I’ll let you in on a secret. I don’t often get invited to parties. I’m not sure if it’s because as a personal trainer people are worried I’ll stand by the food table knocking the food out of people’s hands like an angry bear defending its young or if it’s because my clients are worried I’ll spill the beans on the juicy gossip they share with me (trust me, ask any personal trainer — conversations can get very therapy-esque at times).
When people do discover I’m a personal trainer though, the conversation usually goes to “I was thinking of trying (insert workout name here), what do you think of that?” Which is an impossible question to answer without having the crucial information needed to make a recommendation — and I’m not talking about their injury history or current fitness level. I’m talking about important things like how they fold their napkin, if they prefer travelling with a guide or by themselves and whether they have a favorite movie they like to watch on rainy weekends.
Hang on, let me backtrack. To know what workout is best for you, it’s important to ask a few important questions to yourself first. These break down into the following personal styles: repetition, clarity and attention.
Repetition: Because some people prefer repeating themselves repeating themselves.
Are you the kind of person that loves doing the same workout again and again? Or do you get narcoleptic at about rep 6 of your 20-rep warm-up set? I play guitar (well, ‘play’ might be too strong a word for it if you go by my family’s reaction any time I decide to have a bit of a strum) and I personally love learning pieces of songs. The opening part of “Stairway to Heaven,” the chorus part to “Wonderwall” and scattered pieces of some Janis Joplin classics (for good measure). My wife (a natural singer) insists on learning a complete song all the way through from start to finish. She loves predictability and knowing exactly what is coming next.
We both enjoy different types of workouts as well. When choosing your workout, ask yourself this: will this workout be different enough to keep me entertained and interested? Or alternatively: will this workout be so different that I’ll feel frustrated, bored and develop a general hatred of whichever instructor is teaching this class?
Clarity: You want me to put my what, where?
Think about when you learned to drive, skydive or use your new smartphone. Did you read the instructions? Ask lots of questions? Want to make sure you knew “the right way” to do things before you got started? My wife gets frustrated at me when I look up our destination before we leave the house. “We’ll figure it out on the way,” will be her impassioned cry as I slowly tap our full destination into my laptop before painstakingly printing every last page of the directions. Before going snowboarding I watched over 4 hours of YouTube videos on “how to turn.” My wife prefers the more direct method of becoming one with the snow as quickly as possible and learning her way vertical from there.
Know your style and choose a gym the focuses on being instruction-heavy or “learn-by-doing.” There’s nothing worse than standing around while an instructor waxes lyrically about the “correct position of your shoulderblades while moving through an appropriate range of motion in a horizontal position” while all the while your narrow-attention-span self is screaming “let’s just do the push-up already!”
Personal Attention: It’s not just for sleazy trainers anymore.
My personal training clients are usually the kind of people that would also pay a bit extra to join a guided tour when they travel, a buy a few more books to learn about where they’re going, be a little more focused on how welcoming or helpful the people are like at their destination. They like being taken care of and are willing to pay the extra for it. You don’t need to have “personal training” money to receive personal attention — a variety of options exist such as the fast-growing “small group personal training” concept. And really, watching to see what instructors are correcting and encouraging people to do can tell you a lot about whether or not they would be a match for your personal preference.
Remember that every day people drop out of their workout routines — the reasons above are just a few of the motivating factors. Choose your workout to suit your personal style and you’ll find yourself enjoying your workout classes significantly more. And you’ll likely be surrounded by a community of people that feel exactly the same way!