PT Magazine - What To Expect - Article 1

I recently celebrated my first year as a freelance personal trainer and can honestly say it’s been the most thrilling, frightening, interesting year of my life. Everything I thought I knew about myself and the way I work has been challenged, changed, chewed up and spat out numerous times. For all you trainers just starting out, I hope my journey will inspire and encourage you as well as give you a realistic and honest view about what may lie ahead, and for all you old-timers, just a solid reminisce about the good ole’ days!

In my humble opinion, the key to this and indeed many new experiences is actually to keep expectations to a minimum. You never know what or who may be around the corner and how you management of each situation will change and in fact the further down the line you travel, the greater your ability to handle whatever life throws at you will become. Whatever happens, it’s of the utmost importance to remain positive and focused.

As mentioned, a realistic outlook is a good way to handle disappointment – but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim high. You probably won’t get 10 clients within your first week qualified, but give it a month and who knows? Remember, only you have the power to obtain what you want, it won’t fall into your lap. A friend gave me an invaluable piece of advice, which has stuck with me ever since – ‘ be proactive, not reactive’. Preparation is really just another form of expectation and without it it’s likely you won’t be successful in your venture. Make lists, plan every session and draft emails to clients.

Your clients and their behaviour and attitude are two huge aspects of your job that are out of your control. One of the overriding changes I’ve noticed in myself since I qualified is how much more patient and open-minded I’ve become about other people and I’d be very surprised if the same didn’t happen to you. There will be times when clients turn up unhappy, sad, impatient or disappointed and it’s your job not only to train them, but to support them and take on board why they are feeling the way they are feeling, without asking too many questions. Unfortunately, we can’t make people act a certain way and your transition from a good trainer into a GREAT trainer will hinge on how you adapt to each and every person you encounter.

Sophie Kay, owner and trainer at Fitology says, ‘I remember being worried about over-selling myself and sounding big-headed or boastful, but you soon realise self-belief is imperative to obtaining business. Develop your own style, be proud of it, and be ready to adapt ’.

Now for the less theoretical part – or ‘boring bit’ if you will, and you may have already guessed that this is the part where I need to talk about money. Like any vocational job, this definitely isn’t one you should undertake for the money and you may well be working at a loss for a few months, once you’ve got your equipment, your park license if you’re freelance or rent if you work for a gym and your insurance. I had to save most of what I earned my first year to pay a big tax bill + accountant fees – the glamour!

Just because you have become your own boss doesn’t mean you need to feel funny or awkward discussing fees. Deciding what your hourly rate is may depend on where you live or your skill-set but once you know what your price range is, stick with it. You many want to offer people a trial session before they commit to a block so they can see how you both work together; never forget that hiring a PT is for many a big financial commitment and, within reason of course, you need to take steps to reassure them that your service is worth the price.

Once the sessions are booked, write them down and towards each session you might find you need to remind the client of the time and location. Your cancellation policy is completely up to you to decide; be flexible, but not to the extent that it affects the rest of your business. Although I’ve spoken a lot about what you do for your clients, ultimately you are the most important part of your brand. Your personality and your ability to work with others is your USP as a personal trainer; never copy anyone else’s style.

I’d like to wish everyone either recently or soon to be qualified a huge good luck during your first year as a PT and beyond – if in doubt, remember the 3 P’s – Positivity, Preparation and Proactivity. And most important of all – believe in yourself. You got this! 

Keeping Fit on Holiday

There are two types of holiday makers when it comes to food and fitness – those who make an effort to maintain there usual routine throughout their trip, and those who use it as a break from it. Although much of this blog is aimed at the former, before I begin I’ll make it clear that I don’t often fall into that category myself. Since becoming a trainer my commitment to my body and mind has become much bigger; not only because I’m more active than I was at my desk job but also because it’s my professional duty to be the best I can be, physically and mentally. I was recently in New York for 6 days and made a promise to myself that I would enjoy my time there, rest, relax and not focus on exercise or diet.

