The Essentials of Hiring a Personal Trainer

Hiring a personal trainer is often a step in the right direction if you want to lose weight or get healthy.  A good trainer can put you on the path to success, keep your feet to the fire so to speak, and definitely help make meeting your fitness goals a little easier. However, finding and choosing a personal trainer isn’t always that easy.

When looking for a personal trainer, you’re likely to have several questions, and that’s great.  You should be asking as many questions as you need to feel comfortable with that individual.  Be sure to ask that trainer about their:

  • Education – Are they certified through a reputable personal training organization?
  • Experience – What type of experience, particularly that relates to your specific goals do they have?  Have they ever personally struggled with weight concerns?  
  • Communication – Are they easy to talk to?  Can they explain things to you in a way you understand?  How long do they generally take to return a phone call or email?
  • Style – What type of style do they use when training?  Are they vocal preferring to push their clients like a drill sergeant or are they more laid back and warm and fuzzy?  
  • Results – How successful is their track record with past clients?  

Once you’ve worked through a Q&A session, you should have a good idea as to that individual’s personality.  So, the final question you need to ask yourself is, “Do we make a good match?”  

 While the relationship you form with your trainer isn’t a friendship, you will be spending a lot of time with them, and you want to be sure you can get along well enough.

Three Concerns When Hiring a Trainer

Not all personal trainers are created equal.  That’s why it is so important that you do your due diligence before signing up with a personal trainer.  Don’t hesitate to ask as many questions as you need to in order to feel comfortable.  If the trainer refuses to answer, or you don’t like what you’re hearing, move on to the next candidate!

When hiring a personal trainer, you should ask:

What are your qualifications and certifications?  Primarily, you need to determine just how competent they are.  The unfortunate fact is that anyone can set themselves up as a personal trainer.  There is no mandated comprehensive testing or licensing required for personal training.  Furthermore, training for personal trainers can range from professionals who have a degree from an accredited university to others who have taken a basic fitness course spanning a couple of weeks.  


What type of training methods do you use?

A red flag should go up if the trainer you are interviewing suggests they use the same “tried and true” method with every client.  Methods should vary depending on a variety of factors such as your health needs and fitness level, as well as the trainer’s experience and preferences.  

What are your policies and procedures?

Admittedly, this isn’t the part most people want to discuss but it’s important.  Any personal trainer should provide you with their written policy outlining their services, costs, contract length, and cancellation procedure, regardless if you ask for one or not.  Always be suspicious of any business that won’t provide this information.

Focus Matters

Some personal trainers promote programs that focus on losing weight.  It sounds good when you’re struggling with a weight problem and looking for a solution, but this may well be a recipe for failure instead of success.  

Weight loss programs are geared toward individuals wanting to lose weight.  You already know to lose weight you are going to have to eat fewer calories than what you burn, and that the only way you are going to burn more calories is to increase your physical activity level.  This makes many people defensive because they think they are going to have to deprive themselves while suffering through hours of grueling exercise, as long-forgotten muscles protest the increase in physical activity.  Definitely doesn’t sound very appealing or motivating does it?

That’s why the focus of a program matters so much.  Finding a program that concentrates on modifying behavior in order to achieve a healthier lifestyle that will last well beyond any weight loss is essential.  You need and should demand, a solution that is going to produce long-term results.

The goal of the program you ultimately pick should promote what you are going to “gain” not what you are going to “lose.”  With the Grinder Gym program, you’ll gain strength, energy, knowledge, support, confidence and so much more.  That’s why the only people you’ll find at the Grinder Gym are Winners, not Losers!

Pump It Up Ladies

Many women cringe whenever a trainer suggests adding weight lifting to their fitness regimen.  Fears of bulking up like Arnold Schwarzenegger spring to mind and the idea is shot down without consideration.  This is unfortunate because the benefits of lifting weights far outweigh any baseless fears you may have.

The reality is that muscle burns fat.  In fact, for every 3 pounds of muscle you can build, you’ll be able to burn up to an extra 120 calories a day because muscle takes more energy to maintain.  Imagine.  You could burn up to the equivalent of ten pounds of fat in a year!

