When is the last time you did something for the first time? There’s no doubt that mental barriers, rooted fears and perceived limitations can hold us back from trying something new, particularly when it comes to personal training and group fitness. While this pattern of thinking tends to hold us back from life-changing experiences, our expert trainers are on a mission to change that.
For those considering group fitness or personal training, whether you’re a bit rusty or looking to try it for the very first time, we’ll walk you through how to prepare for your first training session and what you can expect throughout your first experience.
Minding the Misconceptions:
Before getting into the play-by-play, we need to clear the air on some of the most common misconceptions and psychological setbacks that people face when considering personal training and group fitness. We often hear things such as:
- “Personal Training and group fitness are just for people who lack self-discipline, need an extreme makeover or are extreme athletes training for a competition.”
- “Trainers are too young, are only trying to upsell me and won’t be able to understand my needs.”
- “I’ll be pushed too far and too fast and they’re only going to make me do things I hate.”
- “It will be one giant competition, and everyone will be staring at me.”
When any of these false ideas slip into your head, take notice and put them to rest. The club isn’t just a place for fit people to stay fit, it’s a place for anyone who is looking to live a healthy way of life. Whether you’re looking to find a new hobby, train for a race, drop weight, get back to a fitness routine post-baby or the doctor has kindly suggested you get back to healthier habits, whatever it may be, remember that there’s always a place for you in the club.
When it comes to working with a trainer or coach, don’t forget they first went into their occupation because of their insatiable motivation to help people live their best lives. Understanding this level of passion, paired with the extensive amount of education, training and real-life experience they go through, they’re not about to compromise on their values to help people by offering them products or services that won’t be beneficial or get you to your goals. They’re also not drill sergeants looking to make you suffer or push through injuries. Simply put, they want to work with you to build a doable plan that can get you to your goals. Last, but not least, if you’re nervous that people will stare at you, just remember that any onlooker likely has their eyes glued to your trainer in hopes they can pick up a few pointers for themselves.
Before your session:
Setting yourself up for a successful first training session starts well before you step foot into the club. When it comes to preparation, do your best to prioritize the following:
- Restful sleep: A quality night sleep should always be the goal, but make sure you set yourself up for a restful night sleep getting between 7-9 hours the night before. Lack of sleep not only impacts your ability to focus on the task at hand and retain information learned, it can also be a leading cause in avoidable injuries.
- Eat adequately and based on the timing of your session: The first step is to ensure your food intake is on point. The most important considerations for pre-exercise nutrition are fuel availability to sustain performance goals and protein intake to prevent excessive loss or damage to muscle tissue during the workout. A lot of first-time clients tend to under eat or eat the wrong things. As a result, it can cause low energy, low blood sugar levels, tunnel vision, and can even cause someone to faint. Pending the amount of time you have available before your training session, make sure you eat the right type of food at the right time:
- 2 hours until workout: eat a full meal that includes protein, healthy fats and carbs. Given the time available, your body will have adequate time to break down, digest and absorb key nutrients.
- 1 hour until workout: eat something semi-solid like oatmeal mixed with berries and protein powder.
- 30 minutes until workout: stick to something simple like a piece of fruit or a protein shake. With a limited amount of time before your workout, your body will benefit from food that is easier to breakdown, digest and absorb
- Dress for success: Don’t be misled, walking the club floors is not like you’re walking down a runway, so don’t put a ton of pressure on yourself when it comes to figuring out what you should wear. Stick to what’s comfortable, stretchy and won’t be too loose that it could interfere with the movements and exercises you’ll be doing.
- Don’t forget water: Before you work out, be sure your hydration status is sufficient as hypohydration is enough to significantly elevate cortisol during and after training (which is catabolic – meaning it breaks down muscle tissue). Lack of proper hydration is shown to reduce the post-resistance training testosterone surge and also alters carbohydrate and fat metabolism (for the worse). Slight dehydration (~3% body mass loss) has also been shown to decrease maximal strength, repetitions, increase heart rate and perceived exertion, and hinders heart rate recovery. As a general rule of thumb, try to consume around 24 ounces of water for every hour you plan to be active.
When it comes to things you shouldn’t do, steer clear of the following:
- Don’t plan your first training session on an overly hectic day: While we can’t always control how our day unravels, schedule your session on a typical day that’s not overly packed or filled with commitments. This way you minimize the possibility of external influences and unexpected hinderances from dampening your experience.
- Don’t eat new things beforehand: For example, if you’ve never taken pre-workout before, now is not the time start. A trainer wants to get an accurate base assessment so they can understand where you’re at physically and can build a program that will include appropriate progressions that yield the best responses. If you’re looking into taking something like pre-workout, consult your trainer beforehand.
During your session:
Now that you have the intel on how to best prepare, the next step is to show up and do the work. During your first training session, to get the most out of your experience, be sure to do the following:
- Clarify expectations: Be open and honest about your goals, barriers and injury history. Your trainer’s main priority is to build a space of trust, where you feel safe and empowered to share your needs, thoughts and questions. If there is a certain movement that is painful or exacerbates an injury, relay that feedback to your trainer as there’s an adaptation for every type of movement. Also remember that working with a trainer is for your benefit and just because you do it once does not mean you’re committed to them indefinitely. If you feel like it’s not a good emotional, psychological or exercise fit, it’s more than ok to find a new trainer.
- Ask questions: Instead of comparing your first training session as a job interview, flip the switch and think of it as an opportunity for you to interview your trainer to see if they’re a good fit. It can be so easy to keep our heads down, follow the cues or try to fly under the radar, but the first step in building a foundational coaching relationship is through asking questions. If you’re wondering what you can ask, we’ve got a few thought-starters for you:
- How do you see me getting to my goal?
- What will the program look like now and how will it change over time?
- Will there be any homework outside our training sessions?
- What times are you available to answer my questions outside our training sessions?
- Embrace new friendships and experiences: No matter how many times you’ve worked with a coach or alongside others growing up, entering into a new class with strangers or working with a new personal trainer can feel daunting. When it comes to group training, remember everyone there at one point in time had their first-ever training experience. Pause to remember that those around you are not your competition, but rather, your teammates.
After your session:
While the physical work may be over for now, once you finish your first training session there are still a few more steps to be taken:
- Be proud of yourself for taking the first step: Not many people make it this far, so be proud of yourself for trying something new. Remember, this is just the starting point of all the amazing things you’re capable of accomplishing.
- Make a game plan: Pick out which days you’ll be coming back and establish a schedule you can stick to. From there, find an accountability regimen with either your trainer or someone from class so they can help you stick to your plan.
- Take proper steps for recovery: What you do outside of your workout to recover is pinnacle, so set aside some time to stretch, foam roll and hit and the sauna. Remember sleep is an important part of the recovery process, so ensure you keep it a priority.
– Life Time Personal Training and Nutrition Experts
– Anika Christ, Registered Dietitian and Life Time Weight Loss Director of Digital Programming & Events
– Cliff Edberg, CPT, Registered Dietitian and Life Time Director of Strategic Growth Initiatives
– Paul Kriegler, Registered Dietitian and Life Time Nutrition Program Development Manager
– Danny King, CPT and Life Time National Manager, Team Member Development
This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.