Finding your Perfect Exercise (or Trainer)
If you’re contemplating joining a gym, participating in an exercise class or hiring a trainer, I salute you. The first step in making any lifestyle change is thinking about it.
The next stage – actually joining the gym and exercising – is a little more difficult. Walking into a gym can feel overwhelming due to the large variety of people, the different options for classes, and the multitude of different exercise machines. It can be confusing to decide if you should get your cardiovascular workout from machines, spinning classes or maybe even old-school aerobics or boxercise classes. Or should you participate in group weight-training classes? Invest in a trainer? Try to navigate the weight machines alone? If you choose to try yoga, should it be a relaxing hatha class, or a more upbeat ashtanga class?
If you’ve made the mental commitment to working out, the overwhelming nature of the gym shouldn’t dissuade you from following through on your goals. Here are some tips to help you figure out which exercise disciplines work best for you:
Choosing a group exercise class
First off, don’t be afraid to try different classes and decide for yourself what type of class you like. Don’t simply listen to the gym gossip regarding what is a good class. Everyone’s tastes and needs are different, so experiment and see what YOU like. The worst that can happen is you hate the class and you leave after 15 minutes. If this happens, you can always finish off your workout on the treadmill.
However, it can be worthwhile to ask the people who work at the gym questions about the classes and teachers that are available. The people at the front desk are there to help you, so investigate a class before you attend one. Ask to speak to the group exercise manager so you can ask him or her specific questions that will help you decide what class you should take.
Questions to ask
- What level is the class geared for? This is an important question, because in my opinion, the worst feeling is being stuck in an advanced class and feeling embarrassed because you can’t keep up.
- Is the instructor certified? If so, what is his or her certification? Does it apply directly to this class? Sometimes instructors are certified in one discipline, but end up teaching classes in a disciple that their certification does not cover. If someone is a spinning instructor, don’t take a yoga class from them.
- How many people are in the class? What is the average teacher to student ratio? If you’re new to group exercise, you don’t want to be stuck in a class with 40 participants and only one instructor.
How to pick a good personal trainer
Finding a good personal trainer can be complicated. I have to stress here that it’s not just about how much someone knows; it’s also about how well you get along with that person. Both elements are extremely important. The trainer can know the entire textbook, but if you don’t want to show up at the session because he or she irritates you, you’ll inevitably find reasons to cancel.
On that note, many people run into the problem of buying personal training from a trainer at their gym, disliking the trainer, and then feeling really awkward about no longer wanting to work with him or her. This awkward or guilty feeling can make going to the gym a negative experience. None of us need more excuses to skip the gym, so try to be vigilant when first choosing your trainer so this problem never occurs.
To combat this, try two preventative measures:
- Ask to have a free session with five or six of the trainers before you commit. Talk with them. Ask them what their training philosophy is, and what certifications they have. Spend time with them so that you know your personalities match.
- If you don’t like any of the trainers at your gym, try Googling “boutique personal training studios” in your area. Boutique training studios are becoming more and more popular. They have no initiation fees. You just pay for the training services. It should cost about the same as training with someone at your gym. If you ever want to terminate the relationship, you don’t have to run into them every time you go to the gym to work out. Again, make sure you talk with the person and get familiar with their training style before you commit on a long-term basis.
Questions to ask a trainer
- Are you certified?
- What certifications do you have?
- Do you regularly go to conferences to further your knowledge?
- Do you have your updated CPR?
- How many years have you been a trainer?
- Do you have a demographic that you specialize in?
- Do you have client testimonials I could read?
One final note – if you have special health concerns, such as osteoporosis or if you’re recovering from an injury, you might want to consider finding a trainer with specialty certifications. Ask your physiotherapist or family doctor if they have a trainer they work closely with. If your physiotherapist or doctor works with a specific trainer, you know you can trust him or her and that he or she will have the expertise you need. The added benefit is that your doctor or physiotherapist can communicate your health needs directly to your trainer. This way, the medical professionals can work as a team to keep you in ideal health.