A workout with weights gives you a longer metabolic boost – up to an hour as your body tries to help hard-worked muscles recover.  What does that mean for you?  It means you’ll reap the reward of burning 25 percent more calories.

You’re thinking, “That’s great Dave, but I don’t want to look like some 300 lb. bodybuilder!”  

You can’t and won’t because you simply don’t have what it takes.  

What do I mean by that?

Women don’t have as much testosterone as men, in fact, they’ve got 15 to 20 times less than men, and without testosterone, women lack the ability to gain muscle mass.  Repeated research has shown that working with heavy weights will promote strength NOT size.

So, if you really want to look AND feel great, pick up those weights and start lifting!

Thin Doesn’t Mean You’re Healthy

True or False.  An overweight active person can be healthier than a skinny inactive individual.  If you answered, “false,” you’d be wrong!  

As hard as this may be to believe, weight is not always a great indicator of health, and being thin certainly doesn’t mean you’re healthy.  

Researchers have found that thin people who maintain their weight through diet rather than exercise tend to have major deposits of internal fat around vital organs like the heart, liver, and pancreas.  While the exact dangers of internal fat aren’t known, some doctors believe it can contribute to the risk of diabetes and heart disease.  

The theory is that internal fat interferes with the body’s communication system, sending out chemical signals for your body to store fat inside of these organs thus leading to insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

The take-away here is that you can’t depend on outward appearances when it comes to gauging health.  You can’t readily tell if you’re suffering from internal fat, but you can easily eliminate it by improving your diet and exercising regularly.  

You know there’s no shortcut to being fit.  Sure, if you want to just LOOK thin, then maybe you’re satisfied with only dieting.  However, if you truly want to be healthy and fit, then you will need to make physical activity an important part of your lifestyle.

The Problem with Trainers Today

Working with a personal trainer can be invaluable in terms of helping you to meet your fitness goals.  The right personal trainer can help you design the best fitness program to keep you motivated.  Finding the perfect personal trainer is key.  Unfortunately, even after you think you’ve found the right one, you may encounter problems that can be harmful to your fitness agenda.  Problems like: 

An Inattentive Trainer.  When you are working out with a trainer, you deserve their undivided attention.  The occasional disruption is bound to happen, but if your trainer is continually interrupting your sessions by talking with friends or co-workers, taking calls from other clients, or cramming in a workout of their own, it may be time to speak up.

An Uncommunicative Trainer.  Your personal trainer should be available to answer your questions or handle your concerns, even if they arise outside of a scheduled appointment.  Communication is crucial to your success.  Generally, your trainer should be responding to you within 24 to 48 hours.  

Unnecessary supplements.  Some trainers sell supplements and that’s not a bad thing.  However, if they continually push you to buy and say it’s mandatory, that’s a flag.

Clash of Personalities.  Having a good relationship with your personal trainer often boils down to personality compatibility.  If you respond well to a vocal trainer that’s going to push you, then don’t sign up with someone whose style is more quiet and laid back.  

What You Need to Know About Shin Splints

Many of my Bootcamp clients over the years, from time to time, have experience shin splints. For some, it may even become a reason why they seek out other activities or fitness programs. I would also venture to guess that very few athletes have been able to avoid shin splints (aka tibial stress syndrome).  Most will suffer from at least one bout in their athletic career. 

You might have shin splints if…

You are experiencing throbbing pain in the muscles around your shins. Typically shin splints are a dull, aching pain in the muscle directly in front of the lower leg (tibialis anterior). Some experience the pain only during exercise, while others feel the pain after exercise has stopped.  

The location of the pain can depend in part on the activity and how your body responds. The pain may be located along either side of the shinbone or in the actual muscles. The area may be painful to the touch. Swollen muscles can also irritate nerves causing weakness or numbness and tingling in the feet.

To properly diagnose shin splints, your doctor will need to perform a thorough exam and have an accurate history of your activity. The doctor may order X-rays or a bone scan to rule out fractures. Other tests might be necessary at times. Know that the doctor’s first goal is to reduce your pain and get you back to your normal daily activities. The doctor’s goal has nothing to do with how fast you run, or if you make it to the Grinder next week. Don’t go against your doctor’s guidelines. There are always ways to exercise around an injury.

