Episode 106: How To Choose A Gym And Personal Trainer (Part 2)

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Thanks for joining us for episode 106 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today is part two of our answer to the following question from a listener:

“I would love your criteria or recommendations for choosing a gym and a personal trainer. I don’t have much knowledge in this area and I’m intimated by and typically avoid the gym though I think it could be a benefit to me. At this point it’s been years since I worked out in a gym, so I feel like I’d be starting at ground zero.”

If you enjoyed last week’s episode, don’t wait to tune in to hear part two of this information packed show! Just some of what we’ll be talking about is the motivating forces in your fitness routine, the importance of finding a trainer whose personality jives with yours, and barriers to consider that can prevent you from getting to the gym consistently.

Equipped with practical tips and knowledge from stories of our personal experience, you’re sure to have what it takes to go out there and find the gym and personal trainer that’s right for you!

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • The role motivation plays in your fitness routine
  • Why competition during workouts can either be helpful or counterproductive
  • How personal and financial accountability can be a motivating force
  • Why having fun with the type of movement involved in the activity is important
  • How defining and reaching goals is a motivating factor that can help you persevere during rough patches
  • Why progress is not always a linear process in strength training
  • Balancing your budget with what will motivate you when choosing a gym and trainer
  • Virtual options such as online coaching from a trainer that can be of benefit
  • How physical limitations or state of health will affect the type of activities and level of support from a trainer that you choose
  • Why it’s important to find a trainer whose personality type jives with yours
  • Why you should try out a few different gyms to find which atmosphere works best for you
  • How location of the gym is a factor to consider to ensure consistency
  • The importance of considering the type of equipment the gym has


Links Discussed:


Laura: Hi everyone! Welcome to episode 106 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me as always is my cohost Kelsey Kinney.

Kelsey: Hi guys!

Laura: We’re Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence-based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me, Laura, at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com, and Kelsey at KelseyKinney.com.

Over the next 45 minutes we’ll be answering your questions about health and nutrition, and providing our insight into solving health challenges with practical tips.

Kelsey: If you’re enjoying the show, subscribe on iTunes so that you never miss an episode. While you’re there, leave us a positive review so that others can discover the show as well! And remember, we want to answer your question, so head over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health-related question that we can answer on an upcoming show.

Laura: Today on the show we’re going to be discussing how to find a gym and a personal trainer that really works for you. If you are listening to our show regularly, you’ll know that this is a two part episode and that part one was released last week. If you haven’t heard that one, make sure you listen to it first so that this one makes sense. But otherwise, we’re ready to start with part two!

But before we get into our question for the day, here’s a quick word from our sponsor:

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Laura:Welcome back everyone! As I mentioned, this is part two of our podcast on how to find a gym and a personal trainer that you really like. Our original question from last week is this:

“I would love your criteria or recommendations for choosing a gym and a personal trainer. I don’t have much knowledge in this area and I’m intimated by and typically avoid the gym though I think it could be a benefit to me. At this point it’s been years since I worked out in a gym, so I feel like I’d be starting at ground zero.”

Laura:Let’s jump back into part two! I think motivation in general is a huge factor. It’s tough because motivation is kind of like a very nebulous topic and I’ve seen a lot of people suggest that motivation is kind of garbage and it’s not a real thing. I think motivation does exist, but you can’t just will yourself into doing something with motivation.


Laura:I think you really have to think about what gets you more fired up and interested in doing something and thus will actually encourage you to do it. For some people, and I think a lot of people actually, competition with others is very motivating to them and they like to go to group classes where there’s some level of competition.

I think that’s why Cross Fit is so popular for a lot of people is because they have that friendly competition aspect. I think right now the Cross Fit games are going on when we’re recording this and I think that’s just a good example of where that competition can push people to work harder. That’s great if people like it. I know I personally hate it.

Kelsey:Yeah, same.

Laura:I’ve actually recently added some MetCon classes to my schedule just to increase my cardiovascular capacity a little bit because I’ve been finding that that is a weakness that has to be improved upon for my current workouts. I’ve been going to some MetCon classes and it’s so funny how cranky I get when other people are either beating me or if they’re…I don’t want to say cheating because cheating is a strong word, but if they’re like not doing all of the reps and then they finish minutes before me and I’m the last person doing it, I’m like you didn’t do it the full way! I get really pissed basically if I’m competing with other people.

Kelsey:That’s funny, so just being around other people within a workout makes you feel like you need to compete with them essentially?


Kelsey:Got it.

