Working in a fast-paced and stressful job can mean most of us have little or no time for exercise. Not only is working-out important for stress relief but it actually gives us more energy, so really it should be one of our top priorities. In reality however it often comes last, beaten continually by alcohol or Netflix and the sofa. With the busy work and social calendars that most of us have, let’s face it, our time is precious! So when we do exercise it is so important to make the absolute most of our workout. Using a personal trainer can help achieve this whilst bringing so many other benefits to help us enrich our lives.
I spoke to Personal Trainer, Sports Nutritionist & Sports Therapist Al Jamal to debunk some of the myths about personal training and highlight the main reasons more and more people are turning to it.
Why should I use a Personal Trainer?
You may think that personal trainers are for the rich and famous, serving only to chisel abs like Arnold Schwarzenegger or tone arms like Madonna – Right? Wrong! Modern training techniques are diverse enough to achieve exactly what your body needs at any stage of your life and starting at any level of fitness – but only if you know which techniques to adopt. That is where professional help comes in, with expert personal training.
Whether you are just starting out, or have been training for a long time, the benefits of guided training that is tailored to your body and focused on your goals can be enormous.
I have no idea where to start!
If you have never set foot in a gym before, or you are simply intimidated by the range of equipment at your gym, a trainer is able to show you the correct techniques to avoid injury and guide you as to the appropriate number of exercises or appropriate mass of weights to use.
Knowing how to develop a complete exercise programme that includes cardiovascular exercise, weight training and flexibilitycan also be overwhelming. Here too, a trainer is able to design bespoke workouts so that you rotate different types of training and focus on problematic body areas (or ensure you achieve a full-body workout if that is your goal). If you go it alone, you may be prone to injury through improper use of equipment, or simply not knowing when to stop. Alternatively, you may fail to go at all, or lack enthusiasm once you arrive. A trainer can help to maintain motivation by changing work-outs and encouraging you to achieve your fitness goals.
Does working with a trainer have to be confined to the gym?
No! Most trainers are happy to train clients outdoors too. So if you prefer the idea of being in the great outdoors, a trainer can guide you on running techniques and assist with appropriate interval training to improve your health at a steady pace without risking injury or allowing apathy!
I suffer from health problems; surely training is not appropriate for me?
If you have any specific issues such as arthritis, heart disease, or old injuries, by working with an experienced trainer who can discuss exercise programmes with your doctor (with your consent), you can devise an exercise plan. This can improve aches and pains by supporting the muscles and joints around problem areas. From working with a trainer you will actually see an improvement in your condition and you will be able to rest assured that you are not prone to injury.
I am pregnant, isn’t training dangerous?
On the contrary, pregnant women benefit greatly from commencing or continuing exercise throughout their pregnancy – provided they know what is safe and what isn’t. That’s where professional training comes in. I have personally trained women into their 8th month of pregnancy without injury and with numerous benefits. In particular, problems such as back pain can be alleviated by exercises designed to build core strength and a plan can be devised to ensure that the body is best-placed for post-pregnancy recovery. Training also ensures that mums are ready for the physical challenges of carrying a baby around and being active and fit once the baby starts toddling!
I have a sporting event coming up; I don’t want training to interfere
If you’re training for a marathon, golf tournament, triathlon or some other type of sport or event, an experienced trainer can help you identify what you need to do to improve your performance and get past any plateau without hampering your other training or technique. You may find (as is the case with many of my clients when they first come to me) that you suffer from asymmetry – with one side being stronger or more flexible than the other, or supportive muscle groups being mismatched in their strength. These sorts of problems can lead to strains on particular areas which will in turn affect your whole body and performance across many sports: running, rowing, golf, tennis… the list goes on. Any imbalance can prevent you from achieving your best. Not to mention it can hurt too. A trainer can identify any areas of weakness and isolate the muscle groups to devise a plan to balance you out and ensure you eliminate pains and strains and perform at your highest level.
Can’t I just exercise on my own?
Absolutely you can. However, if you have already been doing so, can you honestly say that you are totally happy with your routine, fully confident in using appropriate equipment, able to modify your routine when necessary and able to motivate yourself regularly? If so, you are one of the lucky few!
Most people struggle to maintain an effective routine over time because your needs may change. You might suffer a decrease in fitness or may get to a new level of fitness and not know how to modify old habits to respond to these changes. Depending on your particular fitness goals and your general physical condition, a trainer will pick an exercise intensity that is appropriate for you at all stages and any level. A good personal trainer can read your response and appropriately adapt the exercise to your changing needs and goals.
Even if you are generally happy with your routine, you might benefit from a block of a few sessions from time-to-time, to alter your routine in times of change, or just to ensure you are up-to-date on the latest techniques. You can then apply those new lessons when you are working out alone, to ensure that your workout does not become stale or boring and to prevent you hitting a plateau in your progress.
I am too stressed – I do not have time to train
Excessive stress, whether physical or mental, will result in substandard performance across the board and will tempt you to seek comfort in bad lifestyle choices (cigarettes, alcohol, excess caffeine, chocolate etc.) which will only exacerbate the problem, leading to a downward spiral. Stress causes the release of increased levels of cortisol in the body. Cortisol hinders muscular repair and function, decreases testosterone production, inhibits protein synthesis, speeds up protein breakdown and inhibits muscular growth. In short, your system withers and your immune defences are weakened, making you susceptible to illnesses and leaving you feeling sluggish.
Even short bursts of exercise (even just 30 minutes at a time) can greatly improve your stress levels and help to kick that negative cycle into reverse. Through a regular exercise routine that fits around your schedule you are likely to notice improvements in your mood, energy levels, skin condition and resilience to illness. This will generally lift your strength and sense of confidence which is likely to affect every aspect of your life, from personal relationships to your efficiency at work.
It is also well-established that conditions such as depression and anxiety etc. can improve greatly with exercise. Indeed reports suggest that exercise can be as effective as psychotherapy at alleviating mild to moderate depression.
Why not see what personal training can offer you?
My aim is to assist clients in reaching their fitness and nutritional goals safely – whatever they are. If you decide to try training, a trainer will assess your fitness level and any ailments or weaknesses as you train so that you are never put at risk, but encouraged to achieve your best performance. A good trainer should also guide you on healthy eating, minimising physical strain (through Sports Therapy) and provide you with safe and effective exercises tailored to your specific needs and goals. Whether that goal is weight loss, muscle growth, strength, or heart-health, a trainer will work with you to get you to your absolute best. What have you got to lose?
Al Jamal has had 12 years’ experience of training clients of all ages and levels of fitness and is qualified in nutrition and sports therapy. He has seen first-hand how effective personal training can be at getting people back to their best – or better than they’ve ever been!