I was 11 or 12 years old, and deep into my love of soccer with a goal of playing on the high school varsity team in a few years. My parents divorced when I was young, and when my siblings and I had visitation with our dad, there were a small handful of places where we would go to have fun --- the movies, the comic book store, the arcade, and the gym.
My dad started lifting weights in his 20s, and hasn't stopped since. In June 2014, at age 60, he competed with me in our first bodybuilding competition in Nashville, the Flex Lewis Classic. The gym was (and still is) his second home. He knew firsthand the transformative qualities of lifting iron and wanted to share that with his kids. He knew that we would need to be strong AF in order to compete with the bigger kids in our sports (being sub-5-foot tall wasn't exactly intimidating on the playing field!).
So we spent many an afternoon in the gym with our dad, but I was the one who took to it the most. I remember my dad encouraging me to add more plates to the bar, do one more rep, one more set. It didn't matter that I was "just a girl" and one of the few females in the weight room at any one time (this was way before lifting was cool). He never put the fear of getting "bulky" in my mind. Rather, muscles were a reward for my hard work, not a detriment to my appearance. He made me believe that I could do more than I ever thought I could. That I had no limits.
And that's what a good trainer can do for you. It may seem at first glance to be a luxury or an extra that you really don't need, but I've experienced firsthand the power of having someone in your corner pushing you to do and be your very best, and as my friend (and life coach extraordinaire) Stephanie Williamson says, someone who will be a champion for your dreams. Someone who won't let you get away with lame excuses, or give less than your best, or keep ignoring negative and destructive patterns in your life.
My second trainer, Annette, worked with me throughout high school as I struggled to get noticed and get more playing time on the soccer team. She helped me with my nutrition, kept me accountable with fitting in my strength workouts, and gave me a strong, confident female role model to look up to. I'm lucky to still count her as a friend to this day, and she continues to inspire me.
Inspiration isn't the only reason to hire a coach:
Getting started and cutting the confusion
Everyone could use some help with their exercise plan at some point. And as a novice, a gym can seem intimidating and confusing. And then you get into the variables of training — the reps and sets, exercise selection, tempo, frequency, duration, progressions, regressions…. It’s almost enough to make you turn around and drive home. A trainer can design a program tailored to your individual needs and goals, as well as teach you proper technique. You’ll build a solid foundation and get to your goals more efficiently and safely than if you soldiered on alone. The support and motivation alone can prove invaluable to your fitness journey.
Getting out of a rut and taking it to the next level
A more experienced exerciser, on the other hand, may have some working knowledge of program design but have gotten stuck in a rut. Doing the same workouts over and over can not only lead to boredom but also to diminishing results over time. As the body adapts, it becomes more efficient and burns fewer calories and strength gains grind to a halt. Having a trainer revamp your program can also spark renewed motivation.
Even the most disciplined of us occasionally feel flagging motivation. Having a standing appointment with a trainer helps ensure that you make the time to work out that day, whether you feel like it or not. This kind of accountability can help spur more consistent habits, from the training side to your diet to other lifestyle changes.
Break through plateaus
Another time to hire a trainer is when you find yourself at a dreaded plateau. A lack of results can be so frustrating, especially when what you’ve been doing for so long has stopped working. A trainer can help you troubleshoot any issues that you have and provide you with a different perspective. After making sure that your expectations and goals are sensible and attainable, your coach will write a plan that will progress you from where you currently are to the next level. The structure of a well thought-out strategy can trigger new changes in your physique and fitness in short order.
Kick ass at your next race or event
The popularity of races and adult sports leagues has led to more and more people signing up and challenging themselves in new ways, including half and full marathons, triathlons, and obstacle races like Spartan Race or Warrior Dash. (My friend Shannon Yontz of True North Fitness & Health even specializes in Spartan training.) A trainer can design a program to target the specific movements that relate to your sport or event, while correcting muscle imbalances that can occur.
For example, a runner would benefit from extra upper body and core strengthening to help prevent the breakdown of running form that occurs with fatigue. And strong glutes will boost any athlete's performance.
They'll also make sure that your weight training won't interfere with your ability to recover from your core training plan. Preventing injury and limiting time on the sidelines is a benefit that is worth every penny. Amiright???
Personal training can be a valuable tool to reach your goals. By seeking guidance from an educated, knowledgeable trainer, you can bypass frustrations and see results in less time. The support, encouragement, and accountability a trainer provides will boost your fitness and help create the physique you desire.
Would I have worked as hard as I did in the gym and been willing to try new things had I not had the guidance and support of my dad and Annette? Probably not. I owe them a lot --- from putting me on the path to my eventual training career, to giving me the gift of physical strength which led to a boatload of mental strength. And that inner and outer strength has cultivated resilience throughout the stresses and hardships of my life. And that benefit goes far beyond a bangin' body or a fast mile time.