I never thought of myself as the type of person who would ever work with a personal trainer. Why? Plain and simply, I had two views of what that world was like. Neither of which was appealing.

VIEW #1:

I’d picture the trainer as a gum-chewing, muscle-head with a clipboard -- the type who’d rather be working OUT than working WITH someone. Occasionally they’d show you how to do something. But mostly they’d be eyes-glazed-over-watching-you (sort of) while you awkwardly muddled through exercises you’re not that good at. Sounds pretty uh... not fun.

VIEW #2:

Now I’m picturing that the typical personal training client is a misunderstood, wealthy “housewife” in New York City -- the kind whose husband is some sort of high-powered executive who no longer pays attention to his knock-out, babe of a wife. OK, yeah. This was influenced by a couple of bad flicks from Hollywood. But for some reason the idea stuck.

I know I’m not the only one who has these impressions. I remember telling a friend that I was working with a personal trainer and saying that the above is what I used to think. She said she had the same thoughts!

The funny thing is that in reality, I’d often bump into “normal” people who were working with a personal trainer (or who were trainers themselves). These were cool folks who didn’t fit the above stereotypes AT ALL. And even though this was my real life exposure to the industry, for some reason the two views above stuck. I guess I'm stubborn that way.

So the idea that “personal training is not something I’d ever do” just stuck in my head.

What finally dislodged it?

It was when I wanted to start training for 400-meter hurdles again and I didn’t want to do it on my own. I was motivated by wanting to compete! Plus, I was armed with the wisdom of having totally failed at hurdle training when I tried to do it on my own a few years earlier. I knew needed help.

But, I was really uncomfortable to break into personal training territory. There were those damn views stuck in my head. (Would I suddenly become a misunderstood housewife in NYC?) Plus, it occurred to me that there’s nowhere to hide! I was shy about being the only one in a “class.”

In the end, my want for hurdling was bigger than my hang up about personal training. Time to suck it up and break out of my comfort zone.

I was already doing boot camp classes at Fitness Fusion in Easthampton, MA -- a unique studio gym known for totally kick-ass (as in totally fun, different and and works ya!) workouts. Also, I reached out to my college track coach. She wasn’t able to coach me from a timing point of view, but she could be a sounding board. So, in terms of my day-to-day trainer and coach, I started with the personal trainer in front of me -- the guy running that cool gym.

I had already seen what he could do with a group training workout. I knew he knows his stuff. And I liked him. Approachable, expert, serious about getting work done, but still fun. Why would I start anywhere else?

Turns out he was psyched to help me. (That part was important. Hurdling and track and field is very close to my heart. I couldn’t work with anyone who wasn’t genuinely enthusiastic about it. It would just deflate me. I was already mentally rallying myself so much to just be brave enough to go for it again.)

So what’s my real life experience with personal training?

  • Structure, Discipline & Accountability - Ever tell to yourself that want to do something (or stop doing something), but don’t tell anyone? Yes? OK. Ever notice how long it takes ya before you let your goal slide a little, then a little more, or just give up completely? Having a professional who cares about you as a person, who cares about your goal(s), and who works with you on a regular basis helps ensure you keep the course.

  • Expertise & Workout Design - We used my college coach as a sounding board and together my trainer and I brainstormed what my body needed to be able do (in terms of competing). Then he designed my training program. It was such a relief to be able to put my trust in someone for this. I had ideas, but I didn’t know how to pull it all together. He did.

  • Moral Support - Training for track and field is a lot of work. Plus, my body is not as spry as when I was in my late teens and 20’s doing this before. I injure more easily and that was demoralizing at times. I was always figuring out how to walk the line of how much to push and how to keep my body strain-free. The other big thing for me was just the uncertainty of “Can I do really this again? Am I crazy for trying? Can I go and race against people half my age?” I was grateful to have someone to dump my shit on. Someone who’d just listen when that was all I needed, or who’d give me that pep talk when that was what I needed.

  • Learning - From my trainer, from myself, and because of the whole thang, I learned new exercises, new ways my body works (and ways it doesn’t work), how to work around the challenges, mental strategies for training and competing. The list goes on and on. This is so energizing to me!

  • Fun - It feels good to make progress towards a goal. It feels good to have a project that’s meaningful. It feels good to workout and do things you didn’t think you could. For me, that’s just plain fun.

So this is my NEW understanding of Personal Training. I’m glad to say, that now ... I finally get it.

About Christine Mark

Christine Mark is a Fitness Fusion founding member, 400-meter hurdler, track & field coach, indie author, blogger, dabbler of piano and singer/songwriting, web designer and co-founder of gravity switch, a Massachusetts-based web design & marketing agency that works with businesses, higher education and non-profits.

She’s also a wife of 1, and a mom of 4.