One Destination, Many Paths
When I first started my fitness business in 2005, the Rogue Valley was a fairly unsaturated market in terms of gyms and fitness professionals. In the last year or two, gyms, fitness classes, and fitness coaches have increased exponentially. First off, I think this is a positive thing and it gives the people of the Rogue Valley many more options to get fit. Competition can also bring out the best in people (although I’ll admit, sometimes the worst) and usually weeds out those who are sub par performers. I also believe there is more than one path to getting fit and people are going to gravitate towards what interests them. It’s great for people to have options and they could potentially change from class to class or trainer to trainer, to get a new perspective and possibly master new fitness tools. Although, I am not talking about constantly changing programs, as you need to stick with something for a month or two at the very least to make some progress towards a specific goal. I have some clients that have been training with me for a long time (years), but I don’t expect everyone to do the same. Some people may train with me for a more brief time, and then they move on to new challenges. Sometimes people come back after experiencing other ways to get fit. I know there are also some people who just won’t be a good match, and I’m okay with that. Here are a few tips that may help you find a quality fitness professional. The following are just my opinions.
- Whether it’s a group fitness class or personal trainer, they should ask if you have any injuries(current or previous), any health conditions, and should do some sort of movement screen (even if it’s very basic). I think the questions about injuries and health are pretty obvious, but the movement screen is probably underutilized. I am not talking about a fitness test. How many push-ups or squats you can do in a row or in a certain amount of time is irrelevant if your form looks awful. Before any fitness testing is done, let’s see how you move. Sometimes a fitness screen will reveal a limitation that a client forgot to mention and it’s important to figure this out before they start hammering out reps, especially under load. I have recently realized the importance of incorporating the movement screen into my group training classes.
- I believe a trainer or class instructor should have at least one thing they specialize in. I am not saying they shouldn’t have general knowledge with different fitness tools or other areas of training, but it’s important to have a focus. Most anyone can become a certified personal trainer and have a basic knowledge of training, but mastering a specific area of training or a fitness tool shows that they are continuing to learn, and they are passionate about their work. I once sat in on an interview with a personal trainer and I asked them this question, “What do you specialize in? i.e. Do you work with specific clients? Create specific programs? Have mastery over a specific fitness implement?” Their answer was very general, they work with everyone, and they have one style of programming for everyone that they can adjust to their needs. It was a generic answer. I work with all kinds of people, from young to old, but I am fascinated with movement, and ways to improve it, That’s what I am most passionate about and my continuing education revolves around this idea. As a result of working with me, I want to people to notice that they move better on top of being stronger.
- A fitness instructor or coach should look the part (be reasonably fit), but being fit doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a good coach. I know sometimes life may hit us with some physical limitations, but those aside, a fitness professional should at least be reasonably fit. I see some of my fellow trainers at Anytime Fitness throwing down some major workouts. It is obvious that they love fitness, and it’s an important part of their lives. I see it as our time to experiment with new workouts and exercises, which will help make us better coaches. For many years, my personal workouts revolved around endurance training and competition. Now I am focused on lifting and speed training. Maybe I have a bit of ADD, but I like to totally overhaul my goals from time to time. I also take into account how my body is adjusting to the training. So I think it’s important that your coach is involved in fitness and has their own goals. However, just because someone has chiseled abs and huge bulging muscles, doesn’t mean they are a great coach. I observed a trainer down in a Palm Springs gym who looked very fit, bodybuilder fit, but seemed to care more about what was happening in the gym, than actually observing what their client was doing (by the way, their client was crushing those bicep curls). Just because they have an impressive physique doesn’t mean they can put together a quality program and teach technique. When it comes to acquiring a fitness coach, be picky. They should be reasonably fit, passionate about fitness, and have knowledge beyond bench press and bicep curls.
- Workouts should include exercises in different planes of motion. I see so many workouts that only utilize exercises in the sagittal plane (front to back). As humans, we move in many different planes. You should be able to move laterally and rotate, and you would be wise to include those motions in your workout. That’s the one thing I would recommend if you prefer to get the majority of your exercise from endurance training (swimming, cycling, running, etc.). Hit the gym a couple of times a week to combat overuse injuries and build strength in other planes of motion. It doesn’t even have to be gym time, play a sport that includes lateral and rotational movements. This could be baseball/softball, basketball, ultimate Frisbee, soccer,etc.
- Workouts shouldn’t constantly destroy you, and a workout often times should leave you feeling tired, (dare I say this?) but actually good. There should also be utilization of regressions, progressions, and recovery weeks. I know a lot of people will probably disagree with this one, but like I said, it’s just my opinion. Now that being said, I believe there is a time and place to push a workout hard and leave it feeling crushed, but I don’t believe this should be employed on a regular basis. Just about anyone can come up with a workout that will destroy you, that’s not hard. However, can they safely navigate you through a tough workout? Can you really sustain a never ending cycle of extremely hard workouts? I am sure there are probably some who can. However, it makes me think of a time I was following the “Run Less. Run Faster” training program. At first it was great, and my running pace improved, but as I improved, the workouts continued to increase in pace. I eventually dreaded the workouts, and each one became a test of will. Somewhere in the increasing pace, the joy of running got left behind. I dropped the program and moved onto something else that was actually sustainable. Some of the popular workouts these days are pretty extreme in nature and high intensity. Stacking a bunch of high intensity workouts on top of each other can possibly make a person more susceptible to injuries. Take a person who has poor posture from sitting at a desk all day and throw them into an extreme workout, and I believe that risk goes up. It’s not surprising that there seems to be a rise in injured low backs and shoulders. I feel like people just consider muscle tweaks and injuries as just part of the deal, but they don’t have to be. You can get results with periodized training plan, with possibly less injury risk.
There you have it, some of my opinions on finding a quality program and fitness professional to lead you on the path to better fitness. So while we may all share a goal of better overall fitness, there are many paths that can take us there. Find out which path will be the most fun for you, hold your interest, and stick to it (at least for a month or two). Enjoy the journey!