Let Your Trainer Teach You

Story time!

You’re super pumped. You’ve been watching this über fit trainer at your gym train client after client. He’s got swag. He’s got personality. He’s got muscles. You think, “It’s time.”

So you book an evaluation with your aesthetically pleasing trainer; we’ll call him Skip. Skip is super friendly and he seems to have all the answers. Answers to questions you haven’t even asked! After a few measurements and a printed copy of your brand spanking new diet, it’s off to the gym floor. Session after session, Skip is crushing your legs, burning your lungs, and constantly changing things up. Stand on this, jump on that, push those. You’re a fire breathing circus act. And you love it. I mean, minus your lower back being a bit achy… and your quads yelling at you on the daily. Oh, and now that you think about it, you actually haven’t seen your body change over the past 6 months.

Hm. Weird.

Did Skip ever monitor your movement before he made you, um, move? Did he ask you about your sleeping habits or talk you through your goals? Did you set any actual goals other than “I want to lose weight and get a six pack”? Did Skip ever once show you his well thought out plan for you, carry around said plan while you train, or adjust this plan? Did he ever make you stop mid workout to teach you what you should feel and how you should feel it? No?

Hm.  Weird.

What you have fallen victim to, my friend, are workouts by a good worker-outer. Not programs. Are workouts always bad? No. Are programs always good? No. So, why does it matter? Programs should have direction, a touch of science and clear goals in mind; usually adjusted repeatedly. Programs take time and patience. They take constant assessment based on your daily performance. I get it. I have definitely had clients who just wanted their butts kicked simply because they had a hard time doing it to themselves. One of my more recently “asks-for-it” clients specifically requested “…anything your devious mind comes up with.” Is it enjoyable to plan his weekly “workouts”? Um, ONE HUDRED PERCENT.  But, I’ve spent enough time with him as a person to recognize his strengths and weaknesses to make each workout challenging, but constructive. At the end of the day, he needs to be strong for a multitude of reasons (primarily health), but that’s not as sexy as “killer, bone-crushing sweat sessions”.

It’s not always the evaluation that brings out your goals. In fact, you don’t have to have goals. It’s not a prerequisite to having a personal trainer. But, even maintaining your fabulousness requires a little goal setting. But, beyond the goal setting is the fact that you should be training a professional to teach you. You have every right to ask your trainer what you should feel and why you are doing it. Take the two pictures below. They look pretty identical – your basic floor/glute bridge. If I show my client what a glute bridge looks like, I’m pretty they can replicate it. If I tell my client what it should feel like, it’s quite a different movement. In the first picture, I am simply raising my butt of the ground and feel my quads and some of my lower back. Nothing awful, that’s just what I feel. In picture two, I’ve had a little pep-talk with my tilted backside, kept my chest low and focused on the push through my heel and midfoot – BOOM. Now, THAT’S a glute bridge. Our bodies need some talking to and exercises helps with that. So, it’s important to understand what you should feel. You hired your trainer for that.

Just going through the motions.

Just going through the motions. Snore.

Thinking about the movement.

Thinking about the movement. Whoa.

I don’t think it’s forward to say you want your trainer to look the part. “If my trainer can’t take the time to take of him/herself, how can I trust them to take care of me?” I get it. I wouldn’t want to go to an accountant who doesn’t file their taxes. But, looking good doesn’t always translate into being a good trainer. So how can you know what is a “good” trainer in a sea of testosterone and sweat?

1) Certifications are a good start. I’ve known plenty of trainers with quite the alphabet behind their names that can’t produce. But, like I said, it’s a good place to start. It means they’ve taken some kind of time to learn more about the body and how to move it. There are now more sites that require certifications, not just a tight bod. *eyes rolling

2) They haven’t stopped learning. By this, I don’t mean just learning the latest and greatest fittest craze. We’ve all been there – super fun party tricks at the gym to break a sweat and impress the treadmill junkies gawking from afar. I mean, learning about how the body functions, how the body is fueled, how the body recovers, relationship building, cognitive functioning – you know, smart stuff from doctors n’ stuff. A certification just opens the doors for fitness professionals. Continuous education is a staple for merit.

3) Is their personality your “type”? I don’t think this is given enough credit. Even if they are the best trainer on the planet, you need to enjoy your time with them. It’s a serious relationship and it will only grow if you legitimately like the time you spend with one another. If you aren’t ready to commit to them, ask some of their clients or request a complementary session. Just like “the one”; you’ll just know

4) They aren’t always cheap. Okay – let me explain. This doesn’t mean they should be unaffordable. And it doesn’t mean the more expensive the trainer, the better qualified they are to work with. TRUST ME (currently avoiding tangent). But, a truly credible trainer knows their worth. While you invest money in them, they invest time in you – that comes with paying for degrees, constant continuing education, research and programming. It’s also years of experience. If I was looking for plastic surgery, I wouldn’t Google “Cheap Plastic Surgeons”.

5) When they are with you, you are what matters. No phones, no texting, no ESPN glances. It blows my mind when I watch clients work with trainers that are clearly eating up their time with everything BUT their client. Do they talk about themselves more than they ask about you? Stop wasting your time. Do they tell you about their weekends and fitness accomplishments on the daily? Stop wasting your time. Do they only check in with you during your 30 minute session once per week? Stop wasting your time.

6) The relationship needs to be honest. Sometimes, friend, that means calling you out on your “but I am doing everything perfect and not seeing results” BS. It’s not that your trainer needs to keep you in line, but it’s important that he or she helps you stay accountable to yourself. A good trainer desperately wants to see their clients succeed – sometimes more than a client wants to succeed. We get this thrill out of it so don’t kill our buzz. A worthwhile trainer doesn’t pretend to know everything. Unfortunately, a lot of questions that people ask me I have to answer with “it depends.” “Jess, can I lose weight and build muscle at the same time?”….It depends. “Jess, can eating less calories help me lose weight?”…It depends. “Jess, should I be doing deadlifts?”…It depends….. but, really, yes. You probably should 🙂

I understand that it can be super scary to ask for help. Double that fear when you aren’t sure if you are investing time and money in something worth time or money. But, if you do work with a trainer and you are doing your end of the job and still not seeing results or feeling and moving any better, you have every right to ask questions. There are plenty of fish in the sea. Just do your research before casting your line. 😉

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