When you close your eyes and picture a personal trainer, what comes to mind? A person who wakes up every morning and meditates to the mantra “no pain, no gain”? An individual whose arms, no matter the angle, are so sculpted that they appear to be their own topographic map of mountains and valleys? Someone whose veins are so prominent that they cast their own shadows, and who barks reps with the intensity of a rocket launch countdown? These stereotypes, and versions of them, have long pervaded pop culture, but personal trainers aren’t really like that. They don’t yell at you, don’t push you until you feel ill and don’t look like statues. They’re more like your fit and supportive best friend whose biggest care in the world is for you to be the best version of yourself you can be.
Competitive athletes and celebrities have long known about the benefits of a trainer, but what about the average person? Aren’t personal trainers mainly for the super fit to somehow get even fitter? Not really. Most clients of personal trainers are a) completely new to exercise, b) were once athletic, but life has gotten in the way or c) exercise occasionally or regularly but have hit a wall in making progress or just don’t feel motivated. Nearly all clients have some sort of injury, whether it’s current or old (and recurrent), and personal trainers are skilled at not just modifying exercises but restoring pain-free mobility. Nowadays, you can find a trainer specializing in anything from postpartum fitness to powerlifting, and you don’t even need to leave your home: Many trainers are set up for private live sessions via Zoom (although you may eventually be unable to progress after a certain point unless you invest in more equipment). On average, personal training sessions can range from $75 to $175 each, but trainers typically offer packages that bring the cost down to $100 to $135 per session. Do you need a personal trainer? No. Will they make your time in the gym more efficient, effective and dare we say fun? Unequivocally yes.
We talked to five local trainers and asked them to share their fitness wisdom, debunk some myths, clear up some stereotypes and discuss their unique approaches to fitness.
Certified Personal Trainer, NATA
Where to train with Ty: ĒVO Training Collective, 317 33rd St., co-owned with her wife, Tovah Rendlich-Texidor (@tovahfit)
“Most individuals could use a major increase in muscle mass after years spent doing cardio or boot camps.”
What’s your approach to fitness? Do what you need to do in order to do what you want to do. Our bodies want to be healthy and feel good. We need to nourish, rest and challenge our bodies so that they can perform for us the best that they can.
What one exercise do you think everyone should be doing? Single leg anything. I don’t think enough emphasis is placed on the need to minimize strength and mobility issues in the hips and lower extremities. Back pain? Do more single leg work. Knee pain? Do more single leg work. Balance issues? Do more single leg work. If one leg is significantly more capable than the other, it can cause a whole host of problems.
Who is your ideal client? The parent who has put their career and/or their family first for far too long, and now feels out of touch with themselves physically, but are finally ready to put themselves higher up on their to-do list.
How do you work around injuries and pain? I don’t work around them. I attack them! Unless you have a broken bone, you have to get in there and fix it. I’m not a big believer in just modifying exercises forever. The body actually responds really well to movement, so if you’re stuck in the “rest it until it gets better, but then the second I get back to training again, it hurts” cycle, just know that there is more that can and should be done. I’m here to help you figure that out.
What’s a stereotype about personal trainers that you think is false? That it’s a temporary career or side gig. Many of us have dedicated our lives to perfecting our craft. We’ve studied and put in thousands of hours honing our ability to understand the human body, learning how to navigate mental hurdles that could be holding you back, and researching how to deconstruct and rebuild longstanding habits so that you can progress. For many like myself, this is our life’s work. We pour ourselves into each and every one of our clients that we have the privilege to work with. We’re not there to just count reps for you and send you on your way. We’re there to help you change your life.
What nugget of wisdom do you wish you could share with others? When you are 80 years old, you will be much happier with your time spent in the gym if you train for strength and longevity rather than working out just to be a certain size.
Certified Personal Trainer, NASM, NFPT
Where to train with Maximillian: NorCal Health Works, 920 21st St.
“Do what you can now and watch yourself blossom—small changes create huge results over time.”
What’s your approach to fitness? I look at fitness as the result of small changes being made on a consistent basis. I collect data by analyzing their current lifestyle as a whole and suggest changes that will feel natural paired with the cadence of a client’s day-to-day routine. I strategically build onto what’s already working.
Who is your ideal client? My ideal client is simply someone who is curious. I like my clients to be ready to work toward “documenting without shame.” We identify metrics that either they connect with or that are relevant to their particular training program. Data is the best way to establish a baseline.
What does an initial session with you look like? It varies. I give the option of meeting at the fitness studio, or we can chat over coffee. Some folks are ready to jump into the consultation and get the ball rolling with a fitness assessment, while others would rather meet and get a little more information before we start working out. Both are great and give me good insight into their communication styles!