Laura:Then I either get mad that they’re beating me or I get mad that they’re cheating and not doing the full workout. It’s stupid, but I recognize that this is an issue for me. I think it’s one of the reasons that I used to get injured more often when I was working out in things like Cross Fit or these boot camp classes and stuff because I was so focused on being the best or being in the top five or something, or just being better than some arbitrary person in the class where I’m like okay, I can do better than her so I’m just going to make sure I’m done before her every time.


Laura:It makes me stop paying attention to what my needs are and what my limitations are and start thinking I need to push harder or do something different to beat that person. For me it’s not a healthy environment in general to be doing lots of group classes. But for other people they find the group atmosphere to be more motivating, and they’re encouraged, and they like to have that teamwork kind of experience where maybe they’re doing a group workout and they get to cheer other people on. For different people that competition aspect is going to either motivate them and have them enjoy the workout more. Or if you’re like me and it makes you angry during the workout or it makes you feel like you’re pushing yourself too hard, then maybe that’s not the best way to motivate yourself.


Laura:For me I think the accountability to my trainer is motivating to me because I have to build my whole schedule around getting to the gym at the time that I’ve scheduled. There’s a factor of financial accountability. If I skipped it I would lose the money that I paid for it, which is like I said is not trivial. Also just I would feel bad if I just skipped it because my trainer waiting for me and he’s scheduled that time for me. That accountability for me definitely motivates me to go.

I would say the financial accountability actually motivates me to work harder, not so hard that I hurt myself because I’m going to get any benefit if I push myself too hard. But it pushes me to work a little harder maybe than I would have if I wasn’t paying for it because my thought is well, if I’m paying this money to be trained by someone, I better show up for it, and put effort into it, and not just screw around or not try.

Kelsey:Yep, that makes sense. Coming from a little bit of a different perspective, I do group classes. I have a coach, but depending on what time I go there can be anywhere from just one other person there with me or quite a few other people with me, maybe ten or so. I have found that it motivates me.

First of all, my financial contribution is not insignificant either. It’s probably a lot less than what you’re doing for one on one coaching, but it’s still nothing to sneeze at. For me that definitely motivates me to go a certain amount of times per week usually because I know I’m paying essentially this much per class or this much per times I go, so I don’t want that price to raise necessarily if I go way less than that per week.

That’s really motivating to me to actually be consistent about it because sometimes life gets busy and I don’t have time for things or I’m just really exhausted. Of course I’ll take a break when I need it and certainly when I was making my gut health program I ended up only going to the gym twice a week instead of three or four times per week as I had been because I just was too busy, too tired to do things, which is fine. But honestly I think if I hadn’t been paying that much money per month, knowing myself, I probably would have gone even less to the point where I was going less than I could have just because I was overwhelmed.

I think that two times per week worked out really well for me because I was able to keep up my strength and I was getting some movement in. I wasn’t just sitting at my computer all the time. I know that for myself that was really important for me to go at least twice a week to keep things healthy for me. If I didn’t have that financial contribution or if my coach wasn’t there waiting for me, I know myself, I know I wouldn’t have gone quite as much.

And then from the competition standpoint, it’s interesting because I do the group classes so there is that opportunity for competition. I’m the same way, if I feel like I’m competing with people, I can drive myself a little crazy I think. But doing the group classes has actually taught me not be as competitive.

I think actually what helped that the most is that I go to a gym where everybody’s really strong. There aren’t that many beginners in the classes I go to at this point, so I’m easily pretty much the least strong person in these classes.

I think that actually taught me to just forget everybody else, forget what they’re doing and focus only on myself because literally I think I would drive myself absolutely crazy if I was trying to compete with people who have been doing this for five or ten years, are way stronger than me, they’re nowhere near where I am at the very beginning of my strength journey.

Luckily that didn’t deter me, but I can easily see how it would. That’s the kind of person who wouldn’t be right for a group class of course.

Laura:I think it depends on, like you said, the atmosphere. If everyone’s way better than you, you might be able to more easily say I’m not competing with them because it’s stupid. But if everyone’s the same or around the same level of fitness, that competition could be more noticeable, which for some people again, that gets them motivated, that makes them more excited, they have fun. Some people really competition.

I don’t not enjoy competition. I used to play volleyball, and I used to play lacrosse, and I’ve done other sports in the past. It’s not like I hate competition and get super stressed by it or anything like that. But if it’s just like an experience where it’s doesn’t really need to be a competition, but then I feel like I should be doing better than other people, it’s like a bad habit of mine to get way too focused on what other people are doing and how that compares to what I’m doing. I don’t know, maybe that means I should do more group classes to get over that.

