Teaching the Novice Exerciser
Client Success Story: An emphasis on teaching keeps Eric Taylor’s clients on the road to success.
Personal Trainer: Eric Taylor, owner Taylor Made Training LLC
Location: St. Simons Island, Georgia
Facts and Figures. According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), 14 million people aged 35–54 had gym memberships in 2007; an increase of 122% since 1990 (2007 IHRSA/American Sports Data Health Club Trend Report). Not surprisingly, gym-related injuries among this population have also increased. A report published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine (2010; 38 , 765–71) found that people aged 45 and older had a greater increase in injuries than any other age group. Many of these people lack the appropriate information to exercise safely and effectively. Virginia, 50, is one such person.
Learning the Ropes. “Virginia came to me with very little fitness knowledge,” recalls Eric Taylor, personal trainer and owner of Taylor Made Training LLC. “She had used machines in the gym but did not understand how to use free weights or the modern methods of training.” Despite being an independent-minded and self-sufficient person, Virginia sought guidance from Taylor because she had not achieved success on her own. “I like to research how to do things and then do them myself, preferring to take the blame or glory for the outcome,” she says. “However, after many failed diet and fitness regimens, I decided to hire a professional trainer.” Virginia knew that she needed education, so her original goals included learning to exercise effectively and safely; follow a specific protocol; improve body composition; and understand various methods of cardiovascular exercise.
Fitness Foundations.Virgnia’s journey toward physical change began in the brain. “I taught her about different muscle groups, the names of the basic muscles and how those muscles worked,” says Taylor. “I have never seen someone so excited about how the body works.” Taylor kept things simple and often peppered sessions with mini lectures on the theory behind the practice. “Understanding the muscles makes it much easier to teach and learn about resistance training and body movements,” he adds. After Virginia understood the foundations of muscles and movement, Taylor initiated the physical challenge.
Simple Circuits. Taylor started the training process simply. “I began by teaching her a common circuit,” he says. “I purposely chose a movement from each muscle group for the first month of our training. I also explained the importance of choosing the appropriate resistance and logging progress.” For example, Virginia’s circuit consisted of the following free-weight and body weight exercises: flat-bench chest press; military press; single-arm row; overhead extension; basic and reverse crunches; and standard squat. She performed three sets of each, steadily increasing the resistance until she could perform only eight repetitions. Virginia was allowed a 15- to 20-second rest between exercises and a 60- to 90-second rest between circuits.
Testing to Progress. To ensure that the teachings were sinking in, Taylor would often challenge Virginia to what he calls a TMT basic certification test. “Each month she had a chance to really show me what she had learned, and I had the satisfaction of watching her perform what I had taught her,” he says. Taylor believes that these tests were instrumental in helping Virginia make improvements in an efficient manner. “It was a fun way to keep her on her toes while watching her progress with precision, guidance and knowledge.” Once she demonstrated high-quality aptitude, Taylor knew the time was right to proceed toward greater challenges.
Teaching vs. Training. “One of the most surprising components of working with Eric has not been the growth of my muscles, but the growth of my ability to really trust another person with something as personal as changing my body,” Virginia states. “I have trusted him with my personal failures, and he’s used that information to come up with a plan to create a successful outcome.” Taylor says that Virginia continues to exceed expectations. He believes her improvements are the result of his emphasis on teaching, not training. “Take a client through a routine and she exercises for a day,” he shares. “Teach her how to exercise, and she will exercise for a lifetime.”
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