So you have decided to get your body in shape or maybe just to start a new fitness routine? Where will you start and have you even considered getting a personal trainer who can conveniently train you at home? Are you going to join the nearest gym and have you done enough research to use all the equipment safely?

You can access fantastic fitness resources on the internet and you might already have found some, but these programs might not be completely fitting to your fitness needs. Do you want to lose weight or build muscle? The approach you take will differ depending on your fitness objectives.

This article aims to help you to answer most of your burning questions while helping you discover how easy it is to find a personal trainer that can help you achieve your personal fitness goals. Learn how you can benefit from a personal trainer before exploring the type of trainer you think might be right for you.

Why a Fitness Trainer?

Do you think you could benefit greatly from a personal trainer? Understanding your reasons for embarking on this exciting fitness journey is probably the best departure point for learning how to pick the most suitable trainer. Most people have already made the decision that they would like to make a change to their physical appearance or fitness level before they start their search for a perfect training partner.

There are several reasons why people start a new fitness regime and one of the most obvious is the inspiration they get from celebrities who recently transformed their bodies for their next movie role. Magazine covers are filled with lean and muscular superhero bodies and we can easily be swept up in the aesthetic appeal and physical aspects ordinarily connected to fitness. Being fit and healthy is however a very personal decision.

A sustainable lifestyle change will only be possible if you make a pledge to a fitness regime through your own personal motivations. A personal trainer could be a great guide and assist you along the way, but it all starts with solid enough personal motivation to pull you through the most challenging times.

An interesting question to ask during this initial discovery process is what your personal relationship is with your body. Are you happy with the current condition of your body and just want to remain healthy, or do you need someone who can help you with a more transformative type of training program?

Your relationship with food is another interesting aspect you might have to investigate if you are serious about making a long-term lifestyle change. Diet is an integral part to address, whether you want to lose weight and/or build muscle. This journey might thus force you to ask difficult personal questions and address any emotional bonds and associations you might currently have with food.

Today’s fitness world is filled with exciting new research and discoveries around training programs and nutrition. Finding the time to explore all of these could be challenging and that’s where a personal trainer could be the perfect specialist to help you maximise your fitness regime. Qualified and experienced in the field of fitness, weight training and nutritional guidance, a personal trainer will simplify this process. They will answer all your questions, show you how to execute exercises safely, will help you with motivation and will suggest the latest fitness regime that’s perfectly customised to your needs.

Personal trainers and specialist coaches understand that each person’s body is unique and comes with its own strengths and challenges. Ideally they should consider these as they craft a safe and achievable fitness program around your goals. Making an assessment of your current lifestyle and diet, your likes or dislikes in physical activity, your stamina and strength levels, or aspects around your flexibility and mobility are all things to consider in the science of creating that perfect personal fitness plan.

You might find that your reasons for wanting to implement a fitness regime could be one or some of the following:

  • Losing weight
  • Gaining muscle
  • Cardiovascular health
  • A new challenge
  • Preparing for a race of fitness event
  • Increased mobility and better movement.

We will discuss some of these in detail in this article to show you exactly where and how a fitness trainer can assist you in achieving your objective.

A Personal Trainer to Help You Lose Weight

One of the most popular reasons why women and men employ the services of a personal trainer is to lose weight. We all have an ideal shape in mind due to the media and the world created by popular culture, but your body type, genetics and current fitness level are all factors to consider.

A fitness trainer will help to place your goals in perspective and ensure that your plan matches your capabilities and the ideas of what you would like to look like. They will also be able to guide and advise you as to which other specialists would be best in providing the most ideal and complementary additions to the program they are designing.

Sweating it out every day at your maximum capacity would most certainly improve your health and body, but if you are serious about losing weight you might have to review your diet.

The dieting industry is global billion dollar industry that promises an easy weight loss solution around every corner. Any trainer or active person will tell you however that it takes consistent effort, continuous discipline and daily lifestyle choices to get you to achieve a lasting healthy lifestyle. Quick fixes like supplements and fad diets could also stress your body out and put additional stress on it.

A good personal trainer will be by your side to provide advice and share their knowledge as you navigate through the hundreds of commercial products plus they will put you in touch with specialists to assist in areas where they are less competent. Dieticians are an example of a type of specialist that will create a nutritional plan to complement your weight loss fitness plan. Don’t panic if you only have budget for a personal trainer as most of them will have some experience in nutritution and can share some tips and guidance around diet.

To get you going on your weight loss quest, here are a couple of considerations you can try to incorporate in your lifestyle:

  • Exercise regularly. The recommendation is three one hour sessions per week.
  • A healthy and balanced diet will get you halfway there.
  • Get sufficient sleep and create a patterned time of going to bed.
  • Limit unhealthy snacking as much as possible or switch to healthy snacking that is in-line with a daily meal plan.
  • Work towards creating a healthy work-life balance, making time for everything you value in your life.
  • Practise a healthy mindset and decrease stress through meditation or other relaxing activities.

If you implement these you will be well on your way to dropping a couple of kilos, just make sure you consult with a health practitioner if you make any drastic changes that could impact your health.

