Beginners’ guide to personal training

PTs were once reserved for celebsville or the glossy pages of fitness magazines such as ours, but these days accessing a PT for a one-on-one workout has become a lot easier and more affordable, meaning it’s likely you’ve considered whether you should enlist their help, too.

PTs were once reserved for celebsville or the glossy pages of fitness magazines such as ours, but these days accessing a PT for a one-on-one workout has become a lot easier and more affordable, meaning it’s likely you’ve considered whether you should enlist their help, too.
These workout guidance gurus are rapidly growing in numbers and the fitness industry has become awash with PTs, making it easier for many of us to keep in shape and grounded to our fitness goals, but at the same time, making it harder to select the right one.
Here’s your guide to finding the perfect PT for you, what to expect and how they can help you achieve your fitness goals.
The basics
A PT is a professional fitness instructor who assesses your fitness and health levels and prescribes a personalised exercise and training program to help you get fit, healthy and closer to your goals, which could be to lose weight, build muscle or more simply, tone up.
With a wealth of knowledge about the way our muscles work and how our bodies respond to exercise, PTs have an abundance of exercise know-how and can give you professional and sound advice on what type of exercise will most effectively work your body.
They provide one-on-one guidance sessions usually at a gym or studio, correcting technique, showing you which muscles to work out and how to get the most out of any exercise even when you’re exercising alone. Their role is to keep track of your progress, boost motivation levels, assist with maintaining a healthy eating program and provide a varied workout plan to keep your mind challenged and your body guessing.
PT and lecturer in personal training Arj Perera from Victoria University says the main idea behind personal training is to enable you to work harder than you normally would by yourself.
“You’re pushed to your maximum capacity; if you go to the gym by yourself and you’ve had a tiring and long day, it’s easy to be tempted to go home or work out at a lesser intensity,” Perera says.
“But with a PT you’re accountable to someone else and to yourself, and results-wise you’ll be able to more easily get what you want to achieve.”
Personal training is also about adapting to a new lifestyle, which PTs can create for you.
“PTs, especially senior PTs, can teach clients about nutrition, healthy lifestyle patterns and how to enjoy a lifestyle focused on health without it being too strict,” Perera says.
“As an example, I give all my clients a day off from their program and also custom-design a workout plan that fits with what they consider to be fun and enjoyable, which is important because there’s no point exercising and making diet tweaks when it’s unsatisfying and so rigid that it’s unachievable or very difficult to adhere to.”
Getting started
PTs are not just for health and fitness-conscious types who want to take their fitness program to the next level. If you’re new to exercise or gym workouts, having a PT to ease you into an effective workout plan is an ideal way to get started.
To consult with a PT at a gym, you usually need a gym membership, which is also good value for money because without it, you will have to pay for casual visits to use gym facilities, which can be costly, in addition to a separate fee to see your PT.
With a gym membership you’ll be able to access the profiles of the PTs working at the gym before you meet with one so you can be assured that they’re qualified (they must have a Certificate III and IV in Fitness).
You can also see the areas in which they specialise. Most PTs can help with weight loss, muscle building, toning and shaping as well as boosting fitness levels. Some PTs are qualified to help with post-natal workouts, strength and conditioning, and rehabilitation, so you’ll be able to narrow your choices down to a few PTs who suit your needs.
Once you’ve got a few potential PTs in mind, Perera advises to observe how your potential PT interacts with his or her clients before you make an appointment.
“Look at the PT from afar when you go to the gym by yourself and, if you get a chance, have a listen to what they’re saying to their client,” Perera says.
“Are they correcting technique? Is their client working hard enough? Look at the service they’re getting and how they interact with each other and if that’s the sort of direction you’re looking for, then go ahead and book a session.”
Most PTs who work in large gym chains offer free initial consultations in which an assessment of your fitness levels is made and a rough, trial workout plan is proposed. Set up consultations with your potential PTs, so you can assess whether the PT has made a workout plan that is fun, achievable and detailed and whether it touches on all aspects of your lifestyle – your eating habits, work/life balance, fitness goals and current health or fitness challenges.
Ensure your PT also complements your personality. Getting along with your PT and feeling comfortable with them is important and while this may be easier with a female PT, you shouldn’t rule out male PTs.
“You shouldn’t limit yourself just to female PTs and while male PTs can be fairly big and muscular, they’re approachable, and many male PTs can train women’s bodies just as well as female trainers,” he says.
After you’ve decided on the right PT, set a two-month time frame to work with him or her. In this time, you should be able to start seeing the results you’re looking for, but if not, it might be time to start looking for another one.
The benefits
“With the right PT, you can engage in fitness activities you never thought you’d be doing and achieving results you never thought you could,” Perera says.
PTs can up the variety, intensity, fun and motivation in your workout, allowing you to be a lot more successful with your fitness pursuits than when working out alone.
“A PT also provides, or should provide, constant contact and constant support, which is really important – it not only holds you accountable, but it also means you know you’re getting a personal service where your needs are the number one priority,” he says.
PTs also ensure you’re performing exercise moves correctly, which is important when it comes to making the most of your workout and getting desired results.
They’re also results-driven – if your progress is slow or if you’ve hit a plateau, PTs can make effective reassessments to ensure you’re on your way to your fitness goals.
There’s also flexibility – you can see a PT to lose pregnancy weight gain or you can see a PT for a longer period of time, making it a complete, long-term lifestyle.
“It’s up to you how long you train with a PT – if you’re progressing and if the PT comes up with new things for you to do then you can stay with them for as long as you want to stay on track with your fitness,” Perera says.
The risks
If a PT gives you a very basic workout and you come away feeling like you could have done the workout without the guidance, Perera says this is not effective personal training.
“That’s a risk that can come into play when you’re training with an under-experienced PT who can give you a very basic workout plan that is not varied or creative,” Perera says.
“Take the time to find the right PT – the greatest disadvantage and advantage is that the industry is now saturated, so you’ll be able to compare the knowledge, experience and passion of some PTs with those who aren’t so enthusiastic,” he says.
Suffering injuries is another potential risk when it comes to working out with a PT. Be cautious as some PTs are less aware of the physiological structure of the body than others, which means you can sometimes overwork muscle groups, causing potentially dangerous muscle tears and other injuries.
“A PT must be attentive when it comes to the client experiencing working muscle soreness or muscle or joint pain, which could point to an injury, and also how the client is doing an exercise and how they’re feeling in order to prevent injuries occurring,” Perera says.
“It all comes down to finding the right PT – experience and passion are the most important factors in a PT and once you start training with the right one, you won’t want to stop.”

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