The holidays are upon us, and many people are looking to get healthy (or healthier), to offset the indulgence during holiday events. Here's our guide to finding a personal trainer, but first we talk about whether the money is worth it.
Is Personal Training Worth It?
Of course it matters how advanced you are, but if you have a few questions about anything fitness, it is definitely worth it. Yes, we are bias as personal trainers ourselves, but all of our clients have left with a lot of information to get going on their own. Personal training can cost between $60 - $140 per sessions, but understand it is an investment. Yes, you may see changes short-term, but you will leave with information and a gameplan that you can use for years on.
Certifications and Qualifications
There are many certifications out there, so make sure your trainer has a cert that is accredited by the NCCA. Personally, we like the ACSM and NSCA certifications best because they offer monthly journals with scholarly research for their members. Their content puts a little more information in physiology as well, which is absolutely important for any trainer to understand. (Check out the ones I personally chose here; the industries top and most evidence-based)
The number one qualification you should look for is a B.S. degree in Kinesiology. A B.S. degree in Kinesiology trumps all certifications because that individual was required to pass college-level courses in programming, physiology, safety, and research. Although there may be great trainers out there without a degree, make sure they have been in business for numerous years. The degree or years of experience (combined with a certification) guarantees the trainer did not just pass 60% of the minimum needed for a certification, but has put the time in to learn about the body and knows the extra steps to continue building their knowledge. The one argument we would have against this is if they are in a niche such as olympic lifting, powerlifting, or bodybuilding. If you specifically want to be good at those things, you should work with those trainers, but continue reading to help you find a good trainer within that niche.
The majority of personal trainers offer these. Yes, this is meant to be a sales pitch, but a great trainer will let their service speak for itself. Do they take the time to get to know your life and your goals? Does their workout focus on your wants, or did they just put you in a workout that is not tailored specifically to you? Do they ask about medical history and past injuries? Do they do legitimate assessments and take down quantitative data? These are all questions you should think about. Go around to different trainers, and try them out free sessions to see if you want to invest your money and time with them.
Anecdotal vs. Scholarly Research
Before I start, let me say that a great trainer should be in great shape. Find someone who practices what they preach. Saying this, a lot of trainers take advantage of their own looks as their marketing.
Pay attention to the language of the trainer. Do they actually understand why adaptation in the body occurs, or do they only show you what to do? These are the trainers that use the word "I" a lot. They will tell you to do something because that's what they do. Everyone is different. A good trainer understands this, and is able to work with all backgrounds (diabetic, obese, post-surgical, etc.) rather than just put together a workout. Great trainers know that scholarly research is tested, whereas anecdotal evidence can be bias.
Do you look forward to training every day? And when we say every day, we mean month after month? A good trainer has you buy into a philosophy that makes you excited about training every workout day. They ensure you avoid burnout, and help you take the right steps outside the gym.
At the end of the day it comes down to results. Are you seeing change? Exercise will make you feel better, but is your trainer showing you quantitative imporvement in body composition and strength? There's 168 hours in a week and you're probably with a trainer maybe 3 hours of that time, so it is up to you, but a great trainer will look at the numbers with you to see where and why things may not go your way.
Lastly, did the trainer set you up with a program that is sustainable? Do you leave your first 1-2 months with enough knowledge to workout on your own? Do they make you eat brown rice, turkey, and broccoli every meal? Do they tell you to stay on supplements your whole life, or can you hit your goals with good nutrition and exercise? You should be able to leave with confidence and independence to enjoy your life while keep in tip top shape for years to come.
Altitude training has been around for awhile. When done correctly, it can increase red blood cell (RBC) count which means better performance due to more oxygen. In order to save you time of traveling to high elevation, companies have released "altitude training masks". These do not work to increase your RBC count, but rather make you tired. They can actually hinder your performance. Here's the science simplified:
Is There Less Oxygen Up High?
First of all, let's dismiss the myth of there being less oxygen at higher elevations. There is less pressure in higher elevation which just makes it harder for oxygen to move into the blood stream. So in short, in higher altitudes there is the same amount of oxygen, but less pressure to allow the same amount of oxygen to bind to RBCs.
How is Oxygen Important?
Oxygen is needed in order for muscles to function and energy to be maintained during exercise. RBC's have the ability to bind oxygen to themselves, and distributes the oxygen to muscles through capillaries. You breathe more/harder during exercise because your muscles need more oxygen to perform at a higher intensity.
