STAYING POWER: A Good Trainer Keeps Us On Track

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by Debra Melani

Maintaining one’s own fitness program can prove a challenge when the will to work out fizzles. Many people are getting help conquering roadblocks and staying on an effective path of regular exercise through an enduring relationship with a personal trainer.

Approximately 6.4 million Americans now engage personal trainers, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, including some in less traditional locations, like community centers and corporate workplaces. When a client sticks with a personal trainer over the long haul, the relationship can evolve beyond a caring coach into a steadfast mentor, producing benefits that transcend basic fitness.

“I have individuals I’ve worked with for 10 years, and have come to know them and their bodies and habits well,” says Kristin McGee, a New York City trainer who counts celebrities like Steve Martin and Tina Fey as clients. By understanding all aspects of each of her clients, she says she can better tailor programs to meet their needs.

“Group training can cost as little as $15 an hour. Women especially enjoy combining fitness with socializing. Working together and growing together, they feed off and rely on each other to show up.” ~ Kristin McGee

When nine-year client Bebe Duke, 58, faced a lengthy rehabilitation after tripping and shattering a shoulder, McGee helped lift her spirits, ease her back into full-body fitness and even slay some psychological dragons. “We worked her lower half; we kept her strong and her moods steady with meditation and yoga,” McGee says. “The physical therapist knew how to work with her shoulder joint, but not with the rest of her body and the rest of her life.”

Duke felt, as she puts it, “a significant fear of falling” after the accident. “So we spent an enormous amount of time on balance and making sure I didn’t feel nervous.”

McGee was able to help Duke prevent fitness loss, which can happen to anyone that goes four weeks without exercising, reports Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal. Maintaining regular exercise can also deter depression, confirmed by a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Three years after the injury, Duke can now hold a downward dog yoga pose and do a headstand. “I’m also running again,” Duke adds. “I’m signed up for a half marathon.”

Richard Cotton, a personal trainer in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the American College of Sports Medicine’s national director of certification, agrees that a good long-term trainer often serves as a fitness, nutrition and even life coach. “You can’t metaphorically cut off people’s heads and only train their bodies. Then you are just a technician,” he observes.

Building a true foundation for health requires understanding the importance of each building block, not just working with a trainer for a few sessions and afterwards going blindly through the motions, attests Sandra Blackie, a former professional bodybuilder, certified nutritionist and current personal trainer in San Diego, California. “I want to educate my clients.”

During extended periods, good trainers also revise routines at least once every four weeks to prevent adaptation, another problem that can hinder reaching fitness goals. “Without trainers, people often get stuck in a rut and lose motivation,” remarks Blackie, who also adapts exercises according to bodily changes due to aging or other conditions.

Long-term relationships also allow trainers to focus on the individual’s bottom-line goals, Cotton notes. For instance, “I want to lose 10 pounds,” might really mean, “I want the energy to play with my kids,” or “I want to feel more alert at work.”

“Achievable goals evolve from values,” Cotton explains. “It’s not about getting in super great shape for six months and then stopping. It’s about creating a foundation for life.”

Freelance journalist Debra Melani writes about health care and fitness from Lyons, CO. Connect at Debra Melani.com or DMelani@msn.com.

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