Kelsey:No. I think you play to your strengths. You’re doing exactly what you need to do in order to improve your strength and your physical fitness, and if that means working with some of your personality traits that are already there, that’s fine. I don’t think we always have to be picking and choosing different things about us that we absolutely have to work on all the time.

Laura:Right, that’s true.

Kelsey:It’s okay to play to your strengths.

Laura:Yeah, definitely.

One thing other than the accountability, well I should say there’s two more things that for me are somewhat motivating during my workouts. I do find that there is a level of funness, I don’t know if that’s a word, but I do enjoy the actual movement when I’m doing it.

And again, sometimes this is stuff that I don’t do on a regular basis. Like if I go running when I’m at a beach, that’s fun. It’s not necessarily something I do all the time, but I enjoy it and so it’s motivating to go run on the beach. There’s times in my workouts at the gym that I have a good time, or I enjoy the challenge, or I enjoy the sense of accomplish once I’ve done something. Which I think kind of plays into my second area of motivation that really pushes me to continue is either reaching goals that I’ve set for myself, and some of them are arbitrary, but others are…like getting a chin up was a goal that I had and that was really fun and exciting when I hit that.

Generally either reaching goals, or setting PRs with certain lifts, or being able to do something that you didn’t think could ever do, that can be really fun and it can be exciting to see how you can accomplish difficult things after you’ve been consistently training for a while.

Beyond just the financial and personal accountability piece, I do actually enjoy myself when I’m at the gym and what’s helpful having a coach is that he’s tracking my progress for things. When he tells me that we’re going to do this squat, and it’s this weight, and it’s this many reps, and this is going to be a volume PR for you if you’re able to do this, it kind of just gets in my head that okay, this is going to be a challenge and I can do it. And I’m not competing with anybody. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s okay if I can’t do it.  But it is definitely more motivating when I can see even just a little victory in front of me to be able to accomplish. It just makes it a little bit more fun than if I was just going to the gym and doing the same thing over and over and not really ever seeing any changes or progress.


Laura:That can definitely affect your motivation if either if the type of movement is fun, so if you’re dong Zoomba for example, that might just be fun regardless of what the outcomes are. Or if you’re doing something that does have a goal attached to it and you’re reaching those goals, then that can be super fun as well.

Kelsey:Yeah, I think the PR piece of this has been especially helpful for me when it comes to something that I find really difficult and that I have been having trouble with. For example, squats have recently been my least favorite movement. I pretty much don’t like them when I do them.

It’s better now, but there was a period of time maybe, I think it was a month or two months ago where I actually had to go down in weight for my squats just in my normal training cycles because my form wasn’t good and as soon as the weight got heavy, my core would just not be working and so my squats just ended up looking not great. I went down in weight to kind of work on form just to build up my strength a little bit better before I went up to heavier weight.

That was really demotivating for me because I felt like, man, I’ve been doing all this stuff and I really feel like I’ve been progressing in a lot of other ways. It kind of sucks to have to move down in weights now. But what did motivate me was saying, okay, I have this end goal being able to do a bodyweight squat, and that was what I was working on. I was going through a really tough squat heavy cycle where I was squatting multiple times a week, which is not usually typical. My goal at the end of it was to be able to do this bodyweight squat.

Even though I wasn’t really liking squats at that time because I just felt kind of demotivated by the fact that I had to go down in weight, there was also this motivating aspect of knowing that I was really working towards something. That allowed me to push through these kind of negative thoughts about myself and how I could do squats.

Eventually at the end of that cycle, I actually went over my goal which was great. But that was huge for me and it really allowed me to get through that cycle that was really, really difficult for me and kind of mentally tough a lot of the time as well.

Laura:At the end of the day with progress…and when we say PRs it just means personal records. So if people aren’t familiar with what that terms means, it just means you’re doing something that you hadn’t done in the past. There’s a lot of things that can affect your progress and when people expect to have linear progress, I think that’s when they get disappointed because there will be times when they’re ability goes down.

Just as an example for me, at one point I could deadlift I think 255 was my max at one point. That was about a year ago I want to say that I was able to able to do that. And then since then I lost about maybe 15 to 20 pounds of bodyweight and now my max deadlift is like 215 or 220. Hypothetically you could say that’s a huge drop in strength and that’s a failure, or that’s like oh man, I can’t believe I can’t do that anymore. But if you take into account all the things that affect strength and deadlift ability, I’m like well no wonder I can’t deadlift as much because I have 20 pounds less of strength that I can do that with


Laura:I feel like with strength training if you’re always expecting to be making consistent linear progress, it can be a little disappointing when it doesn’t happen. But I think if you are looking at strength training as just like a longer term process that there’s going to be ebbs and flows in, then you don’t take those regressions as seriously because you know that this is normal, sometimes you regress and then you make gains.