Shin splints are the cause of 13 to 20 percent of all running-related injuries. It is not uncommon for even the most seasoned of runners to experience shin splints after ramping up their workout intensity or changing the surface they run on — like training at the Grinder! 

With proper rest and mild therapy, your pain should subside. Simply ignoring the pain and attempting to push through it could lead to more severe shin splints and can cause unnecessary setbacks in your Grinder experience.

Shin splints are not always as simple as running less or buying new running shoes, but these do often help. Even the diagnosis of “tibial stress syndrome” is one of many vague medical conditions. The most important thing to realize is that when you experience pain it happens for a reason and that it is a symptom of an underlying problem that you need to identify and address.

The issue could be too much activity too soon or that the frequency of the activity is too much to allow for the necessary recovery. 

Of course, there’s always the potential for structural issues such as ankle alignment or overpronation (flat feet). Discovering these issues will require an assessment. The ankle alignment can easily be assessed by a Chiropractor or Doctor of Osteopathy (DO). These issues can often be corrected with proper footwear or the addition of orthotics or other support tools. 

The Symptoms Become the Cause

Have you ever wondered why so many injuries are treated with the same plan of action? As the muscles become swollen and inflamed, the symptoms become part of the cause. Unless you allow for the necessary rest and do what is needed to reduce the inflammation, you are likely to see the pain only increase along with the risk for more serious injuries. In the case of shin splints, these injuries are likely to lead to stress fractures and possibly exertional compartment syndrome if not treated properly.

Treatment Options

The cause does very little to change how a problem should initially be treated. Every form of pain starts with a “stop”. Treatment starts with rest to allow for the underlying issue to start the healing process. Here are some basic treatments to start with:

Range of motion (ROM) exercises. Taking the time to perform range of motion exercises for the ankle, knee, and hip can go a long way to preventing injuries. These are in no way exciting exercises and the reality is that when short on time most people will make an excuse to skip out on these exercises.

Icing the shin. In order to reduce the inflammation and swelling you can apply ice directly to the area of pain for up to 20 minutes every three to four hours. You can continue to use this treatment for up to three days or until the pain is gone. If the pain lasts for more than three days consider a visit to your doctor.

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin, will help with pain and swelling. Each of these trade-name drugs are made by a drug company using an over-the-counter brand that you can use without a prescription from your doctor. However, these drugs do come with potential side effects, like an increased risk of bleeding and stomach ulcers. It is important that you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines unless directed otherwise by your doctor. These should also be used only occasionally unless your doctor specifically directs otherwise.

Better Shoes. Being fitted for shoes by someone trained to assess your gate is always helpful. Bring an older pair of running shoes with you when being assessed. The wear and tear on your shoes will help determine how you have performed in the past and offer a little insight into the type of shoes you will need. Some activities will require a cross trainer while some will be best with a running shoe. If performing heavy lifting, a hard sole will be best. 

Arch supports for your shoes. If you are instructed to wear orthotics — wear them! I’m amazed at how often people are fit for orthotics or instructed by their doctor to use an arch support and they fail to use them. 

Neoprene sleeve. The compression from the neoprene sleeve offers support and relief of pain for many people who normally experience chronic pain and inflammation. Those using the neoprene sleeve are still advised to perform the ROM exercises and even ice for 15 to 20 minutes after exercise as a way to keep symptoms at bay.

Massage therapy and the foam roller. As we increase the demand on the muscles in our lower legs we also build up waste and inflammation that becomes trapped. The use of foam rolls, hand rollers, tennis balls, and other forms of massage can promote blood flow and loosen up tight fascia (structure of connective tissue that surrounds groups of muscles).  

Physical therapy. There is a tremendous value in a visit to a physical therapist whether it is part of the doctor’s prescription of care or something you have decided to pay for out of your own pocket. A physical therapist and a skilled fitness trainer can both offer a variety of exercises to strengthen the muscles in your shins and go over a few stretches you can perform after exercise.

