You have a lot of choices when it comes to ftness
In this article we will go over finding a good personal trainer, how to choose a gym, and how to decide on an exercise routine that is right for your specific goals. We will also discuss whether or not you should join a group class, train with a friend, or train by yourself. Finally, we will go over what you should look for when choosing your gym, your personal trainer, your group fitness class, and the friends with whom you exercise.
Choosing an exercise program
How do you choose an exercise routine that is right for your specific goals? Eryone has their own goals which will require special consideration before starting out on a fitness program. As I mentioned in this article on why we exercise, there is no one training methodology that can effectively help everyone reach their goals, regardless of what those goals are.
Having said this, almost without exception most people’s goals are to regain a body which feels and looks healthy, moves without pain, and allows for participation in the things they love most in life. If you think about it, most people are simply after a normal functioning, healthy looking body.
With so many approaches to fitness these days it’s easier than ever to over think which exercise routine best suits your needs. Adding to the confusion, it would seem everyone has their own opinion (which they are more than happy to share). They know which form of exercise produces the best results in the shortest amount of time.
“Do this, don’t do that.”
“Drink this, don’t eat that.”
Fitness methodologies have transformed into fitness ideologies. For some, their very identity has become wrapped up in the gym culture they have chosen to follow. With so many people espousing the benefits and virtues of their particular church of fitness, you may find yourself questioning which form of exercise is the best?
Should you join a CrossFit gym? Are kettlebells the answer? Maybe you have a friend who swears by the latest at home workout video series. I ‘d argue that, rather than worrying which new fitness craze will get you a tight and toned body as quickly as possible, we need to step back and look at what all of these fitness programs are doing to help you achieve success in the first place.
Remember the idea of adaptive tissue response which we went over in section 1? We discovered adaptive tissue response is the process of cellular recovery following damage from the influences of environmental pressures. It is the body’s way of building itself back up to a stronger state so as to deal with the environment in the future in a more proficient way than before. Think of a child who lives on a farm. That child will grow up to hold much more muscle on his or her frame than their city counterpart.
Their whole life the farm kid was helping out on the farm, digging up dirt and throwing heavy bales of hay around while the city kid took the bus to school, sat in a chair eight hours during class, and played video games when they got home.
Each child’s body had to adapt to its external environment differently. The farm kids body had to get strong in all planes of motion to keep up with the physically demanding environment. The city kids body did not.
What am I getting at with this? Well, if you want to get good at throwing bales of hay around, then you need to throw bales of hay around. If you want to get good at playing video games, then you need to play video games. Playing video games will not help you get better at throwing bales of hay around, just as throwing bales of hay around will not help you get better at playing video games.
Now, let’s consider what might happen if both the farm kid and the city kid decide to try skiing later in life? Would one likely be better at skiing than the other right away? Would their ability and skill at skiing progress the same, or would one get better than the other at a faster pace based on their previous lifestyle? While they are both new to the sport, the farm kid has a body which adapted to be strong, mobile, and able in all planes of motion, whereas the city kids body did not.
Likely, the farm kid will pick up skiing much faster and progress at a faster rate as their muscles are stronger and respond better to the environment of skiing down a mountain. That is not to say they will be skiing double black diamonds straight away, but they will be sufficiently setup to see rapid improvement. What’s more, this scenario would play out much the same no matter the sport.
What does this have to do with choosing an exercise routine? The farm kid didn’t pick up skiing more quickly than the city kid because he went to a CrossFit class three times a week, swung kettlebells around, or followed an at home boxercise DVD set. The farm kid improved more quickly because his body was used to regularly moving the way the body is meant to and against varying degrees of resistance. Simple.
This idea is how you should approach your exercise routine. Unless you are a professional athlete, who needs highly specific training for your particular sport, choosing the form of exercise to accomplish your goals should be a relatively easy task. If you wanted to break it down to the bare essentials as to what an exercise routine should offer you it’s:
1.) Exercises that require the body to move in all planes and ranges of natural motion
2.) Exercises that allow for progressively mobilizing, loading and intensifying through those motions
3.) A set of guidelines for the safe and efficient progression.
What do you mean you still don’t know which exercise routine is best?
There is no best way of exercising. There is only the best way to exercise which allows you to improve your level of fitness safely and at your current ability. The way in which you exercise will likely change over time, just as your goals will evolve as you achieve old ones and set new ones. For your consideration, I will offer you two suggestions for choosing your exercise routine.
