Conscious Aging: Working with a Personal Trainer

This post is for J.J., my longtime and absolutely great personal trainer in Rochester. I miss her professionally, and as a dear friend. “Hey, kiddo, do you know how GREAT you are at what you do?”


I like the gym I belong to very much. It’s about a 20 minute walk from where I live, the range of equipment is great, the staff is friendly, and I go mid-morning, when it isn’t crowded. I do both cardio and weight training, working valiantly to slow down the effects of aging.

I haven’t worked with a personal trainer since I left Rochester. At first, I didn’t think I needed one — I’d learned enough from J.J. to carry forward on my own. Now, I’m not so sure. I’ve fallen into the trap of doing what I like, not the full range of things that work all the relevant muscles. And I don’t do enough work on balance, stretching, and core strength.

The gym is trying to promote greater use of personal training, so they are stationing a trainer on the exercise floor, to be available to chat with potentially interested people. I approached the trainer of the day, a young man, introduced myself, and said:

“I’m an older athlete, so I’m not interested in adding weight on weight with the goal of bulking up. I want to do as much as I can to continue to build strength without crossing the line to injury of my joints, ligaments, and muscles.  How would you work with me?”

He beamed. “We can do a lot with really light weights to help older people who are mobility challenged.” Then he launched at length into an apparently new promotion, sliding scale fees for members to make training more affordable.

I try not to be an old crank, impatient and judgmental. But … I didn’t say anything about being mobility challenged, or wanting a program of really light weights. And I didn’t say anything about needing financial accommodation.

If I were coaching these personal trainers — all but one young, according to their pictures and bios — I’d give them three questions to ask any member who came up to ask about their services:

Where do you see yourself in terms of relative fitness? What would you hope to get from a personal training experience? What are your goals if we were to work together?”

Those aren’t the only three questions one could use to start.  But they are better than jumping to conclusions, and might encourage more active listening.

I am, alas, an old crank, impatient and judgmental. This is my second interaction with a trainer at this gym, neither satisfactory. I ended the conversation abruptly, and went about doing my own thing.

6 thoughts on “Conscious Aging: Working with a Personal Trainer

  1. Are you going to give this feedback to the supervisor? If they want to run a good operation, I think it would be very useful to them. Old cranks have wisdom!

  2. I have worked with a personal trainer for 10 years. From the beginning she fine tuned a fitness program suited to my needs and I’m blessed to still be going strong. She would bring her 80+ year old mom in and do fitness work with her! Susan recently retired and left me with all the programs from her complete with her stick drawings!
    I too was disappointed when talking to the “hot” the big centers. They were clueless to my needs. I recently met another trainer coincidentally also named Susan. She is a trainer at the Y and also does personal training for clients in their homes. She is also a gem! She is going to teach a class on fitness for our 50+ group called The ABC’s of Fitness : A is for Aerobics ,B is for Balance, C is for Core …she will do the “alphabet” backwards, starting with Core.

  3. I am in a class offered by our local community college called Body Power for seniors. It meets twice a week for1 hour and focuses on cardiovascular work, weights, balance, core strength, range of motion, stretching. We hold class in an old high school on the second floor so walking up a flight of steps is a must. I enjoy it and feel good after each session. Excellent instructor!

  4. for Phyllis: Well, that’s smarter advice than my simply walking off in a snit. 🙂 I will take time to speak to the supervisor. The young person I spoke to was earnest, but completely off the mark. You’re right — whoever is in charge should know, so the approach can be improved.

  5. for Betsy: Because of J.J. who was my trainer for a long time, I know that great people are out there. I just need the patience to find one.

  6. for Joyce: That sounds just great — fun to do a workout with others, and more social. A friend of mine who doesn’t exercise asked why in the world I still do all these things at my age, and I said simply, “Because I feel better.”

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