Exercise. We all know it’s good for us. It’s an important part of a healthy lifestyle and an integral part to losing the Freshman 15. But you may have stepped into a gym, seen the following and just backed out.
Gyms are intimidating. They’re big and there are all sorts of machines which look more like contraptions. If you’re self-conscious like me, it’s even scarier – it’s enough just to have to look flushed and sweaty and icky in front of strangers, but then you also have to fumble with the machinery that you’re not familiar with. In short, going to the gym is scary.
But what to do? Exercise is important, and there’s no better way to work out when you can take advantage of your free* membership to the gyms on campus. (*technically. You’ve already paid for it in your fees.) Here’s where personal trainers come in. If you’re on the Athletic Centre‘s or Hart House‘s website, you’ll notice that there is information for personal trainers. I know some of you may be thinking, “but I don’t even exercise! How can a personal trainer help me?” Well, maybe not you you, but I certainly was interested, and sought to find out more by contacting Susan Lee from the AC. Susan was extremely helpful and set me up with an appointment right away.
Last Thursday, I headed over to meet with Sapna, one of the AC’s personal trainers and she took me around the gym for a mock 1-on-1 session. She was a lot younger than I expected (around my age), wore a bright teal nail polish and had a brilliant, comforting smile. Right away she asked me if I was right-handed or if I hold my hand bag with my right hand. I did! Apprently, my posture is tilted a little to the side to compensate the extra weight. Huh! Did not know that.
First we had a short consultation in a small room to the side of the gym. We talked aboout my needs and what I wanted from the session, the level of exercise that I’ve been doing, my expectations, etc. Depending on what you want, Sapna will custom tailor the personal sessions to suit your goals.
But your personal trainers are not there just to force you to exercise; Sapna took the time to explain to me the ABC’s of personal training, and gave me all sorts of tips for working out. Little things that you wouldn’t know if you’re just starting.
The ABC’s of Personal Training
A – Action: doing the actual exercise!
B – Breathing: you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to forget breathing once you’re exercising, but breathing is important! But when to breathe is also important. You exhale when you’re using more effort, and inhale when you’re using less. Don’t worry, you’ll get to see how this works in a second.
C – Coaching: exercising properly with the correct posture, tempo, and sets and reps.
There are three steps in setting your posture correctly: 1) shoulders; 2) pelvis; 3) core; try this with me, and you’ll find your posture’s much better after.
1) Shoulders: roll your shoulders up, back, and let it drop.
2) Pelvis: align your pelvis with your shoulders, and keep your legs comfortably hip-wide apart.
3) Core: imagine you’re bringing your belly button and pinning it to your spine.
4) Observe! A much more relaxed and correct posture for exercising, and everyday sitting and walking!
In terms of tempo, Sapna suggested 4:2:4 for a beginner like me. What this means is taking 4 seconds during the concentric, or shortening of the muscle part of the exercise, holding my position for 2 seconds, and another 4 seconds for the eccentric, or lengthening of the muscle part of the exercise. Like the breathing thing, I’ll show you in a bit.
Your personal trainer will adjust repititions and sets as per your need, but for me, Sapna used 8-12 reps and 1-2 sets per exercise. What this means is that I repeat a particular exercise 8-12 times (this is 1st set), stop, and possibly do another 8-12 times of the same thing (the 2nd set).
So now, I’m going to take you through my session! Thank you to the beautiful Sapna who agreed to be photographed. I don’t know how she does it, but she manages to look fab while demonstrating for me at the same time! Also, I wanted to mention that many of the machines in the AC gym are wheel-chair accessible. Whoohoo!
Sapna showed me how to adjust the bike seat and speed and I went on for 5 minutes to warm up. I know some of you are going, wait, you haven’t stretched! Sapna explained that stretching will be done at the end, when the muscle’s warmed up. It’s really easy to injure yourself if you’re not properly warmed up, so don’t skip this step!
Oh man, when I got on the squat machine, I felt like I was going in a cushier version of the Iron Maiden, because your head is supported from all sides. Anyhow, this exercise is a great one for your entire body. All right, the breathing and tempo thing: going down is easier than going up, yes? So inhale going down, and exhale when you’re going up on the squat. The process of moving down should take 4 seconds, hold the position for 2, and move up using another 4 seconds. I also did squats with an exercise ball after:
3) Chest Press!
After the chest press, I ached in areas I didn’t knew could ache, namely the place where my shoulders joined my torso.
4) Lunges on the Bosu!
The half-exercise ball thing is called a bosu, and I lunged on it. Looks easy, but that thing is WOBBLY. It tests your balance as well. I was flailing, madly. After doing more of a full body exercise, we moved to target specific areas. Next up: nice arms!
5) Bicep curls with free-weights
6) Tricep press with rope handle
Nice arms are great for sleeveless shirts. I know, I know, vanity. But really, another great motivator to working out is how great you’re going to look. Who doesn’t want nice arms?
7) Glutes isolator
And a nice bum, for that matter. Or glutes, if you want to get more scientific. Nice glutes.
This is great for your posture, and Sapna/I used a bar bell to do the row. We also did some 9) Hamstring Curl after this, but I didn’t get a picture, sorry!
Note my enthusiasm~! Gah. It’s only 2 minutes but da-yum, that was painful. I did 30 seconds each of bench jumps, mountain climbs, bosu jumps and jumping jacks. And no, you’re not getting any pictures because there is no flattering way of taking pictures of either four. And please, I was flushed red and panting and out of balance by the end, so I couldn’t even hold Mr. Spock steady.
11) Core Exercises
And after the cardio, I still wasn’t done! I was almost dying on the mat by this point, but I stuck through crunches on the exercise ball (1st picture), lower ab raises with the exercise ball, medicine ball twists (2nd picture) and the plank. One resounding conclusion? I am a champ! Nah. I just have a weak core.
Oh, this part was nice. Sapna helped me stretched out my muscles. I was walking funny by this point, but I got one heck of a full body workout! Sapna also told me to make sure I don’t exercise the same muscle group with resistance two days in a row. Cardio every day is okay though!
Ahaha (and I’m tempted to say lolerskates), I ached. Oooooh yes I ached. The day of and the day after. It subsided by the afternoon of the third day, but walking up the flight of stairs to work the next day was the single most difficult thing I had to do. A good ache though, and a justifying one when I reached for that cinnabon at the train station I’ve been afraid to buy till now.
I have to say a huge, huge thank you to Sapna, who not only put up with my unfamiliarity (again, I’m tempted to say “n00bness”) around the gym, and for not only showing me how to do everything, how to use all the machines, and not letting me stop after my first jumping jack, but also maintaining an extremely friendly, cheerful and comforting presence the entire time. And yes, also for agreeing to be photographed. I was way too self-conscious for that to happen, and you would’ve ended up with no pictures otherwise!
I know the cost of a personal trainer is a tad steep on first glance, but if you’ve ever been too unmotivated to exercise, or afraid of the gym, or want to know what exercises are right for you, or even if you’re an experienced exerciser and athlete who hit a plateau or if you’re in active rehab, a personal trainer is great to help you meet your training needs. Plus, U of T students get a 10% discount!