So there’s just different things that will happen that will affect the objective amount of weight that you’re lifting. If you think about deadlifting as a percentage of your bodyweight, then maybe that’s actually gone up if you lost weight. There’s just some different ways to look at things that can make it less demotivating.

But there’s a couple more things that this person should consider as part of their decisions. I think one of the more practical things would be their budget. Kelsey and I were kind of talking about that a minute ago where there’s this fine line between paying enough money to be motivated and not paying so much money that you can’t afford it or you’re not able to feed yourself.

The training that I do is definitely on the higher end of the budget spectrum. It’s not as high as it could be. My trainer is actually not very expensive for what he charges. I think part of that is because I live in Raleigh. I’m sure if I was trying to do what I was doing in New York, I’d be paying like double.

Kelsey:Yeah, let’s say that’s out of my budget here certainly.

Laura:It depends on where you live and it depends on what your budget is, but you have to kind of balance your budget with what motivates you. If your budget is $50 a month, then maybe you just want to go to a gym by yourself. There’s a lot of really good online guides that you can download to help give you a workout routine to follow so you’re not doing it 100% on your own, but you are essentially just training by yourself and kind of relying on your understanding of that guide. Which that works great for a lot of people, so there’s nothing wrong with that. But you’re not going to necessarily have that motivation of accountability or the financial investment that’s going to increase your motivation.

I hate to say it, but when you spend a lot of money on something, you’re going to probably be a lot more committed it than if you don’t spend any more on it or you spend very little. But again, we want to make sure that that spending money is still within the person’s budget.

And then there’s that midlevel where you can do group classes, kind of like what Kelsey’s doing where you’re spending enough money that you don’t want to waste it and you definitely want to go because you don’t want to spend 100, 200, 300 dollars a month for classes that you end up not even using. But that might not be as expensive as doing the one on one. It can kind of be more budget friendly without missing that financial accountability piece that can be really helpful for motivation.

And then the training one on one, again kind of on the higher end of that spectrum, and of course it can depend on how frequently you’re training. If you’re training once a week with a trainer and then doing another couple days on your own, that’s going to be cheaper than if you were training four days a week one on one.


Laura:The number of times you see a trainer is going to affect the budget. For someone who’s getting over an injury or is really starting from scratch and really needs that one on one help to get back into it, it might be worth the investment to at least commit to a trainer for a period of time.

That’s kind of what my thought process had been two years ago when I started. It was like I’m just going to work with a trainer until I get back into shape and I feel more comfortable. Because I was feeling nervous about training after my car accident and I was like I’ll just do it for a couple months and then I’ll maybe switch to a group class or just start going by myself.

Kelsey:We see where that got you.

Laura:I know. At this point, I haven’t quit. I imagine at some point I will. I don’t really anticipate training one on one with somebody for my entire life, but at this point I don’t see myself quitting anytime soon.

That’s one of those things that just because you do one on one training for a month or two doesn’t mean that’s what you have to do forever. You might just look at it as a short term investment in building the skillset to learn how to work out in a safe, and appropriate, and effective way and then you switch to a group class or you switch to just training on your own just to continue that progress without having to spend as much money.


Laura:You could always start with one thing and then transition to the next level or a previous level when your budget changes. If you’re starting with a lower budget and you want to train alone and then you get to the point where my budget afford the group classes now and I want to go up to a group class, then you can do that.

Or if again you invest a little bit more in the beginning and do the one on one training and then you’re at the point where you’re like okay now this is kind of not worth it anymore, I’m going to drop down to the group class and save some money and still get motivation and training from somebody and some assistance, but it’s not going to be quite as expensive.

I think the budget piece is a big factor for most people, if not everybody, or at least people that don’t make a million dollars a year or something. You kind of want to get into that sweet spot between paying enough money that you’ll be motivated to do it if you do find that to be a motivator, and then not paying so much that it’s not sustainable for at least enough time to get what you’re looking for.

Kelsey:Yeah. One other option that I’ll throw in here too is that a lot of coaches will do online coaching or online group coaching. It could be private or it could be a group. I know my coach, he actually has an online coaching group where you’re a part of a Facebook group essentially and everybody is supposed to send in videos of some of their lifts every week and he’ll comment and critique their lifting technique and tell them what things to work on. I think he does the programming for everybody as well. At least at the time of this recording, that’s $30 a month which I think is a steal.

