I work in a gym that employs approximately a dozen personal trainers. (Do you recognize the facility? Have you trained here yourself? Beautiful, isn’t it?)
Because we frequently have some ‘down time’ in our day (yes, when a client cancels a session at the last minute, the trainer ends up with an hour to kill; an hour that he or she doesn’t get paid for), we often get to chatting about questions our clients have asked us.
Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of repetition. Trainers get asked the same questions over and over again. I’ve addressed many of these questions on my blog before, but since I’m still getting asked them, I thought I’d place the answers all together, in one easy to find post!
The ten common questions people ask personal trainers (and my go-to answers)
1. How many days per week do I need to work out?
Depending on your health and fitness goals, you’ll need to commit to a minimum of 3 days of exercise each week to see results. Any fewer than that and each workout will feel like you’re starting all over again each and every time.
The ACSM recommends that healthy adults all need to be performing a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio, 75 minutes of vigorous intensity, or a combination of moderate and vigorous intensity exercise per week. Resistance training and flexibility training should be practiced at least twice per week.
Don’t forget that you can break these recommended workout times into smaller chunks if necessary. Not having enough time to exercise is no longer an acceptable excuse 😉
2. What should I eat before a workout?
Ideally, you should have some form of fuel in your system before you work out. Eating an easily digested carbohydrate an hour or so before you hit the gym ensures that you’ll have enough energy in the tank to get through your program. Try fruit and yogurt or toast and peanut butter; not too much or you’ll feel sluggish and heavy.
If, however, you exercise first thing in the morning, eating before your workout may not be an option. Many people find that they can tolerate cardio on an empty stomach, but need fuel to get through a strength training session. Experiment with the types of food and the timing of your pre-workout meal to discover what works best for you.
3. What should I eat after a workout?
Eating after a workout is important. You need to replenish your glycogen stores and ‘feed’ the muscles that you’ve just trained. Sports nutritionists suggest that you eat a small snack consisting of protein and easily digested carbohydrates within about an hour of training and then your next meal an hour or two later.
Common post-workout nutrition ‘mistakes’ include eating too much (if you burn 300 calories during your workout, you don’t want to be consuming a 500 calorie protein shake) and choosing less than healthy options (perhaps as a reward for working out…).
4. What are the best exercises for getting rid of muffin tops/bat wings/inner thigh bulge?
Excess fat on the belly, upper arms and inner thighs doesn’t typically occur in isolation. If you’ve got it there, chances are you’ve got it everywhere. You can’t spot reduce. No exercise will target fat cells in just one part of the body. You need to target them all via exercise and proper nutrition.
And if you really want to see muscle definition once the layer of subcutaneous fat is shed, make sure you’re following a strength training program designed for muscular hypertrophy (here’s where having a personal trainer comes in handy).
5. Why can’t I just do cardio?
While cardiovascular training is great for building strong hearts and lungs, it doesn’t provide the stimulus your body needs to build bigger, stronger muscles and bones. Why? Our bodies adapt fairly quickly to the load we ask them to move; unless you’re gaining weight, your legs will always be subject to the same load and moving that load through the same, limited range of motion.
Adding strength training to your program allows you to (1) increase the load on your legs, (2) change the range of motion you move your joints through and (3) target muscles that you don’t typically use during cardiovascular training.
6. How frequently should I see a trainer?
The ideal frequency of personal training sessions varies from person to person. Just getting started with exercise and healthy eating? Need regular motivation and support to get to the gym? Have an injury that you’re working through? You’ll probably need to see a trainer once or twice each week. Many of my weekly clients reduce their frequency of personal training sessions to bi-weekly or even monthly once they’ve demonstrated the ability to consistently get to the gym and progress their exercises as recommended.
Although I miss seeing their smiling faces, I’m always pleased when clients reduce their need to see me because they’ve become self-directed exercisers.
7. How quickly will I see the results of my training?
Expect to FEEL the results of your training sooner than you SEE them. People who start a new exercise program and are consistent in getting their workouts done typically report improvements in sleep, mood and energy levels within two to three weeks. Changes in body composition often take longer to notice; the more consistent you are with your workouts and the closer you adhere to your nutrition plan, the sooner the results will become noticeable (to you and to others too!).
Try focusing on non-scale victories like how many more pushups you can now perform and how your favourite jeans fit.
8. Why don’t my workouts ever get easier?
You’d think that as your body becomes stronger and more familiar with the exercises your workouts would start to feel easier. Indeed, many people who ‘go it alone’ in the gym report exactly this. When exercises are progressed frequently and consistently, the body never truly adapts to the workout, making each feel just as challenging as the one before.
A qualified personal trainer knows how to progress your training plan to keep your body guessing and moving forward at a reasonable pace. When my clients lament that their workouts seem to be just as challenging as they were in the beginning, I know that I’m doing my job well!
9. Which should I do first; cardio or weights?
While there’s some evidence suggesting that if you’re doing both in a single session “weights before cardio” leads to faster fat loss, for most people the outcome will be the same regardless of which they do first. If you have a strong preference for one over the other (perhaps you find weights too taxing after cardio? or getting on a cardio machine too boring after you’ve done your strength workout), go with it. Whatever it takes to get your workout done.
Even better? Make your strength workout metabolic. Add short bursts of cardio-like movement between sets or super-sets. Keeping your heart rate elevated while lifting weights is not only more efficient, it may result in a higher calorie burn for the rest of the day.
10. What’s the best diet for weight loss?
The short answer? Any diet you can stick with for as long as it’s going to take. Studies have shown that regardless of the diet followed, adherence is the only thing that predicts success.
Beware of any diet that promises rapid weight loss (and expects you to consume fewer than 1000 calories per day); although you may lose a few pounds in the beginning, chances are you’ll be unable to stick to it long term. When it comes to weight loss, slow, steady and sustainable are key.
Have you ever worked with a personal trainer before?
Personal trainers, do you have any other commonly asked questions to add to my list?
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