It’s always something. My kids/spouse/pets/fill-in-the-blank all need so much from me every day. My job is demanding. I don’t get paid nearly enough for the work I do. Bills are due. I can’t make ends meet. The house is a mess. I’m so tired all the time. I’ve tried to focus on me before, but it didn’t work and made me even more stressed out. I just can’t seem to catch a break.
Life doesn’t discriminate: 99% of the population can relate to one or more of the above stressors, all of which can, and has, taken a serious toll on our health and fitness. In 2013 the CDC reported that 80% of American adults do not get the recommended amount of daily exercise. Today more people than ever identify with being so out of shape or overweight that they need professional help to improve their quality of life.
Physical activity is necessary for everyone the same way eating, drinking water, and getting enough sleep are, though not all exercises are necessary for everyone. In fact, depending on what one wants to accomplish, some exercises might need to be avoided altogether. Finding the right trainer or place to go to for help can be as overwhelming as the stressor itself.
Not to worry, the right trainer is out there waiting for you; all you need to know is how to find them in the crowd.
Most people have specific personal goals that they would like to achieve through a fitness program, therefore a one-size-fits-all approach is not going to work for them. Granted, an “individualized approach” is definitely not a new concept. There are many personal training studios and fitness facilities that promise to provide an individualized approach to fitness through private personal training. Perhaps this sounds familiar from a fitness facility:
Come in for a free consultation where we’ll discuss the goals YOU want to reach and how we can help YOU reach them. We’ll have you complete some brief physical assessments and take your starting measurements and weight so you can see all your progress over time. Lastly, we’ll talk about your current nutrition and the steps you’ll need to take with your diet to meet your goals.
Certainly, not all fitness facilities or personal training studios are the same. Many have a very specific type of clientele or a very focused area of expertise, for example, training for athletes, or fitness for people aged 50 and over. For these establishments the above scenario may work well for their client base. However, for many people it’s simply not thorough enough to create a truly individualized plan that is also truly effective.
It’s the responsibility of the fitness professional to know all of the factors that need to be taken into consideration in order to make a unique and effective program for an individual client. This responsibility is what separates the true fitness experts apart from all the others.
In addition to your personal goals, your current physical state, and your current and future nutrition habits, some other areas that your potential personal trainer should speak with you about are:
Your body shape
Any previous injuries you may have had
Physical limitations related to injury or body shape
Health conditions and/or other risk factors, past or present
Current medications you may be taking
Our genetics are in part responsible for our body shapes. Hourglass, pear, apple, ruler, athletic and cone are all terms used to describe body shapes. The physiological makeup of bodies and how different body shapes react to certain exercises is valuable and important knowledge for personal trainers who are committed to helping their clients reach their goals.
For example, the “hourglass” is a common body shape for women. People with this body shape tend to carry their weight in the upper and lower body, while staying slender in the waist. Someone with this common body type could be looking to lose the weight they carry, however they also want to avoid bulking up the muscles in their arms and legs. In order to help a client who fits this description meet their goals, certain exercises will need to be avoided. An effective trainer would know to instruct their client to complete a high number of reps while using light resistance; for example, to have them complete 75 reps of tricep extensions using 3-pound dumbbells. Similarly, for cardiovascular fitness, rather than a spin class where the quads have to work against a lot of resistance the effective trainer might recommend biking with light resistance, either on a stationary bike or outside avoiding hills.
Previous injuries can plague people for years, and they treat everyone differently. For some, an ankle or back injury can drastically limit the types of exercises that can be done, which could directly affect the results they hope to achieve. An injury that happened years ago – from sports, exercise, a car accident, or everyday accidents like tripping or slipping and falling – can be prone to re-injury depending on movement. Whether it’s a new injury or an old one, and regardless of how it came to be, for the safety of the participant the injury must be considered when creating a fitness program.
Both body shape and past injuries can cause physical limitations to exercise. As previously mentioned, some body shapes are predisposed to holding extra weight/fat in certain areas of the body, like the midsection. For them, exercises like sit-ups or crunches can be nearly impossible to perform. A client should never be put in the position of having to tell their trainer that they can’t physically do the sit-ups that were planned for them. A situation like that is both unprofessional and can have a very negative impact on the client’s psyche.