If you don’t have anybody either locally to you that you feel comfortable with, or if you can’t afford a one on one trainer or even group coaching, but you know you need at least somebody else looking at your lifts or anything you’re doing objectively, an online coach can be a really good option that spans both the financial aspect and the coaching aspect to get you something that’s at least more helpful than just going by yourself but still financially feasible for most people.

Laura:It’s kind of amazing how the internet has really changed the options for people. I feel like even ten years ago you might have had to work one on one with someone in person and now they have like you said the online coaching, there’s the kind of workout routines that are put together by a coach that maybe they have videos that you can watch to learn how to do the movements. There’s a lot more options now for that that maybe didn’t exist in the past.

Again, I really like the one on one stuff. It’s funny, when I think about changing to something where it’s totally virtual, I get a little bratty and say I don’t want to do that. My schedule may change, my budget may change, my priorities may change even if my budge doesn’t, so maybe at some point I’ll be more interested in that kind of thing.


Laura:But again, everyone is going to be different and you have to just figure out what level is going to work for you, and your budget, and your motivation.


Laura:It’s funny, I feel like this episode is a lot longer than I was expecting.

Kelsey:I know.

Laura:This will be a short one, yeah. But there’s a couple more things that you would want to consider. I’ll just go through my list quickly and then Kelsey, if you have anything to add, just let me know.

One thing to consider that I think you and I probably use as part of our decision making process was physical limitations that you might have. That might include previous injuries, post childbirth. If you are a new mom that’s recently given birth but you want to get back into working out, I would look at childbirth as basically like an injury where you have this significant change to your physical structure that you basically have to rehab from.

I’m not saying that childbirth is something that people should look at negatively, I’m just saying that you need to treat your body like it’s been through this kind of traumatic physical experience and not just like try to go back into what you would be doing if you hadn’t just given birth.


Laura:That’s something to definitely consider. If you have a chronic illness, kind of like what Kelsey was saying with her situation, her limitation, having either physical pain or nervous system issues, or inflammation, or whatever is going on, you may need a little bit more support or coaching to be able to do the kind of workouts that someone who is generally healthy would be able to do.

There may be some genetic issues, like I know there’s some genetic issues out there that affect people’s joint laxity or tendon laxity so then they tend to dislocate things easier. That might mean you want to train with somebody to prevent those kind of injuries.

Just generally, the more limitations you have on your physical abilities, the more need for an expert support system that you would need, so either working with someone one on one or working in a small group so that way you can get help because you’re going to have higher risk of injury or higher risk of causing worsening of health if you are overdoing it, or doing things in a bad form, or whatever is going on that’s not ideal.

Again, some of these limitations may be temporary. My car accident injury general seems to be temporary. There are some things that I can be a little bit careful about, trying to avoid any sort of quick head and neck movements because that’s reactivated my injury in the past. There’s some  things that are still potentially lingering, but that injury seems to be fairly dealt with at this point.

There might be things that like the post childbirth, generally temporary situation. I mean there may be some permanent changes that happen, but the immediate post childbirth situation is going to be a lot different than a year or two down the road. That might affect what you’re doing right now, but in a year from now you could be back to what you were doing before. Don’t necessarily assume that just because you need a little bit of more help now to get over a limitation that you’re always going to need that help. You might get to a point where you can get back to your normal routine and be fine.

Those limitations I think are going to affect not only the type of movement that you choose, but also the level of support that you’re going to work with if you do want to get a trainer or work in a group class. Any thoughts on that, Kelsey?

Kelsey:I completely agree, wouldn’t add anything I think. I had sort of the same experience just coming from the chronic illness side of things is just that I was starting from basically ground zero, which it sounds like this person asking this question was. I just felt like I needed more support. Even if maybe I didn’t necessarily truly need it, I needed it mentally. Maybe if I didn’t need it physical necessarily, I definitely needed it mentally. I think you have to think about that as well.

You were mentioning there was just a little bit of fear going back into things for you, That definitely indicates needing more support both from the physical perspective and from the emotionally and mental perspective as well.

Laura:I still feel like there’s times where there’s things that I would not being doing if I was training on my own from a fear perspective. That doesn’t necessarily go away.

Kelsey:No, definitely not.

Laura:I’m less afraid than I was after my car accident, for sure.


Laura:My last comment about finding a personal trainer is to consider what kind of personality you like. For me, I’ve worked with some either Cross Fit coaches or boot camp instructors. I’ve never had a one on one trainer until the coach that I’m working with now. But I get a little bit like, I don’t want to say sensitive. Well, sensitive I guess is the right word. If somebody is being hardcore drill sergeant, I’m trying to think of an example because it’s been so long since I worked with somebody like this. But if they’re rude or if they’re kind of like, come on! You can do better than that! Or, push yourself! That kind of stuff, I’m like eww, shut up, leave me alone!

