Thursday, November 30, 2006

How Can a Personal Trainer Help Weekend Athletes?

I got asked by many people as to how a personal trainer can help them as weekend athletes to achieve their fitness goals. Most real-life working people simply don't have time to go to gym six days a week, two hours each time. But they still want to stay fit and play their sports or games on weekends (tennis, golf, basketball, softball, ice hockey, etc.) and enjoy their lives.

So what is a personal trainer?
A personal trainer is more than just a drill sergeant yelling at people to do more pushups and situps, although it may be the case some time as is popularized by "The Biggest Loser" TV show. A personal trainer is a fitness professional that provides individualized exericise program to fit client goals. According to A Guide to Personal Fitness Training (page xi, 2003 edition, published by Aerobics and Fitness Association of America), "a personal trainer is a skilled teacher, motivator, communicator, and continual student of fitness and positive lifestyle change. Personal trainers serve a valuable purpose in helping people become healthier and happier, and in improving the quality of many lives."

What do personal trainers do?
Personal trainers teach safe, effective, individualized exercises to clients in a one-on-one type setting. They help clients achieve their personal fitness and wellness goals. Many people hire personal trainers to provide motivation and help them stick to their exercise routines. Health screening and understanding of injury prevention techniques are critical.

Some personal trainers have additional areas of expertise or training to provide post-rehab conditioning, sport-specific conditioning, massage therapy or specific dietary advice. They work with professionals in other areas to help their clients achieve their goals. Training plan typically needs to be evaluated again to measure effectiveness after a few weeks.

There are many ways of changing up a program to make sure that you keep making progress toward your goal. The other obvious benefits of hiring peronal trainers are saving time and reducing injuries. A personal trainer helps you figure out what exercises you need to do and how the equipment works rather than wasting time figuring it out on your own. Most people in the gym learn exercises by watching what other people do. But the person they're watching probably learned by watching someone else, and whoever started the chain probably didn't know what they were doing to begin with. Most people in the gym simply don't lift weight properly.

In the following Q&As, I'll answer the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) as to how I can help a client as a personal trainer.

Question #1: I never work with a personal trainer before. What do you exactly do to help a client? How fast can I expect to see the results? For example, I want to lose some weight (fat).

Answer: I have briefly described above as to "What is a personal trainer?" and "What do personal trainers do?" A personal trainer will evaluate your health and medical history, fitness level, needs and goals. The trainer will clarify the goal with the client and lay out a training plan. A client's goal could vary from recovering from an injury or surgery, building muscle, losing weight (fat), enhancing sports performance to simply improving general health.

For example, fat loss is usually on the top of the goal list. I'll assess your risk factors based on your health and medical history. Medical clearance from your physician may be required. Fitness assessment and testing (body composition, muscular strength & endurance, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility) is performed for baseline information and as the benchmark for future progress comparison. I will sit down with you to set a S.M.A.R.T. goal and lay out a step-by-step plan.

In addition to strength training and cardiovascular programming, I'll help you address nutrition needs and adopt healthy lifestyle changes. I'm not a nutrionist or dietician and I don't have the magic pills. But I follow the guidelines set by ACSM, USDA and AHA for recommended nutrient and calorie needs. You don't usually have to spend extra money in the special pre-packaged meal plan or go on any special diet plan. All you need is sensible nutrition knowledge and healthy food choices. If you have medical conditions (e.g., diabetes or thyroid problem), certain nutritional deficiencies or special dietary needs, I will work with your nutrionist and adjust the program to meet your needs.

There are other important elements in a successful fat loss plan that are constantly ignored by many people. Mental training plays a very important part in a successful fat loss plan. Many people quit at the one yard line. They did something for a few weeks after the New Year and expect to lose 20 or 30 pounds. You know what happens to the gym floor traffic a few months after New Year. Where's the New Year's Resolution after February 1st? As a personal trainer, I will work with you, provide motivation and support to keep you stay on track and stick to the exercise plan. People who hire personal trainers typically have higher success rate of exercise program adherence.

No matter how perfect a fat loss program is, you need to execute the plan and follow through. If you diligently follow a well-designed plan, you should be able to begin to see and feel the results in three months. But you shouldn't stop here. Many people know what and how to do to lose weight. But they just cannot do it or fail to follow through after a month, 3 months, 6 months, after a year or longer. People have to realize that health and fitness is a lifetime commitment, not just a 3-month quick-fix program.

Another critical element is on the part of a client about commitment and accountability, which may be more important in determining your success. I cannot be with you and watch you 24/7/365. After weekly personal training, you're ultimately accountable for your commitment, health and actions. My duty is to help you, educate you and motivate you to adopt healthy lifestyle changes. If you want to transform your body, you have to change your mindset and adjust your attitude toward health and fitness.

Question #2: I don't belong to any gym and I don't like to go to gym. I don't have any dumbbells at home, either. How can a personal trainer help me with in-home training?