The first suggestion is to decide on a way of exercising you believe you can positively enjoy. Don’t take a class, go to a gym, or see a trainer if you are not enjoying it. Don’t get me wrong, exercise should never be easy, but it should never be something you dread either. If you simply do not like going to the gym then don’t go to the gym. You can instead go hiking regularly, start practicing martial arts, or take a cardio focused yoga class. It doesn’t matter how you get your exercise, but it does matter that you enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it.
My second suggestion is that you choose where you get your exercise, whether it’s a gym or not, based on how easy it is for you to get there or adopt it into your current routine. Removing as many obstacles and excuses which might get in the way is essential for long-term success. Don’t choose a gym because it’s nice or cheap if it’s halfway across town.
Select a gym that is on your way home from work. Every time you pass by you will remind yourself of your goal. Sure, it may not be as nice as the gym across town, or maybe it’s more expensive than you would like, but you’re much less likely to miss your workout if you have to pass by every day, recalling the goal you created.
Most of you have chosen the gym as your first step toward achieving your health and fitness goals. You have the membership; it’s on your way to work, but now what? Do you exercise by yourself? Do you hire a trainer? Do you take classes? Should you train with friends?
Finding a good Personal Trainer
Unless you have an athletic background or have had a coach in the past, I would strongly recommend to anyone who can afford to do so that they hire a personal trainer at least for the first few weeks. This initial investment can make all the difference in your long-term success, helping you with proper technique and preventing future injuries.
The reason so many people give up on the gym after only a few weeks is that they believe they aren’t exercising properly. Finding a good personal trainer and hiring them for the first few weeks, and longer if you decide, will help you feel confident that you are performing exercises correctly and in such a way that will bring you success.
If you ready to hire a personal trainer, then I’d like to offer you a few tips for selecting one. The first tip is in the name itself. A personal trainer is just that, personal. Just because your friend gets along great with her trainer and is seeing great success doesn’t mean they are right for you.
In the same sense, you don’t have to hire a personal trainer solely because you were assigned to them by your gym. If your gym designated you someone, but you would rather train with one of the other trainers you have seen in the gym, you have every right to request that personal trainer instead. Your trainer should be someone with whom you naturally mesh.
Every trainer has their unique style of getting the most effort out of their clients, but there isn’t one style that works for everybody. It’s especially important to find a good fit if you are considering hiring that trainer long term. It will be up to you to find a good fit, so try a few trainers out. Most, whether they work for a gym or are independent, will offer you an initial complimentary session or half session. This session is a great way to see if you work well with them. If you leave your workout exhausted but looking forward to seeing that trainer again, you’ve found a good fit.
The second tip I have is to be cautious of and avoid at all costs, apathetic trainers. It’s a sad fact that a certain number of trainers you encounter in the industry will have lost the initial drive or spark which propelled them into the career in the first place. Being a personal trainer is incredibly rewarding, as you become friends with your clients and see them progress over time.
However, it can also be very exhausting and chaotic as you juggle multiple client schedules, creating individual programs, retention rates, budgets, etc. As such, many trainers end up either overwhelmed by the work involved or disenchanted by the amount of return for their hard work. As such, some inevitably begin to lose their passion and their service quality goes down.
This sort of trainer is less likely to offer a program properly designed to address individual client needs and goals and may pay less attention to a client’s form, failing to progress their clients based on personal achievements. You are paying for a trainer’s time, so make sure their attention is focused on you one hundred percent while you are together. One of the surefire ways to tell if a trainer is good or not is how they move during the session. If your trainer is always walking around you to view different angles while you perform the exercise, calling out cues and helping correct your form, you can be sure they’re invested entirely in your session.
Conversely, if there is one thing that should get you to fire your trainer on the spot, it checking their phone while taking you through a session. There is a chance your trainer uses his or her phone to view your program template, but in my opinion, there are better, more professional ways of doing so such as tablets or an old fashioned clipboard. If your trainer says they are using their phone to view your program but you catch them texting, on Facebook, or anything other than what is directly related to your session, I would advise you fire them and seek out a trainer who values your time. Finding a good personal trainer can take some time, but it’s worth the investment to find one who is a good fit.
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For those who cannot afford a personal trainer right now but would like either some initial guidance or someone to hold them accountable, group training is a much more affordable option. Group training takes on all forms, from small sessions of two or three people with a trainer to a full studio of fifty or more moving their bodies to loud music. An obvious pro of small group training is access to a trainer who can be more attentive to your form. However, the fewer people in a class, the higher the price.