That kind of personality for me just annoys me and is not motivating to me, whereas I would describe my coach, Matt, as having a calm, instructor type personality. He doesn’t really get super riled up about anything. Sometimes he’ll be like, if I start to grind through a lift or soemthing, he’ll say something like, come on, you got this! Or something. But he doesn’t tell me to push harder or demean me or something in order to “motivate” me. I find that a lot of the coaching is a lot more instructive as opposed to trying to yell at me to make me work harder.

That personality type works really well for me. I would get really annoyed if he was being too drill sergeant-y or even too cheerleader-y. I would be like alright it’s not that big of a big deal, calm down if they were like, you got this! You’re so amazing! Like I said, everyone is going to have a different experience there. Some people love the super cheerleady trainers.

I used to go a barre studio locally because one of my friends recommended it. It wasn’t terrible, but I always just felt a little stupid in the classes because of the music and way that the instructor was so again, like a cheerleader basically. I was just like this is so goofy and I don’t really like this.

Kelsey:You didn’t jive with it.

Laura:Yeah. And again, nothing wrong with that if you do like that kind of atmosphere, but it wasn’t the kind of atmosphere that I really enjoyed going to. My current atmosphere is much more intellectual, and kind of looking at the lifts from a technical perspective, and also having a little bit of pushing to do things harder than I would normally push myself.

I feel like I trust my coach’s expertise and I trust that he has my best interest in mind. That means that if he tells me to do something, I know that he knows my limitations, he knows my injuries, he knows what I’ve failed at in the past. If we’re trying something that I’ve had trouble with in the past, he’s going to be a lot more flexible with changing it than if it’s something that he knows he can do and he’s going to be like, alright, you can do this, you’ve done this before, you’re fine. Whereas other times he’s like alright, you don’t have to do that. I know it’s uncomfortable, so we’ll just skip it.

He has a very good willingness to change the workouts as necessary. If I come in and tell him that I slept like garbage the night before or if I didn’t have time to eat before the workout, which is rare because I try not to go on a workout fasted, but it it’s occasional, he’ll change things based on my immediate limitations.

Some people are manipulative and will kind of whine and get out of things, and if their coach is too lenient, maybe that’s not a good fit for you. Maybe you need someone who’s a little bit more strict. Whereas I have this kind of relationship with my coach where sometimes I’ll roll my eyes at him or I’ll be like oh I don’t want to do this! He’ll be like just do it! But if I say I don’t know, I feel really uncomfortable with this, he’s like alright, we’ll skip it, we’ll just do something else. We kind of got to the point where he knows when to push me and when to give me lenience. That I think generally is a good experience for most people.

But you have to be able to find the personality of a trainer that jives with yours. Because again, you may need someone who’s super intense and does not let you get away with anything, or you may need someone who’s super gentle and a cheerleader type and not going to ever push you to the point of feeling really upset or scared or anything. Everyone’s going to have a different experience. That’s where I think testing out trainers is important because you won’t really know until you had some level of experience with them and seeing how they coach and seeing if you feel comfortable with them.

And again, the relationship I have with my coach has definitely been two years in the making. So we’re at this point where we have a lot of understanding of what the other person’s style is, what their needs are, and it just allows for a lot more appropriate of a workout that I’m getting pushed and challenged, but I’m not ending up injured. I haven’t cried at the gym in a while, so knock wood that won’t happen again.

Kelsey:I think the personality piece of it is so important because of course you want to find somebody who has got the experience that they need to be able to coach people effectively, they maybe have certain certifications. All that is important and you want them to have the background that makes them a good coach. But like you said, there’s going to be different people that just respond differently to different things.

I just have a funny little anecdote that I have to share here. I tried out a couple different coaches, a couple different gyms before landing on the one that I’m at now. My coach who I absolutely love is like the perfect personality for me, and it sounds kind of like yours, Laura, where he’s motivating but listens to any limitations. There’s none of that like you got this! Overly cheerleading kind of thing other than if you’re grinding through a lift and you kind of need that at that time.

The gym I had gone to prior to landing here was a total drill sergeant of a coach and oh my gosh, I did a couple sessions with him and I was just like I don’t think I can do this. One time I was there, and I was just working out by myself at that time because it was a weird scheduling thing. I just needed to come in and get it done and he was training somebody else while I was there. This woman, he was just like yelling at her, screaming at her to get her to do better on stuff and she started crying during the workout.

