What To Expect From Your First Personal Training Session

If you’re relatively new to hitting up the gym, the thought of spending an hour in the company of a personal trainer can be kind of daunting. Running on a treadmill and waving a kettlebell around in the air while a total stranger in spectacular physical condition looks at you? Yeah, that would be intimidating to anyone.

The truth is, though, if you are going to start going to the gym regularly, then at least one personal training session is most definitely a good idea. Lots of gyms offer one session for free, including Fitness First, The Gym Group and Nuffield Health. Those that don’t will at least have personal trainers on site with whom you can book a session.

But what should you expect from that first session? Is it going to be super-hardcore? Will the PT be shocked by the size of your sweat patches? Will the mid-workout banter be awkward?

The answer to all of those things is obviously "No", but to further put your mind at ease we spoke to Zanna Van Dijk, fitness blogger set to appear at the upcoming Balance Festival, personal trainer and owner of the most excellent Instagram. As a qualified PT, she spends most of her life in and around gyms. Here's her reassuring words...

A photo posted by Zanna van Dijk (@zannavandijk) on

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Do I really need a personal training session?

“I would highly recommend seeing one [a personal trainer] for at least one or two sessions before you really hop into the gym,” advises Zanna. “They can check things like your mobility and strength and what stretches you need to do. They can correct your form with things like squats and deadlifts.” Because, let's face it, when you're messing around with big metal balls weighing as much as a small child, you want to make sure you're doing it right.

What should I wear? I don't have any swanky leggings and was planning on borrowing my boyfriend’s holey T-shirt.

“It’s all about just turning up in something you feel comfortable in,” says Zanna. “If you’ve never worn just a sports bra to work out in, don’t go strutting into your first gym session in like, a sports bra and booty shorts – you’ll feel uncomfortable! If you’re in something you feel confident in then that’s at least one weight off your mind. Oh, and then just take some water, a towel, and a positive attitude!”

How do I go about choosing the right personal trainer?

“Take your time,” Zanna says. "Don’t just go with the first one or the one that’s in the best shape because often that’s not always the best indicator of how professional they are.

“I think number one, just talk to them, or get a good word-of-mouth recommendation. Make sure they give off a really positive vibe when you meet them, make sure they’ve got qualifications, if they seem eager to learn and are professional with you.

“Also in the early stages, make sure they’re checking up on you, they’re doing questionnaires, they’re making you sign different forms. If they’re not even doing those basic things then it’s a red flag from the beginning.”

Do I need to prepare anything? Will there be a quiz on my resting heart rate?

Noooo, nothing like that. You guys will chat, though. “Hopefully your trainer will ask you questions first. That’s a really important sign,” Zanna says. “Whether it’s via email or they insist you sit and have a coffee with them for half an hour just to talk things through.

"I wouldn’t want to go straight into a session blind with somebody so even if I can’t meet them I’ll send them a very intense questionnaire, finding out about their training history, if they have any injuries, what their goals are… That sets the scene for the first session."

How do I know what my goals are? I might just want to look good. Is that a goal?

“I recommend thinking about it before you go in but a good trainer will steer you away from just aesthetic goals," says Zanna. "If you say to a trainer, ‘Oh, I just want to tone my arms up” and they say, ‘Okay that’s what we’ll do’ then I’d be worried because I’d rather set some goals that are about strength and fitness. Let’s set some goals that are beyond appearance – that’s definitely something you should look out for.”
Am I going to be running 10 miles on the treadmill or deadlifting super-heavy weights in my first session?

“It completely depends on the client,” says Zanna. “It’s about feeling it out. The personal trainer might assess your mobility, whether you’ve got really tight hip flexes, whether you’ve got any back pain, whether they need to work on your flexibility, what your range of motion is like…

“My first session with people is never really that intense – it’s finding out where you're at, is there anything you need to work on. If someone’s got really tight hips from sitting at a desk all day then I’m not going to be getting them doing squats right away!"

Don't expect an easy ride all the way, though. "Yeah, first session is more about seeing where they’re at and trying out different movement and then the second session is when shit gets a bit more serious!”

If something’s too hard am I allowed to say?

"Of course! You have to say if something is too much! A good trainer will never judge you – they’re there to help you. And if they do judge you – change trainer! They should be there to support you.

“I find that with a lot of clients they’ll go, ‘Oh no, I don’t do back stuff’, or ‘I never do pull-ups, I don’t want to do them’ – like scared they’re going to fail but then they do it and end up feeling really empowered."

What if I get sweaty, like, really sweaty?

“Don’t worry! Just take a towel with you or ask for a towel and wipe it off,” laughs Zanna. “But what I would say is that we’ve seen it all, we’ve seen everything and everyone and nothing phases us so don’t go worrying about anything like that!”

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