A large group will offer a great workout at a fraction of the cost. Though in this case, you will need to be much more body aware and rely on yourself to maintain good form. It’s my recommendation you try to find a group or class that is the smallest you can find while still within your budget. The more attention a trainer can have on you during the first month or so of your training, the better your results will be. A smaller class with attention from the instructor will give you the confidence you performing the exercises correctly.
The other thing to consider if you decide to go the class route is that classes tend to be more cardio centered rather than strength centered. You may think that this is a good thing, especially if you are one of the many who prefers not to bulk up and wish only to lose weight. The dynamics of why strength training is such an important part of losing weight will be saved for a future article. Just know that taking a class that strictly offers the cardio only approach to health and fitness will take longer, and have less of an effect, than if you followed a balanced strength training and cardio routine.
One final note on selecting a class, and at risk of being attacked by the legions of Crossfit advocates, I would strongly urge you to choose a class which offers you the greatest workout with the least chance of injury. An example of a class setting which is not a good fit for absolute beginners is Crossfit, or a similar group, where the exercises involve compound movements done explosively and under load. I know, I know, there are many Crossfit boxes which have excellent beginner programs that take people through the steps necessary to perform those lifts.
In my opinion, the general public shouldn’t even think about touching those movements with a ten-foot pole until they have addressed their weaknesses and imbalances to a high degree. The level of body functionality for workouts based on Olympic lifts usually takes upwards of a year or two of consistent mobility and strengthening protocols.
Instead of heaving heavy barbells overhead for time, the average Joe or Jill could get much more benefit and much more quickly by following a rudimentary strength and conditioning program complemented with mobility drills or yoga. There are many class options other than Crossfit which incorporate weights in a safer setting and with better progressions, such as certain kettlebell classes and well-led boot camps.
How do you know if the class is within your level of ability?
I use the cringe test. If you watch a class as it’s going on and you say to yourself, “I could do that,” then it’s likely a good fit for you at your current fitness level. If you watch a class and, as someone throws a heavy barbell overhead, you make a cringing face and think to yourself, “I’d snap my shit up if I tried doing that,” you likely aren’t ready for that class and would probably snap your shit up if you tried it out. In the end, don’t feel pressured to take a class just because your friends are in it or because it’s the popular thing to do. Use your judgment.
Working out with a friend
Speaking of friends, is it a good idea to workout with them? How do you know if someone will be a good fit?
I would say going to the gym with friends is like going to a party with friends. Some influence you in excellent ways, encouraging you to be social and introducing you to new people. Some friends, however, may become enablers for behaviors you might otherwise try not to participate in. You’ll have a grand time and be home before dawn with one friend but might end up doing shots until you black out with another.
Similarly, you may start working out with a friend who shares your goals, and you both get great benefit from it. You and your friend can keep each other accountable, making sure you both are eating healthy, and neither one of you misses a workout that week. You can also push each other during the workouts and check each other’s form.
Alternatively, you may find the friend you start working out with becomes an enabler of poor behavior. You find yourself skipping workouts, eating unhealthily, or taking it easy during the exercises. Even though deep down you feel it’s doing you a disservice, poor behavior becomes easier if you know you’re not the only one making bad choices, effectively sharing the blame.
Therefore, I suggest you choose your workout partner wisely. A person may not be the best fit simply because you are best friends. In fact, sometimes the best workout partners are not friends much at all outside of the gym. Many people end up as workout partners by meeting in the gym and forming a friendship over time. They begin working out together because they have a mutual respect for each other’s goals and want to help achieve them through accountability and motivation.
These friendships often take way more time than it should only because both people are too shy to break the ice and make the suggestion. If none of your friends within your current circle can offer this for you, I would suggest taking a few classes at your gym and look to see if you can find a person there who would be a good fit. Do they have a similar ability and fitness level? Are they a similar age? Could you see yourself getting along with this person? Ask questions like these, then introduce yourself to the people who fit. It can be scary and not unlike asking someone out on a date. We are all afraid of being rejected, but remember that most people would love the opportunity to have someone else to share in a workout. Who knows, you may end up becoming best of friends!
Training on your own
Lastly, let’s go over some of the advantages, and disadvantages, of training on your own. Without beating a dead horse, If you plan on working out by yourself and are new to the gym, I would strongly recommend the professional guidance of a personal trainer for the first few weeks. In saying this, where do you go from there?
