Personal training for personal trainers

Have you ever heard the phrase “doctors make the worst patients”?

I think that sometimes a similar phrase also applies to personal trainers. At least this personal trainer…

personal training for personal trainers

One of you will know where this picture was taken…

Sure, we know to create programs to address each of our client’s unique goals. We’re well versed in the theories of ‘target heart rate’ and progressive resistance training‘. We’ll earnestly tell you how important it is to go to the gym with a written plan in hand and to schedule your workouts like you do your other health-related appointments. We’ll also remind you that the exercises you like least are often the ones you most need to do (perhaps with the exception of burpees; nobody really NEEDS to do burpees 😉 ).

But despite KNOWING how to help people improve their fitness and health, we don’t always take our own advice to heart.

Ever since I came back from the Ultimate Booty Workouts photo shoot, I’ve been wandering aimlessly around the gym.

After an intense focus on exercise and nutrition in the months leading up to the shoot, I found myself without a goal. Sure, I was still exercising (teaching 2-3 group fitness classes each week ensures that I never completely de-condition), but the days that I did head into the weight room, my workouts were lacklustre, low energy and very, very short.

Last week, while talking with an online client about the many benefits of hiring a personal trainer, I had an ‘aha’ moment.

In order to get back on track, I needed my own personal trainer.

Rather than hire somebody else (I tend towards frugality, unless Fluevogs are involved…), I decided to treat myself as if I were my own client (do doctors do this too?). I sat down and filled out the same health history and goal-setting forms that I send to all new clients.

I forced myself to be honest, knowing that my trainer’s job was not to judge, but to make an honest appraisal of my current fitness level and design a program that would help me reach my goals.

This is what ‘she’ came up with. (She’s tough, you know…)

personal training for personal trainers

My clients will recognize this form…

  •  A switch in focus from almost all lower-body training to body part splits. My body responds very well to this type of training, building muscle and shedding fat as long as I keep upping the weights.
  • Two core-focused segments added to the end of days’ 1 and 2 workouts; my lower back has been bothering me occasionally, upon getting up in the mornings and strengthening my abdominals and obliques always helps with this.
  • Sticking with two days of lower body training. I used to hate training legs, probably because they take a lot longer to respond to strength training than my arms. What you don’t love to do = what you need to do.
  • Limiting strength workouts to a maximum of 24 sets, which typically takes me 30 to 40 minutes. My trainer knows that if she prescribes a longer training session, I’ll skip out before the final set 😉
  • Vary reps and sets as follows; Week 1, 3 sets of 10 reps (this is a good baseline setter for me); Week 2, 3 sets of 12 reps (working on increasing endurance and perhaps load for some exercises); Week 3, 3 sets of 8 reps (all exercises get progressed this week); Week 4, 4 sets of 8 reps (perhaps no increase in load, but endurance gets tested); Week 5, de-loading (take a break from this program, engage in active recovery at or away from the gym).

Here are the specifics for my Day 1 program; Days 2 and 3 are similarly laid out, with 4 super-sets of exercises targeting the relevant muscle groups.

personal training for personal trainers

In case you’re wondering, this was a very hard workout for me…

Note that this program covers all the elements of a good personal training program. It’s goal-centric, it’s scheduled, the progressions are built in and there’s an end point in sight. All ‘my client’ needs to do is follow the plan. Hee-hee.

[Note that the above program is designed specifically for me, taking my schedule, fitness level, current injuries and strength training goals into consideration. I’m sharing this program here, not because I think YOU should be doing it too, but because several members of my Facebook group were curious as to how I train and what my 4-6 week progressive resistance training cycle looks like.]

Do you work with a personal trainer?

If not, do you (a) create your own month long program, (b) plan your workouts day by day or (c) just wing it when you get to the gym?

Any personal trainers out there who’ve worked with another personal trainer? I’d love to hear about your experience!