I’ve definitely cried at the gym before too, but this was different. This was due to complete breakdown because he was just screaming at her trying to get her to work harder. That was like the last straw for me. I just said I can’t do this. I can’t work with somebody like that. That’s just totally not my style. It’s not going to motivate me and especially at that point I was rehabbing from having been suffering with chronic illness issues for a while. I was like this is just not the personality that I need at this point in time.

Laura:Right, yeah. Just to make sure people don’t think my trainer was like yelling at me, I cried because I failed at a lift that had kind of freaked me out. I tend to be a little bit like crying dominant when I’m stressed out. If I get really scared of something and then all a sudden it’s over, I can sometimes start crying from that. For me the crying was because, I forget what lift it was. I think it was an overhead press. Overhead presses just scare the crap out of me. I don’t know why. They just really make me uncomfortable.

Kelsey:They’re scary, yeah.

Laura:I think it was a heavier overhead press that I failed at and I just got really frustrated and upset. Like I said that’s why I cried. I didn’t cry because my coach was yelling at me.

Kelsey:There was no screaming.

Laura:No, no. Like I said, I haven’t cried in a while. I think it’s because I’ve gotten a little bit more mental toughness with some of that kind of stuff. If your coach is making you feel bad about yourself, then that’s not a good situation no matter what if they’re yelling at you or if they’re just like being…I don’t know, there’s a way that you can make someone feel bad by not…I don’t know how to describe it. It’s almost like not caring about what they’re doing or not being excited or happy for them when they do things.

Again, you’re going to have to test them out before you can figure that out. That personality type in a trainer is going to make a big difference. They could be the most well educated and effective trainer in the world, but if they’re a jerk to you, you probably don’t want to train with them.

Kelsey:Yeah. To be fair, this coach I think was just overwhelming this person because they were doing a really tough workout. And all the screaming I’m sure did not help, but I think that she was actually the kind of person where it did motivate her in a way. But I was just like that is not me, I’m not that person. To be fair, I think the coach was sort of reading the situation at least hopefully appropriately at that time. But I just knew that that was not the right personality for me.

And then just a couple of other things to think about especially if you’re working out on your own in terms of picking a gym, and we talked a little bit about this piece of it before, is just the environment, the atmosphere that you’re going to be exposed to. Actually this applies to if you’re working in a group coaching atmosphere as well because there’s going to be different types of people in a group coaching depending on what kind of gym you’re at and so you want to make sure that the type of people you’re surrounded by as well as the gym atmosphere itself is something that really works for you and motivates you.

Just as an example, if you think about the atmosphere of Planet Fitness, I don’t know if people have those everywhere. I assume they’re everywhere at least in the U.S.

Laura:They’re pretty ubiquitous in the United States.

Kelsey:Yeah. Comparing that to an Equinox gym, again I don’t know if that’s a New York only thing. Do you have Equinox?

Laura:No, but I’ve seen them because I used to live up in that New Jersey/New York area.

Kelsey:It’s just like a very high end kind of gym, pretty expensive, like juice bars and everything in there and just really high end different kind of clientele. Whereas Planet Fitness, not that the financial aspect of it makes the biggest difference necessarily, but it’s like a $10, $20 a month gym. It’s often very overcrowded just because I think a lot of people sign up for it because it’s so cheap. You just get a very different atmosphere at both of those places.

You have to think about what kind of atmosphere is going to be motivating to you and maybe try out a few different types of gyms to see which atmosphere works best.

Laura:I always just think of the Planet Fitness, they have that lunk alarm I think it’s called.


Laura:That’s because they don’t want people grunting or dropping weights or anything. Which I kind of get it, but I also feel like when I’m training with my coach and I’m doing a heavy deadlift, yeah if I drop the weight a little at the end, it’s going to make a lot of noise and I wouldn’t want to work at a gym that was going to set an alarm off because I made too much noise when I was working out.

Kelsey:Yeah, no thanks. Definitely consider that. It does make a big difference and I think a lot of people tend to overlook that in favor of either budgetary concerns or just a lot of other considerations when it comes to a gym. But it’s something that you should really pay attention to because I think it’s one of the things that could mean the difference between going consistently or avoiding the gym because you don’t like the atmosphere.


Kelsey:And then I think it’s also really important to consider what’s going to…I think motivate is the wrong word here, more like make it easy for you to go to the gym more often or as often as you would like to.

Laura:Reduce the barriers, minimize the barriers.

Kelsey:Exactly, minimize the barriers to you getting there on a regular basis. I worked with clients that they need their gym to have childcare because otherwise they’re just not going to be able to go to the gym as often because they need someone to look after their kids if they’re going to the gym. That’s a consideration you have to think about if you’ve got children or if you know that not having somebody to take care of your children is going to prohibit you from actually getting to the gym.

