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Choosing A Personal Trainer

Finding a trainer that fits you and your lifestyle is more of a challenge than it initially seems.

  I was never a hugely active person up until about 6 years ago, in the sense that I wasn’t really aware of how to eat properly and I had never set foot in a gym. I ran cross country while I was at school and I was pretty good at it, but that was about as far as my fitness went. I think I took part in one PE lesson in my entire time at secondary school because of my fear of a) being hit with balls b) looking stupid c) being the last picked for a team and d) getting changed in front of the other girls.

When I was 23 I decided I wanted to get a personal trainer, I had been modelling for a while and had just started making my first waves in the American market. I knew I needed to tone up and start getting healthy so I googled personal trainers in my area, and called the first on that came up in the search engine. Here is a tip for everyone out there wanting to find a personal trainer: Don’t pick the first name on google.

This guy had clearly paid for his name to appear high up on the google listing for ‘Personal Trainers in London’ because there is no way on planet earth, this man was deserving of such placement. Over the phone he told me he would be able to come to my house (great! I don’t have to move!) and also give me nutritional advice. He was £30 per hour and sold blocks of 10 for £250, so I bought 10, without hesitation, and booked in my first session.

Let me tell you something about diplomas in personal training, level 2 diplomas are pretty easy to achieve and actually relatively cheap. Pretty much anyone with a bit of spare time and money can get this qualification, it does not necessarily mean you are a good personal trainer. It is not the same as a sports science degree or other higher level qualifications, however it DOES mean you are legally a personal trainer of sorts. I am not saying the level 2 qualification is bad, I know a lot of trainers and instructors with this qualification that are actually really good, but for the sake of argument, lets just say that your grandma could get whatever qualification this dude claimed to have.  

I should have seen the warning signs from his first visit. He didn’t look hugely in shape and when you’re putting your physical appearance and health in someones hands AND paying for it, you want to look at that person and say ‘Damn, this human being knows what they are doing’. Our training sessions commenced once a week, and consisted of him coming to my house and essentially make me run up and down the street a few times, he told me to stop eating carbs, all carbs (that was the extent of his nutritional advice) and he would sit on my couch whilst I did crunches.

I’ve always been small, I just wanted to tone up. I was what I like to call 'skinny fat’ you know, when skinny girls have no tone to their bodies at all. Obviously, after two months of running up and down the hill once a week and essentially not eating any carbohydrates, I had lost a lot of weight. I wasn’t toned but I was pretty damn thin and my ribs were on display in a somewhat vulgar fashion. Please understand that this is not a good way to lose weight, it is unsustainable and unhealthy, our bodies NEED carbs, it’s our main energy source. I was starving all the time and I felt sick every single day. I started to add carbs back into my diet and the weight piled back on faster then I lost it. I upped seeing my trainer to twice a week, stupidly thinking his half assed workouts in my front room would help the rapid weight gain I was experiencing. I became depressed and frustrated because the weight just would not shift, I was begging my trainer for help but he seemed completely out of his depth.

Half way through the third month of training me it became apparent that he knew what I did for a living, I am not and never have been ashamed of the fact that I made my money removing my clothes on camera. I’m pretty successful and would never ever hide from that. However, what I don’t appreciate is people that automatically think that this makes it ok to over step boundaries. My trainer frequently asked me uncomfortable questions about sex and also explained in detail why he thought he had an STD.

Since this time I have been back to school and I now hold fitness qualifications, one of the things that is made abundantly clear (but if you had a fraction of common sense, you would already know) is that you RESPECT your client/trainer boundaries. Their personal life, opinions and work is none of your business, ESPECIALLY if you have found out about it off your own back. Needless to say, the final straw for me, was when he asked if we could watch one of my porn movies on my TV, whilst we trained. 

