There's a degree of commitment required for the most basic training regimen. A certain number of reps. A minimum amount of time on the treadmill. Restrictions on your diet. But bring a personal trainer into the mix, and the margins for flexibility narrow. If your conscience doesn't speak loudly enough, the encouragement of a trainer can keep your attention.
Marda Kaiser-Rehnelt has been training in Memphis since moving here from New Mexico in 1998. With clients ranging in age from their early 40s to their 70s, Kaiser-Rehnelt has seen a variety of needs among fitness-conscious Memphians, but regardless of a client's age, she's come to emphasize balance in her regimen.
"Everybody thinks they need to get on the treadmill and sweat their lives away," she explains, "but I try and get people to start weight workouts. We're learning how important regular weight training is for long-term fitness; not just losing those five or 10 pounds for the school reunion or holiday party. Building muscle mass helps your metabolism be faster during the day."
Kaiser-Rehnelt points to the additional value of weight-training as a bone-strengthening technique for women. "Women tend to worry most about the middle-of-the-body belly fat. But we are interested in functional fitness, being strong enough to get through a normal day easily. Everybody's got a pain they have to get around. Weights help balance your body."
Among misconceptions about personal trainers, Kaiser-Rehnelt notes that there was a time when her profession was considered a "luxury service." "[Personal training] has become a more practical, long-term investment," she says. "People are now able to learn more about getting themselves healthier. For me, it's become more about teaching [my clients] how to take better care of themselves. It's not just designating an exercise and telling them how many to do."
Rates vary according to a schedule customized between trainer and client, but Kaiser-Rehnelt says one can expect to pay around $65 per hour, with savings for more frequent sessions. "In these times, when people are worried about their investments, we don't want financial considerations to be the reason people don't get the [health] information they need."
While Kaiser-Rehnelt's clients prefer solo workouts, there are also group sessions, some involving multiple trainers. ("Each trainer has his or her own style," notes Kaiser-Rehnelt. "So people [in a group setting] can get full exposure to what personal training would be like.") Sessions can run for 30 minutes or an hour. Most importantly, personal training has come to emphasize its adjective: What works best for you will also work best for a trainer.
As for the challenges of her career, Kaiser-Rehnelt explains that she has certain clients who might not adhere to a program as stringently as they should, but some actually exercise too much. The body, she notes, needs rest. "You've got to let the workout do its job. The recovery period is just as important. It's not easy to stay focused."
Asked about a peak season in the life of personal trainers, Kaiser-Rehnelt chuckles and admits to increased traffic shortly after New Year's Day. "We definitely have a boom after the first of the year," she says. "People want to kick [their fitness] into gear. And if they get to a personal trainer, they usually stick it out."
One essential nugget of advice from a fitness professional? "Listen to your body," says Kaiser-Rehnelt. "When your body feels bad, you have to know how to make it feel better. With the skyrocketing costs of health care, the best preventative medicine is exercise."