One of the biggest challenges posed with working out by yourself is the lack of accountability from anyone other than yourself. Only you will be responsible for making sure you get to the gym on the days you’re scheduled to workout. Only you will be responsible for making certain you are following the meal plan, getting enough sleep, and drinking enough water. No one is going to call you up and ask why you missed Monday’s workout. No one is going to ask why you were up three pounds this week when you lost two pounds the week before.
For those who with enough discipline, the lack of accountability may not become much of an obstacle. For these people, it may be easy to keep on top of all the different lifestyle changes they are making to see success with at their goals. However, for the mere mortals among us who are more likely to deviate back into old habits, I’ll offer you three simple tools and tricks for holding yourself accountable when chasing a goal on your own.
Write out what your goal is every morning.
We spoke about the importance of this in our section on goal setting. However, for those of you going it alone, not hiring a personal trainer or taking group classes, constantly reminding yourself of why you are going to the gym and eating healthy food will be much more imperative for keeping yourself on track. If you get halfway through the day and a co-worker brings a box of doughnuts to work, all of a sudden there is an opportunity to eat a few and put yourself well over your calorie limit for the day.
If you took the time that morning to write out your goal, reaffirming the importance of achieving it and setting an intention of doing what needed to be done that day, the chances that you will allow yourself to binge on doughnuts will be much lower. You will also be less likely to skip workouts if you reaffirmed and committed yourself to your higher goal in the morning than if you had not. I strongly recommend taking the fifteen minutes every morning to write out what it is you are striving to achieve and set the intention for doing what it takes that day to get you closer to its achievement. It could make all the difference for you.
Remove as many obstacles as possible.
The more obstacles in the way of what you need to do to achieve your goals, the more likely you will find excuses not to do what you need to do. Therefore, know what the main obstacles or excuses could be for you and cut them off before they have a chance to form. The solution might be prepping healthy meals the night before, so you have already made the healthy choice for lunch the next day. Getting your gym gear ready the night before and having it waiting for you at the front door is another example. Find out what could become an excuse for you and take the steps necessary to make sure it doesn’t get in the way of your success.
Find someone to be accountable to
You don’t have to workout with someone to help keep each other accountable. You can share accountability with friends or coworkers who are going after similar goals just by checking in with each other now and then. Furthermore, asking someone to help hold you accountable who has already achieved the success you are currently working towards offers an opportunity to learn from their experience. A friend who has succeeded at losing weight and getting healthy can help you navigate the hurdles and keep you accountable where it matters because they have been there themselves.
If you cannot find someone to help hold you accountable, or if you would just like a little more support, I have set up a Facebook group for those going after their goals. This page is a community for people to help themselves and others, offering encouragement and guidance when it’s needed most.
So to recap, we now know there isn’t any one exercise routine that is the best for everybody. Instead, it’s only important to find an exercise routine that is enjoyable for you to do, as this will keep you interested and seeing results long term. To select an exercise routine, whether in a group setting or otherwise, you need only to make sure it allows you to move in all planes of motion and under load. The routine should also have a clear plan for safely progressing difficulty through load, intensity, and range of motion. Lastly, we learned there are pros and cons to training with a personal trainer, in a group setting, with friends, and on your own. The choice will be determined by what resources you have available to you at the moment. No matter what you choose, we now know it’s important to get clear on how you will stay on track and work on your goals every day, regardless of the setting and resources.
The most important thing for you to do right now is getting active. If you choose to take a class or hire a personal trainer and decide it’s not for your a month down the road then, hey, at least you started out on the path toward your goal. You will be closer to your goal than had you done nothing. Simply find a different exercise routine, recalibrate, and continue. There is no perfect choice. There are only different opportunities for you, some more aligned than others, from which to choose.
In the next article, we will go over how good fitness programming look. A well thought out fitness program will make sure you never plateau so you can continue to see the benefits of exercise as efficiently and quickly as possible.
As always, thank you so much for taking your time to read this article. If you got something from it, or you know someone who would benefit from this article, please feel free to share.
If you have any questions or suggestions for future articles or videos, please leave me a message in the comments or reach out to me on social media!
And remember, with everything in life the secret to success is getting started. So get started!
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About the author
I switched careers from a mechanic to a personal trainer and life coach after seeing the difference one made in the life of my mother. I watched as she transformed herself, changing her path in life to one that allowed for the enjoyment of what she loves most. Our family saw how powerful an impact her trainer had on her health and happiness, and we couldn't have been more grateful. From then on, I knew I wanted to help others take back their lives the same way her trainer had helped her.
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