They’re a common sight in the park and in the gym. Fit and toned, shouting encouragement to their eager clients as they push themselves through a fitness routine. Personal trainers may seem a little intimidating, especially to those of us whose idea of exercise is, in Phyliss Diller’s words, “a good, brisk sit”.
So why should you consider hiring one, and what exactly do they do? We asked VitalityHealth’s gym partners Virgin Active to help explain.
“A personal trainer should almost be called a personal coach…” was the reply. “They will coach, teach, support, guide and advise a client to plan, succeed in and go beyond their won personal goals. They are a teacher, mentor, inspirer and motivator, oozing knowledge, understanding and passion.
They will need to almost be an expert on varied interacting and listening skils, and have great empathy for their clients varied situations. Psychological support can be a large part of a trainers skill set and cannot be underestimated.
Personal training is about goal achievement and a trainer should logically plan, and implement this plan to make this goal a reality, it should be adaptable, changeable and also progressive, and ultimately provide the client an opportunity to re-evaluate their goals and form new ones.”
“Not only will a personal trainer (PT) make you accountable for sticking to a training regime, they will also have the specialist knowledge to ensure that you progress at a healthy pace,” says the fitness editor and personal trainer Sarah Ivory.
“While plenty of veterans are fitter, faster and stronger than active people in their 20s, age does present certain obstacles, such as the need for longer recovery times and the ability to address age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia). It certainly helps to have an expert to guide you along this path,” she says.
“I see so many people drift around the gym, doing a random selection of exercises at below-par effort. A PT will make sure that your training plan is balanced and goal-specific, so you’re working opposing muscles in a way that is appropriate to your goal, whether that’s to lose weight or train for an event.”
This is the reason 51-year-old Tricia Adamson decided to hire a PT. “I’d grown bored of my gym routine,” she says. “I used to do the same things every time – 20 minutes on the running machine, 20 minutes on the crosstrainer and then a few weights.
“To be honest I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. I booked a few sessions with a personal trainer and she showed me some new exercises and explained how I should mix up my routine to keep it varied. She also pushes me to do more than I think I can do, and I’ve really seen my fitness level improve.”
When devising a fitness programme for a client a personal trainer should take into account the medical history, exercise preference and goals of the person they are working with. After all, you’re going to struggle to keep motivated if you don’t enjoy your workout or find that it’s too tough.
Avoiding injury is another good reason to consider getting a bit of instruction. It can be all too easy to throw yourself into a new routine and end up with a strained back or an aching knee.
“Personal trainers should be able to adapt exercises, especially in the older age group where, perhaps, injuries and medical conditions will need to be taken into consideration,” says personal trainer Laurel Alper.
“It is important that clients’ fitness levels progress at a steady and safe pace and an experienced personal trainer instinctively knows when to push that little bit more.”
Lesley Thompson, 55, decided to take the plunge and book a few sessions with a personal trainer after realising that she needed to lose weight for her daughter’s wedding.
“I’d never been to the gym before and I felt quite nervous,” she says. “I thought a personal trainer might be able to help show me the ropes. He devised a routine for me that featured a combination of cardio work and light weights. Having the sessions booked each week gave me the motivation to keep going and I was delighted when I went down by two dress sizes.”
The average price for a training session costs between £30 and £50, but in London prices average between £60 and £80. So, what can you expect when you sign up with a personal trainer?
“It must be stressed that anyone starting an exercise programme should check with their doctor beforehand,” says Alper. “Clients aged 50-plus who haven’t exercised previously will need to build up their stamina, strength and endurance and this should be achieved gradually.
“Ideally, starting off with two or three sessions a week with a trainer would be most beneficial. The trainer can also advise on suitable exercises to do at home to help reduce any risk of injury.”
And, say the folk at Virgin Active, don’t forget it should be fun: “One thing that sometimes becomes lost, is that ALL sessions that are delivered, even though they can be extremely hard and difficult both physiologically, technically and psychologically, should be based around enjoyment and fun, as the client should want to be a part of that session and want to come back even after the rigors of the session(s). Full client engagement is of paramount importance and the trainer should provide this at all times.”
So, if you need a bit of encouragement and motivation or your tired old workout routine is in need of a shake-up, a personal trainer might be just the thing to kickstart your fitness.