good pain that is working the muscle and bad pain that is just plain painful.
  • When the trainer gives you a correction, make every effort to make that correction, and really focus on the difference it makes.  Then as soon as the exercise is completed, write it down, so you will really learn it.  Don’t wait till the end for the session – you will forget.  You could ask the trainer to take notes when he/she gives a correction.  I sometimes find it is better when I take my own notes.
  • On the above, if you don’t get it – the correction or how it should feel different – ask!  You don’t have to pretend you get it if you don’t!  This goes for any information your trainer gives you; make sure you really understand!
  • Keep discussions of a purely personal nature outside of your session – unless it is about an injury or change in your heath or something else related to your workout.  Focus on what you are doing and get the most for your investment (in time and money).
  • Definitely start out each session with any changes in your health – positive and negative.  Also give feedback on how you felt after the last session; any stiffness, pain, and let the trainer know if you felt particularly good.  This is all valuable information for the upcoming session.
  • Don’t get ‘too friendly’.  This tip is fraught with nuance and ‘what–ifs’. The best advice I can give is to remember this is a business transaction and a business relationship.  Being friendly can certainly help you get the most from the relationship.  However, gossiping like a BFF with your female trainer, or moving to ‘girlfriend’ status with your male trainer will definitely lead to issues at some time.  Once you cross that line there is no going back and you may be looking for a new trainer or worse a new gym.  Trainers I have engaged have generally been younger.  Innocent flirting has sometimes occurred; we both feel safe due to the vast age gap, and it helped us connect over the gap.  I used that cautiously!
  • If you are embarking on some new form of exercise, give yourself time to get your mind around it.  It may take coordination that is different from what you are used to, or using weights/machines you are unfamiliar with, or just some muscles you didn’t know you had.   As women, once we get it we’ve got it!  So focus and ‘get it’; and know the trainer is there to help you, but only if you are allowing the knowledge in, and not doing things mechanically.  Be a conscious participant.
  • Be selfish – no I don’t mean all the time  – just the time you are in your training session. This is one time when it is all about you; so enjoy that.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask your trainer how he/she is feeling (that is sometimes useful information as well), just don’t spend the session discussing his/her leg cramp/ break-up/head cold.
  • Beyond all the advice – enjoy the session.  Have fun and work hard – these are not incompatible for a workout!
  • If you are no longer enjoying the workouts with your trainer, it is time to evaluate the situation.  What a great segue way to Part 3

Women and Personal Trainers – Part 3  – When is it Time to Fire your Trainer. (Coming soon)

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