What one exercise do you think everyone should be doing? Stretching. One very overlooked benefit to stretching is injury prevention. You’ll often notice certain muscles are tight or flaring up before you injure or re-injure what I call “sticky spots” during movement.
What do you think the role of a personal trainer is? I like data. I acknowledge the small (and, more importantly, new) wins. Over time, I help people build on those wins, and they realize they’re much closer to their goals than they thought they were. What a twist!
What is a misconception that you think the general public has about personal training? That we yell at you to make you push yourself. Most of us are nerds that love anatomy. If we aren’t a match for you, we most likely can recommend a good fit.
Certified Personal Trainer, AFAA, SITA
Where to train with Wendy: joyfulinclusivemovement.com
“I’ve experienced fatphobia and weight bias firsthand and understand how traumatic this is in a movement space.”
What’s your approach to fitness? I’m a fat-positive personal trainer who specializes in functional strength and conditioning. I teach the foundations of functional movement, weightlifting and power training, including safe practices and recovery methods, which my clients use in their everyday lives to improve their activities of daily living.
Who is your ideal client? I created My Joyous Adaptive Momentous Movement, or MY JAMM, and Joyful Inclusive Movement, or JIM, as movement spaces that are authentic, accessible, inclusive, safe and effective. The programs are designed for larger-bodied folks who may have experienced trauma around body movement. It’s about access, treatment, folks with disabilities and body size. There is not a lot of community support for disenfranchised individuals seeking to embrace movement. When there is, it is usually short-lived before given the chance to be commercially successful. For the underrepresented, there are very few safe, effective and inclusive spaces for them to celebrate movement.
What is a misconception about personal training you’d like to clear up? Some people think a trainer’s body is their advertising, and a “fit” body indicates a successful personal trainer. Diet culture is a billion-dollar industry that brainwashes society to believe that skinny is the only way to be healthy. When people start looking for a personal trainer, they often make the mistake of thinking that a “skinny” or “fit” trainer is the healthiest trainer, and they can make you look like them. If you look at me from head to toe, I am none of those things. I am fat and healthy, and fat and fit. Living in a larger body in our culture means that I am not always taken seriously in the fitness industry. I’ve been an athlete since 2009, and my body has fluctuated. This doesn’t make me a bad trainer: I have the education and the experience, and I can relate to my clients because of fatphobia, weight bias and how diet culture sees me.
What is something that you wish more people knew about fitness? Big box gyms don’t adequately accommodate larger bodies. Their equipment has low measurement and weight restrictions that are not suitable or safe for larger bodies. Binary locker rooms aren’t accessible for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community to feel safe and included. There are many more examples of people who identify with various marginalized communities, and all of them have the same recurring theme: “You’re not welcome here.” This is why I created MY JAMM and JIM, which are designed for and directly serve these underserved marginalized populations.
Certified Personal Trainer, NSCA CSCS, NASM
Where to train with Conor: Get Fit Davis, 1809 Picasso Ave., Davis
“Personal trainers are just the people who didn’t want to come inside after recess and liked to learn while moving.”
What does an initial personal training session with you look like? We’ll chat about their goals during a warmup and work on mobility around their problem areas before moving onto pattern-based resistance training. Then we’ll cool down and review the session to set the tone for the next appointment.
How would you describe your approach to fitness? Client centered: Whatever goals and expectations they have as a client, I do my best to meet or exceed those.
Who is your ideal client? Someone with a clear goal that we can establish, and someone who has the ability to recognize that attaining that goal will be challenging and require an investment in time and effort.
What do you think the role of a personal trainer is? To support the client in accomplishing whatever their individual goal is in a safe and sustainable way. We are necessary to provide accountability and help people discover the most direct path for them to accomplish their goal.
How do you work around injuries and pain? I refer them to physical therapy if necessary, but if it isn’t, I educate them about their injury and we start with isometric exercises to evaluate painful positions. Then we can work on beginning to load the joint safely.
What is a stereotype about personal training that is false? That we’re sadistic, narcissistic, dumb meatheads, or the direct opposite and we’re some sort of authority figure.
Certified Personal Trainer, NASM
Where to train with Melanie: The Academy Training & Performance Center, 1116 F St.
“Many people come to me with the belief that pain is just something they have to deal with for the rest of their life. This is simply and fortunately not true.”
How would you describe your approach to fitness? I strive to make fitness accessible to everyone. I create an environment for beginners to feel comfortable and confident in a space that is typically intimidating for someone just getting started.