Live High; Train Low
Now that you know what oxygen does, and what happens at higher elevation, let's talk about training. Because oxygen has a more difficult time binding to RBC's, your muscles can not function due to the lack of sufficient oxygen. If you were to go up high, you would become tired faster, and simply won't be able to perform at the level you could in lower elevation. How do you train properly?
We know that the body will adapt to even things out. The best way is to stay a few days or weeks up in higher elevation, then train. By that time, your body will have adapted to create more RBCs so that more oxygen can bind (diagram below). After your body has adapted, you can train at your normal intensity in the higher elevation. Even better, you could return to lower elevation to perform better (explained in the diagram below).
Why Elevation Masks Don't Work
Elevation masks restrict your oxygen. If your muscles do no get enough oxygen, you won't perform well. wearing could possbily mean you're only able to perform at 80%, but if you're tired and training at 80%, how will you get better? Even if you wanted to have the same adaptation as altitude training you would need to wear the mask for days or weeks. All it's good for is some form of torture or to look really intense in the gym (but not really).
That's the mechanism to altitude training, and that's how those altitude masks work (or don;t work). Let us know if you have any questions!
Yoga and pilates participation has grown within the past few years. Many have incorporated the two types of exercises for something new, but many add it for strength and flexibility. Does yoga and pilates improve those two areas? To answer that, let's dive into the mechanisms of strength and flexibility.
Strength in a Range of Motion
In our past posts about how muscles can be manipulated through different programs, we explained how strength can be improved. We have not yet discussed strength in different Ranges Of Motion (ROM). ROM describes the relative angle of a limb compared to another part of the body. For example, if I was standing upright and stuck my arm out forward, then flexed my bicep with my fist pointed directly up, my elbow's current ROM would be 90 degree (forearm and upper arm are the relative structures in this case). If you want to be strong at all ranges of motion, you have to apply resistance to that muscle at all ROM's. If I were to do a push up, go down so that my arm my elbow was 90 degrees for 60 seconds, I would improve strength at 90 degrees, but not as much at other angles. For example, the reason people "half rep" during a bench press is because they do not have sufficient strength at all ROM below wherever they stop (Half repping is not encouraged unless one is training their sticking point, which there is also better ways to do that).
Mechanism of flexibility
Next is flexibility. Flexibility can be defined as how far a muscle can be lengthened, or how far two relative structures connected by an axis can be stretched. To improve the flexibility of a muscle, it's simple: just stretch it (things may be more complex for people with injuries or neuromuscular and muscle spindle disorders). There are many ways to stretch muscles (passive, active, assisted, PNF, dynamic, etc.), and there's appropriate times and cases for each. Some may be high-risk, some may be power-inhibiting, and some may be unable to do alone. Whatever the method, all are elongating the muscles, therefore increasing flexibility to a certain degree.
What Does Yoga Do and How?
For yoga, strength is achieved, but only at limited ranges of motion. Most of the time, yoga has a person hold a position (isometric contraction). So although one may be getting stronger, perhaps it may only be in a small ROM for the limbs, but primarily stabilizing the core. As for flexibility, it increases it because people are often times in a position where muscles are being stretched for a few seconds. Of course nowadays there are fitness programs called power yoga and other catchy names that are some form of calisthenics.
Pilates (mainly referring to Pilates on reformers), which I prefer more, helps with flexibility because the pull from the reformers and cadillacs give the muscle somewhat of a short stretch at the end of a repetition. Additionally, it may replicate a response in the muscle similar to PNF due to the nature of the equipment to allow a stretch-then-contract pattern. For strength, it can increase strength at different ranges of motion, however not as much because the degree of resistance may not be enough depending on the individual's strength. For Pilates we much prefer traditional programs led by PMA certified trainers opposed to other types of classes.
So are yoga and Pilates good or bad? You make the call. You have been provided with the mechanisms of both, but it's important to ask yourself, what are your's or your client's goals, what is their fitness history, will you be able to quantatively measure their improvements, and is it the best way to reach their goals? With that said, if the goal is weight loss and strength, there is no substitute for hard iron and good eating habits.
Remember that all types of exercises are merely tools for a problem, and there are multiple tools out there.
About the Blog
Learn all things exercise and fitness with Vien Vu. Learn How Fit Works!
Top Rank Health, LLC Copyright. All rights reserved. You may not take any images, video, or any other content from this site without written permission.