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What a personal trainer can do for you

Trainers offer extra motivation to meet your fitness goals.

personal trainer
Image: Barryj13 /Thinkstock

You always want a good return on your investment, especially when you reach retirement age. That goes for your fitness, too. One of the best moves for a lucrative long-term payoff is to invest in a personal trainer.

“The exercises that worked when you were younger probably are not what you need now and going forward,” says Vijay A. Daryanani, a certified personal trainer with Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Outpatient Center. “A personal trainer can identify your needs and formulate the proper routine as well as keep you motivated and focused, all of which can help keep you active.”

Change how you exercise

Hiring a personal trainer has many individual benefits. Perhaps the main one is to teach you how to exercise correctly. “There is greater emphasis on correct posture, form, execution, and speed of movement since your body has changed, and you now may have range-of-motion restrictions,” says Daryanani.

Proper technique also eliminates bad habits you’ve picked up over the years. “When you were younger, you often could handle the stress of poor form,” says Daryanani. “But when you are older, this makes you more vulnerable to strains and injuries, and can keep you from exercising at all.”

Another value of trainers is they create individualized workouts with set objectives. It is easy to fall into an exercise rut when you work out alone, particularly if you do the same workout, in the same order, every time with little, if any, variation. Eventually you reach a plateau where your fitness no longer improves and may even regress.

“You need to constantly challenge yourself and make sure you address your entire body and different muscle groups, and not just focus on exercises you enjoy and find easy to do,” says Daryanani.

For instance, your routine may always include 30 minutes on the treadmill, which is great for your heart and cardio fitness, but may mean you neglect strength and flexibility. “Trainers can identify your weak spots and then help you focus on those areas.”

When you exercise alone you do not always push yourself. Yet a trainer who oversees your entire workout can encourage you to squeeze out more reps, and that extra effort can add up. “Over the course of a few sessions, you could in effect increase your overall workouts by an extra set or two,” says Daryanani.

Trainers also can help men overcome an issue they often have difficulty acknowledging: the fear factor. For example, you might avoid squats because you worry about getting fatigued and hurting yourself. “However, a trainer can guide you through the steps and be there for support, so you can embrace these valuable exercises and gradually build up confidence,” says Daryanani.

Look in the right places

Daryanani says that most franchise gyms are not a good place for older men to find a personal trainer. “They are often focused on a younger demographic, so many of their trainers won’t have experience working with seniors.” A better choice might be YMCAs and local community centers that tend to focus on programs for older adults. Still, find out if your local gym offers Silver Sneaker programs or other classes devoted to older adults. If so, odds are they may have the proper trainers on staff.

You should approach hiring a trainer like a job interview, says Daryanani. Ask about the person’s training background, experience working with clients your age, education, and special certification (see “Look for the initials”), as well as how he or she designs client programs. “You do not want a cut-and-paste approach, but rather something tailored to your needs alone,” says Daryanani. Also, ask for references, especially from clients your age.

Different ways to use

How you use your sessions, and for how long, depend on your goals and lifestyle. “Some people use trainers to teach them how to better work out on their own or at home, or purchase sessions every few months as a tune-up, or if they have specific needs like recovering from surgery or an injury,” says Daryanani.

He suggests signing up for a few sessions at first to gauge how you and the trainer work together before you commit to something longer. The trainer-client relationship is always a work in progress, he adds, but the ultimate goal is always the same. “Trainers help you gain what you lost and help you to go farther.”

Look for the initials

Your trainer should have credentials from one or more of these organizations:

  • ACE: American Council on Exercise

  • ACSM: American College of Sports Medicine

  • ISSA: International Sports Sciences Association

  • NASM: National Academy of Sports Medicine.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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