Those who have taken my classes and trained with me over the past 16 years know that I have always worked with an older clientele.  While I have had younger clients, the majority have been over 50.  My oldest client was Gus.  Gus was 92 and he and his 72 year-old girlfriend used to come and take my Pilates classes.  Gus understood one thing:  Use it or lose it. 

The subject of this blog came about because in the past months I have been inundated with emails from companies wanting me to get certified to train baby boomers.  A few years ago I got certified as a Brains and Balance Past 60 Specialist.  Throughout that certification class I kept waiting for them to teach me something I did not know.  It didn’t happen.  I was already working with people over 60.  I referred to it as Functional Training.  Everything they taught in this class was right out of my own playbook.  All I got out of that class was a piece of paper saying I was now certified to work with the same clientele I had always worked with. 

More recently, an email came from a company called the Functional Aging Institute.  They want me to get “certified” to train older clients.  Now, I totally get that there is a whole generation of trainers who need to go through such a program.  However, I think I could probably teach this certification program myself.

So, what does this all mean?  It means that someone (besides me) has finally taken notice of the fact that “one size does not fit all” when it comes to personal training.   I have been saying this for years.  It does not only apply to working with baby boomers; it applies to everyone.  It is amazing how many trainers do the same thing with every client.  They don’t ask any questions, they just work people as hard as they can.  The takeaway is that they lose clients.  I can’t tell you how many clients I gained because they went somewhere for personal training and they were not heard.  No one listened to them. 

What you should do if you are looking for a personal trainer.

First of all, ask your friends for referrals.  If you don’t know anyone who is using a personal trainer, then turn to the internet.  Read their websites!  They should make it clear if they work with a certain demographic.

Make sure you meet them before making any commitments.  I give every new a client a free 30 minute consultation.  It is important to make sure trainer and client click.  This is your chance to ask questions and have the trainer ask you questions. 

Here are some suggestions for questions you should be asking:   

1) How long have they been a certified personal trainer? 

2) Have they ever worked with someone your age before? 

3) Have they ever worked with your gender?

4) If you have challenges, ask them if they know how to modify moves to fit your restrictions?

Anything you have a question about, you should ask.  Make a list of questions before meeting with them.

One thing that is really important is that they should be asking you questions.  These questions should be about your goals, your activity level, past injuries, limitations, illnesses, eating habits, sleep habits, health, etc.   If this does not happen, don’t hire them. 

If you are at a gym and have been “assigned” a trainer, and you don’t feel the trainer is a good fit, let the management know immediately.  Some gyms offer “free personal training with sign up.” This sounds great until you break it down.   They want their new, young trainers to build up a clientele.  That means the young, inexperienced trainers are the ones who get assigned to work with customers who are getting free sessions.   As a businessperson, I absolutely understand this.  But, when it is your money and your time, you deserve to work with a trainer who understands your goals and can help you achieve them.  That does not necessarily mean you won’t get a good trainer but, unfortunately, young inexperienced trainers do not usually have the experience to work with the baby boomer crowd.  If you are lucky, they may have had a mentor who taught them the finer points of working with the over 50 woman.

Let me give you an example.  Let’s take a 55 year-old woman who has had 3 children, a few injuries over the years and works a desk job.  She may be menopausal and 30 lbs overweight.  She isn’t sleeping well.  She starts her day at the drive thru getting a grande vanilla latte.
With what I have just told you, what do you think would happen if she had a 20-something trainer who has never worked with an over 50 woman before?  Well, I can tell you, because I have seen this so many times.  While they may have the best of intentions, unless they have been taught to work with this demographic, they will be asking her to do things she’s not ready for.  She may be asked to jump on a box, bench press too much weight, and/or they may try to sell her some crazy supplement. 

Here is what I can tell you, if she jumps on a box, she will probably pee her pants.  If she benches too much weight she could wind up with any multitude of injuries involving the shoulder.  As far as supplements go, they are just that.  Supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet.  She will hurt and will not want to go back because … well, it hurts.

Here is the takeaway:  It is up to you, the client, to be proactive in finding a good personal trainer.  You MUST advocate for yourself.