What do you think the role of a personal trainer is? It’s about meeting your clients where they are. Anyone can pull up a free workout on YouTube, but a good trainer is going to create a program for their client that aligns with their goals, their energy and their personality.
I have a male client who has always gone to the gym and just used the treadmill in fear or not knowing how to do exercise properly. He has benefited from a personal trainer for helping to build that confidence he needs in the gym, and has also experienced that confidence spreading far outside the walls of the gym as well.
How do you work around injuries and pain? Part of rehabilitating and preventing injuries and pain involves examining their lifestyle. Injuries and pain are normal with so many people living sedentary lifestyles. Recently, I had a client come to me with low back pain. I realized that it had a lot to do with her poor posture, so we focused on correcting that as well as building core strength, and now we’ve eliminated her pain. I also include exercise and movement patterns that align with their day-to-day: For example, I train some firefighters, and we incorporate a lot of rotational movement into their workouts because it mimics a lot of what they are doing on the job. You could call it “functional training,” which carries a lot of meanings, but to me, it means that we need to train for our life, our lifestyle and the lifestyle we strive to keep for many years to come.
What’s a stereotype about personal training? Some people think they have to be “in shape” before hiring a trainer. They think that it’s going to be this ultra-intense crazy boot-camp style experience, which isn’t what you want. A good trainer will have a great understanding of their client’s goals, energy levels, experience and limitations or injury/pain, and build a program based on that. If your trainer isn’t truly diving into who you are as a person, what your mindset is around exercise, what your day-to-day life is like outside of the gym, and what you truly enjoy doing, then you need to find another trainer.
What’s a fitness myth you want to debunk? Being incredibly sore the next day or feeling like you died after your workout means you had a great workout is not the truth. The truth is that feeling confident and creating a sustainable movement practice that makes you feel great and gets you living pain-free while having fun is the way to go.
If you’re thinking about hiring a personal trainer, here are some tips to make sure you start your training journey off on the right foot:
Ask for certifications and credentials. In the age of social media, when everyone’s an expert and the facts don’t matter, it’s easy to take a wrong turn when researching personal trainers. There are fitness professionals who happen to be influencers, and then there are fitness influencers. Fitness influencers are generally just attractive people with gym memberships who often find themselves in optimal lighting. They sell “plans” that are no different from Googling “basic full-body workout.” They are not trainers, and the only way that their plans would help you look like them is if their plans were for building a machine that would allow you to go back in time and be born to their parents so that you could share their DNA. There is a big difference between going to the gym yourself and safely and effectively programming a workout plan for another person and coaching them through it. Before you buy a service, make sure it’s from a certified fitness professional.
Make sure you vibe with your trainer. Finding a personal trainer can be a lot like finding a therapist or a hair stylist or a favorite coffee shop in the sense that you’re going to be spending a lot of time together. The first one you try may not be the right fit. Don’t be afraid to meet with several and ask plenty of questions to make sure they’re the right match for you.
Communicate. Trainers are trained to do a lot of things, but ESP is most likely not part of their repertoire. If something doesn’t feel right, tell your trainer. If you feel personally victimized by a particular exercise and would prefer to never do it again in order to live a happier life, tell your trainer. If you’re confused, tell your trainer. If you’re feeling discouraged, tell your trainer. If you’re really in the mood to just do something completely different today, tell your trainer. If you tell your trainer all of those things on the same day, you might be certifiably high maintenance, but your trainer needs your feedback to program the best workouts for you.
Set a performance-based goal. When most people visit trainers or gyms, their goal is just to lose a certain amount of weight. The problem with weight-loss goals is that they can often have very little to do with health or fitness, and the question that usually arises once they’re obtained is “Now what?” You can’t keep losing weight forever. Set a different goal instead: Maybe you want to do a certain number of pullups, increase the distance you can run, or lift a certain amount of weight. As you focus more on what your body can do and how it feels instead of how it looks, you’ll find that how it looks becomes secondary. And as you meet your performance goals, you’ll become more grateful and satisfied with your mirror reflection.
Use metrics other than a scale to measure progress. Your weight can be highly variable depending on what you have (or haven’t) eaten recently, your current proclivity for happy hour, where you are in your menstrual cycle (if applicable), how hydrated you are and a host of other variables. Your weight is not necessarily indicative of progress. Throw away the scale and simply monitor how your clothing fits. Let your performance-based goal dictate how you measure progress: Are you able to lift more weight? Run longer? Swim faster? Those numbers are more meaningful.
Just show up. The biggest difference between you and Simone Biles is probably not just consistency, but it’s certainly a factor. If you keep putting in the work and you keep showing up, the results that you’re looking for tend to, too.