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Most of my clients who start out overweight see results after 2 weeks of working out with me. People (including trainers) have asked me how I manage to train my overweight clients to achieve their goals and get them fit, here are some of the things I do with them during my personal training sessions.
Taking the first step is the most important one. For the first 2 weeks of training, I usually stress on taking baby steps, taking each set as comfortable and as manageable as possible. While many training centres and fitness trainers focus on ‘Work hard or go back home’ and ‘Train hard and don’t waste my time’ mantras, I do the opposite. Go slow. Take it easy. Do the things you can do. Do the things you want to do. Don’t worry about not being able to complete a full set.
Focus on mini successes
While I know many trainers say it is important that clients need to know how to do exercises properly in the first session (Which is not wrong), I don’t really like to focus on ‘pure’ form. The first few sessions are usually done in a casual manner and what I like to look for is mini successes of movement. Short range of motions are accepted, failure to complete a whole set is condoned. I stress a lot on safety (so they dont get injured) and taking things ‘light’ (so they dont get too intimidated and sore). By doing this, I usually develop a high level of exercise adherence for my clients.
Focus on body transformation, not weight reduction
Too much to talk about this – will write a full blog post in the future. We need to realise that our bodies consists of more than just fat. When we workout, our muscles will increase in size (hypertrophy), which in turn will increase your weight. Muscle weighs more than fat. This, however, will make you look leaner and improve your metabolic rate which in turn will help you burn more fat when you’re resting and watching TV. Focus on body changes, the satisfaction from this would be WOW.
It gets serious and fun after 2 weeks
Don’t get me wrong, after week 1 and 2 of induction to fitness training and conditioning phase – we start to work hard, within safe levels. We focus on movement, form, posture, breathing, positive mental states, core engagement and centering. Progressively, we inch forward, happily and with a high amount of satisfaction which is built from previous trainings’ successes. Just a simple example of how someone can improve – for Joe, who started with the ability of burning 200 calories on session #1, he can now burn about 500 calories on session #10. All done with perfect form while performing their exercises.
I dont usually like to use cardio machines for my clients, I’ll use this example as it is easier to understand. Once they accomplish 150 minutes a week in the gym, I’ll increase the duration spent on each cardiovascular setting until they can maintain a minimum of 30 minutes of consistent heart rate intensity, or on a particular activity. Once duration goals are met, I’ll increase frequency to a minimum of 4 days a week, preferably 5. Only after duration, frequency and modalities are all monitored, and physical responses such as heart rate, skeletal and muscular are observed, I would then increase intensity of the workout.
Strength and interval trainings – The essentials
Strength and interval training is important for all of us. The benefits of strength training has been shown over and over again in many studies, and when employed properly – many of those who are overweight will see benefits and results quicker than those who do cardio only exercises. Please see my other posts about strength and interval trainings, which I’ve discussed in great depth before.
Progressions are added in small increments in the first few weeks and then in larger steps later on, only after those essential first few weeks are over. At this point, it will begin to look more like a traditional program. Building these client profiles allows me to use motivational and support systems that will actually work for each individual. These support systems are vital in the achievement of clients’ goals.
Being aware of their resources and limitations
I’m usually sensitive to their capabilities when it comes to exercising. Many severely obese clients may have muscular/skeletal concerns due to excessive weight, and that overuse symptoms may occur sooner than with clients of lower weight. I usually check the primary areas of concern – knees, hips and back.
Body image and confidence
Initially, these obese clients are often initially afraid and unwilling to watch their form in a mirror while working out. In resistance training, they turn sideways or turn away from the mirrors all together. However, after they improve self-confidence, they begin to see their bodies as amazing, functioning assets. Then they will independently turn to face the mirrors, watching their bodies and checking it out. When I see this magic “a-ha” moment of taking ownership and becoming awakened to the beauty of their bodies, I know they have made that next big leap into their level of wellness.
Incidental Physical Activities
Something that many of us in Singapore may not realise -Many of us here do not have enough physical activities such as taking staircase or even walking. While the recommended number of steps per day is 10,000, many of us fall short of this.
The solution to this is to use pedometers. Pedometers are invaluable tools for monitoring physical activity outside of the structured training environment because they provide measurable feedback. I ask clients to increase their total steps by 50–100 steps every day until they reach the 10,000 steps/day goal. By gradually increasing the steps they take motivates clients and is something they can do with friends, co-workers and family members. It is fine if they don’t want to use pedometers – my job is to show the right and effective way. It is up to them to embrace what I share. Too many clients expect miracles from 3 hours of training with a trainer. They have to remember that they’re without a trainer 7×24-3 hours a week, and that pedometers can be employed to help monitor physical (in)activity ;), which can help them achieve their goals faster, and get them healthier earlier.
I also encourage doing other incidental physical activities such as taking the staircase instead of lift or elevators or walking to the MRT instead of taking a shuttle bus. Weekends – I encourage them to do things involving outdoors with their family or loved ones – cycling or playing ball at the park is a great way to spending a weeked. Sports with their loved ones are also encouraged.
A whole topic on this, I’ll share in another blog post. But a quick one for now – here’s Sharm’s ‘R.A.F’ – Triple Treat to Fat Reduction : Reduce, Alternative and Food journal. (1) Reduce caloric intake by 10% (for 1 week, eat as usual but lower intake by 10%) (2) Look for healthier Alternatives (3) Record entries in your Food journal for 1 week and be aware of what goes into you body. No fad and funny diets please.
There are many more factors that are involved – and I’ll share them soon 🙂 The things that I talked about above are the usual things that forms part of my success formulae in helping overweight clients lose those inches. Feel free to give it a try 🙂 It’s not only about the physical, or when the client is with me. The approach that I learn to take is a holistic one – from physical to mental to social – one must cover all areas to garner resources for fast and safe body transformation.
Need inspiration? If you need my help, I’m available at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s to health!
Your personal trainer
Team Fitness Guru
PS: If you’re a trainer and you’re overweight – try the above and let me know how it goes. If you need personal help from me, let me know. I don’t think it’ll look good on you that you have clients who want to lose weight as you do. Then again, I might be wrong 😉