Personal training – The new black

I originally wrote this piece for IM Magazine.

Personal training is now becoming quite a fitness trend in Malaysia, especially in the Klang Valley. Perhaps it is because of a combination of a growing middle income group and a more health conscious society, one-to-one sessions with a personal trainer is slowly becoming more popular, especially in the Klang Valley.

Why personal training?

Other reasons why personal training could be right for you include:

Safety: When I take a look around me in the gym, or in the park, I itch to stop and help exercisers in executing the exercise correctly. This isn’t because I’m a busybody or a show-off, but because exercising with poor form increases one’s risk of injury. On the other hand, a personal trainer ensures her client executes each exercise with proper form to protect your joints and muscles.

Often, there isn’t any kind of pain or discomfort when exercises are performed poorly, but the damage comes in later in life. I should know, as I am now suffering from shin and knee pain due to poorly executed exercises in the past.

In addition, when lifting with heavy resistance, a personal trainer guides her client through each movement to push muscles to failure without losing control of the weight.

Individualised Programmes: Some shy away from exercise or the gym because they have chronic health conditions or injuries. Certified and experienced trainers would be able to help these individuals overcome their concerns with personalised programmes, targeted at reaching their goals and also perhaps with some rehabilitation thrown in to boot!

Experienced and certified personal trainers also should be able to cater to each individual condition; for example, pregnancy, injuries, people living with cancer, heart diseases, HIV, diabetes or other metabolic conditions caused from lifestyle.

Because programmes are individualised, those with a personal trainer would be also be able to reach their goals sooner and avoid boredom. Unless you have plenty of time or have a great passion for fitness, you would need to do a lot of reading to put together a programme suitable for your goals. Even then, there is the issue of safety and correct technique and posture during exercises.

It must also be said that many gym-goers experience plateaus or periods of overtraining. Good personal trainers would be able to get their clients overcome the former and be able to spot the latter and take the necessary steps.

In addition, if you are an amateur athlete, you might find a personal trainer would get you much closer to your goals. Runners would benefit from hiring personal trainers who know how to get them that extra yard. Different sports, ranging from martial arts to swimming, have different fitness goals, all of which a certified and experienced personal trainer should be able to help you achieve.

Finally, because of all this, those with personal trainers are unlikely to get bored. I know personal trainers who take their clients outdoors, work out with them indoors, as well as incorporate yoga and Pilates method into their workouts. AgPerforming the same workouts each week can create boredom in the gym. With a jumble of different fitness elements (who knows, your personal trainer could throw in martial arts, swimming or even rock climbing into your routine!), you are unlikely to get bored with exercise.

Accountability: Perhaps one of the most crucial factors, your personal trainer will hold you accountable to your programme. She should be able to assess your personality and be able to push you when you need to be pushed, encourage you when you need encouragement and take any other approach that will get you going.

Unless you have workout (or exercise) buddies, a personal trainer is the best option for this.

Efficiency: Let’s face it, we’re not professional athletes with the whole day to focus on training and nutrition. Personal trainers would keep you focused during your session with them and get you finished and out the door for your after-lunch meeting.

Certified trainers should also be able to help advise very broadly on your nutrition if you need guidance. However, please note that only dieticians can put together a diet plan for you.

What to watch out for

If you decide to go with personal training, you should bear the following in mind:

Find out what their qualifications and certifications are: A qualified personal trainer should have some education in physiology, health promotion, athletic training, kinesiology or a similar field. They should also have first aid and CPR certification, as well as certification from a reputable organisation such as ACSM, ACE or CSCS. These are certifications from the USA. Degrees in Sports Science from local universities or the UK or Australia is also common qualifications for personal trainers in local gyms.

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Find out what their experience and specialty focus is: Some personal trainers have enough years of experience that certifications might not be that important (however, CPR and first aid should always be on their CV). In addition, some personal trainers focus on specific areas, such as sports training, middle aged or seniors training, other special populations, wedding weight loss etc. So determine your goals and select the appropriate trainer for yourself.

What is their policy and procedure? Good personal trainers or personal training services should have a documented policy explaining their services, costs, cancellations, length of contract and emergency procedures. These should be explained to you when you sign a document called the “Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (Par-Q)” or similar document.

Do you like your trainer? Perhaps the most important factor, considering that you will be spending a lot of time with her. She should be able to make you feel comfortable and have (or be able to build) a rapport with you.

Originally from IM Magazine, written by me.

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