As many of you know I am a big believer in rest and relaxation and if you’re off on a trip I would always encourage you to treat it as the luxury it is – explore new places, enjoy eating and drinking and forget about your weight. However, I know that many of you may prefer to slide a workout or two (or more!) into your vacation and for those that do there are below some ideas on timings, workouts and eating that may help you next time you pack your bags. Remember, this is just advice – you do what makes YOU comfortable and happy.

First of all – always try and get that workout done as early as possible, then it’s out of the way and you can enjoy the rest of your day without it playing on your mind. If you go somewhere hot, the evening will likely be the warmest time of day and best avoided.

If you’re staying somewhere that has a gym, I’d aim for a half and half cardio to strength split. That could mean 30 minutes on the bike, or 15 on the bike, 15 on the tread, then weights. Adding in some high intensity intervals such as sprints or heavy incline work is more effective that a steady pace so you could always do a 15 minute run then 15 minutes sprints at a minute on, minute off ratio.

With weights, I’d personally keep it lighter as I wouldn’t want DOMS on a holiday. A circuit with lighter weights would still get you hot and sweaty without putting too much pressure on your muscles. For example:

 

60 secs work, 15 rest, repeated 5 times:

Kettle bell swings (8-12kg bell)

Weighted jump jacks (i.e. 1.5 – 2kg dumbells)

Russian twists (5kg)

Clean (10-15kg)

Burpees

 

Then to finish off, core and arm bodyweight work such as push ups, planks and crunches. Make sure you’re working towards the lighter end away from your rep max and you won’t get any soreness the next day.

If you don’t have a gym at your disposal, fear not. There are HUNDREDS of bodyweight exercises you can do in your hotel room or outside that are just as effective as using weights in the gym. Again a split between cardio and strength will refresh and revive you – you could always run or swim for that cardio interval but please make sure you are hydrated and out of strong sunlight as nobody needs sunstroke on their holiday!

For your bodyweight exercises, a simple circuit such as the one below will work all the muscles of your body.

 

45 seconds of each exercise, b2b, repeated 6 times with a 60 second rest inbetween

Burpees

Mountain climbers

Travelling plank

Ab cycles

Jack squats

 

If you have a bench/bed/chair to use, you can add in tricep dips, v-ups, elevated push-ups, etc. Make sure whatever you use is fixed to the ground – you don’t want to damage yourself or the hotel!

Food-wise; this is a tricky one for me. One of the joys of going somewhere abroad is eating all day long and my honest answer about dieting on holiday would be DON’T. However, if you’re keen not to cut too loose, the usual rules apply – not too my booze or sugar, keep white carbs to a minimum and watch your portion size.

Finally and most importantly – no matter what you do when you’re on holiday, have as much fun as you possibly can. If, like me, you return home a little out of shape, it’s nothing more than a sign of how hard you were working before and an incentive to build yourself up again.

News + Views

Happiness Rules

Over breakfast a few days ago I read a feature which discussed cynicism, or the lack thereof, observed in London recently (read the full article here: http://bit.ly/1Vmg5i4). The author lamented our transgression from negative, narrow-minded piss-takers to happy clappy hippies, high-kicking our way through exercise classes and beaming at fellow shoppers in Tesco with an energy not normally in keeping with our usual moany old outlook on life.

As someone who has a fairly sunny disposition I would say this – life is TOUGH. As mentioned in the article – house prices are huge, work is long, kids are snotty, weather is HORRENDOUS. So if you want to be chirpy you go ahead and BE CHIRPY. Go to that insanely mega-happy workout, smile for no reason, do kind things and accept compliments when they are paid. It might not fully distract you from your mortgage, but it’s a start.

Training

Small brag – as I’ve got fitter and stronger it’s becoming harder for me to find workouts that really push me apart from swimming and trail running. So I was delighted to discover the almighty Dom who I train with on Sunday, and Barry’s Bootcamp which I have been meaning to check out for years.