We want to reiterate a very important point - to ensure a sustainable lifestyle change you have to focus on yourself as a whole. You have to actively choose a new, healthier lifestyle and seek out what is good for you.

Do you want to lose weight for the right reasons? / Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

Prepare for a Marathon or Fitness Event With the Help of a Fitness Trainer

Most of the work when you plan to participate in a fitness or sporting event lies in the preparation during the months leading up to it. You can consult a professional coach that specialises in that specific sport, but they are usually tougher to source, are usually more expensive and are incredibly specialised to focus on the technical aspects of the sport in question. A personal trainer will come in handy for getting you fit before you even approach a professional sports coach to help you address technical matters. This way you would already have gained a lot of ground before you start paying the higher fees.

Personal trainers are usually well-versed in creating a program to get you suitably prepared for any social or amateur sports-event.

Their programs will not only focus on the fitness and cardiovascular aspects of your preparation, they might also look at how you develop and strengthen certain muscle groups to benefit your technique during participation. With a trainer you can work on getting perfectly prepared while you enjoy the benefit of having a relevant, engineered training schedule.

A good personal trainer will also focus on correctly addressing physical preparation, like ensuring the correct pre-practise warmups and cool downs, showing you how to treat your muscles well while also working on your mental preparation. They will contribute greatly in keeping you motivated and some might even be experienced in addressing your lung capacity or other breath issues through breathing exercises. On top of that, they will also be able to advise you on how to prepare before your race or other event, by giving you tips such as how carbo-loading could assist, and educating you on routes towards a quicker post-race recovery.

A professional coach or personal trainer would do an initial consultation to assess your readiness for the event before they get your started.

They might recommend that you supplement the professional training they provide with some additional and complementary sport or exercise. These could include:

  • Cardiovascular fitness like swimming and running
  • Yoga / Pilates
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Weights training (could be muscle group specific)
  • Crossfit or High Intensity Interval training (HIIT) type training
  • Team sports like rugby or football.
fitness instructor
A fitness trainer could get you prepared for that marathon you are dreaming of / Picture by Quino Al from Unsplash

Finding a Fitting Personal Trainer

You might now have a clearer idea of what your goals are and how a trainer is going to assist in making the experience a more rewarding and pleasurable one. But what do you consider when you compare fitness trainers during your selection process?

We recommend that the first criteria you evaluate a personal trainer against is whether he or she is well versed in the areas that would match your fitness goals.

For example, if you would like to gain muscle, a personal trainer with experience in gym training programs and weight training would be a suitable match. They would specialise in weight training and will have instructed clients in utilising resistance and strength training to build muscle mass.

Trainers can specialise in a broad range of fitness areas and their specialties could include one or more of the following:

  • Rehabilitation: to help you recover from injury by systematically bringing movement back into the injured area or muscle.
  • Weight training: excellent for building strength, to tone muscles or gain muscle mass. It is also known to continue burning fat long after you have ended your practise.
  • Weight management: lose and manage your weight through the right training programs and diet recommendations.
  • Mobility training: these trainers will focus on getting your muscles and joints to work in synergy to better perform everyday activities and prevent injury.
  • Aesthetic programming: Experienced in getting someone ready for bodybuilding competitions, fitness or modelling competitions. These trainers would be ideal if you want to work on getting your body in a specific shape or just ready for the beach.
  • Stress management: Most trainers and fitness plans will assist in reducing your stress levels. Ensure you mention this if it is a concern as some trainers will bring in additional beneficial techniques.

Some trainers are more pricey than others because of their education, experience and reputation.

Make sure you have an idea of how much you would like to spend when researching personal trainer options. An easy online search will help you find the average cost of trainers and the duration of training sessions at that price. Some trainers might also have an introduction package where you can do your first session for free or may have special packages at reduced rates or offer additional benefits like a mobility assessment.

Your new trainer’s training time flexibility and availability is also something to consider as you would have to schedule sessions at a convenient time for both of you.

Lastly, you can check whether your trainer has general or professional liability insurance if you feel this would put your mind at ease. It is important however to take responsibility for your own body. Address concerns or issues with your trainer before starting movements or exercises where you might feel unsafe.

Personal trainers also have different styles and personalities. Some might be more relaxed while others will push their clients to work up a real sweat in ensuring they get the most out of their workout. It is important that you find someone who has the personality to match your needs. Someone who will inspire and motivate you to be better without making you feel terrible about yourself. Be honest about your needs with them and when the going gets tough try and push through and remember they just want the best for you.

Did you know that you could easily find a personal trainer online in your area? Right now you can use a platform such as Superprof to research and compare their qualifications, experience and specialities, and you are able to read recommendations left by former clients. You can also see whether a personal trainer offers face-to-face sessions in the comfort of your home or is willing to train you online before even contacting them.

fitness instructor
Find a trainer that suits your personality and goals / Photo by Luis Quintero-aoz

Qualifications of a Personal Trainer

Also consider someone’s professional qualifications and training credentials before selecting them as your personal trainer.

