It's 2012! My first column of the new year! I'm feeling so perky, so well, so grateful. Where did I hide the New Year's Eve peanut brittle? In the garbage. It's a good thing. I open up my Energy Express reader email and am instantly rewarded:
Dear Marilynn, My husband gave me 10 sessions with a personal trainer for Christmas. He knows I've been struggling to lose weight and start exercising. It's a great gift, but I'm feeling a little guilty. What good is a personal trainer? How do I find the right one? How do I get the most out of it? Thanks! — F.H. at earthlink.net
Dear F.H. and everyone else: For starters, please don't kick off your anything-is-possible new year staggering under a load of guilt. Guilt, anger and shame are three negative emotions that suck the fun out of life. Why are we here? To be happy, the Dalai Lama reminds us. So thank your husband for his generous offer and rejoice in his thoughtfulness. A loving and supportive partner is about the best holiday gift a person could wish for.
What good is a personal trainer? So glad you asked! I happen to be one, ACE-certified around the time the treadmill was electrified. If you're ready for change, if you're 100 percent committed and confident you can change, then a personal trainer will enable you to make your dreams come true. (So can a good yoga teacher, but that is so off-topic).
A good trainer will become your cheerleader, your taskmaster, your coach — whatever it takes to motivate, inspire and educate. A good trainer will help you define small, realistic goals and help you realize them, step-by-step, week-by-week. When you don't feel like working out, you'll show up anyway, because your trainer is there, waiting for you.
Are you reluctant to lift weights because you don't know how or why or how much? A good trainer will watch carefully and make sure you're aligned, and breathing, and moving in a way that reduces your risk of injuries. A good trainer will also keep you from overdoing it in the gym — the No. 1 cause of most sports injuries. A trainer who pushes you too hard and causes an injury is a bad trainer. If you ever feel stuck with a "no pain, no gain" kind of guy, remember what the Dalai Lama said and keep shopping.
A good trainer is also a great teacher and will help you discover the value of eating healthy, delicious, real food in moderation. If instead you find yourself with a trainer who is trying to sell you nutrition in a can and 30 supplements a day, say goodbye, no matter how buffed and beautiful he may be.
So how can you find a good trainer? To find someone with skills and sensitivity, you have to use your own skills and sensitivity:
— Look for an experienced, empathic trainer who is certified by one or more of the following: the American Council on Exercise (ACE); the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM); the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM); and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Certification tells you your trainer has a basic understanding of anatomy as well as exercise. It's certainly possible to find a terrific trainer who never bothered to get certified, but if he or she is self-taught, be extra cautious.
— Test drive your trainer before you commit to a series. A trainer your best friend adores may not be the best fit for you. Ask questions, listen deeply, trust your instincts. Some trainers get results by bullying. If that appeals to you, fine. If not, keep searching. It's crucial to find someone who believes totally in your ability to achieve your goals. Don't simply let the gym assign you a trainer, or you're likely to get stuck with the one nobody else wants.
— To make the most of your time with a trainer, become a student of your own wellness. Don't train on remote control: Take notes, absorb the instruction, learn how to lift, breathe, enjoy. When your 10 sessions end, you should feel you have acquired enough skill and confidence to be your own trainer. When that happens, your life will change in the most remarkable ways.
ENERGY EXPRESS-O! SHOW UP READY TO WORK
"Continuous effort — not strength or intelligence — is the key to unlocking our potential." — Liane Cardes
Marilynn Preston — fitness expert, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues — is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, http://marilynnpreston.com and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to [email protected] To find out more about Preston and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.