Similarly, someone who has had a serious back injury may experience an adverse reaction to doing plyometric exercises like jumping or running. Again, the fitness professional is responsible for establishing this information before creating an individual’s fitness program to ensure that pain and/or injury will be avoided. This isn’t meant to imply that exercise with your personal trainer won’t at times leave you bumped, scraped, or bruised, because that’s bound to happen as you get stronger; it’s part of what makes you stronger. The point is it’s easy to avoid serious pain or injury by asking the right questions prior to starting exercise.
Health Conditions & Risk Factors
Health conditions and other risk factors are paramount in today’s world. More people than ever are overweight, suffering from Type 2 Diabetes and/or several other medical conditions that are preventable and stem from an unhealthy lifestyle. Thorough fitness professionals and personal trainers will require new clients to fill out a PAR-Q (Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire) and a health screen to identify any existing risk factors, as they could be serious and exacerbated during physical activity. Such risk factors include a person’s age and gender, combined with tobacco use, family history or heart attack, having diabetes, high blood pressure, and/or having a high body fat percentage.
Common medications like beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics can all have an effect on a person’s exercise program. Take beta blockers for example. They are widely used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension); they work by blocking epinephrine from attaching to your heart’s receptors causing it to beat slower and less forcefully.
The final result is not only a lowered heart rate, but also a decreased exercise heart rate. Therefore, beta blockers are going to make it difficult for the people who need them to achieve their target heart rate during vigorous exercise despite actually physically working hard enough. This is a frustration; however, the bigger concern with this particular type of medication is over-exercising in an effort to reach a target that is working against an agent preventing it from being met.
Other common medications, like birth controls and anti-depressants, have been reported to cause the user to gain weight. The medications can make the weight hard to lose, which can have a negative mental effect on the person. People who experience this, but aren’t aware that it’s the medication they’re taking, are often left feeling frustrated, inadequate, or worse, like a failure. These negative feelings can start to impact their performance during exercise, or cause a person to give up on a fitness program altogether. The only true failure is giving up.
A person’s mindset can have a powerful impact on how they perform physically, their attitude towards improving, and the belief they have within themselves to make it happen. A thorough trainer will know to also ask why you want what you want to help establish your level of motivation. Part of your personal trainer’s job is to motivate you during your workout; the conversation about why you came in the first place may come in handy down the road if the client is struggling or losing drive. Some people like to be encouraged along the way by their personal trainer, “You can do it” “Don’t stop” “Dig deeper,” while others find encouragement like that offensive and condescending, which aren’t exactly feelings you want in the middle of an vigorous workout. A thorough trainer will know to ask the questions in order to provide you with a most-satisfactory training experience.
If you’re ready to improve your quality of life and want help from a personal trainer or fitness facility, here are some things to keep in mind:
Do your research. There are many personal training and fitness centers in most cities and towns today, though just because anyone can become a trainer, doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone should. What kind of information about you are they collecting in order to make a truly effective, individualized program for you?
An initial consultation isn’t just an opportunity for the trainer to evaluate you. It’s also a time for you to decide whether or not the trainer or the place is the right fit for you. Personal training is an investment in yourself and your future, and you get what you pay for so it behooves you to choose wisely. You know better than anyone what you want to get out of the experience; does the trainer you’re speaking with instill in you the confidence to provide it?
Consider it a “red flag” if you work with a personal trainer or fitness professional that does not have you fill out a PAR-Q or health screen prior to exercise. Understandably, people don’t generally like to volunteer their personal information, but in the case of starting a new exercise program, giving that information could be life-saving.
Don’t be so hard on yourself if you’ve always found it difficult to reach your goals despite how hard you work; it could just be your body shape doesn’t respond to the kinds of exercises you’re doing, and a simple adjustment to your routine could make all the difference.
Our mindsets are powerful enough to prevent us from being successful, not just when it comes to exercise but even work, school, parenting, and even relationships. Conquer your mindset and the sky’s the limit.
This article was written by Jess Elsner for the Essential Living Maine magazine July/August issue. Essential Living Maine magazine is a free publication. Visit www.essentiallivingmaine.com to view the issue this article was printed for and/or for more articles like this one about holistic living in Maine.