Personal trainers offer a wealth of information ranging from topics like exercise technique and programming to healthy lifestyle choices (like not keeping Oreos in your pantry). That information appears to be valuable as 6.4 million Americans are working with a trainer. Still, 47 percent of clients only stick around for one to two years max. Since supervised workouts have been shown to boost results, why are so many people ditching their trainer so fast? Maybe it’s cost; personal training definitely isn’t cheap — ranging from $30 to $100 per hour on average. Or maybe it’s that most clients don’t see the value, or they don’t fully cash in on their paid workout sessions. To get the most out of your training sessions and truly “level up” on your fitness knowledge, don’t pay another cent before reading these four tips.
1. Ask Questions
Personal training shouldn’t be a one-way conversation. Sure, your trainer might be the one commanding the show during the actual session. You might not have many opportunities to pick the next exercise, and you likely won’t have the power to decide when it’s time to stop doing burpees (now please?). However, you should have some input as to the overall direction of the sessions. After all, you’re the one with set goals in mind!
Don’t be afraid to pipe up if you’re confused on why you’re doing a particular exercise or why your sessions are grouped in a certain way. Eric Bach, personal trainer and creator of Bach Performance, wants his clients to speak up during a workout. According to Bach, “I ask my clients to name muscles, categorize the movement, and repeat back why we are doing an exercise. My goal is to give them the knowledge and ability to take control of their health, wellness and performance — and understand why things are done.” Asking questions is a great way to keep your personal trainer accountable and increase your own fitness knowledge at the same time.
2. Schedule Review Sessions
Every meeting with a trainer doesn’t have to be centered around a brutal workout that leaves you crawling back to the locker room. While sessions are typically geared around activity in some fashion, it can be helpful to have a review session periodically to make sure your training is heading in the right direction. Bring your meal log if you have one or any other pertinent info. Review your past workout results and progress. Are you getting closer to your goals? Do you and your trainer still remember what your goals are? Bach acknowledges that these catch-up sessions are crucial. “Goal evaluation is a constant progress. Depending on the client, at least once per week we talk about goals and out-of gym behavior changes, based upon the discipline and difficulty of the goal,” says Bach.
It’s easy to get caught up in hard workouts and let weeks blend together, leaving a few months in between planning sessions. But rather than waiting for your trainer to set up a review session, plan one yourself. This offers a chance for you both to catch up while also giving you a (brief!) reprieve from all those tire flips and sled pulls.
3. Keep Notes
Good trainers often carry around a clipboard or some other note-taking device during their sessions to keep track of sets and reps. The numbers help them to identify how well you’re progressing and when it’s time to bump up the intensity. That’s terrific as long as you continue to have a trainer around. Inevitably, when the one-on-one training is over and you have to go back to working out by yourself, most of the knowledge on progressions and exercise selection will be lost.
The fix? Don’t let your trainer be the only one taking notes. If necessary, carry around a notebook with you throughout the gym. Jot down the exercises you’re doing and how to progress or regress them if they become too easy or difficult. If you don’t feel like carrying around something while you’re moving about the gym, ask your trainer if you can have a copy of the workout when you’re done. End the session three to five minutes early so you can write down answers to any questions you may have about the how’s or why’s of each exercise. This way, not only did you get a great workout, you developed an understanding of the exercises and how to replicate it in the future.
4. Ask for Homework
Remember in high school when homework was the last thing you wanted to do after the final bell rang? Most clients view personal training in the same manner; the sessions stop as soon as they leave the gym. However, even if you meet with a personal trainer three times a week for an hour each session, that’s a small fraction of your time spent improving your health and fitness. Rather than thinking about personal training as a set of individual workouts, think of it as a process of continual learning. Each session should build upon the previous one. Just like your body is constantly mastering more difficult exercise variations, your mind should be taking on new information as well.
Write down a list of fitness topics you don’t quite understand. Maybe you’re confused about periodization. Maybe you don’t quite get the difference between linear and nonlinear programming? Or, maybe you’re unclear on how and when to foam roll for the best results. These are all great topics to ask your personal trainer about. Typically, they’ll be able to provide some background information within a session and then email you some additional resources for further exploration. Bach admits that although his clients may be done with the workout, sessions extend far beyond their time in the gym. “I give out goal sheets to clients for behavioral tracking and developing new habits. This way, we build new behaviors related to health and fitness, track accountability, and make permanent changes,” Bach says. He also uses his email list to send out reading material each week to further educate his clients.
Keep in mind, personal trainers can help with motivation, accountability and much more — but they aren’t a silver bullet when it comes to improving your health. Just as they put time and hard work into planning your workouts, you have the same responsibility to put in work both in and out of your sessions. By going the extra mile, you’ll be gearing yourself up for success long after your fitness guru has left your side.