When I started working out, I just went to the gym without much of a plan, and certainly no knowledge. I knew I needed to do cardiovascular work and I was comfortable with the bicycle, so I started there. Problem was that it wasn’t working. Because I wasn’t seeing results, it was hard to stay motivated.

When the new gym opened up, I suplurged for 3, 1-hour sessions with a personal trainer. It was half off the regular rate, and I knew I needed help, so I figured it couldn’t hurt. The first session was split between a pretty embarassing set of measurements, a tour around the gym showing the right ways to use some key equipment, and setting a baseline fitness level. All of that was fed into the computer which spit out a report showing how completely out of shape I was. I didn’t really need the report to know that, but it certainly showed the opportunity for improvement.

During the second & third sessions, we focused mostly other equipment, techniques and setting up a workout routine. At the end of the 3rd sessions, I knew I would need more help and continued motivation, so I dug deep and really splurged for more 12 sessions. To help that last as long as possible, we set it up to meet every other week. We’ve got a little more than 2 months left to go in this round.

[Image by Nigel Holmes]

In these days with tons of information available on the Internet including some great images, videos, instructions, and materials, you might wonder why a personal trainer might even be necessary. There’s even a ton of great software for the iPhone including one that shows videos of the exercises along with tracking your progress. For me, having the trainer brings a lot of benefits:

  • Training – Maybe this one is obvious, but she teaches me how to do the exercises correctly in order achieve the most benefit. No matter how much I read, how many pictures I see, or how many videos I watch, some of these exercises are pretty complex. Often, subtle differents in position can dramatically increase the effort required and the benefits gained. By first demonstrating the proper technique and then critiquing my performance, I’m sure that I’m getting the most benefit.
  • Motivation – She’s great a keeping me motivated durng a workout. In fact, my workouts with her are often 20-25 minutes longer than my individual workouts. Somehow she can push me farther than I can push my self. But the motivation extends even into my personal workouts. I keep working out because I know I want to show progress when we meet. The regular meetings keep me from sloughing off.
  • Customization – She knows the goals I’m working towards and suggests new ideas that will help me reach my goals more quickly. If there’s a particular exercise that I don’t like, she’s able to come up with a few alternatives that work the same muscles, but are more to my liking.
  • Sees the Big Picture – Getting started in the gym was pretty intimidating. There are lots of details that were just too overwhelming when getting started. My trainer knows what the end goal is and knows how to get me there. As I’m ready for more, she provides the guideance I need and keeps me going in the right diretion. While I know the end goal too, I don’t have the ability to see the entire path of how to get there. There are plenty of ways to veer off the path or plateau. By using a guide, I can be sure to continue making progress without having to be an expert first.

Come to think of it, these are the same characteristics of a good teacher…

  • Provides just the right activities through simulation and practice
  • Knows how to keep the student engaged, learning, and moving forward
  • Customizes the learning for the student and provides it at just the right time for them
  • Knows the overall goal and guides the student in that direction

Even in the gym, classroom training isn’t what’s effective. The best learning still comes from learning-by-doing and performane support!