The snow is beginning to melt, that orange globe in the sky, formerly known as the sun, has begun to shine once again, and we are all tentatively reentering society like the Munchkins after the Wicked Witch of the East was killed by the house. It’s that yearly ritual known as spring.
Along with spring comes the desire, once again, to get fit and healthy. Many people find the idea of exercise to be a chore, something to be dreaded, while for others, it’s as much a part of their daily routine as brushing their teeth. Why can one person wake up before the dawn, put on running shoes and run through the streets of Birmingham, ending up at Starbucks before most of her neighbors are awake, while someone else has to have an appointment etched into their iPhone in order to get to the gym?
“People just enjoy making an appointment with their trainer to keep them on track,” noted Derek DiGiovanni, owner of Coach Me Fit in Birmingham’s Rail District, and a personal trainer. “I credit them for making exercise a priority in their lives.”
Personal trainers are not only a great motivating factor to get you exercising, it can be a way to tailor-make an exercise and fitness program exactly to your body’s needs. It’s a way to push you out of your comfort zone, get you out of a rut, or help you find your way out of an unhealthy lifestyle. If you have had an injury, are recovering from surgery, have an illness, are depressed, or are aging and not sure how to incorporate a fitness routine into our life, a good personal trainer can help assess where you are today, and where you would like to get to tomorrow.
A personal trainer in the Birmingham-Bloomfield area can cost $65 to $90 an hour, depending on where the training is occurring, certification, if you are doing it with a fitness-compatible partner, and other intangibles. Sometimes, a trainer who comes to your home may be less costly than one at a large fitness center, perhaps because there is overhead and other costs associated with the facility.
While it can seem like an expensive luxury to some to hire a personal trainer to exercise with, DiGiovanni points out, “To some it’s a luxury, and people say they can’t afford it, but I say for some others, you can’t afford not to.”
That’s because health care costs fall for individuals who are healthy, and regular exercise has shown to lower cholesterol, improve heart rates, lower body weight and body fat, which then reduces the likelihood of diabetes and heart problems. It can also stave off injuries such as broken bones and falls by building lean muscle mass and helping to create flexibility and balance.
According to the American Heart Association, without regular physical activity, the body slowly loses its strength, stamina and ability to function well. For each hour of regular exercise in which we participate, we gain about two hours of additional life expectancy, even if we don’t start until middle age. Moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, for as little as 30 minutes a day, has the proven health benefits of letting us look and feel better, giving us greater energy, as well as improving our blood circulation, which reduces the risk of heart disease; weight control; helps in the battle to quit smoking; prevents and manages high blood pressure; prevents bone loss; helps manage stress and releases tension; promotes enthusiasm and optimism and counters anxiety and depression; helps us fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly; increases muscle strength; reduces the risk of stroke by 20 percent in moderately active people, and by 27 percent in highly active people; reduces coronary heart disease in women by 30 to 40 percent; and helps delay or prevent chronic illnesses and diseases associated with aging and maintains quality of life and independence longer for seniors.
That all sounds pretty motivating.
Many physicians follow the guidelines of the American Heart Association, and say a good exercise program is one that gets your heart rate up over for a sustained period of at least 30 minutes five days a week, with strength training added in two to three times a week. Flexibility training, in the form of yoga, Pilates, or stretching can be very beneficial, as can balance work as we age. Physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burn calories, such as climbing stairs or playing sports. Aerobic exercises benefit your heart, such as walking, jogging, swimming or biking. Strength and stretching exercises are best for overall stamina and flexibility. “When people ask how much they need to exercise, I tell them a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes, but that it doesn’t have to be all all at once. To some people that’s daunting,” said Allison Kaplan, a Bloomfield Township personal trainer with a complete gym in her home where she trains her clients. She also has a popular website, ASKinyourface.com, focusing on women’s health, nutrition, and exercise needs. “I say to them, just move. Walk around the house, sweep your floors, make your beds, carry your laundry upstairs. Get a dog and walk it every day. Take the stairs. Park as far as you can from the store and walk. There’s a lot of movement in everyday activities. They sound cliché, but they work.”
She also recommends buying a clip-on pedometer and keeping track of how many steps you are walking each day. “The ideal is 10,000 steps a day, which is the equivalent of five miles,” said Kaplan. “The pedometer is a mini-motivator. It’s amazing how attached people get to this $15 device. People will say, ‘Oh, I have to walk another 1,000 steps today.’ Just doing this decreases the effects of diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers by 50 percent. It’s the most basic human movement–walking.”
Whether you need motivation to get moving in the first place, or are looking for a trainer to take you to another level in your exercise routine, a personal trainer can do that. Local personal trainers advise there are two things to look for when seeking out a trainer. One is a great connection with the person you are going to have an intimate relationship with, working your body and your mind during your private exercise session. The other is to make sure they have proper certification with a recognized certified fitness organization to legitimize themselves and to inform their potential clients of their professionalism, education and dedication to the field.
