This is the question I have been pondering today after a session with Terri Windover, personal trainer and all around fitness guru at MacDonald Island Park. The Total Fitness Centre at MIP has been my gym since the day they opened a couple of years ago, and there was a time I went very faithfully, almost every single day. I will admit my visits have been much more infrequent recently, due to a busy schedule, and, I realized, some boredom with my exercise routine. I will admit here publicly that three years ago I was a bigger person - some sixty pounds bigger, in fact, and three years ago I shed that weight and a great deal of other things along with it (like bad knees and a poor self-image). This past year though some of the weight has crept back, and it has frightened me. I don't want to go back to that weight ever again, and I knew I needed some help. I also knew I wanted to share with my readers the experience of the new Total Fitness Centre, as I attended the ribbon cutting, and it is an amazing facility.
The new fitness centre is much larger than the old one, and much more bright and airy, too. Overheating was occasionally an issue for me in the old centre, but this new one, far more open and large, is less prone to large fluctuations in temperature. There is an abundance of new equipment, including machines that are some of the finest of their kind in the world. The number of new machines means no waiting for a treadmill or elliptical, a huge bonus given how busy the fitness centre can be.
And busy it was yesterday afternoon when I met Terri for my session. In my entire journey of weight loss and pursuit of fitness I am stunned that I have never consulted a personal trainer. I realize now it should have been my very first step in that process, but even at this point I think it was hugely beneficial to me. I realize now that a session with someone like Terri would likely have set me up for success far earlier in the process, but for me it was both a wake-up call to the threat of "weight creep" (when lost weight comes creeping back onto your body) and a reminder of the importance of seeking improvement and progress in fitness. My old routine had settled into something like this: go to gym, get changed, do elliptical 30 minutes, do weights 30 minutes, shower, get dressed, leave - in other words, a giant snore. I enjoyed the time actually, as it let me think, but I often didn't even break a sweat anymore. I didn't feel I'd actually accomplished much. Yesterday, though, I broke a sweat with Terri, and today my body hurts in places I'd sort of forgotten about. And I am thrilled, frankly.
Terri and I talked a lot, and we went over some very basic, basic things. Like push-ups, and lunges. Like using kettleballs, and weights. Like step-ups. And like simply not sitting for long periods without moving (I am so, so guilty of this in the course of what I do for work). She knew instantly that I have issues with my shoulders, and she could tell this from just looking at me (and I do, from long hours hunched over a keyboard), and we talked about ways to address that. We discussed my poor posture (again, hunching over a keyboard is not my friend), and we talked about how you can achieve physical fitness even at home, just using a few key pieces of equipment - and taking the time to do it.
Time is my enemy, and so I need to make my time spent exercising count. And so Terri and I discussed ways to work it into my schedule, things to do on a daily basis, an every three day basis, a weekly basis - how to make fitness fit into my life, from walking my dog to doing push ups regularly. We discussed the importance of giving this information to the next generation, like my Intrepid Junior Blogger, so they incorporate fitness into their lives. And we discussed eating habits, my other nemesis as convenience foods are indeed convenient when you are busy, but lethal in terms of their impact on health. We talked about how a sedentary life can not only shorten the number of years you spend on this planet but how it makes those years miserable ones, with bad backs and knees and hips.
The idea behind personal training is that is personal - it is tailored to you, designed for you and your strengths and weaknesses. So many people turn to magazines for fitness advice, and are trying to do some general program often designed for someone far more advanced or fit than they are. And so they find it too challenging, and they get discouraged, or they don't understand why they aren't achieving results. The problem is that they need individualized advice, a program of fitness that is meant for them and their level of fitness, tailored to their specific needs and skills. And that is why everyone, regardless of their fitness level, should consider consulting a personal trainer. If we trust a lawyer for legal advice, and a doctor for medical advice, why would anyone balk at a personal trainer for fitness advice and instead rely on a magazine?
There are those who may say it's a cost issue, but personal training is surprisingly affordable, and I'd argue that if you can afford a gym membership then you can, and should, afford a session (or five) with a personal trainer. And even if you plan to pursue a fitness program at home I think it's a very wise investment. It can set you up for success, help you achieve your goals (or create them), and it can help prevent you from being injured, because that is another obstacle to success. A personal trainer can help you ensure you are exercising safely, using best form and practices. They can help you with nutrition questions, and they can provide motivation, encouragement, and, if necessary, like in my case, remind you why you lost weight in the first place and why you don't want it to creep back (I have now begun thinking about those sixty pounds as some creepy stalker, just waiting to jump on me should I become less vigilant). They can even help you learn gym etiquette, a puzzling world to someone like me who first entered the fitness centre at Mac Island two years ago completely terrified and out of my depth. I'd spent the 80's in places like Spa Lady, which had given me a hatred of leg warmers and headbands but not much real gym experience, and Curves in more recent years, which hadn't really prepared me well for a world of ellipticals and free weights. I managed to find my way over time in the centre, learning the etiquette and terminology, but how I wish I had just booked my first visit to the centre with a personal trainer and let them teach me instead of fumbling and bumbling my own way through it. It would have very likely made things far, far easier.
Yesterday I realized I need to get back into the swing of things, and back to my fitness routine. The routine will be a bit different, though, as I plan to pick up a kettleball and some free weights for at home. I plan to hit the Total Fitness Centre about three times a week now, doing the ellipticals and the weight machines, which I don't have at home, but when I am not there I intend to pursue my fitness at home, too, using the techniques and exercises Terri showed me. Terri suggested I put forty pounds in a backpack and carry it around so I can recall what it was like to be heavier, but I don't need to. I remember very well how my knees cracked, and how it felt to be out of breath after climbing the stairs. All it took for me to be reminded of the importance of physical fitness was one session with Terri. One session with a personal trainer and I was excited about it all again, "feeling the burn" and actually revelling in a body that deeply resents me today (and, well, booking the session the day after a night out drinking craft beer at the Wood Buffalo Brewing Co may not have been my brightest move, but then again I am, on occasion, a bit dense).
So, what did my session with Terri teach me? Well, the proper way to use a kettleball, and the right way to do a lunge. I learned that girlie-style push-ups are cheating, and that I need to work on my posture. And most importantly I learned that a personal trainer is a partner in your physical fitness goals. I learned that they are physical fitness professionals, and that for anyone seeking to improve their fitness, novice or veteran, just beginning or advanced, they are worth their weight in gold. Or maybe their weight in kettleballs, which reminds me I need to go pick up one of those right now. And some free weights, and a gym mat. And some Tylenol, because frankly the muscles in my butt are killing me.
My thanks to Terri Windover,
MacDonald Island Park
for the chance to spend some time in the
Total Fitness Centre
and experience personal training.
My sore muscles and I are grateful.
Well, I am, my calves currently hate all of you.