Katie is a 30-year old personal trainer I’ve trained with for several years. She also teaches a boot camp class at an athletic club and volunteers her time in the public schools leading an after school fitness program. Her dedication to her clients and profession has always impressed me.

Lia: How long have you been a personal trainer and why did you choose this profession?
Katie: I’ve been training for almost a decade. I never planned on becoming a personal trainer. I always loved exercising, but I never knew I could make a career out of it until I started working at a gym while finishing my undergrad degree. What a revelation! I finished school, signed up for courses in anatomy, biomechanics, etc. and I was on my way. I feel very lucky to have found a career that allows me to feel inspired, rewarded and happy while getting to help people. It’s perfect!

Lia: What types of credentials and other things should people look for when they hire a personal trainer or consider if they’re currently working with one?
Katie: A lot of people end up working with trainers that are charismatic (or because they have great physiques). You should definitely feel compatible with your trainer in terms of personality, but there are other important factors. Start by checking out whether a trainer is certified and who they are certified with. Because there is no personal training license, anyone can become a personal trainer and anyone can create a certification. That is a pretty frightening thought when you consider that many people put their health (and safety) in the hands of someone who may not understand basic biomechanics and program design. The certifications to look for are ACSM, NSCA and NASM. They are all nationally accredited and reputable. Also look for a college degree. Not all knowledgeable trainers have degrees and not all degreed trainers are knowledgeable, but it may help in the selection process. Find out what type of requirements a gym has for hiring a personal trainer. If it’s simply a high school diploma and a nice set of pecs— look elsewhere. Treat the first few sessions with a personal trainer as an interview. The trainer should do an assessment with you, particularly a movement assessment. If the trainer does not comment on your posture or movement patterns, you may want to move on. Also, the trainer should be happy to answer questions. WHY is important. There should be a reason for every movement and your trainer should be able to explain why you’ve done each movement. If your trainer does not think WHY is important or doesn’t think it’s important for you to know, then you should find someone else. It’s important for you, as a client, to understand what you’re doing and WHY with a trainer so that you can also do it on your own.

Lia: What do you like most and least about your job?
Katie: I love everything about my job. I get to work with a diverse population. I’m constantly challenged and forced to think on my feet. There are no limitations on creativity in the exercise field. Also, I hate the idea of being stuck in the same place for prolonged periods of time. I get to work on my feet. I train in parks, gyms and homes. No day resembles another.

What I like the least about my job is the necessity of teaching my clients to unlearn ideas they’ve picked up from other trainers or magazines. The amount of misinformation in the field is extremely frustrating and often perpetuated by trainers, I might add. When uneducated and ill-informed trainers pass on ideas that are untrue, it makes all trainers seem less credible.

Lia: Do you see differences in the approaches to working out between men and women, and to break it down even further, younger and older people?
Katie: Everyone should be trained in accordance with their specific needs and goals. There are certainly things to be mindful of in terms of training women vs. men or older clients vs. younger, but the same is true for pregnant clients, people with physical limitations, clients on medications, athletes etc. The more personalized a program can be, the better.

Lia: Talk about your approach to working out and how you decide what to include in a session?
Katie: My training philosophy is prehab/rehab functional training based. I believe that training a high-level athlete is not that much different from training a client who is de-conditioned or is rehabbing an injury. They are just in different places on the functionality spectrum. I train core stabilization first—core being defined as everything from the hips to the shoulders. I keep movements as multi-joint as possible. I think it’s incredibly important to make sure that clients can perform basic body weight movements properly (after assessment) before adding any load or multi-plane movements. Once a client has a strong core and can move without mobilization or stabilization issues, I work through a series of increasingly challenging progressions.

Before a session begins, I have a framework in mind of what I want to accomplish based on the client’s program. However, based on how a client is feeling or moving on that particular day, my plan is usually altered (and sometimes completely thrown out the window).

Lia: How can people stay motivated and not get discouraged?
Katie: Mix it up!  Many people do the same workouts over and over again. It even sounds boring. It is very hard to stay motivated when it feels like a job. Vary the workouts, have fun with it. Also, if you’re doing the same workouts all the time, it’s easy to get discouraged because you will plateau very quickly. Try something new. Tired of running on the treadmill? You should be; it’s boring. Get a jump rope and try intervals or run hills outside. It will be more fun and it’s more effective in terms of getting fit and losing weight. Also, don’t forget that exercise is fun! If you’re not in the mood to go to the gym, do a body weight workout at the park or go for a bike ride. Just move!

Lia: Do you see anything new on the horizon related to working out?
Katie: What I would like to see on the horizon is a greater focus on preventative health care. The obesity epidemic in America is driving up health care costs. Also, when people leave their doctors or physical therapists they are often lost. Telling people to focus on their “diet and exercise” isn’t the same as “take two pills.” It isn’t specific and it isn’t clear what people should do. If health insurance companies covered gym memberships and personal training, health care would truly be accessible to everyone. Ultimately, if obesity is addressed before it causes major health complications, we will not be spending nearly as much on health care costs and we’ll be healthier and happier.

Lia: Any strange or unusual stories?
Katie: I have a lot of strange stories.  You’ll have to be more specific!

Thanks Katie. I can never get any strange or unusual stories out of Katie no matter how hard I try since she’s very discreet about her clients, thankfully! And after working with Katie, I can tell you that she practices what she preaches. Watching other trainers with their clients, I feel very lucky to have found Katie several years ago.  She’s seen me through several injuries including two frozen shoulders and a broken foot, plus the intermittent knee and hip problems I have from being a runner for 30 years.

If you have any questions for Katie, please ask them in the “comment” area below and I will do a follow-up post with her responses.