Motivation and muscle

Thursday, January 8, 2004

Bored with your regular workout? Looking for a way to melt those pounds away? Maybe what you need is a personal trainer.

Sort of a mixture of motivation and muscle, personal trainers can help you get started with a regular workout routine or help push you over the hump in a workout you've already begun.

Carrie Thompson of Cape Girardeau has been exercising with a trainer for about eight months. She had always played on a team, whether in college or on an adult league and was used to having a coach around to offer encouragement.

"She always makes me do a little bit more," Thompson said of her trainer, Sandie Howells.

At the start of the year, personal trainers are in high demand. Their clients include women hoping to get ready for swimsuit season, couples who want to get buff before a summer vacation, athletes training for an upcoming race and even children.

Most people who visit a personal trainer have a specific goal in mind, said Howells, a personal trainer at Universal Health and Fitness Center in Cape Girardeau.

During the first meeting, Howells tries to get a feel for what her clients really want to do -- whether it's to work on a problem area or just to lose overall body weight. And she tries to explain that they need to be realistic when they set their goals.

Clay Pope, a personal trainer at Main Street Fitness Center in Jackson, said some clients come with unrealistic ideas about weight loss. "Some want to lose 40 pounds in a month or two," he said. "You have to explain that weight loss has to be the healthy way, not by starving yourself."

Healthier lifestylesAnd many people use a personal trainer just to help them create a healthier lifestyle, he said. Pope also talks to his clients about nutrition and eating right to sustain good health.

Howells and Pope both prefer to use measurements to track success rather than watching the scale.

"The scale doesn't always tell the truth," Howells said. The old adage about muscle weighing more than fat is true. And people don't always look like they weigh the weight that registers on their scale because of their body fat percentages and measurements, Pope said.

Before setting a client loose with a workout plan, a trainer will give a fitness assessment, checking heart rates, flexibility and to see how much weight the person can lift.

Thompson, already fit with an athlete's body, said she wanted to expand her workouts and added weights to her regular routine. Twice each week, she lifts and then on the third day she and her husband take a spinning class.

The average price for a session with a personal trainer is about $30 per hour; some clients prefer 30 minute sessions several times weekly while others want hourlong sessions less often.

Whatever time limit they choose, people like meeting with a personal trainer because it keeps them motivated. "People work out differently," Howells said. Some people can pop a video into the VCR and follow a routine daily, others prefer group fitness classes and some need more accountability, which often comes from a personal trainer. "Probably 75 percent of the people need somebody for the accountability," Howells said. "They need to be told that they're doing a good job."

Pushing harderAnd because most people don't push themselves hard enough, the personal trainer can tell them when to increase their workout intensity, she said.

Here are some tips to consider when meeting with a trainer:

Be sure to check with your doctor to make sure that an exercise program is OK.

Bring a list of some specific goals or things you want to accomplish with the help of your trainer.

Make sure the trainer is certified. An uncertified trainer might not have all the knowledge necessary to help you design a workout without posing a health risk or injury.

335-6611, extension 126

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