Laura:One thing I wanted to mention about that is that might be a barrier removal or it may be a motivator because I just think about a lot of my friends who have kids that are like the gym is the only opportunity I have to get childcare. I mean it’s not for free, but it’s like they don’t have to pay a babysitter and they’re like that’s my me time to drop my kids off at the daycare in the facility and then go workout.  That might be a motivator to get to the gym because it’s your only opportunity to have time without your kids.

Kelsey:Exactly, yeah. Another thing to consider is where your gym is in relationship to your house or to your work, and when you’re planning on going. If you know that you’re going to drive past a gym on your way home from work every day and if you drive right past it and go home, you’re going to feel bad about it. Or even if it’s just that that makes it easier for you to actually go because you’re literally driving right past it, that’s something to think about because you just want to take all these potential barriers away.

If having to go home first before you go to the gym means that more than likely you’re just going to end up on the couch and never get up again to go the gym, then yeah, find a way to get to the gym before you actually go home for the night. That’s going to make it a lot easier for you to go there consistently.

You need to think about your personality. I think a lot of what we’ve talked about today does really come down to personality and what kind of person you are. Think about the barriers that would prevent you from getting to the gym consistently and be very honest with yourself when you’re going through this because it’s easy to say I can motivate myself to go home and then go to the gym after. But if you really sat down and thought about it, you’d say even if I could, it would still be so much easier for me if I didn’t have to go home first. Finding a gym on my way home from work is going to mean the difference between going consistently and going every once and while.

I think that’s really important to think about. Another thing to consider is just what kind of equipment you need. For example, I have a blink fitness which I think is a local chain here right around the corner, like super close, two minute walk. I went there for a while because it was a good price and it seemed like a nice gym. But I realized pretty quickly that even though they had some of the equipment that I wanted to use for strength training, people were always on it and there was always a line. I just didn’t want to deal with that as part of my workout routine because if I was there and I saw a bunch of people, and usually it’s like a bunch of hunky guys broing out over by the weight section, I was like I just don’t want to deal with this when I go to the gym. I could and I certainly could probably motivate myself to do that, but I knew that would be a barrier for me to actually doing it consistently and not wasting time while I was at the gym waiting for people to do their sets.

Make sure that they have the right type of equipment. Some really budget gyms may not have strength training equipment or free weights that you could actually use to do barbell training. Or even if they do have it, people could always be on it and it could just drive you crazy or you would waste a lot of time at the gym.

Last thing to mention with all of this is that you should always try the gym at least once before you commit to anything. That goes for group coaching, goes for one on one sessions, it goes for working out on your own. Just anytime you’re signing up for anything, you really should try to at least once, if not a couple times to make sure that your personality jives with your trainer, or the atmosphere of the group coaching, the other people in your group, that you like being around those people and being in the group coaching, or just the atmosphere of the gym is just something that works well for you.

Most gyms if it’s not like a group coaching or a one on one type of situation are typically going to allow you one or two week trial to come in and try things before you actually sign up. If you’re doing that, it’s really important to go at the time that you would normally be going because that was something that I think I did incorrectly when trying out a few gyms. I was like I’ll just check it out when I have time. And then I ended up going to the gym at a completely different time usually than I looked at it and the atmosphere was really different. It was really crowded at the times I was going. That made a huge difference in my experience of the gym itself.

Just make sure you try it even if it’s something you have to pay for. If you’re doing one on one training session, you’re going to have to pay for that typically. Most of the time they won’t give you that for free the first time, but it does depend on the person obviously. But it’s worth it to spend a little money to make sure that you really like something before you commit to it long term.

Laura:Some gyms have this thing where they’re like they’ll give you a discount if you sign up for a whole year or something. Which that’s good if you know you want to go there, but don’t do that if it’s the first time you’re going.


Laura:Cool! Well that was a lot of information.

Kelsey: I know.

Laura: Hopefully helpful. I think some of it was definitely based on Kelsey and my experience with picking a gym, and that has worked out well for both of us at this point. Hopefully this will help the person asking the question.

If you have a question either about fitness, or nutrition, or anything health related that you want to submit, go to TheAncestralRDs.com and there’s a contact tab that you can click and submit your question that way and we may answer it on one of the next shows. But anyway, thanks for joining us and we’ll see you guys here next week.

Kelsey:Alright. Take care, Laura.

Laura:You too, Kelsey.

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I'm a women's health expert and a registered dietitian (RD) with a passion for helping goal-oriented people fuel their purpose.

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