how can i make my personal training sessions more effective?
July 10, 2012 3:03 PM   Subscribe

I have had 5 sessions so far with a personal trainer I like a lot. How can I prepare myself during the week (when I'm not working with her) to be awesome during my sessions?

Basically, I lost a little under 60 pounds in the last year, but have another 100 to go. I started seeing a personal trainer, and she is AWESOME. Each session I come out feeling accomplished and worn, but in a good way. Each session includes weights and interval training, and every 3rd session we do abs/core. She says I am improving on my cardio (it's getting easier to maintain a steady pace at my "high" rate) but I am still struggling with the weight-lifting aspect, in part because free weights make me very nervous. I orginally lost the weight through diet mod and aqua aerobics/aqua zumba, but plateaued. Plus, I no longer have access to a pool.

I typically see my trainer Tues and Wed. but this is not regular because my work schedule changes. Like, this week I will probably only see her once, because I had Monday off instead of Tues, and couldn't notify her of my new schedule in time. She said to keep on with whatever I do on my own, and that we would check in on Wed. Will do! Cardio it is, then.

However, this got me wondering.

1. What can I do during the week to make my sessions with her super awesome/effective?

2. What tools can I ask her to give me this session to make the next more effective?

3. What are some cool gym-rat tips a newbie like me might not know?
posted by spunweb to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Mobility WODs! (WOD stands for Workout of the Day.) Stretching and soft tissue work will put you in a better position to do everything, really.

Beyond that, it'd probably be a good idea to ask her for a rough schedule of stuff to do that will fit in with your sessions. Like, if you should be doing ab work once a week, she should teach you a set of exercises that you can then do on your own in case you don't get to meet with her that week.

Most weightlifting stuff really only works if you do it pretty regularly - generally, hitting a muscle group at least once a week is key. So getting to the point where you can do some of that on your own will help you out a ton in the long run. Getting comfortable enough to do it on your own can take a little while, and that's fine, but it'd be something to bring up with her - focus on getting at least a few things down to the point where you can do them on your own, and you know when you're supposed to do them.

Otherwise, general gym-rat tips:

- Going is better than not going, most of the time.

- You make your gains while recovering from exercise, not during exercise, so sleep, food, and rest time are critical. Modify #1 accordingly.

- Rack your own weights.

Otherwise, you're doing great! Don't get too stressed about about doing everything *right*. Honestly, exercise is not a thing with a ton of scientific rigor behind it, and while everyone thinks they know what's best (including me) no one has The Word of God and/or Science behind them. So don't sweat it - just sweat.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:17 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Awesome work! Two things that have helped me in a similar situation. First, learn core stuff you can do on your own (planks, for example), and do them each day, or however often you want. Your core supports everything else you do, so being strong through your core is key. Second, learn how to stretch properly, and do that on your own as well. Not only will stretching help you prevent injury through your increased exercise, it just feels good. Ask your trainer to teach you stretches to do, and help you progress as you get more limber.
posted by Gorgik at 3:31 PM on July 10, 2012

Bodyweight exercises cover the same ground as weights but are less intimidating. Try (assisted) chin-ups, push-ups, bodyweight squats, planks.
posted by dontjumplarry at 3:37 PM on July 10, 2012


A no brainier here, but doing whatever you can to stay motivated will keep you on top of your workouts/nutrition and result in more consistent health gains. Some tips on this in no particular order:

1) Keep a log of everything you do so you can see your progress over time and get a good idea of what does/doesn't work for you. There are free programs online, smart phone apps, etc, but for years I used a small notebook at the gym and then transferred it to an excel spreadsheet at home.

2) Throw some variation into your workouts. By finding exercises that are new or different, you can keep from getting burned out by repetition or monotony. By cycling exercises in and out of your routine, you may find that you really look forward to the ones that you haven't done in a while.

3) Have a plan when you go into your workouts. This way, its harder to think 'okay, I've done enough', or 'I'm gonna cut out early'. Write down your workout on a piece of paper and check things off as you go. You'll know what you need to do and then you'll do it- no talking yourself out of it (although, pay attention to what your body is telling you... injuries suck), plus, there's positive mental feedback by checking things off of a list.

4) Set small, obtainable goals for yourself, then feel good when you meet them. Acknowledge your improvements, but don't dwell on a setback since your energy, strength, etc, can really vary day to day.

Basic things that will help on that days that you see your trainer, or any workout day: Lots of water, and no greasy/ heavy foods for at least an hour before your workout. (I also find that a cup of coffee does wonders for me, although it doesn't agree with everyone.)
posted by Dr. ShadowMask at 4:12 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

1. What can I do during the week to make my sessions with her super awesome/effective?

2. What tools can I ask her to give me this session to make the next more effective?

Flip 1 and 2!

During the next session with your trainer, when she has you do an exercise and she says they're effective, ask her how to modify an exercise for home. This is part of what your trainer should be doing, and I bet she'll be super-excited that you want to work out at home, too. I'm guessing many trainers have to deal with people who only work out with them and wonder why they aren't seeing results.

If you're afraid of free weights, I would say start at smaller weights. I used to be afraid of free weights and preferred machines, but I read that using free weights is a bit better because your body will be better at balancing and compensating for a free weight, as opposed to straining against the machine.

If you've plateaued, I would also suggest taking a break from exercising for a day or two, and change your diet to include some more fats (just for a day or two). If you do everything the same every day, of course you will plateau, because your body is used to things. If you shake things up every once in a while, your body will be able to switch things up. If you add a bit more food to your diet (just for a bit) your body will snap out of its current "conserve food!" mode.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 4:19 PM on July 10, 2012

SLEEP. Seriously. The best gains I have made so far happened when I had the luxury of not using an alarm clock.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:49 PM on July 10, 2012

Free weights are the nads! You will gain so much confidence by learning all the cool stuff-Bulgarian deadlifts and so on.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:04 PM on July 10, 2012

Oh, I forgot to say: for equipment I have at home, there's a big red pilates ball (I mostly use this for crunches, but will try to mix it up for squats), as well as some small sand weights.
posted by spunweb at 5:28 PM on July 10, 2012

Thank you all for your advice! I just got done working out with her, and lugged my ball and portable Pilates bar with me. We went over some really challenging exercises to do with those, and will spend some time each session talking over modifications of each workout routine that I can do at home.
posted by spunweb at 2:19 PM on August 3, 2012

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