One Size Does Not Fit All

by Mykel McElwee

It amazes me that the modus operandi of most physical conditioning programs still tend to gravitate toward old school training techniques. Sure, there are plenty of old school training exercises like push-ups that are quite effective in building muscle. And as far as aerobic conditioning? Who can argue that suicide sprints are ineffective for increasing an athlete’s cardiovascular endurance? But more to the point is this: simply putting together a workout that can kick someone’s butt does not constitute an effective workout. In fact, it can cause a whole lot of unnecessary pain and injury; even for the young individual in the "prime of their life". You may be able to beat them up a bit more. They might be able to "recover" quicker, but the lasting wear and tear eventually catches up. Reaching back to what your coach’s coach did when he/she was in high school, "The way we’ve always done it", is built upon antiquated thinking. It is important to recognize that this "one size fits all" approach doesn’t take into account the specific requirements necessary in designing a safe and effective exercise program for each individual.

"Why should I pay a trainer to help me do what I can do myself?" This "do-it-yourself" approach leaves many a talented athlete in a mess. Much like the home-owner who decides to take the "do-it-yourself" approach to save money and begins to gut his bathroom and remodel. Simply reading a few books, watching a few videos and combining that with the "way we did it back in the day" does not make for a safe and effective fitness program. Can one just read a recipe, watch the Food Network and then improvise with whatever is in the kitchen cupboard and expect it to measure up to Chef Ramsey? No. But isn’t this exactly what many individuals do with their own bodies? They put together their own workout recipe. Your body is not a kitchen to improvise in. You can’t just throw away what you’ve done and simply just start over each time you make a mistake. Often the body (and mind) pay the consequences. Similarly, implementing a professional fitness program, requires professional ability.

So what are the pre-requisites to designing a safe and effective fitness program? First an foremost, know the difference between professional training and "do it yourself". Don’t assume that your coach or the star athlete knows enough. A professional trainer has taken the time to educate him or herself in several areas of Exercise Science. These areas include: exercise physiology, anatomy, biomechanics, applied kinesiology and nutrition. Health screening, testing and evaluation are other tools that a professional trainer will use. Any professional trainer understands that regardless of a client’s fitness level, specific principles and methods are required for designing a safe and effective exercise program. The five key components are: Cardiovascular Fitness, Muscular Strength, Muscular Endurance, Flexibility and Weight Control. It is also important to remember that a safe and effective fitness program should be individualized. One size DOES NOT FIT ALL! Even programming for the average "healthy adult" requires a trainer to adapt and modify exercises for various ages and body types. A good trainer keeps a keen eye on a client’s form as they execute each specific movement. A professional trainer is also skilled in assessing a client’s varying health conditions and injuries. A good trainer also understands how to address specific "exercise related concerns" for each special population. The high school varsity athlete trains differently than the middle-aged dad who suffers from arthritis.

As a trainer with over 15 years in the personal training field I empathize with those of you who struggle getting past the price of hiring a personal trainer. I am one who approaches many projects with a "do it yourself" mentality. Yes, the money is a factor but so is my pride; "I CAN DO THIS!" For many years before becoming a professional trainer I tried to get in shape on my own. In fact, It was my own personal exercise frustrations nearly 20 years ago that finally lead me to finally hire a trainer. At the time it was a trainer that I "couldn’t afford". But it was that investment that finally yielded results. Now as I approach being "50 years old" I value more than ever what wisdom and experience brings to the table. I now appreciate that many instances that turn out better when I make the financial commitment to hire a professional.

Regardless of your physical condition or age, exercise and movement are essential for a healthy life. Most people know this, but many still lack enthusiasm when it comes to getting to the gym. Consider exploring the difference working with a personal trainer can make. For many, a personal trainer can make all the difference in reaching their fitness goals. Make sure your trainer is certified and insured. These are 2 pre-requisites that ensure that he/she is a professional and not just something they do for extra money. Try out a professional trainer and see the difference for yourself. A better you is possible.

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