Once viewed as indulgent eye candy for bored housewives with too much leisure time on their hands, for many, a session with a PT (personal trainer) is now as much a part of a rounded fitness routine as a treadmill and kettlebells.
When gyms shut, the future looked bleak for the profession, but enterprising trainers reinvented their business models and moved online.
In early June, when the UK Government announced that personal trainers could train clients outside, many set up boot camps in the local park. They went from paying high rents in commercial gyms (often up to 50 per cent of their fees) to training groups of six to 10 people a session. Demand for their services has only increased as studies continue to show strong links between obesity and poor Covid-19 outcomes.
Picking the right PT can be a minefield. There is no barrier to entry and plenty of people are in the job for the perceived status and glamour, rather than to genuinely help clients achieve their goals. Generally, good gyms require their PTs to have qualifications and public liability insurance. Personal recommendation and reputation are good indicators of ability, while size, gimmicks and theatrics are not.
Once you've picked your PT, he or she should design a programme that works for you, based on factors such as your age, fitness level, lifestyle and pre-existing injuries. For first-time PT users it's important to be honest about your ability and any niggling aches and pains. Be prepared to try new things.
Last year, for example, I spent every Monday morning for 12 weeks with PT and endurance athlete Paul Roberts at the Tribal Gym in Chertsey, Surrey, dressed in a wet rubber vest attached to electric wires. During these one-to-one Electrical Muscle Stimulation sessions, Paul set me a range of exercises to perform while my muscles were fired up with currents of varying electrical intensity. The results were short, focused muscle workouts, without any strain on joints or tendons – perfect for older people. Or, ahem, 50 year-olds, like me. The £80 sessions were by no means easy, but incredibly effective and efficient.
A good PT should also have some analytic tools to assess you and your needs. I was put through a VO2 Max test, which analysed how my body uses oxygen and calculated my optimal fat-burning heart rate. The data allowed me to completely change my fitness regime. I dialled down the intensity of my gym sessions and concentrated on long walks and cycles, more weightlifting and just one HIIT session a week. Consequently, I got more toned and reduced my body fat to around 10 per cent (the safest place to be).
PTs should certainly motivate you. They should give nutrition advice, monitor your progress and help you towards goals. One thing they cannot do, however, is lose the weight for you, if weight loss is your goal.
Indeed, the one immutable fact about using a PT once a week is that it is not a silver bullet. No matter how gruelling the session, how much it costs, or how much your PT shouts at you, one spurt of exercise a week is not enough. The onus to shape up is still on you.
The Daily Telegraph