Spending so much time instructing others, it’s great to be told what to do and how to do it by experienced fitness professionals. Not only do I feel stronger and fitter but I’m learning so much about my own role as a PT. Now if only I could find a trainer to make me better at dealing with this HORRID COLD WEATHER.

Testimonials

I’ve added a few testimonials at the bottom of my homepage. Nothing but nothing makes me happier than a text or email from a client telling me their abs or legs are sore – it’s like telling a regular person they look 10 years younger.  Check them out here and see you next time! http://www.trainedbyeleanor.com/

PT's vs Fitness 'Gurus'

Please do excuse what I believe is my first ‘rant’-y blog piece, although this is just as much a piece of advice as it is a rant. My advice is to anyone thinking about investing in their fitness, and why they should choose a properly qualified trainer and not a filmed workout video or package deal by a celebrity calling themselves a ‘fitness guru’.

There are HEAPS of workouts by TV personalities out there and you will notice something they all have in common – every one of them appears on film accompanied by a personal trainer. This is a legality for the sole reason that people who aren’t qualified to train one-on-one cannot do so. You legally cannot call yourself a personal trainer unless you have taken the appropriate exams and so many people are getting round this by using the term ‘guru’ or ‘expert’. Gaining the PT title is a big investment and we do it so we can safely and effectively guide you towards your goals.

I didn’t know what to expect before I started studying for my PT quals. Maybe a bit of physical, a few endurance tests, some written work and basic health and safety?

The reality of course was quite different. We were tested rigourously, physically, verbally and mentally every 2 weeks on human biology, the principles of exercise, business acumen and several different types of workout disciplines. Every other weekend, Saturday and Sunday, from 8:30am until 5:30pm, we alternated between the gym and our classroom, our brains overwhelmed by the amount of information we needed to retain in order to pass our exams. It was only when these exams were over (and there were many of them), following an almost heart-breaking amount of revision and an even more upsetting amount of nights at the pub sacrificed, that we could finally call ourselves Personal Trainers.

There are so many things that a personal trainer can give you that an electronic workout out can’t. For a start you’ll be in the hands of someone proficient in Health & Safety, who can judge your exertion levels and progress or regress the workout on the spot and accordingly. Each session is different and tailored to suit your goals and the rate at which you are progressing. If you’re not a people-person, all you need to do is tell us and we’ll make sure we communicate with you appropriately. We can email you extra workouts to complete between sessions and text you encouragement.  You’ll walk away with not only a better body but all the necessary information you’ll need to create your own workouts when you’re by yourself.

I am by no means calling these ‘famous’ people’s passion for a healthy lifestyle into question, or their commitment to spreading the word about the benefits of regular exercise. But the premise they are selling these short workouts on isn’t accurate. You can’t firm up your bum in 3 minutes or get a flat tummy in 8. To lose weight or gain muscle and maintain lasting results you need a carefully thought out regime, by a proper professional, that is designed specifically for you and you only. They don’t call us ‘personal’ trainers for nothing!

So please do consider putting your health in the hands of someone like me. I can promise you that it will be worth your while. 

Interval Training - What, Why, How

Interval training of some type makes an appearance in many of my one-to-one sessions as well as my own workouts and I often get asked about the whys and what-fors. I like to make clients aware of why I’m training them in a certain why so I decided to explain in this blog what HIIT (high intensity interval training) is, why I use this method of training so much, and how it can benefit you.

HIIT is simply a combination of short bursts of intense activity combined with periods of lower intensity activity, which could be the same exercise performed slower, or complete rest. For example, 30 seconds of movement paired with 15 seconds of rest. You can create all manner of different time and rep combinations, as well as increasing or decreasing rest times as you move further into the workout. You can also combine weighted moves with cardio, and make a circuit as long or as short as you like. The world really is your oyster when it comes to interval training.