Pain Requires Patience 

Some may continue to battle with some form of lower leg pain. Personally, I have been advised by my share of doctors and therapists to never run again. The extent of my injuries is such that I trade hours of therapy for each minute of exercise. While I will continue to work to discover ways to overcome the onset of pain, swelling, and inflammation, I have also come to accept that some things will be accomplished with more patience.

Exercise Injury Prevention

Anyone who has ever experienced an injury knows that when you are forced to change your routine to one of inactivity to heal is frustrating. Nobody likes to put their goals on hold. For some people, what should be a momentary setback often ends up derailing their success. Witnessing all your hard work slip away from you is no fun, but luckily not all your hard work has to come undone.  You can often prevent injury by taking the proper precautions and remembering that injury prevention should be at the forefront of everyone’s workout plan. 

Here are some tips for injury prevention:

  • Warm up before all exercise. As little as five minutes of warm-up and dynamic movement can go a long way in preventing an injury. 
  • Avoid excessive weight lifting that you can only perform a few times. Unless you are a strength athlete with years of training, you should not be performing low-rep exercises. 
  • Make small incremental increases in resistance. Don’t make big jumps in weights. Leave the ego at home and only increase a few pounds each set.
  • Unless you are in an advanced athletic program, keep your workouts under an hour. The longer you train the more difficult it is to focus and make clear-headed choices. 
  • Always have one day a week of no exercise.  
  • Vary the intensity of your exercise program. It is important to cycle from weeks of high intensity to periods of lower intensity. The most important rule to your success is consistency before intensity. 
  • Train in an ego-free environment. The best athletes in the world realize they are training for a competition and that means not sacrificing their bodies for every workout. You should be training in an atmosphere of cooperation, not competition. There will always be days you must test yourself but that isn’t every workout every day, especially if you wish to be training injury free a long time.
  • Avoid machines that don’t promote natural movement. 
  • Get proper instruction on exercise form and technique. 
  • When experiencing pain that is not typical muscle soreness and burning, stop immediately. It is better to be safe than sorry. 
  • Perform a proper cool down with light stretching. 

There are times the risk of injury is greater. Avoid or modify your training when doing any of the following:

  • training sick or more tired than usual
  • training earlier or later than usual
  • training in cold weather
  • performing a new exercise or in a new environment 

These are not ideal situations to test yourself and to achieve a new personal best. Be flexible enough that you allow yourself some training modification. Recognize the times you need a longer warm-up or when you should start lighter before moving on to more intense exercise. Remember to always better to train smarter before training harder. 

Choosing a Jogging Stroller

Jogging strollers are a wonderful way for you to take your baby or toddler with you for a run or walk.  Not only can you maintain your exercise regimen, but your baby gets some fresh air and can enjoy the stimulating outdoor scenery.  It’s a win-win for everyone!

The popularity of jogging strollers has grown in the last few years and that’s good news for those outdoor enthusiasts because manufacturers are now producing a wide variety of strollers.  The one drawback though is that with such a wide selection, selecting the right stroller can be daunting given all the features found in strollers.  

What should you look for in a stroller?  Here are a few tips with regard to the various features:

  • Wheels – jogging strollers typically have three large wheels:  one in the front and two in the back.  Wheels are usually 12”, 16” and 20”+ inches in size, and deciding which size is right for you depends largely on the type of surface you’ll be using your stroller on.  For example, 12” wheels are best for smooth surfaces like sidewalks and bike paths whereas 16” wheels are good for relatively smooth surfaces and light off-roading such as cutting across a grassy field.  For frequent long-distance running and off-road use then consider the 20”+ wheel size.
  • Wheel metal – Alloy wheels and hubs win out over steel.  Sure steel is cheaper but it’s also heavier.  Additionally, it tends to rust.  If you live in areas where road salt is used in the winter or near a beach where ocean salt is common, you will need to get in the habit of rinsing the wheels off with water after each use to remove damaging salt residue. 
  • Frame construction – welded aluminum frames will be more expensive, but the trade-off is that they are lighter and more durable.
  • Harness – To ensure the safety of your baby, it is best to stick with a five-point harness, which offers the greatest protection when traveling at a great speed.  Most jogging strollers come with five-point harnesses today, but if you are picking up a second-hand stroller be sure to check for this feature.
  • Seat – A padded seat that reclines is an asset, especially if your child falls asleep while you are out enjoying your walk or run.  Reclining seats are also helpful for small babies who lack neck strength.
  • Size – Some strollers can be quite huge and cumbersome.  If you intend to travel with yours, its overall weight is important, as is its ability to easily fold down.  Therefore, keep your vehicle space parameters in mind when shopping.
  • Handlebars – You want to ensure that walking or running with the stroller is comfortable.  If you are hunched over or hanging on to the handlebars, you are likely to arrive home with more than a few aches and pains.  That is why handlebar height is important.  The optimal handle height for a stroller is easy to determine.  Simply stand up straight with your shoulders back and arms at your side.  Bend your elbows so your forearms are parallel to the floor.  The distance between your hands and the floor is your optimal handle height.   Also, keep in mind, if more than one person will be using the stroller, you may want to consider getting one with an adjustable handlebar feature.
  • Cover – If you want the baby to be comfortable while mobile, then you may want to ensure your little passenger is kept out of the hot sun or pouring rain.  A nice, large adjustable canopy can offer baby protection from the weather.
  • Weight Limit – Strollers that are more expensive tend to have stronger aluminum frames, which can usually support more weight.  This is a big consideration if you intend to get a few years of use out of your jogging stroller.    Be sure to also keep in mind that when you travel, you’ll probably also be carting around a diaper bag, snacks, toys, and everything else your baby/toddler may need.  Sometimes that feels like everything but the kitchen sink!  Regardless, it will add extra weight so factor that into your decision.  

Definitely, is a lot to think about with regard to features, and much of your decision will probably revolve around price, which is always a huge factor for any family budget.  Jogging strollers can vary greatly in price.   Prices can range anywhere from $75 to $500, and as with most items, quality strollers tend to be easier to use, are more durable, and retain their resale value.  Jogging strollers are one of those products where you ultimately will get what you pay for so proceed cautiously!

Not Too Muscle Bound to Run

Suggest to a bodybuilder that they should incorporate running into their training regimen and they are likely to look at you as if you have grown a second head.   A few might even ask why on earth would they want to lose the muscle mass they have worked so hard to put on.  I’ll tell you why because the benefits of running outweigh any potential muscle loss.

Now before you think I’ve lost my mind, hear me out.  It is true that running is a form of aerobic exercise that is effective at burning calories quickly.  It’s also true that bodybuilders have historically avoided cardio exercise for fear of losing muscle and because of concerns that running would add more stress to knees and other soft tissues – areas already carrying additional muscle mass — potentially leading to injury.  However, the truth is that aerobic exercises like running are not going to prevent you from putting on muscle or result in a higher risk of injury, provided you do it correctly.  

Running can actually help with weight training in several significant ways.  It can increase the rate of recovery between workouts.  It can help you to limit any fat gained.  Running can bring on muscle definition faster and it can speed up metabolism which we know helps to burn off fat and condition our bodies so that we can train better and faster.  Finally, running before lifting has the added benefit of warming up your cardiovascular system.  To me, these potential benefits are well worth any small decrease in muscle mass you may encounter. Besides, consider this, wouldn’t you also make up any muscle loss through your continued weight training?

Research suggests that runners typically don’t start to burn muscle until they have been running steadily for around 60 minutes.   Short runs, between 20 and 30 minutes are what you should instead incorporate into your workout.  Sprinting is another great alternative to consider.  The fuel for these short runs will likely come from what’s already in the bloodstream and the energy stored in the liver.  Also, because they are shorter, the likelihood of any breakdown in muscle mass is slim.

Several notable bodybuilders have incorporated running into their workouts. Tom Venuto, Frank Zane, Frank Roberson, and Franco Columbu, a multi -Mr. Olympia have all spoken about running as part of their regiments.  In combination with a regular lift program, it is clear that running can provide a well-balanced exercise program with significant health and wellness benefits for everyone, including those focused on weight training.