One thing I’ve done recently that had a big impact on my health was to work with a personal trainer (online). I wasn’t really sure what that would be like so I thought I’d share why I found one to work with and how that went for me in case others are curious.
Why a personal trainer?
For a little context, I’ve been working out regularly for 2 years. I’ve mostly worked out at home following various programs (mostly FitnessBlender and some FitBit and Garmin plans). In the summer of 2020 (while COVID-19 was very low here in Denmark) I joined a functional fitness gym (aka non-branded CrossFit), mostly because I wanted to lift weights and I wanted to have someone there to make sure my form was good and I wasn’t completely messing up the exercises. While that worked to some degree, and I did enjoy my classes, between COVID-19 precautions and the fact that I didn’t get to steer the specific exercises I wanted to do, I decided I needed to find another solution. I wanted to be able to work out at home, with the equipment that I already have, and get instruction on the specific things I wanted to be able to do. Related to that thought, I also felt that I was just “working out” and not really getting anywhere. I have some personal exercise goals that I’d like to achieve, but I’ve had a hard time staying focused on making progress towards long-term goals.
This is a pretty clear case for a personal trainer, and then I had one more thing that was niggling at me that pushed me over the edge, related to my nutrition. I’d finally dialed in a good way of eating that I liked and helped me lose some of the body fat I’d been wanting to drop. I’d finally gotten to a place where my body fat was comfortably below 30% and I didn’t feel the need to keep losing a lot of fat/weight. But I wasn’t sure how to adjust my nutrition in a way to a) not wreck the work I’d done and b) support my goals to gain strength and muscle.
So to sum up, I wanted customized workouts, at home with my equipment, working toward specific exercise and nutrition goals. All of this combined made me start looking around at my options for some online help.
How did I find someone?
Now my only experience so far with personal trainers was when I joined a gym maybe 15 years ago. The gym offered personal trainer sessions, which sounded like a great idea. I signed up, and while my trainer was very fit and very enthusiastic, he almost killed me on the first day. I actually almost passed out in the locker room and had other people worried about me. I recovered enough to walk out the door after a while, but let’s just say I didn’t do that again. It wasn’t a great experience for trust.
This time around I wanted to be sure I’d have someone who wasn’t going to give me a cookie-cutter workout that didn’t suit me. Since I’ve been into fitness generally for the last 2 years now, and I’d been looking more into specific things, like kettlebells, I’d started following a variety of people on social media. Through following folks I could get a sense of their fitness philosophy and I gravitated towards women who were realistic and science-based about health and fitness goals.
Once I decided to get a personal trainer, I could see that some folks I followed offered personal training and I looked around for others to follow so I could get a feel for them. Then I reached out to set up an interview to see if they seemed like a good match for me. I wanted to see what questions they asked me and how they were going to figure out what I needed. Did they really hear me, and my challenges? I found what I was looking for from someone I followed on Instagram, Hannah Hutson (@getupwithhannah).
What did we do?
Once Hannah and I agreed to work together, we got right down to it. I told her my goals and the areas I was struggling with. She had me track my food for a week or so to get an idea of what and how much I was consuming, and she set up my first weeks of exercise programming. She also set me up with a tracking spreadsheet (for things like nutrition and sleep) and a daily log. We would check in once a week, but I also had access to her any time I had questions or needed her to update workouts through a messaging app called Voxer.
Since this is all custom, she created workouts each week for the equipment I had and where I would be. We recently bought a lake house here in Denmark and we move back and forth between that and the city apartment pretty regularly. I have different equipment in the 2 locations. Hannah would swap out my exercises as I moved around. She would also update my workouts based on how I did with what was assigned and how I was feeling. This was great because my program exactly matched my life any given week. I could also video myself doing any of my exercises, share that with her and then she could give me form feedback. This was a big deal for me, because I’m always worried about not doing an exercise properly, especially with something new like kettlebells. Getting specific form feedback was awesome and gave me a lot of confidence.
About half way through my 3 month contract with her, I noticed that Fridays were tough for me. I was working out 4 days a week (which is what I requested at the start) and I was just feeling uninspired by the end of the week. She suggested I try dropping down to 3 days a week, skipping Fridays, and see how that felt. She redid my workouts for the new schedule and I found I really liked it. I’d been working out in so many programs that insist on 4-5 days a week that I didn’t really have a feel for 3 days of workouts. Hannah knew that 3 days was good enough for me and that it would be better for me to have energy for all of them instead of pushing myself harder than necessary. She’s a big fan of proper rest.
On the nutrition front, one of the first things she said to me is “you need to eat more”. I’d been running on a calorie deficit for about 4-5 months when we started. She gradually increased my nutrition goals each week until she got me up to the levels she wanted to see. In addition to an overall calorie increase of about 200 calories, she also upped my water intake and protein requirements. It was made with small changes each week so I could work on it slowly. Believe it or not, it can be hard to suddenly start eating more. Some days I just didn’t want to eat that much, especially for breakfast. So we went slowly, and then one week suddenly my metabolism kicked in hard. I was hungry and I was busting out my workouts. When we started the program, I would feel worn out and sometimes even light-headed after my workouts. I didn’t have enough fuel in me to push hard. By about week 4, I had a lot more energy to really push my workouts and I was feeling much more energetic overall.
What I think of the experience
I said at the beginning of this post that this had a big impact on me. Over 3 months, I gained confidence, focus, and strength. I could see and feel the progress on my goals. My body feels great and I learned a lot about why that is. My nutrition changes were huge because I was too afraid to mess with it and I needed expert advice to guide me through the change. My fitness changes were great because she kept me on target towards my specific goals, while mixing my workouts up so I didn’t get bored and so I could use the equipment I had available any given day.
Hannah has a fitness philosophy that really resonates with me. She’s focused on taking care of your body, not punishing it, and she very much wants to share her knowledge. I learned so much in my time with her that I feel very confident moving ahead on my own for a while. I’m not going to lie, this was a very expensive spend on my self, and so I needed to wrap up after 3 months. That said, it was time and money well spent because the progress I made physically and mentally in the last few months was lightning compared to where I was.
I realize I’m privileged to be able to afford something like this. If you do happen to have an opportunity to get one-on-one coaching and you really want to work on your health and fitness, I highly recommend it. My biggest recommendation is to get to know some trainers before you choose one. Follow them on social media to see where they’re coming from and then interview them to really see if you will have a good working relationship with them. Do you feel like they understand your goals and challenges? Do you feel like you will be able to actually learn from them?
If anyone has questions about what it’s like to work with a trainer or how to find someone, feel free to give me a shout.