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So You Want A Personal Trainer?

When I was younger I fantasized about what it would be like to have a personal trainer. Back then I thought they were only for the rich, but figured that if I could somehow afford one I’d have 6% body fat and arms like Madonna. Now that I’m older and have had a few personal trainers, I know that I was pretty clueless back then. Trainers aren’t as expensive as I once thought, but if you aren’t smart about how you use them they might as well cost a million bucks. Luckily for you, I have some advice on how to get your money’s worth from a personal trainer.

Be Specific About What You Want

I hired my first trainer in the months leading up to my wedding. When the fitness manager at the gym asked me what I wanted to accomplish with a trainer, I said simply, “Well, I’m getting married…I’d like to be thinner, I guess.” What I SHOULD have said was, “My dress really features my arms and back, so I’d like to work on toning them.” My trainer had me do tons of cardio and almost no strength training. I lost a bit of weight but my arms were not what I’d hoped. It was my own fault, though – when I finally brought up to my trainer that I wanted to work on my arms, she gave me a song and dance about having already created a program for me and it was too late to get muscle tone (it wasn’t). Which leads me to my next point:

Don’t Be Afraid to Switch Trainers

The trainer I had before my wedding was the pits. Not only was she chronically late, but she checked her cell phone dozens of times during each session and barely paid attention to what I was doing. When I brought up that my fitness goals had changed (you know, that I wanted buff arms), she refused to change the program she’d designed for me. I complained constantly to Mike, but I felt awkward about complaining to the gym’s management. I knew I’d run into her and I didn’t want to cause a scene. That was dumb – I was paying for a service and I wasn’t happy with it. I should have immediately switched when I realized that she and I did not mesh.

Be Honest About Your Limitations

I hired my next trainer after I had my daughter, Annabel, and needed to get back in shape after two pregnancies in two years. I was up-front with the fitness manager that, while I wanted to lose baby weight, I’d just come off a physically rough couple of years. The fitness manager was able to pair me with a trainer that could handle my postpartum restrictions. I ended up being matched with a trainer that was in medical school. Dr. Trainer, as I called him, read up everything he could about my recent medical history – premature rupture of the membranes, gestational diabetes, prolonged bed rest – and created a workout that was appropriate for me. While he had additional expertise due to his extra schooling, all trainers go through a certification program where they learn how to modify programs for all levels and limitations.

Trainers Can Give You An Extra Push

After working with a few trainers, I feel very confident in gyms and know what to do. After my family moved, I joined a new gym and had no interest in working with another trainer. But, my new membership came with six free training sessions, so I decided to use them when I needed an extra push. My new trainer now gives me different exercises when I’m in a rut, and they definitely make a difference.

Be Realistic

Personal trainers are great, but they can’t do it all. If you aren’t willing to put in the additional time and effort it takes to get in shape (exercising on your own, eating right, etc) you won’t see results from your training sessions. A personal trainer is just one piece of the puzzle for overall fitness, and if you don’t use them right you’re just throwing money down the drain.


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