There are many things I wish I would have known sooner in both my own pursuit of health and fitness AND as an individual trying to "make it" as a personal trainer. One of the first things that comes to mind to me is the importance of following a program and the phases that go along with that.
The Beginning Of My Fitness Journey
Oh my gosh! When I first started "working out" I had absolutely no freaking idea what I was doing. I had just started university and walked into a commercial gym for the very first time and was instantly overwhelmed. The very first thing I gravitated towards was the treadmill and elliptical because I had a friend show me how to work those two machines so I stuck with it because everything else seemed too complicated and scary. I then joined some fitness classes with light weights and a ton of repetitions. I of course got there early and set up at the back of class because (again) it was new and scary. I slowly started feeling like I was getting the hang of this exercise thing and graduated my self to the "scary" area of the gym where all the machines and dumbbells and other contraptions I had no idea how to use were. I think this transition took me about a year or two if I remember correctly. I started doing the exercises I learned in some of the fitness classes and introductory kinesiology classes.
Around this time I got my personal training certification and for some reason I got hired with basically no experience (it must have been my charming personality haha kidding.. kind of) at the university gym. I am forever grateful for the opportunity they gave me and boy oh boy did I ever learn a lot! I loved the atmosphere that I actually stayed there for 7 years! Anyways that was a side track - my bad.
I bounced around doing different exercises every day and had no structure when it came to workouts for myself (and unfortunately it was like that for my clients for a little while as well) because really how important is following a program anyways? Typically my workouts would start with cardio for however long and at whatever intensity I felt like. Next I would just walk to the weights area and saw what was available for equipment and would base my circuits on that. I always had a general idea as to what I was doing in terms of form and such but had no structure/program with workouts. I just one that "today I want to do legs" etc. This was also the same approach I had with my clients very early in my career. Did they see results? Yes - because they were all new exercisers so going from doing nothing to something you will see some changes but that will only take you so far. Embarrassingly I did not keep track of workouts, weights, progression, rest periods or anything like that! I would just ask how they were feeling and go from there. Looking back I wish I would have figured stuff out sooner but that is the only way we learn - by making mistakes!
The First Time I Followed A Program
I still remember the first time I bit the bullet and signed up for coaching with a personal trainer that I respected and looked up to. Boy did I ever learn a lot!
1. I was forced to do exercises that I did not typically do! These were exercises I avoided for a number of reasons:
I was not good at them - and no one likes to do things they are not good at (but practice makes perfect)
I found them challenging (push ups and lunges - I still hate them but I still do them to this day because they are good for you)
I found them boring - planks (I need someone to distract me when I do them otherwise it is the longest 20-30 seconds of your life!)
New exercises - I tried new things that I had seen but had never bothered trying or though just "weren't for me". Turns out that the things you don't do are typically the ones that produce the most change because it is such a new stimulus!
2. I was kept accountable and improved my consistency!
If I complained that things were not going well, or I was struggling, my trainer gave me reality checks. "It doesn't look like you have upped your weights", "I know you could have pushed out 3 more reps so you need to up the weights", "you missed 2 workouts last week", "what does your sleep look like" etc.
This taught me to be consistent and really understand the process of progression. The important thing was to communicate with my trainer. Instead of just complaining and being unhappy with the process/results and just quitting.
3. Rest Days!
It forced me to take rest days which I rarely did prior to the process! I was working out 5-7 days a week!
I learned what my responded best to and how much recovery was necessary for me!
If I had the itch to be in the gym more it made me focus on mobility, light exercise etc. which I had never done before!
4. Rest Periods!
This was a bit of a slap in the face to be honest! My breaks between sets were way longer than I thought.
What a difference 30-60 seconds can make!
5. Huge Improvements!
I could not believe the improvements I saw not only in my form and technique but my physique too! I had been exercising regularly for 2-3 years prior to this and just after 4 weeks I could not believe how I looked! After 8 weeks people noticed! My lower body just exploded and I was only training 3-4 days of weights of week!
I had never felt stronger or healthier and MY JOINTS FELT AMAZING!
To this day I still thinking hiring a personal trainer and online coach was probably one of the most valuable experiences for myself both personally and professionally. You learn things in school, internet and courses but sometimes you just do not fully understand it until you get to experience it yourself! It is so much easier to reach health and fitness goals, your learn to enjoy and appreciate the process AND you can relate to your clients better this way by having a shared experience.
Personally, for me I now know that full body workouts are better for me (joint, performance and physique wise) than the split workouts I was doing prior. I learned that training more often is not great for my body - I am far more prone to injuries and my recovery just is not adequate otherwise. I learned I need to physically have a workout plan made in advance otherwise I do not challenge myself enough, my rest periods are inconsistent and I end up doing the same exercises ALL the time. I learned so much during the process and I still learn new things about my body all the time! I wish I would have learned the value of following a personalized program and sticking to it much earlier in my career and fitness journey. Not only would I have benefitted myself (and avoided more injuries) but I could have applied this to my clients early in my career. Having a program to follow allows you to be more consistent (which is arguably the MOST important part when trying to reach health and fitness goals), track progress and over time will allow you to see what is best for you.
Do not let pride get in your way to ask for help! If I hadn't reached out to someone I considered a mentor I would not have gotten to where I am today (or at least it would have taken me much much longer!)
- Stephanie Fusnik