I didn’t let the experience dampen my spirit, I soldiered on to my next trainer. This time I decided I would visit a local gym. I was scarred from having my first trainer enter my personal space and wanted to be on neutral ground. Hoping for a better experience, I met with a trainer that was recommended to me by a friend. Things started well, he took my weight and measurements, began telling me what to eat. He also suggested some fat loss supplements which I thought was a bit of a weird suggestion straight off the bat, and came to the conclusion he probably got commission on these specific pills. He was definitely a better trainer then my previous disaster in the sense that he actually seemed to have basic knowledge of fitness and training, but after a few months I didn’t notice any difference in my body, if anything I felt worse. I didn’t feel like he was pushing me, if I said ‘I can’t’ rather then telling me ‘You can and you will’ he would just say ‘ok’ and move on. I trained with a partial sweat and definitely no pain, which as we all know… means NO gain.

To cut a long story short, this guy ended up listening into a very personal emergency phone call I had to take in the middle of a session and sold a story to a newspaper about me that cost me a lot of time, money and stress to squash. I left the gym and ended up moving very far away from the area. 

This piece is not supposed to put you guys off trying out a personal trainer, finding a trainer that fits your lifestyle and your goals is a wonderful and rewarding thing! I am painfully lazy when it comes to exercise. I love training and keeping in shape, it makes me feel incredible as soon as I’m done, but the procrastination and laziness that stops me going to the gym is my, and so many others, problem. Being lucky enough to have the funds to have one on one training is a privilege. I have someone that I have already paid for, so I HAVE to turn up or lose my money, someone designing a workout programme based on my body and telling me exactly what to do.

Unfortunately, my work and travel schedule has always been far too sporadic to get exactly the body I always dreamed of, BUT! Following some of the most disastrous experiences in gym history, I have been lucky enough to find two incredible trainers. The first was female trainer in LA, she was down to earth, friendly and recommended by a friend. I trained with her twice a week, and since her body was essentially my dream body, I just said ‘I want that’ and she wrote a programme for me. She also invited me to take her spin and Yoga classes for free as I was paying for private training sessions with her already. So I got my yoga for my flexibility and mental wellbeing, my spin for my cardio and my personal training with her to sculpt my body. Unfortunately, she lives on the other side of the planet and I only had three wonderful months in her care.

My final and most recent trainer is a professional body builder, he trains models, body builders and athletes. He holds sports science and nutrition degrees. He made me train until I was literally crying. After three sessions I noticed a difference in my abs. He was ludicrously expensive and very hard to book slots with because he was so in demand, but each one was worth the wait. He told me what to eat before and after training and told me what to eat for most meals, he allowed me cheat meals (sometimes I took a few more then I was supposed to and I definitely ate more chocolate then I admitted). Unfortunately my schedule and his prices meant I couldn’t train with him as much as I would have liked to. I also no longer live in that area, which is sad. I have yet to set out on the quest for my 5th personal trainer but I hope this gives you guys hope. Here are a few tips for finding a trainer that fits your lifestyle:

- You get what you pay for. Sad but true, the better trainers will probably be a little bit more expensive.

- DO NOT make the same mistake as me and buy a block of 10 sessions before testing the water a few times first! Take a trial couple of sessions to see if this person is right for you.

- Go with a trainer that specializes in what you want to achieve. Tell them what you want and ask what they can do for you. Some trainers are not qualified to give nutritional advise or work with certain groups of people eg. Pregnant, injured, disabled.

- ASK their qualifications, they shouldn’t be offended, you’re paying for a service, you have every right to know what they are qualified to do.

- Look at their body, skin and general appearance. This person is taking your physical well being into their hands. If they look like an out of shape deadbeat with stains on their sweater, is that the kind of human being you are going to want telling you what to do?

- Last but not least, go with someone that makes you feel comfortable in yourself but uncomfortable when you train. You want to feel like your body is being pushed to the limit, not humming along to the gym radio whilst you lift weights that are too light. Remember: No pain, No gain.

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