From Fat to Fit: What It's Really Like to Work with a Personal Trainer

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Many of my clients seek out personal training because they’re overweight. Christine is one of those clients, and over the next few months she’ll be sharing her progress with us. This post was originally published May 30, 2013; however, my blog has moved so I'm reposting it here.

I woke up Friday morning wishing that I could sleep in more than anything. You know the feeling. Your pillow feels warm and soft beneath your head, your bedroom is still shrouded in darkness, and the last thing you want to do is crawl out of bed. When I finally did get up, work beckoned as did the dozens of other items on my to do list. I didn’t have the desire–much less the time–to work out. But I did it anyway, and I’m so glad I did!

My Warm-Up Routine Before My Personal Training Sessions

My typical routine is to show up at the gym 20 to 30 minutes before my personal training session. I typically warm up on an elliptical or a stationary bike for five minutes. Then I do a few surges, alternating between one minute of high-intensity exertion and one minute of low-intensity exertion. I follow this with a few minutes of cool down time and some foot-strengthening exercises to keep me from developing posterior tibial tendonitis when I run at home (I noticed some early signs of it a few weeks ago).

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I then do three sets of 15 leg extensions. This wakes up my quads and prepares them for the work that’s ahead. It also activates the muscles that support my knees; I sprained my left knee playing dodge ball years ago and the leg extensions have it made it noticeably stronger. If I have time, I might squeeze in some foam rolling, but usually I jump to a bridge series that is intended to stretch and strengthen my back and my core. (Speaking of my back, I found out that the pain I reported a few weeks ago was from an old muscle sprain, not a herniated disc. Andrea and I have targeted this area and my core specifically, and my lower back hasn’t bothered me in weeks!)

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Taking on the Challenge of Personal Training

Every day that I have personal training with Andrea, I tell my husband that I had the best workout of my life, and Friday was no exception. We started with some single-leg squats that rocked me to the core. At first, I was really wobbly and kept using my back leg to support my body weight. But once I started to focus on my core, glutes, and quads, I found that I could knock out each set without a second thought. I think this happens to me a lot in my day-to-day life: I feel intimidated by the tasks in front of me, but once I throw myself wholeheartedly into the task, it becomes super easy and even a little fun.

After the single-leg squats, I lifted a medicine ball over my head while squatting on a bosu ball. It was challenging, to say the least. However, the bosu ball planks were even more difficult. I put my feet on one and my forearms on the other, all the while squeezing with my core so I wouldn’t fall over.

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I’ve never had much upper-body strength, so one of the best parts about personal training has been targeting my arms and upper back. On Friday, I did several sets of bicep curls, and I was pretty sure my arms were going to fall off by the end. I tried to visualize myself lifting my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel instead of weights, but it didn’t really help. Afterwards, I did several sets of tricep exercises, including the overhead lifts and the kick backs seen in these photos.

Finally, Andrea had me do some postural exercises. To be honest, I was terrible at these. I literally had to stop in between each one and take a breather, and even then I struggled with each rep. But the thing I’m learning about weight training is that you have to struggle in order to make progress. As an uptight perfectionist who has to do everything the right way the first time, this has rocked my world. Maybe doing everything perfectly is overrated, and making progress is what matters? I’m still exploring this in my personal training sessions and in the rest of my life.