How To

By Stephanie Ila Silver-Silberstein


Everybody’s doing it. It’ll make you feel so good. Just try it.

No, this isn’t some lousy public service announcement against drug use. This is your body…your body with a personal trainer. Any questions? Perhaps … so read on for the answers to the most pressing questions you have when choosing the right trainer for you.

You’ve finally admitted to yourself that your countless hours spent in the gym are not producing the results you want. You’re tired of watching Angelina Jolie get more buff and more Brad while you just get more butt and more flab. Sure, your workout may be a good stress reliever, as well as the chance to catch up on your syndicated “Friends” episodes. But is your butt getting any smaller? Are your arms getting more toned? After about six weeks of doing the same exercise routine, I’m guessing the answer is, probably not. So, before you lose motivation, not to mention money spent on a wardrobe of larger sizes, stop by the personal training office at your local gym and take action! I talked with New York Sports Club Fitness Manager and Certified Trainer, Mike Zieminski and got the low-down on all things ‘personal’.

1) What’s the first thing I should find out about a potential personal trainer?
Ask about his certifications. The National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM) is the most widely recognized certification program and any reputable gym will hire only those trainers who have completed this course. Any other certifications or areas of expertise a trainer might have, such as flexibility in the case of Mike, or Pilates, yoga, martial arts, or nutrition might add to the cost of your sessions, but depending on your needs, could be well worth it. This may be common sense, but be wary of trainers without ‘training’ – no matter how good they look.

2) What are some things I should ask my trainer before beginning the sessions?
You should feel comfortable addressing a trainer with any of your concerns and goals, but really, it is the trainer who should be doing the questioning. Here are some things you want your trainer to ask you as well as some preliminary tests he should give you before beginning your workout:

a) What are your fitness goals? Power, Strength, Hypertrophy (muscle gain), or Fat Loss/Endurance?

b) Are there any medical problems or issues that you want addressed during your sessions or would prevent you from completing a certain exercise? Are you are taking any medications?

c) What is your age and resting heart rate? This will determine your target heart zone for maximum results.

d) What is your blood pressure?

e) What is your body fat percentage? This is taken using a Lange Skinfold Caliper.

f) What are your circumference measurements? One might be weight obsessed and constantly getting on the scale, but with muscle gain and reshaping of body parts as a result of training, circumference measurements are an even better indicator of your body’s progress.

g) What is your level of flexibility? What is your postural alignment? A good personal trainer will encourage you to stretch for at least 10 minutes before each workout to increase flexibility and efficiency of workouts. Flexibility is also a key factor in reducing injuries, as you get older.

The Goniometric Assessment – Mike Zieminski uses a Goniometer on NYSC personal trainer Brett Davis to determine flexibility.

3) Do I want to work with a male or female?
For women, it generally doesn’t make a difference, and this can be determined by personal preference. Perhaps if you’re a female, you want a role model and so you may opt for a female trainer with your ideal body type, one, I may add, that is actually attainable. It’s great to have a good rapport with your trainer, but if you’re too friendly and you feel like you’ll be doing more talking than squatting, you may consider training with someone else. Of course, you can always gossip with your trainer over some fruit salad after your workout. For men wanting to build strength, a male trainer may be a good choice since they can spot during weight training with heavy weights.

4) What kind of personality do I want my trainer to have?
Well, that depends on you. Ask yourself what kind of exerciser you are. Do you need a cheerleader? A supportive nurturer? A militant tyrant? Will you have the time, stamina and determination for results to do your cardio, stretching and multiple workouts a week on your own, or do you need your trainer by your side every minute you exercise?

5) How much should I pay?
Trainers can be anywhere from $40-$100/hr and upwards. Prices coincide with membership rates so the pricier gyms will have pricier trainers. Master Trainers (those with certifications in more than one area) generally cost more as well as trainers who work with you in a private home gym. Of course, how you spend your well-earned money is in direct correlation with how often you meet with your trainer. Maybe you need a trainer once every 6 weeks to give you a new routine or maybe you’re getting ready for a big event and need to meet with one everyday for a month. Purchasing in bulk (i.e. 10 sessions at a time) is a great way to decrease the price and get your motivation level up. Many gyms and companies offer “buff bride” regiments as well.

6) Finally, what should I expect from working out with a personal trainer?
A personal trainer can be extremely helpful and insightful with regard to your maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. They can be miracle workers but only if you put in your fair share of the work. In other words, be skeptical of trainers who make grand sweeping guarantees. A personal trainer can help you get the results you need, when you want them – just listen, learn and do, and your body will thank you for it soon enough!

Staying active is a key component to staying healthy. Regardless of your fitness goals, working out is vital to your overall health, and a personal trainer can make sure you are spending your time wisely. With busy schedules, poor diets, and typical New York City stress, squeezing in that workout can be a challenge. Don’t waste time doing exercises incorrectly and end up doing your body harm. A personal trainer can be just what you need to be able to say, “I maintain a healthy lifestyle” and actually mean it.

Contact Mike Zieminski at the New York Sports Club:
48th Street & Sixth Avenue at Rockefeller Center
1221 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
212.840.8240 for more locations and information

Contact Leslie Rice Hart at the New York Sports Clubs:
41st and 3rd or 34th and Park locations
New York, NY

Originally published June 2005



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