  1. I pity the personal trainer I ever decide to hire. You’ve got a great idea. I’ve never filled out my own forms. I think I’ll do that when I get ready for my next phase of workouts. Thanks for the idea!
    Pamela Hernandez recently posted…Celebrating a Sugar Free HalloweenMy Profile

  2. Excellent. For me, this has never been a concern because, as you know, exercise and music are all I think about. My evolution in different areas of exercise is ongoing, but usually seamless, and quite organic.

    BUT, as a matter of time, and making it happen, I have used myself as my own trainer in several instances in my life. The one that comes to mind was around 2008-2009 when I was working 10 sessions a day, 6 days per week — and I had no time to workout.

    SO, I hired myself to train myself. I really paid me I really scheduled me into my day. I really let no other client bump that spot. It worked quite well, and the hour was intense since I like to get my money’s worth.

    I did, though, give myself an employee discount.

    True story…
    Contemplative Fitness recently posted…Into the mystic…My Profile

  3. LOL this is SO true. I’m terribly off any plan right now. I’m just winging it and it’s stressing me out!
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted…Feeling Jumpy Halloween Special – Workout WednesdayMy Profile

  4. When I’m comp. training I use Wendler’s, it’s specific and progressed and satisfies my needs. But after 3 months, I start craving some variety and fun!

    Then I build in a month or more of GPP work – ball slams, weight drags, TGUs, body weight work. Seriously considering add this INTO the Wendler’s program on the 4th (recovery) week. Might be the best of both worlds!
    deb roby recently posted…While We Walk…My Profile

  5. Great idea – I’ve never tried that method but it makes a ton of sense!!
    Kim recently posted…Some Thoughts Are Better Left UnsaidMy Profile

  6. Tamara, I think we all need to hear a different side no matter how experienced we are in training. If I could afford it, I would hire a person here to just do different things with me OR those things I have read about but want to see executed in person by a knowledgeable trainer… Ya never know it all! 🙂

    As for myself, I think ahead but I don’t do a plan like you. I know what my goals are because I am, basically wear I want to be so I just want to keep at it to maintain & yes, improve in areas that I need to with age. I have pout much more into my legs & butt int he past year or 2 due to aging.. the arms, I started to lift a bit heavier because of age – I just plan like that – look in the mirror, see what is happening with the bod & adjust. I always have a plan going into the gym each day but it may change based on how I feel during, if the exercise feels right or not & if the equipment is available so I always have options in mind & open to them although I don’t like to have to not get what I want in the gym! 😉
    Jody – Fit at 55 recently posted…Would You Buy This? What Motivates You to Buy? A Message to All You Magazines/Advertisers Out There!My Profile

  7. I think I would ROCK with an online trainer—but not an in person one 🙂
    Im too intuitive and with someone standing over me shed know I was plan tweaking and deviating 🙂
    Miz recently posted…How to purchase and care for a yoga mat.My Profile

  8. Sounds like a great plan! My students are future doctors and we often discuss whether or not doctors should be held to the same advice in terms of maintaining their health (e.g. no smoking; be of healthy weight). Most of my students did think that doctors should represent the picture of the best health.
    As for trainers – the main discrepancy I see is in the way a lot of the trainers around me eat. Lots of processed foods and sugars. It surprises me!

    • I must work at a pretty healthy facility; the food that my colleagues bring for lunch is almost always super healthy. The people at the front desk, however, often have a bowl of candy, bag of chips or box of donuts sitting on the counter…

  9. Nice insights! I really loved reading this post. I believe that great things learned can be imparted to others. Proper training to trainers could really help a lot in creating amazing results to clients. In this manner, personal trainers could give great training to clients that could achieve the ultimate goal in fitness.

  10. I just stumbled upon this because I, as well, was looking for a solution to the training a trainer dilemma. I am in a small town with very few trainers and I have decided I am going to hire one to keep me on track. I can’t train myself because it is way too easy to let things slide. An outside party expecting you to accomplish goals is much more motivating. However, I have heard of other trainers training each other (setting up appointment with other at different times) and finding benefit with that. Plus, it’s cost-effective! Trainers need their butt kicked too!