When you sign up for a gym membership, you're often offered a complimentary personal training session. You might be tempted to avoid these free sessions in fear of sales pitches — which may or may not be waiting for you at the end. Or maybe you can only justify one personal training session to get you on the right track (or back on track). So is it worth it to do just one session? Absolutely! Here are 10 tips to maximize your time with a trainer and set you up to reach your fitness goals.
1. Eat Before the Workout
To reap the full benefits of any workout, eat a small meal or snack containing carbs and protein 30 to 45 minutes prior. A piece of whole-wheat toast with peanut butter or Greek yogurt with berries will do the trick. You can also eat a healthy meal two to three hours before the workout. Fueling your body with the right balance of macronutrient and quality food sources will help stabilize your blood sugar, which will take your body through the next 30 to 60 minutes of a tough workout. If you don't eat enough before a workout, you could feel light-headed, nauseous or lethargic.
2. Ask for a Workout Outline
To prepare yourself for future solo gym sessions, ask your trainer for a basic cardio plan. You'll know what strength training moves you should do based on what the trainer suggests from the training session, but you'll need a cardio plan as well. Your week should entail three days of cardio workouts and two to three days of strength-training workouts (depending on your goals). Make sure you tell the trainer what types of cardio you enjoy. If your sweat sessions aren't enjoyable, you won't do them. You might find that you really love Spin classes or a barre studio in your neighborhood. Tell your trainer which type of classes you prefer and they can base your cardio plan around those types of workouts.
3. Review Your Food Journal
If time permits, share a food journal with your trainer of everything you've eaten for the last three days or give a general overview of what a day of eating looks like for you. There are many apps that will find the nutrition information for each food to omit the guesswork of counting calories. MyPlate is one of the best apps and can even find foods from popular restaurants. When sharing your food journal with the trainer, he or she can spot weak areas in your diet, such as the sweet treat after dinner or the sugar-packed drink at your favorite coffee shop. Food items you mistakenly think are healthy may be hindering your weight-loss goals.
4. Get a Form Check
Have you been doing the same workout for years on end? During the session your trainer will pay close attention to your form on each movement. Bad form can result in targeting the wrong muscles at best and injury at worst. So in addition to what your trainer has planned, have him or her watch you do a few of your go-to exercises. Squats, lunges, deadlifts and push-ups are great ones to get feedback on. Use what you absorb during the session in your next workouts. When your form is spot-on you'll build lean muscle faster and engage the correct muscles, reducing the chance of injury.
5. Pay Attention to Breaks
In addition to taking note of the exercises the trainer picks for your workout, pay attention to how long or short the rest time is between sets. Both short and long rest periods have their place and purpose, so you want to make sure those line up with your goals. Shorter rest periods are often used for building endurance and emphasizing cardiovascular fitness. Long rest periods give you more time to recover if you're lifting heavier weights.
You want to be recovered enough to tackle your next set, but not so relaxed that you fail to push yourself. We tend to sweat more when someone is pushing us. Next time you're at the gym on your own, pretend your trainer is still with you encouraging you to excel. Can you push it a little harder? Probably.
6. Record Important Stats
Body fat percentage, weight and BMI are checked in virtually every primary personal training session. Use this information as motivation to get closer to your fitness goals. Keep in mind that these stats should be checked on different timetables. Body fat should be checked every other month. Weight should be checked weekly or biweekly and BMI monthly. You want to pay close attention to your body fat percentage and keep it within healthy parameters like these listed here. If your goal is to get stronger, you may also want to keep a journal of how much you're lifting during each exercise.
Read more: 11 Ways to Measure Your Fitness Progress
7. Be Totally Honest
It's tough to be vulnerable in front of a complete stranger. But be honest about your lack of motivation or some of the challenges you've had with working out. Maybe it's the long work hours that are sinking your mood or a lack of sleep. Now is the time to figure out why you're in a workout slump. You'll have someone's undivided attention and have the freedom to share your weight-loss struggles out loud. A trainer is the last person to judge you because they sincerely want to help you change your life. Keep it real with them, and with their assistance you can create daily and weekly goals for your health.
8. Define Realistic Goals
Every first training session involves setting goals for the client. This is the perfect opportunity to set a fitness goal that is attainable (or figuring out what that means for you). You'll also have a fitness professional listening to your goal and helping you to set a timeline for your goal. Do you want more energy? Do you want stronger legs? Want to be able to run a 10K? Set these goals now and hold yourself accountable to achieving them.
9. Ask the Right Questions
You have your trainer's ear, so ask all your burning fitness questions now! Ask how long he or she expects it to take for you to get to your fitness goal. Want to lose 10 pounds? The trainer should help you devise a plan to get you there. Ask if you're doing a certain exercise right or how many days a week you should be at the gym. Ask what his or her favorite exercises are for a stronger core or toned arms. Or get personal and ask what his or her qualifications are, how long he or she has been a trainer or why he or she wanted to become a trainer. Getting to know your trainer will help you better understand the workout they create for you.
Read more: 9 Questions Your Trainer Wishes You'd Ask
10. Skip the Booze and Prioritize Sleep
To get the most of your time and money, don't go overboard on the margaritas the night before a workout. And ensure you're running on seven to eight hours of sleep so you're able to do the workout without battling fatigue. Many workouts aren't successful and end early due to these factors.
What Do YOU Think?
Have you ever worked out with a trainer? What helped you the most? What wasn't helpful at all? Are you thinking about joining a gym? Or maybe you're curious if just one session could help you better achieve your goals. Did any of this advice help? Is there anything you'd add? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!