“In Michigan, there is no required license for personal trainers, but people volunteer to align themselves with recognized organizations,” said Nancy Simpson, MA, LMSW, of Royal Oak, who is a member of the American Council of Exercise (ACE) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), both of which are national organizations. Simpson, a personal trainer who goes to people’s homes or their country club’s fitness centers, said there are various degrees of rigors in passing the tests of different organizations. “Some require a college education in the field, others only require a weekend workshop. Some are courses that can be ordered online in order to be certified. The fitness industry is working hard to bring some uniformity and accountability to the field. But it’s still the client’s responsibility to inquire into the trainer’s experience and background.”
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit organization, founded in 1985, committed to enriching the quality of life through safe and effective exercise and physical activity. A national certifying, educational and training organization with nearly 50,000 certified professionals, ACE protects all segments of the fitness society against ineffective fitness products, programs, and trends through its continuous public education, outreach and research. ACE said it further protects the public by setting certification and continuing education standards for fitness professionals. They conduct unbiased, scientific research in activities and theories impacting the fitness industry, allowing clients and trainers a reliable source to turn to for information.
To be a qualified ACE personal trainer (as well as most other certified fitness trainers), professionals must take a certifying exam showing proficiency and knowledge of risk factor screening; fitness assessment; nutrition; exercise science; exercise programming and progressions; instructional and spotting techniques; lifestyle modification; and professional scope of practice. They must be at least 18 years old, and hold a current adult CPR and first aid certificate.
There are many different ways to work with a personal trainer. Health clubs, such as Beverly Hills Club, on Southfield Road, has an extensive staff of personal trainers, as well as yoga, Pilates, a spin studio, aerobics, and a full fitness studio. The new Powerhouse Gym Birmingham on Brown in downtown Birmingham also offers personal trainers, including some who specialize in pre and post-rehab work, as well as a full fitness facility, yoga, Pilates, muscle conditioning and weight classes. LA Fitness on Telegraph in Bloomfield Township has a large offering of traditional and unique classes, from belly dancing and aqua fit to kickbox cardio and Latin heat, as well as personal trainers. At each of these private health clubs, you must be a member to work out with one of their personal trainers.
Personal trainers often get their clients through referral from other clients or medical professionals, providing a first-person assessment of their competency, but there can be other ways for clients and trainers to connect, from meeting at the gym, via ads, the Internet, newspaper or magazine articles, which make it incumbent upon the client to do some kind of a background check on the trainer to make sure the individual will be the right fit for them.
“The client really has an obligation to themselves to learn about the trainer’s credentials, who their clients are, what age group they tend to train, and are they comfortable training with people with your issues,” said Simpson. “For example, if you’re 65, you don’t want a trainer who’s only working with a more youthful population. Ideally, you want a trainer who is experienced working with clients similar to yourself.”
DiGiovanni, whose personal trainers at Coach Me Fit are all certified, most with a degree in exercise science, said he believes there are five words that crystalize a personal training experience: investment, meaning the financial and time devoted to the experience; accountability, of the trainer to train you appropriately; safety, a critical component to show “that clients are supervised, that they are completing their exercises safely, and they are teaching them to do them the right way,” customized, as an exercise plan is customized just for you, because “people often do not know where to start;” and efficiency, “because a lot of people we are working with are professionals where time is at a minimum, and we want to be efficient with their time.”
Greg Walczak, owner of Elite Fitness Training, a “small, exclusive facility” in Birmingham’s Rail District, said that everyone he works with is completely different, with different reasons for training, and with different goals.
“I try to approach it from a health standpoint, and try to help them get a balance of physical health and mental or emotional health. I try to relate to people to help them gain a total healthy lifestyle, who may lack balance in their lives. Maybe they’re stressed, or working too much. I believe that controlling their physical body will help them in gaining control of their life in general. But everyone is completely different. So first, I sit down with each individual and break down what their life is like. We look at what are their goals, what can they compromise on in their lifestyle–because it’s not just following a diet, it’s what will you be happy doing,” he said.
Walczak, who has been a private trainer for 15 years, with a B.S in health fitness from Central Michigan University and multiple certificates from different fitness organizations, noted the key to a healthy lifestyle and long-term fitness success is enjoying what you are doing, and who you are working with.
“If you are not happy, you won’t do it,” he said. “It’s not always easy, but people hopefully find the results worth the challenge. There’s a high failure rate with diet and exercise, because people cannot meet their goals, or are not willing to compromise to meet their goals. We sit down together to get that out of the way right away. You have to look at this as a partnership. You’re on a team together. You’re working together, ultimately, and you have to have an extremely open line of communication to work effectively. It’s a very personal relationship.”