It is less of a priority if a trainer comes highly recommended by people you trust, but even in this instance you will have more peace of mind if that person is trained and qualified to assist you safely on your fitness journey. Professional training would ensure they have a solid understanding of anatomy to conduct the necessary corrections and assistance during warmups, exercise programs and stretching.

A qualification is not a sure sign that someone is good at what they do, but it is certainly a good departure point if you consider a trainer. A qualification coupled with great recommendations would be a sure sign you have a winner and on Superprof you can easily see these before making any formal contact with them.

South African fitness professionals and trainers can study a degree, various diplomas or certificates. A biokineticist will have a university degree and some sport specialists a degree in sport science. Some medicine-orientated university degrees prepare doctors for complex physical challenges, but generally fitness trainers in south Africa carry a core diploma that they sometimes supplement with various other certificates.

Not all accreditations are the same and some colleges that offer personal training or fitness programs have a better reputation. It will be fantastic if your trainer is certified through an international organisation, but if not try and ensure they carry some form of accreditation like SAQA (South African Qualities Authority) or REPPSA (Register of Exercise Professionals South Africa).

Joining a Gym or Reaching out to a Personal Trainer?

A gym is a great place to work on your fitness, but maybe you would much rather prefer fitness sessions at your house? Some personal trainers come to you or could even train you online. A downside to joining a local gym is the fact that you might have to pay for both the membership and a personal trainer while you can access the skills of a trainer at home with a smaller budget. They will, however, be limited in the amount of equipment they can bring to your house. This is another instance in which you should try to match your personal fitness objectives to what both these options could offer.

Your local gym will provide a list of personal trainers they would recommend when you discuss a potential membership with them. They might even have good introductory specials where you are able to buy a discounted personal training package when you join. Joining a local gym and or having a personal trainer come to your house has it’s pros and cons. Consider these, as one option might be a lot more fitting to your personal goals and preferences than the other.

Advantages of a joining a gym:

  • A wide variety of equipment and practice areas
  • Relaxation areas like spas, steambaths, pool areas, etc.
  • A wide variety of group classes like yoga, boxing or high intensity interval training
  • Long opening hours allow you to go when you would like to
  • It’s a social environment where you could meet new people
  • Possible medical aid incentives and bonuses.

Disadvantages of joining a gym:

  • Travelling back and forth to the gym
  • Many people and lack of space
  • You have to remain self-motivated
  • You must use the gym’s personal trainers if you choose to get one at additional cost to the membership
  • During peak times you might have to wait for popular equipment
  • High volumes of people means less assistance and advice from gym staff.

Advantages of getting a personal trainer at home:

  • Complete personalization of fitness plan according to your needs
  • Able to select the trainer you prefer
  • Continuous motivation and support from your fitness trainer
  • You will save time as they come to you and you don’t have to travel to gym
  • Less effort in researching plans and equipment as trainers will guide you throughout
  • Ongoing knowledge sharing and advice on diet and a healthy lifestyle
  • Better safety as your trainer corrects and supervise you during your training
  • Good trainers will expose you to newly innovated fitness techniques.
Some gyms will try and have the latest equipment / Photo by Trust "Tru" Katsande on Unsplash

Finding Further Inspiration

Still not convinced a personal trainer is going to help you to achieve your fitness goals?

Some of the most popular Hollywood blockbusters or recent documentaries are about sportspeople and how coaches and trainers helped them to reach their optimum performance. Karate Kid is one of the older movies where the boy's Sensei taught him about a lot more in life than just the skill of Karate.

There are also movies like Million Dollar Baby, Rocky, Coach Carter, Any Given Sunday, Remember the Titans and Peaceful Warrior to mention a few. Documentaries, like the Oscar winning Free Solo, may also inspire you in your fitness quest. Make sure you look at Fittest on Earth: A Decade of Fitness on Netflix, The Dawn Wall or McConkey for some alternative types of inspiration.

One of the most valuable sources of inspiration is hearing what personal trainers did for people you know and trust. Try and seek out friends and family who are happy with their current trainers. Find out about their approach and how their trainer impacted their life and training regime. What success have they seen and do they think their trainer has had a big influence when it comes to inspiring and motivating them?

Setting Yourself up for Success With Your Trainer

Selecting a personal trainer is only one step towards a successful transformation to become a healthier, happier and fitter version of yourself. Your coach and fitness trainer can only provide guidance, motivation and support, but at the end of the day you have to fully commit and put in the required work.

Winning day-by-day means winning all the way / Photo by Nghia Le from Upslplash

Explore your limits and stretch your physical boundaries while keeping yourself safe and responsible for your own body at all times.

Here are a few core questions you can ask yourself before making the final decision on who will be your personal trainer:

  • Is the trainer a fit to you, your personal goals and requirements?
  • Will he/she inspire you?
  • Are the personal trainer's fees within your budget and is their scheduling convenient?
  • Will you take responsibility and make a full commitment from your side?
  • Does he/she have the experience and qualifications you think are required?

Enjoy the inspiration that comes from a personal trainer and celebrate your successes as you become better. Remember that wining ‘day-to-day’ means you win all the way.

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Writer and qualified yoga instructor, who is passionate about health and well-being.