In today's February 15, 2011 newsletter . . .

  • Do You Need a Personal Trainer?

Do You Need a Personal Trainer?

The vocation of personal trainer is a fairly recent creation, and a growing field. Trainers work one-on-one with clients either in a gym or in the client’s home. They help people assess their level of fitness and set and reach fitness goals.

Trainers also demonstrate various exercises and help people improve their exercise techniques. They may also keep records of their clients’ exercise sessions and monitor their progress toward physical fitness. Most have certification from one of the personal trainer professional organizations, although there is no law in most places stating it as a requirement.

But let's step back in history for a moment. It wasn’t so long ago that people got fitness and weight training information from mail order courses found advertised in the back of popular magazines. Or muscle magazines like Iron Man, Strength & Health, and Your Physique told you how to train. (These were not the steroid bloated muscle magazines of today.) There was a scattering of gyms, usually independently owned, and the owner was also your coach.

On their own, many highly motivated strongmen and bodybuilders cobbled together workout routines and learned from each other. Supersets? Hmm. That sounds like a good idea. Let’s try it. There were barbells, dumbbells, and a few devices. There were a few experts. For the most part, it worked. Names like Reeves, LaLanne, Ross, Eder, and Efferman emerged. Not a bad lineup.

Today, a senior beginner walks into a modern health club and it’s an alien world. Strange cardio machines in neat columns fill a room. All manner of resistance devices fill another. Foreign names are everywhere. What are Cybex, Hammer Strength, and Magnum anyway? Still another big room harbors exercisers working in unison as a leader calls out instructions to the beat of loud music. Somewhere in the back of the club are the "old fashion" free weights — the iron — the barbells and dumbbells.

Sound daunting? It’s really fun once you get acclimated. But until you know the equipment and the basics, you may need a guide - a personal trainer - to demonstrate the exercises and equipment and take you through a routine. Will you always need a trainer? Not unless you choose to have one. Their services can be expensive. Still, I’ve met people who say they simply won’t exercise without a trainer to nudge them along. Most people get along just fine.

Can you still do it the old way? Sure you can. There are books and videos and web sites like this one to help you along. I’ve written a couple training books myself. It doesn’t hurt to read them even if you are working with a trainer. Learning about the how and why of training is part of the fun. And knowledge leads to independence.

Even so, you may still want the services of a personal trainer. Suppose you have a chronic health problem or are recovering from an injury? A competent trainer’s advice can be invaluable.

Most health clubs have trainer lists. Ask if any work particularly well with seniors. Some trainers specialize in senior fitness. Meet with more than one trainer if you aren’t sure. Don’t be shy about asking questions and insisting on references. You should have confidence in your personal trainer’s good judgment and professionalism.

Here is a list of professional fitness organizations that educate, test, and designate personal trainer certification.

Caution: Probably the worst place to look for beginners’ workout information is in the muscle magazines that feature gigantic, steroid-built bodybuilders. The workouts they describe are usually unrealistic for most people — and made possible by drugs. As seniors, we’ve been around the block and few times and should be smarter than that.

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Gray Iron: A Fitness Guide for Senior Men and Women

Newsletter Policy

The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter is a free publication sent twice monthly to subscribers. The purpose is to provide honest and realistic fitness information for people age 50 and above.

I have never been paid or received compensation of any kind to write a positive review or endorse a product. If I say that I personally use a product or service, it is because I find value in it and have paid for it with my own money.

Like newspapers, magazines and television, this newsletter and my web site contain advertising and marketing links. Naturally, I am compensated for these.

The newsletter and web site provide information to help users establish and maintain a fitness lifestyle. But fitness information is not the same as fitness advice, which is the application of exercise and dietary practices to an individual's specific circumstances. Therefore, always consult with your physician for assurance that fitness information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate for you. Your comments and questions are always appreciated.


Logan Franklin
The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter