The Lady Biest has read the odd personal trainer romance where the one-on-one touching and honing of rippling muscle sees lust delicately blossom into heart-felt boffing and more—but she’s not really buying it. In her humble opinion, nothing is less sexy than beetroot cheeks and an impending infarction. Still, perhaps that’s just her advanced age and ruinous state of physical health talking. To find out the truth about personal trainers as romantic heroes, the she went deep, deep undercover at a gym as a cluelessly unfit person and asked a trainer how the leg extension machine worked. Once she’d tied him to it with her shoelaces, she refused to untie him until he answered all her questions. Find Peter the Personal Trainer’s answers below, gentle readers.
Rhyll: If you were to believe certain magazines and novels, all personal trainers (PTs) are hotter than the Devil’s very own fur-lined panties (in the looks department, at least) and looking for equally stud-worthy gym bunny partners. Accurate or not?
Peter: Yes and no. Personal training and fitness has become a real trend in recent years. Attracting those who are more concerned with their own wellbeing, appearance and position in society rather than those that have a genuine interest in helping others. Generally speaking, it is this minority of PT’s that fit into this stereotype of a buffed trainer that is looking for both a worthy and aesthetically pleasing wallflower. However, I choose to believe that there is a large number of trainers out there that have good intentions; they have a love of health & wellbeing and a genuine desire to help others. These people will more often still be fit and healthy but may go without the perfectly chiseled abs, beached bronzed tan, capped pearly whites, sleeve tattoos, fake breasts or miniature dog – both for themselves and their partners.
Rhyll: What makes a good personal trainer?
Peter: When people think of a PT, more often than not they will think of an overly muscular meathead that works in a gym and prescribes programs that consist of lifting weights. And due to the trend I mentioned above there is an influx of such trainers; vain and superficial people that choose to believe their success has nothing to do with their genetic predisposition but rather their superior training techniques. It is possible to become a qualified personal trainer after attending a four week course – a scary thought.
A PT needs to be confident in issuing a whole range of programs. Strength, flexibility, weight loss, etc. And when doing so they often need to know how to accommodate a range of complex issues such as osteoporosis, prior injuries, diabetes, etc. So along with the relevant technical/scientific knowledge, a good PT needs to have a love of health and wellbeing plus a genuine desire to help others. In addition, a certain level of wisdom, life experience and/or empathy is also required. Many clients only reach out to a PT once they have hit rock bottom and quite often have some emotional issues they are working through.
Rhyll: Ever had a client show up for a training session wearing too little?
Peter: I guess it depends on the context – never in a provocative sense. I’ve done plenty of pool sessions so I am used to seeing my clients in next to nothing. The issue is more inappropriate clothing for exercise. Bras that offer little to no support for running, g-strings whilst riding bicycles (under shorts thankfully) or business attire to lift weights.
Rhyll: Describe your ideal gym or workout space.
Peter: Anywhere outside. It’s free. Fresh air. Different every time. No waiting around for other people.
A good PT should be able to improvise and achieve anything outside.
Rhyll: What's the worst thing about your job?
Peter: The long days and lack of social life. PTs are generally working when everyone else is socializing and relaxing and vice versa. Quite often our work hours can be spread out between 5am and 8pm with large breaks throughout the day. Oh and weekends are generally all work too.
Rhyll: Have lady clients ever hit on you?
Peter: Not as often as you’d think – crazy I know.
But seriously, only one occasion that I can think of that was awkward. When I was working overseas I had a rather intimidating lady try to win my affections. She offered me small gifts early on, which were manageable, but I had to cut ties when she offered to pay for a weekend away in Spain!
Rhyll: How much of a workout do you do to keep in shape?
Peter: My training has dropped off dramatically with age. My aim at present is to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. For moderate strength and cardiovascular fitness I generally try to run 2-3 times a week, swim 1-2 times a week and weights 3-4 times a week. On average I would train six times a week. I also stretch every day.
Rhyll: How would you describe the ideal client?
Peter: Anyone that is committed to train and achieving their goals. It is not uncommon for people to engage a personal trainer, as they know they need to exercise, but are unwilling to put in the work to see results. I am quite happy to refuse payment from such people and advise them to return to me when they want to achieve.
Rhyll: What’s the strangest/funniest thing that’s happened to you as a personal trainer?
Peter: Hmmm, so many inappropriate stories… It’s always amusing when clients accidentally fart for the first time when exercising. They become far less embarrassed when I tell them how common it is. And it’s amazing how it can build rapport!
Rhyll: What’s your solid gold exercise tip for authors who spend too much time at the keyboard?
Frequent stretching of the neck, shoulders, arms and chest. This should be combined with an active lifestyle – I know this is two things but you can’t get away with just doing one!
Rhyll: I don’t know, an ‘active lifestyle’ sounds extreme. How about I just forget you ever said that and move onto the next question? I came across a whole article on ‘when personal training gets too personal’. Is this really a problem?
Peter: Absolutely. Many clients only reach out once they’ve tried everything else (on their own). As a trainer you not only need to be able to empathise with a wide range of people but you often need to know how to respond appropriately to insecurities, self-esteem issues, self-confidence issues or even depression. I’m not saying that you need to be a psychologist or know how to treat these issues but it is important that you respond appropriately and don’t push your client away. Your client needs to be able to trust you and know that you’re understanding.
Having said that, though, I don’t agree with the article’s highly clinical approach to the problem. Also, the final sentence seems contradictory to the general theme (but is one that I agree with). “With a little intuition, lots of empathy, and a good heartfelt talk, trainers can help their clients go further than trying to impress them with the latest exercise”. Intuition and empathy are skills that often come with age, and are often missing in the fresh-faced, hugely-buffed and newly-accredited trainers being churned out of four week courses. I freely admit that intuition and empathy were something I struggled with early on in my career when dealing with situations that I had not dealt with previously.
Rhyll: Lay some sexy personal training jargon on us.
Peter: 1RM (one repetition max). Fartlek. Plyometric. Tensor fascia latae. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. Anaerobic threshold.
Rhyll: Is fartlek the term for farting while running? Just kidding. How do personal trainers like to unwind after playing slave-driver all day?
Peter: I generally like to veg out by watching some television or a movie.
Rhyll: Thank you for your time, Peter. Before you go, some of the other Naughty Ninjas have some questions for you. If you stick around to answer them, I promise not to allow any inappropriate touching on their part. (Beats fellow ninjas off with large stick.)
Cranky Cookieface: WTF back fat? I am well within my healthy weight range. I eat sensibly, exercise regularly, do strength training twice a week, and yet I have upper side boob bulge and bra bulge. Are there strength or toning moves that can target back fat/bra bulge?
Peter: Unfortunately there is no such thing as spot reduction, in terms of fat loss. If you are unhappy with this area you would need to decrease your overall body fat percentage. People will generally have a “trouble area” of their body which is the first place to put on fat when they indulge and the last place to lose it when they are focused. Such areas are harder to get rid of as we older too. I find such areas are best attacked through diet–a high animal protein diet with minimal carbohydrates (this includes alcohol) is key. Diet is often our biggest enemy.
A good PT will tailor a person’s program to work with their body shape. For example, a person with an apple shape will need to work on shoulder and leg exercises to appear more broad (for a man) or more curvaceous (for a woman). Such programs can often help improve the appearance of such problem areas.
Princess Glitterpants: What's the funniest excuse a client has given for not meeting their targets?
Peter: Clients often say they are doing everything they can but just aren’t getting the results–but it’s amazing how often I bump into said clients out at lunch or dinner eating dessert, walking into a McDonalds, or having a few beers with friends. Not all that funny but amusing nonetheless.
The funniest challenge I’ve had from a client was to improve their swimming skill. I’m a qualified swim coach and sometimes get requests to help improve people’s swimming technique. When I asked the client to get in and swim a lap so I could assess their technique and gauge our starting point. They willing obliged, placed their swim cap and goggles on, stood at the end of the pool and dove into the water. Madly kicking, they proceeded to sink to the bottom of the pool where they lay briefly, arms at full stretch in a perfect streamline position. They stood up and said, “How was that?”
This person had literally never swum before. So I said, “Okay, looks like we’re starting from scratch!”
Fairway Queen: What's your take on shows like the Biggest Loser? Utter wank? Fatty exploitation? Can't miss television?
Peter: Without sounding like a cheesy motivational talk, I don’t mind the Biggest Loser. It is great to see a positive reality television show (compared to other rubbish). I do find they play on the ‘emotional journey’ of the contestants too much in recent years but on the whole it’s inspirational to see people achieve. I personally wouldn’t want to air all of my self confidence issues on national television, but if other people don’t mind and it can give hope and motivation to at least one other person then it can’t be too bad.