Pat Enderle's weight loss of about 60 pounds wasn't easy, and it was definitely not convenient: She drove from her Shaler home to her personal trainer's home in Lower Burrell for workout sessions. Now, three years since she started her fitness program, Enderle still goes to trainer Denise Renard's house twice a week.
The professionally guided sessions keep her motivated, says Enderle, 57.
"It's worth it," she says. "There is this great accountability working with the trainer; every week you go in, get weighed. ... You have the motivation, when you work with a trainer, to keep it going and keep focused."
With 2011 kicking off on Saturday, millions of people are resolving to lose weight and get in shape. Although it may be easier, and often free, to exercise by yourself, many people say that hiring a personal trainer gets them onto an exercise program that works well for them and keeps them on track far better than they could do themselves.
Dr. Mehmet Oz -- the Emmy-winning host of "The Dr. Oz Show" -- says he is a fan of seeking professional help on a fitness program.
"Personal trainers are much more effective at getting folks to get in shape and lose weight than folks alone can do," says Dr. Oz, during a conference call about his new program, "11 Weeks to Move It and Lose It." Oz is vice chairman and professor of surgery at Columbia University in New York, and directs the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
"The challenge with trainers is that they come in many different flavors, and you have to find one that matches your personality," Oz says.
Indeed, the style of some personal trainers is like that of a Marine drill sergeant, while others are more like gentle cheerleaders. Each style and degrees in between work for some people, but not for others, depending on the trainee's personality.
"Some people need to be pushed, but others get intimidated," says Renard, 52, a certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She says it's important to treat every client individually, know their needs and background, and tailor her approach: be gentler with some, and push harder with others.
"It depends on their personality," Renard says. "Some people really like a cheerleader to push them on. ... Some people feel like they're not getting a workout unless they're sore for two or three days. "
Ron DeAngelo -- director of sports performance at UPMC and a certified athletic trainer -- agrees.
"The people who are used to working out at a very high intensity and are just looking to be pushed to the limit -- those people respond well to the boot-camp guy," DeAngelo says. "I think those people who are either first-timers, dealing with issues, or have had a bad experience ... will respond better to the low-key trainer, who is more like a gentle cheerleader.
"But someone who's low-key can still push the heck out of you," he says.
DeAngelo says that trainers should do a health evaluation, to consider injuries and medical conditions that could affect exercise. Prospective clients should make sure their trainer is knowledgeable enough to work with whatever conditions they have.
Hiring a trainer generally is a great idea, he says.
"Probably one of the best things about working with a trainer is that you are accountable to someone," DeAngelo says. "If you know you have an appointment and you know someone is waiting for you, then you're more apt to get your workout in" than make excuses and skip it, DeAngelo says.
Susan Rhome, 44, of Greensburg, felt an urgent need to get in shape after her brother, Kevin Gatons, died of a congenital heart disease in 2006. Rhome made it her goal to run in a 5K, because running was her brother's passion. She has been working with a trainer, Lynn DeFabo, and has done several 5Ks, and even one 10K. Rhome sees DeFabo three days a week.
"I used to work out at a gym and go to a class and do free weight, but it's not the same when you have an instructor who is actually pushing you," Rhome says. "I would never work out for an hour like that on my own. I would probably quit."
To choose a trainer, Renard recommends interviewing several candidates, noting their personalities and styles; then, see if you click with one in particular. Ask to observe a training session, or talk to some of the trainer's clients as references. Ask trainers if they are certified, and by whom, and how much experience they have.
Don't look to a trainer to make you magically fit, Renard says; ultimately, it's up to you. And wait to hire someone until you're ready to really get serious about exercising, she says.
"I'm not a miracle worker," Renard says. "A trainer is there to guide you and provide motivation ... then it's up to the person to keep going on their own.
"It's very frustrating to work with someone who's not into it," she says. "Sometimes the best thing for them to do is to walk away until they have the motivation."
Be a good trainee
To begin work with a personal trainer to kick off a 2011 fitness program, consider these tips for being a good client:
-- Focus on what you're doing, and try not to spend too much of your session talking.
-- Be prepared by eating before your workout, and bringing your own towel and a water bottle.
-- Give at least 24 hours' notice if you need to cancel or re-schedule.
-- If you have questions, write them down and bring them to your session. You'll spend less time talking, and more time working out.
-- If you have a problem with your trainer, address it immediately.
-- Don't interrupt your trainer when she's with a client. Wait until she's finished.
-- Recognize that your trainer is there to guide you, but you still have to do the work. If you're confused about your progress, or lack thereof, schedule a meeting where you can talk about your concerns.
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