Personal training could stop you falling into the trapBy Colin Parker
December 01, 2009
MANY enthusiastic new gym members eventually fall into the same old trap. Having splashed out large amounts of cash on a year’s subscription, the enthusiasm soon wanes until attendance no longer justifies the direct debits coming out of the bank account.
Experts reckon those who continue to go solo at the gym often end up doing the same tired routines, which end up being of no benefit.
Personal training, where a qualified exercise expert guides you through your paces, is seen as one way to get the most out of your time at the gym.
Malcolm Armstrong, the national personal training manager for Virgin Active gyms, said trainers are educated in the delivery and programming of exercise.
He said clients come in with a variety of different goals, whether it is fixing a painful back, trying to get into a wedding dress, bulking up for boxing, or just for general fitness.
Trainers can then tailor a programme to suit the goals of the exerciser.
“Each client that signs up will go through a personal training planner,” says Malcolm.
“The first page is all about the member and their goals, what they have done, what they like and what they don’t like.
“Then we find out what days and times they are available to come to the gym.”
He said that a normal length of personal training session is 18 weeks. After the first six weeks the regime is re-assessed and changes are made to help further tailor the programme.
Virgin Active Farnborough currently has eight personal trainers on its books, with most leading about 20 sessions per week.
Gary Cousins, who gained a degree in personal training from Farnborough College of Technology, has been at Virgin for two years following a stint at a gym in Dogmersfield.
“As personal trainers, we are trying to help people change their lives,” he said. “I know it sounds cheesy but it is true.”
Before the work starts in the gym, the personal trainer interviews the client to find out why they want one-to-one training, while measurements can be taken to help trainers and clients gauge their progress.
However, it is when current exercise habits are discussed that the benefits are revealed of having someone with you who knows how the body works.
Gary spent much of the 30-minute chat bursting exercise myth bubbles that I had picked up from others, and revealing handy snippets of information that completely changed my outlook on how to use a gym.
I would never have guessed resistance training on the legs would greatly benefit upper body exercise, or that I was essentially wasting my time moving small weights plenty of times.
Personal trainers also point out the benefits of moving away from resistance machines and into using free weights, which work the hundreds of stabiliser muscles in the body and burn off dozens of extra calories.
As well as learning how to use your time more effectively, Gary and his colleagues reveal how to use different parts of the gym you may have once considered were out of bounds.
To those who never venture over, the free weights area seems an intimidating place full of barrel-chested men with ‘guns’ like melons.
“This is usually the friendliest part of the gym,” said Gary.
“People there aren’t looking at you because they want to do their own thing.
“But if you need a bit of help completing a lift, or if they have some advice to give, they will also help you out. I think it’s great.”
However, the free weights area is important for exercisers. While machine weights will isolate particular muscles, they keep them on the same plane, meaning tiny stabiliser muscles are then made redundant.
When a free weight is used, these stabilisers must work to keep the main muscle moving on the same plane. The effect, Gary says, means this kind of resistance work is far superior.
But it is not just the daunting free weight section to which personal trainers can introduce their clients. The benefits of using implements such as kettlebells and power stands are revealed.
In fact, Gary said some members sign up for a handful of personal training sessions just to find out how to use the equipment, returning for more sessions when they want to know more exercises.
Both Malcolm and Gary agree many people will pay for a personal trainer for motivation purposes, but both warn that clients must put in effort.
“The key benefit is having someone qualified and experienced who will assess your current levels of fitness and where you want to go in the future,” said Malcolm.
“They then put in place a programme or plan that will maximise their time at the gym. You need to be effective and efficient. It’s important you keep things fresh and exciting.
“The body is lazy. We will always find the most efficient way of doing things to save energy.
“In the new world that efficiency is not always a good thing.
“Many people go to a gym and do the same old tired routine. They soon reach a plateau in that they have lost a bit of weight and are feeling a bit better.
“But how can you get past this plateau? Personal trainers are help here.”