My #1 Workout Tip for 2014

My #1 workout tip for 2014 is:  Get a personal trainer.


Why get a personal trainer (“PT”)?

Whether you’re new to fitness or you know your way around a gym getting a trainer can help you step up your workouts.  Let me be clear — I do not think most people NEED a trainer, need to go to a trainer every week, or need to have a trainer forever and always.  However, I would strongly recommend getting hooked up with a good trainer for even a few sessions so that you can discuss your fitness goals, get a customized workout and some new moves to add to your current routine, and have someone to follow up with if you get injured or aren’t seeing results after 6-8 weeks.

(Side note:  I recognize the timing of this post suggests you should run out and get a trainer right now as a part of some New Year’s resolution but I would actually suggest waiting until February to pull the trigger on a trainer.  If you NEVER or rarely work out spend January working up the determination to actually show up at the gym.  Once you’ve got that checked off of your list then get a trainer.)

(Side note, part 2:  Working out with a trainer can be expensive but if your health and fitness are priorities it’s time to bring your wallet in line with those priorities.  I think you can find a solid trainer for around $50-$60 per session, depending on the area you live in — if you’re in the NY/LA/Miami area you’re going to pay considerably more…sorry.  Oftentimes gyms run introductory specials offering personal training packages for $100 -$150 for 3 sessions.  This is a good way to go if you’re “auditioning” trainers or if you’re not fully ready to commit to 6-months worth of sessions.)

Ok, so now that you’ve actually shown up at the gym and worked up a sweat for 20-25 of the 31 days in January, your next question is probably “Ok, so how do I find a good personal trainer?”

Start at your gym — most gyms have trainers (some don’t and I’ll tell you more in a bit about why you should steer clear of “trainers” at gyms that don’t allow training like Planet Fitness).

There are lots (lots!!) of trainers out there.  Some are good and a lot, unfortunately, are not.  Here are some things you should keep in mind when trying to separate the good from the bad.

1.  A good trainer will ask you about your goals.

Before your first workout (and definitely before they ask you if you want to buy more sessions) a trainer should ask you about your fitness goals.  If you’re a novice and are likely to not answer that questions in expert terms most trainers will ask you probing questions like “Which celebrity body do you like the most?  Which body part is your most/least favorite?  Did you play sports in high school?” in an attempt to figure out what you’re hoping to achieve and what types of workouts you may enjoy.  Speak up!  This is your chance to gush about how much you want Carrie Underwood’s legs, Jennifer Aniston’s arms, and Beyonce’s hourglass shape.

2.  A good trainer will talk to you —

Typically when you arrive to the gym and before you start working out good trainers will talk to you about how your day was, what’s going on in your life, how are your kids, did you remember to stay hydrated throughout the day, etc.

3…..and then they’ll shut the hell up.

Once the pleasantries have been exchanged your trainer should cut the chit chat — and [politely] encourage you to do the same.  Some folks talk to their trainers during workouts.  Their annoying co-worker did this…their Aunt Brenda got knee surgery…the latest episode of the Voice…  I think there are two reasons why people do this 1) they’ve confused their trainer with their therapist and 2) they’re stalling.  Expert trainers will realize this pretty quickly and professionally encourage these workout wimps to zip it and finish the set of lunges.  Hands down the worst (and most annoying) trainers in my opinion are those that talk incessantly about themselves, distracting and interrupting your workout, and failing to give you feedback on your form which can lead to injury.  Avoid these folks like the plague.

4.  Do they look the part and walk the walk?

My friend and exert contributor to this blog Eydie keeps it simple:  “LOOK at them.  Do they LOOK THE PART?”  While you shouldn’t necessarily judge a book by it’s cover, in the world of fitness trainers often are their business card.  Ashford Summerville, an LA-based personal trainer and one of our experts, says,  “First, make sure they practice what they preach. Never trust a trainer who lives or promotes an unhealthy lifestyle.  Second, make sure your trainer is passionate and consistent about fitness.  Always ask your trainer questions about recent health and fitness trends and see if  they’re open to change or have a strong agreement and why or why not.”

5.  Good trainers are LEGIT.

While there are always exceptions to the rule (maybe the buff guy who hangs out by the bench press really can help you take your fitness to the next level….) steer clear of credential-less hardbodies in the gym offering to train you.  This is especially the case if you happen to work out at a gym that doesn’t allow or offer personal training.  In gym settings like this there are often self-proclaimed “trainers” hanging around looking to make some money under the table.  A trainer should have a national certification.  According to Eydie L. some of the biggest and most well-recognized are A.C.E., N.A.S.M., N.C.S.M., A.C.S.M. and A.F.A.A.  “Just because they may have a degree in Kinesiology doesn’t mean they’re a certified personal trainer.  Good PTs specialize in a particular area.  Some only do weight loss.  Some only train athletes.  Some cardiac step down.  If you have no medical issues, are not more than 10 lbs overweight, then going with a general [certified] PT is fine,” says Eydie.

6.  Get their references.

Listen, you wouldn’t go to a new doctor that had a rep for having a poor “bedside manner” nor would you trust your locks to a hairstylist who had horrendous reviews on Yelp.  So once you think you have a trainer in mind ask for their references.  If they train others at your gym ask how long they’ve been training them.  “Some trainers milk their clients,” says Eydie, with little to no results for the client.  LOOK at their clients — are they in shape?  Have they seen results?  Are they at the gym often?

7. Good trainers will talk to you about your eating habits.

The best trainers hands down in my opinion are those that also hold certifications in diet and nutrition.  You can work out for hours on end but if you’re not giving your body the right fuel you won’t see results — period.    A trainer who is focused on your nutrition will likely have you keep a food journal or log your meals using an app like MyFitness Pal or Anytime Health (which is my personal favorite).  If you still need more convincing that 70% of being in shape is what you eat, go back to “The Basics Part 1: Diet and Exercise” and start reading…

8.  Skilled trainers “hurt” their clients but don’t “injure” their clients.

We’ve all heard the saying “No pain; no gain” and it’s true — mostly.  You shouldn’t feel extreme muscle soreness or pain immediately after a good workout — you should feel it the day after the day after.  This means if you trained with your trainer on Monday you should start to feel it when you wake up Wednesday morning.  This is known as “delayed onset muscle soreness” (DOMS) and it’s what happens when your muscles are repairing themselves from being worked and torn during a workout.  Sometimes you’ll feel soreness the next day which is OK.  But if you’re limping out of the gym from that day’s workout odds are you overdid it.  Good trainers know the difference between getting their clients to “feel the burn” and burning their clients out.  Once you’ve worked out a few times you’ll also learn to recognize the difference between muscle sorriness (DOMS) and injury.  As a general rule, dizziness, pain in joints or bones, and swelling indicate injury and “bad pain.”