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Ten weeks ago I signed my life (and a good portion of my money) away to a personal trainer. I’ve always wanted to hire someone to put an end to my cyclical weight gain/loss pattern every few years, but the truth is I had no idea what I was getting into when I put my signature on the dotted line. Twenty-nine pounds down, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that hiring a trainer was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life; however 29 minutes into my first real session my thinking was more along the lines of “f*ck this.” So, to help you get over the hesitation of hiring a trainer or the mental hump that might make you think you can’t handle the pressure of the experience, here are nine things I wish somebody told me before I took the plunge.  

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It will be awkward

Part of me wants to say at first, but 30 sessions or so in I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to someone standing over me as I struggle to do moves that are as easy to my trainer as breathing. There’s a great deal of vulnerability involved in paying someone to whip you into shape and if you thought downward dogging and planking were uncomfortable enough in a class full of fellow gym goers, I’m here to tell you it’s no more fun when your trainer is checking to see how tight you’re holding your glutes, quads, and the abs you don’t yet have for every movement.

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It’s also kind of intimate

Perhaps I just don’t have enough going on at home, but the first time my trainer stretched me, my brain was like, “the only time you put your legs this high in the air is when…”

Though I wouldn’t call stretching a sexy moment, when your body is tangled up like a pretzel with someone of the opposite sex and he’s asking “does that feel good” and you’re thinking “I hope I can walk tomorrow,” I’d say there’s a certain level of intimacy between you two. There’s also the fact that this person knows exactly how much you weigh, which is info most folks take to their grave.

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Your trainer gives zero f*cks about what you don’t wanna do

Unless you’re in pain, you will complete that super set, swing that kettlebell, and wave that battle rope. And don’t be fooled by your trainer giving you a choice of which moves you want to do; it’s essentially like choosing how you want to die — not much of a choice at all.

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You might cry

There’s little I hate more in the world than showing weakness and being emotional on top of it,  so when I first started training and literally cried after three sessions in a row (and once almost in the midst of my session but thank goodness I manned up just in time to stop that tear from falling) I was ready to be all the way done. Then my friend sent me one of those cheesy “I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s gonna be worth it” memes and I got my mind right and pushed forward.

As your level of (non) fitness is assessed in your first few workouts, everything will be hard and everything will hurt afterward, making you feel like you simply can’t rise to the challenge. But in all honesty I can say “this too shall pass.” Maybe not the soreness, but your ability to execute the moves will improve and, of course, there’s nothing like seeing pounds drop to keep you motivated.

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Other people will be watching

Part of the reason I had such a difficult time when I first started training wasn’t just the fact that my trainer was watching my every struggly move, I felt like everyone else in the gym was watching me pant and drip with sweat too. I started telling myself “those people aren’t paying you any attention,” to psyche myself up to just do me without worrying about an audience, then suddenly every time I stepped in the gym someone was asking me “how’s training going?” “You work out with so and so, how is he?” “I see you working out, you’re looking good.” Okay, I don’t really mind the compliments, but the fact of the matter is most people want personal trainers they just don’t want to pay for them, which is why they will stare your session down as they contemplate whether they should pinch a few pennies here and there so they can get like you.

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Your trainer is lowkey your therapist too

My trainer’s words, not mine. While I don’t suggest you roll up on your PT talking about how your man isn’t doin X, Y, and Z, or you had a breakdown at work, trainers understand that exercising isn’t just a physical task, it’s mental as well, and if your mind isn’t clear or you’re stressed you’re not going to have a good session — and possibly OD on food too if you’re an emotional eater. If certain stressors are slowing your progress, your trainer is going to want to know what’s keeping you from the goals they take time out of their schedule to help you achieve.

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You might catch feelings

I jokingly called my trainer bae to my friend after I woke up one day and realized there wasn’t any other man texting me regularly asking how I felt and telling me how awesome I was. And let’s be honest, it’s kind of hard not to feel some sort of affinity toward someone with that level of concern (and a 6-pack). But then I remembered I pay this man to do this and, as one trainer said of this part of the job, “it doesn’t mean we want to make sexy time.” In other words, don’t get your feelings hurt catching feelings for someone just doing their job.

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Trainers are artists and they’re sensitive about their sh!t

You will not get very far trying to debate anything with your trainer. In fact, you might piss them off because they are the expert after all and you did agree to let them tell you what to eat, what not to drink, how much to lift, and  how far to run. Sure, you know your body, but they also know exercise physiology and, hopefully, nutrition, if they’re well trained. Don’t waste time — yours and theirs — trying to convince your trainer strawberry starbursts are a fruit or that it’s a good idea to skimp on protein shakes so you can save calories for Jack and Coke. When you step on the scale and there’s nothing to show for weeks of them spending time on you, they will not be happy.

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It is worth the money

If you get the right trainer, that is.

I’m not going to lie to you, personal training is expensive, and the phrase “you get what you pay for” doesn’t always apply. When I first joined my gym I had two free training sessions at two different branches and the difference was like night and day. While the first trainer looked at my goal weight, told me I could only lose 1 pound a week, and quoted a price for 102 sessions that would make anyone say, “Bish you tried it,” my current trainer actually showed me what he had to offer first.

He walked me through a system showing me how many calories I should have per day depending on how quickly I wanted to drop the weight and how I would log everything I eat to achieve my goal (and so he could watch over me like a hawk) and then offered various packages from 5 to 30 sessions, which was far more manageable mentally and financially. And he did all of this while explaining his certifications and how his rates correlated to his particular expertise. Immediately I wanted to train with him because of that and dropping 29 pounds in 10 weeks tells me I made the right choice (that’s also in contrast to the 16 pounds I lost in eight weeks before hiring him.) So, if you also want to expedite your results and train hard, personal training is the route to go, just make sure both you and your trainer are committed to being accountable to one another and the goals you establish.

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