“It’s personal, as in personal trainer,” said Simpson. “That’s an obligation of the personal trainer, to get enough information about the client to find the motivation for them. The whole thing about personal training is the word ‘personal.’ One person might be on the treadmill six days a week, vs. another person might not exercise between sessions. It’s up to the trainer to help the client establish their fitness goals, and help them uncover what will motivate them to achieve those goals. It’s through that personal relationship that you develop that. Goals are not just for aesthetics, they are for function. For an older client, they may not be trying to get into a dress for a wedding, but recognizing that their physical capacity is diminishing, and they want to stabilize, and ideally improve, their activities of daily living.”
Krista Mayo of Driven Fitness Training, which provides in-home personal training, said every program she designs is tailored for the specific client. Mayo, with a black belt in martial arts, is certified with the International Sports Sciences Association, is a certified fitness therapist, and a fitness nutritionist.
“When I meet a new client and get to know them, I find out their fitness and health goals, and from there, I do a fitness assessment, including their medical history. I always ask their limitations, from their perspective. Is it, ‘I can’t do push ups’ or ‘I have serious limitations’ due to injuries or health problems? If necessary, I have them get a doctor’s clearance,” Mayo said. “Then I run them through a mock test to see how many push ups they can do, how many sit ups. I run them through a cardio test to see where their heart rate is, either on the treadmill or by doing jumping jacks,and then plan accordingly.”
Mayo said that clients do not need to have a full gym in their home, and she will bring equipment with her to get them started, beginning with resistance bands, hand weights, and a BOSU (pronounced “Bo — sue”), which is a balance trainer which can be used in a myriad of ways.
Mayo said her clients who are in their teens or 20s are looking for strength training, while her clients in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are also looking to build lean muscles, flexibility, strength, and to strengthen bone density.
“Weight training is one of the most important things a woman can do for herself,” said Allison Kaplan. “It physically strengthens the body, it improves muscle mass and bone density, which can be improved at any age, and it helps with balance, which is a huge issue for us as we age. But we cannot do one thing. We have to do cardio, strength training (weights), flexibility, and balance. You do not want to find yourself on a bathroom floor one day. If you do not have the strength in your muscles to get to a phone, you may lay there for hours. People suffer from devastating injuries from falls every year. If you are strong, and you do fall, your muscles will protect your joints. You may hurt yourself, but the effects will not be as devastating.”
To increase flexibility, Pilates is a preferred choice of many fitness advocates because of its mind-body connection and its belief in strengthening the core of the body for stability. Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century as a physical fitness system for dancers, primarily, and to help those who were injured rehabilitate. Pilates believed in strengthening the mind and the body, in a holistic sense, using breathing to cleanse the body and circulate blood flow.
“Pilates is anatomically-based, and instructors learn how to do postural analysis of certain body types, in order to counteract incorrect posture and help the body properly align,” said Nancy Hodari, owner of Equilibrium Studio in Bloomfield Township. “You learn to teach the individual, and to assess their individual body.”
The key element in Pilates is the core, called the powerhouse of the body, which are the abdominal muscles, obliques, and lower back. “It’s called the powerhouse of the body because this is what holds you up,” said Hodari. “All athletes need to train their core. If your core is not strong, you are more at risk of injuries and back pain. Pilates addresses flexibility, strengthening of your muscles, core work, and weight training–everything but your cardio. It’s called the intelligent exercise for profound results.”
While Equilibrium, and other Pilates studios, such as Townsend Street Pilates, and Pilates Birmingham, offer various small group classes, their primary focus are one-on-one personal training sessions.
“The first few minutes, the instructor is always assessing where you are today, reviewing your exercise history, your injury history, and your goals, as well as how you are feeling today,” said Hodari. “It’s very smart for everyone to work one-on-one to learn your body and the correct movement patterns. It’s important to learn the main stabilization principles of shoulder stabilization and pelvic stabilization, and then you move on from there, adding in the mind/body aspect, where breathing facilitates movement.”
No training or exercise program can be effective without proper nutrition; not eating well, or dieting inappropriately is like expecting your car to work without filling its tank with gas.
“Nutrition is huge. We’re constantly learning more and more,” noted Kaplan. “Nutrition is the key to protecting us from all kinds of diseases and illnesses, regardless of age. You can nutritionally have it all going on, and achieve the level of fitness that allows you to be strong, because it will help you enjoy your life to its fullest.”
Mayo concurred. “As far as fitness is concerned, if you are not eating healthily and balanced, nothing you do will matter. Everything you are doing to stay in shape and build muscle tone will not mean anything if you’re not eating properly.
“You must maintain good water intake, protein intake, good carbs, good fats–they all play a part in staying in shape, and living a healthy life, while losing weight appropriately.”
Time for a walk, anyone?
Courtesy of Downtown Publications.