Answer: Gym is certainly a great place to work out for obvious reasons. But some people don't like to go to gym due to cost, distance, cleaniness, peer pressure, etc. or just bad previous experience. Some people have small children or elderly family members to care for at home. As a personal trainer providing in-home training, I'll supply portable equipment (resistance tubes, dumbbells, Pilates bands & circle, body bars, medicine & physio balls, jump rope, etc.) for you to use. I'll teach you how to lift weight properly and provide you an individualized safe and effective workout program. With as little as $50 to $100 budget, I'll help you purchase fitness equipment for your own use.

Question #3: I have a home gym and have been lifting weight for a few years. How can a personal trainer help me?

Answer: If you ask this question, it means that you're at least an intermediate exerciser but have trouble making progress or have hit a training plateau. Since you train at home, it's most likely that you watch some workout DVDs, read some weight training books or magazines, follow some textbook professional bodybuilders' six-day split workout routine. It's also very likely that you didn't really learn how to perform these exercises properly. Most people (~95%) in the gym don't lift weight properly. Bodybuilders' workout routine isn't for everyone. It's certainly not for you. (Unless you're an aspiring bodybuilder.) I'll survey your home gym equipment, assess your current program and fitness level, set a goal with you and lay out a plan. I'll teach you proper form and correct techniques and provide an individualized training program for you. I may recommend some fitness equipment for you to purchase to complement what you don't have.

Question #4: I don't belong to the gym where you're working but still want to work with you. How can you help me?

Answer: There are several ways that I can help you. First, go back to the in-home training arrangement. With simple equipment, I'll demonstrate proper form and correct techniques for most equipment you can use in any commercial fitness facilities. I'll provide an individualized workout routine for you to do in your gym. Secondly, I can make a arrangement for you to come to my gym (either with a guest pass or monthly membership). Alternatively, I can make a trip to your gym (with a guest pass or as an independent contractor) and show you how/what to perform exercises and use the equipment. This arrangement gets more difficult but can still work sometimes by negotiating with the gym management.

Question #5: I'm still recovering from prior injury or surgery. Shoud I rest or work through it? How can you help me?

Answer: This is a very common concern as most of us still live on some kind of old injury or recover from a new one. It depends on the severity and history of your injury. First, I'll get your medical history and doctor's report for evaluation. It's a MUST if you had a surgery. If your condition is still beyond my scope, I'll refer you to proper healthcare professionals. Otherwise, I may need your doctor's clearance to start post-rehab exercises. Like many patients or clients today, they don't stay in physical therapy for long due to insurance, cost and limitation. They start to look for personal trainers or specialists with post-rehab conditioning experience.

The post-rehab conditioning program will address the root causes of the injury and possibly its related area, or weak area in opposing muscle groups/joints. The goals are typically to regain functional strength, restore full range of motion (flexibility), correct imbalance and improve joint stabilization. Proper modifications to a typical exercise program are necessary to suit your special conditions. Your individualized program will change up and modify as you make progress. I'll teach you proper forms, techniques, biomechanics to prevent from relapse or new injury.

Question #6: I play tennis (or any games/sports you fill in here such as golfing, distance running, skiing, martial arts, etc.). How can you help me condition my body and improve my sports performance?

Answer: I got asked very often - not always - but mostly after people got hurt from playing their sports. This ties together with my answer to the previous question. While helping you recover from an injury, if any, I'll design an individualized conditioning program to address your weak, imbalanced muscles, improve your muscular & core strength, power, endurance, balance, agility, or flexibility. If it's beyond my expertise, I'll refer you to professional sport-specific conditioning specialists.

Question #7: What else can you tell me? What sets you apart from other trainers?

Answer: Well... all certified personal trainers share common body of knowledge in fitness training. Every personal trainer is unique in his/her background and expertise. I encourage you to visit my website to read my bio, programs & services, principles & philosophies and see if we're a good match.

I have combined unique strengths of both Eastern holistic arts and Western exercise science into my fusion style workout routine for improving muscular strength, core stabilization and flexibility.

Health and fitness is a lifelong commitment. I have my heart-felt passion to help people lead a healthy, active, balanced life. I love to see you transform and succeed in every aspect of your life. Your progress in health and fitness from my services provided to you is my report card. I don't succeed until you make progress and reach your goal.

I continue to work out, stay in good shape and maintain top athletic conditions aganist the effect of aging and gravity. (Don't be surprised to see some out-of-shape trainers who are busy training other people and forget to take care of themselves.) Just like you, I'm also a human being. I don't have any secret formula or magic pills. I have and know my weakness. But I have the disciplines and take actions to do my best and overcome the barriers.

I strive to set myself as a role model and provide inspiration to whoever wants to stay fit and healthy. Even our training sessions end, I'll continue to provide motivation and support and make sure you're on the right track. Lastly, I'd like to recite my motto from my principle of training.

"I cannot do your pushups for you. You must do them yourself."

" You give me 100% and I'll give you 110% and more."

Copyright 2006 by C. Carey Yang.
All rights reserved.

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