Using HIIT training one-to-one with a client is good for many reasons – the short bursts of exercise increase fitness faster than lower-intensity exercise and because the work periods are more intense the efficiency of the workout is vastly improved.  I find the rest periods give clients time to mentally prepare for the work periods and really push themselves for the next interval. Because there are so many variations to try, HIIT is a good way to keep clients motivated and make sure they don’t get bored. For clients working on muscular endurance, adding in strength-based exercises is a reliable way to see the physical changes one may be striving for.

The benefits of HIIT are endless. At a base level, aerobic training will increase your cardiovascular fitness and give you a healthier heart and circulatory system. The short, sharp work periods burn calories at an accelerated rate and there are studies to prove that you keep on burning them long after you’ve finished your work out. Endurance will improve as a result of fat-loss and improved cardiac output. Finally, and in my opinion most interestingly, because of the increase in blood pressure during the work periods, the flexibility and elasticity of your arteries and veins improves too. Imagine a balloon – you could blow it up in one breath, or you could keep letting air in and out of it until it becomes more malleable and can hold a much greater amount of air.  I LOVE BALLOONS! And HIIT. 

#noexcuses

We’ve spent pretty much all of 2015 reminding ourselves and each other of the positive feelings associated with exercise. Why we should do it, when we should do it, why we shouldn’t not do it. Any one familiar with the saying ‘The only workout you’ll regret is the one you didn’t do’? And then there’s my favourite of these passive-aggressive ‘motivational’ soundbites – ‘No Excuses’.

I admit it – I’m guilty of using this dirty little hash-tag. There are so many of these and others like it (#nodaysoff, #neverquit etc) but I’m fairly certain that you, like me, have gotten pretty bored of one too many shredded fitness models telling me that I’m weak and feeble because a hangover, torrential rain or some quality time with my friends and family take precedent over a workout.

The fact is, if I myself have the odd excuse not to exercise, I can’t tell my clients that they can’t have their own. There are plenty of reasons you might decide not to push yourself into a workout – illness, fatigue, injury, muscle pain. You might have family commitments which leave you without any time to workout – mums in particular seem to be an easy target for fitness professionals who think that there is #noexcuse for finding time in the day to burn calories. Only YOU know what your body, your time and your energy can fit in and there’s no place for anyone who tells you that your excuses don’t matter.

On the flipside – I wouldn’t be any good at my job if I encouraged people to excuse themselves out of getting fit over and over again. You know when you’ve run out of reasons for starting to take better care of yourself, and when you reach that point, I’m here for you.  You’ll be #betterforit – now there’s a hashtag I think we can all get on board with! 

Failure - And Why You Don't Need To Worry About It

A couple of blogs ago I talked about our Comfort Zones and why reaching this stage can be de-motivating for both clients and trainers alike. This week I’d like to go back in time and discuss a far more common fear around weight-loss and fitness, a fear that can engulf you before you even begin contemplating exercise, and a fear than can and does frequently put people off exercising at all – the fear of Failure.

With any journey you embark on there is always a chance that you may fail. Everyone, including the fittest of us all, will experience disappointment in some form. It could be a weight-loss or gain plateau, a failure to lift heavier from one week to the next, a diet-related fall off the wagon, regression in form due to injury or illness, the list is endless.

If you fail – remember two things. The first is that everyone, even that super-sexy model you follow on social media, has days were they don’t stick to a regime. We’re humans, not robots, and the road to fitness is never going to be a perfectly smooth one. I actually think that’s the beauty of training – a step back can be the encouragement you need to push farther and dig deeper next time.

Secondly – failure is relative. You’ve only failed if you think you have. You could choose to perceive a chocolate binge or a slower 5k PB as a step back or you could choose to look at the bigger picture and realise that it’s A-OK to afford yourself some down-time, and that by deciding to change the way you live is success in itself – as long as you stay focused, love yourself and recognise how awesome it is each and every time you achieve something, those times when you think you ‘failed’ will become an important part of your path to better health. 

A good trainer will never let you feel like you've failed. A good trainer will embrace every step you take, be it forward or backward. A good trainer will help you in any way they can to get you back on track and remind you how far you've come <3