Have you ever wondered what your personal trainer is thinking about? If so, this article is for you. Or, if you’re thinking about purchasing personal training, this sneak-peek into the mind into the mind of a personal trainer should help you make your decision.

1. Our sessions together can’t undo a week of bad decisions.

Before you even think about paying a personal trainer, you need to ask yourself a very important question:

“Am I willing to make my health and fitness a priority, not only in the gym, but in my daily life?”

Sometimes people blame their personal trainer for their lack of results, but more often than not, the buck stops with the individual. Of course, a good personal trainer should offer guidance that will empower their clients to make good decisions outside of the gym, but all of your training sessions could be for naught if you’re not willing to take action with the instruction you are given. Put simply, an hour or two of exercise cannot undo a week of poor eating decisions.

2. You don’t get bonus points for “extra credit” workouts.

Fitness and fat loss results don’t happen while you train, but rather during your body’s recovery process after training. You are welcome to partake in as much light activity as you want to; walking, water aerobics or swimming, and dancing are some positive “extra credit” activities that would probably be safe to do in addition to your work with a personal trainer. More vigorous activities like sprinting, long-distance runs, lifting weights, and CrossFit classes, however, could quickly become counterproductive if you’re not careful. It would be smart to mention any additional activity you’re pursuing to your trainer, who will make sure the extra stuff is taking you towards you goals (instead of away from them).

3. “More” does not necessarily mean “better.”

I don’t know how a “one hour personal training session” became the norm, but this seems to be what people expect from a personal trainer. This idea is woefully simplistic, because the ideal length of your workouts depends on a wide variety of factors including your needs, goals, experience level, the type and intensity of training, and more. If your personal trainer ever stops a session after 40 minutes, this doesn’t mean he or she is lazy and denied you  20 minutes; it probably just means 40 minutes was the ideal length of that workout.

On a similar note, how sore you feel after a training session is not an accurate gauge of whether your workout was effective or not. Your body will be sore when you perform an activity that is new to you. For example: lifting weights for the first time (or first time in a long time), performing a movement you’ve never done before, training at an intensity higher than you’ve ever experienced, etc., will make you sore.  However, your body will adapt to these challenges as time goes on, and your soreness should gradually decrease during the process. This doesn’t mean you need to “confuse your muscles” or “shock your system” or anything like that (note: if a fitness routine is marketed with such buzz-words, it probably means it’s a rip-off); it just means your body is evolving into a stronger version of itself (and maybe it won’t suck so much when you drop a pencil and have to bend over to pick it up after squat day). 

4. You don’t need to work with me forever.

The best personal trainers are not dictators, but rather liberators. Instead of making a client feel as if they must depend on their trainer for results, they make an honest effort to set them free. Your personal trainer should be teaching you about things like proper form, exercise selection, and progressive overload (the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training) as time goes on. If these concepts are new to you, or if you have quite a lot of work to do, I’d recommend sticking with your personal trainer until you feel confident in your ability to apply these concepts on your own; however, that doesn’t mean you need to work with him or her forever. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know I feel a wonderful sense of satisfaction when I get to watch a client walk off into the sunset with full confidence that they can keep moving forward without me.

5. Honest, open communication is a must.

No matter how smart your personal trainer might be, she isn’t a mind-reader. If you’re struggling with something, you need to tell her about it. I once had a client who told me she was concerned because she hadn’t lost any weight in the last month or two we had been working together. Baffled by this, I asked her a long list of questions to figure out what the problem could be, and it turned out she wasn’t eating anywhere near enough food to fuel the demands we were placing on her body. And that brings us to…

6. Working out while undernourished is counterproductive.

You need to come to the gym hydrated and you should also eat a snack including carbs and protein about an hour or two before your training session. If your progress stagnates, don’t jump to the automatic conclusion that you need to eat less; in my experience (especially when working with women), the opposite is more often the case. As your fitness level and physical strength increase, so do your caloric needs. Keep a food diary and share it with your personal trainer if you find yourself at a standstill, so they can help you identify the problem and implement a solution.

7. A minor injury doesn’t mean you can’t exercise.

There is nothing fun about spraining an ankle or wrist, but that doesn’t mean all activity is off the table. Your personal trainer should be able to work around your injury in a way that is safe and beneficial for your progress. For example, if you have a broken ankle, you could still perform seated or lying upper body exercises that target your chest, shoulders, and back.

8. Where you are starting from is irrelevant.

I know you might be intimidated by working with a personal trainer, especially if he has an incredibly fit physique, but please don’t feel that way. An awful lot of us (self included) have struggled with weight gain, body image issues, emotional eating, and just about anything you can dream of. A good personal trainer would never judge you for your starting point, because it just doesn’t matter; the important thing is where you’re going, not where you’ve been.

Have you ever worked with a personal trainer? If so, tell us about your experience in the comments.

Are you a personal trainer? If so, leave a comment telling us what you would add to this list.

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