As someone who enjoys a fast-paced, high-energy and efficient lifestyle, I can, admittedly, be quite impatient at times. So it’s no surprise that I was initially sceptical when I found out that the entire duration of my first personal training session was going to consist of an hour-long assessment. I was itching to get my pulse racing immediately and have my trainer put me through my paces. Isn’t giving it your all from the get-go what getting fit is all about? Surely such a lengthy evaluation was an unnecessary waste of time and money? Various thoughts ran through my head: 'Aren't I capable of weighing myself? Can’t I take before and after photos at home? I can already accurately count calories and I know my own body better than anyone, so what more is there to learn? I'm just looking for guidance on how to use the gym equipment and some extra motivation'…
It was only during the drive home from the assessment that I truly began to recognise the value of this crucial first step in my fitness journey. It dawned on me that the well-known saying "what you don't know can't hurt you" is totally out of place in this context. Actually, being more informed about my body (how I moved and why I moved in a certain way) is paramount to me achieving my goals. I found the process extremely positive and eye-opening - I didn't even realise what I was missing out on and can’t help thinking that I should've done this months ago!
So let me explain exactly how underappreciated this first evaluation really is and the advantages I see in this logical and comprehensive process by delving into the 4 main stages:
Body Composition Analysis: It all begins exactly where you assume it would, with the dreaded scales and measuring tools. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous, but it’s essential to document your starting point in order to be able to celebrate exactly how far you’ve come, scary as it may be. Quickly after having my before and after photos taken, I was measured on 12 different parts of my body (including chin and cheeks!). These measurements, combined with my weight, were used to calculate my body fat and fat free tissue percentages. Sadly, I’m someone who can occasionally allow myself to feel negatively defined by the scales, so focusing on this data will be a vital way for me to accurately measure my progression. This means that when I start to build muscle I won’t be frightened by the number on the scales (as muscle weighs more than fat), but I’ll hopefully be able to see a reduction in my body fat. Maybe I should hide my scales back in the attic…
Biomechanic Assessment: The next part consisted of analysing how and why I make certain movements. Despite thinking I had very decent form when squatting, this evaluation highlighted that my range of motion was in fact quite limited, as I had difficulty finding depth. For some exercises, such as hip bridges and leg raises, I always thought I struggled due to hip flexor tightness, but once again I was misinformed and was completely unaware that some lower back tension was resulting in me incorrectly executing the exercises and probably causing some hamstring issues.
I thought I knew my own body inside out and truly believed that by eating what I considered to be healthy, combined with four workouts per week, meant I was doing absolutely everything to give me my dream body. However, within two minutes of this examination, I knew that I had come to the right place to embark on a steep learning curve.
The biomechanic assessment allows your trainer to create a personalised plan for you, which is shaped to your specific body movements, goals and any injuries; it’s all about progressing my training exercises in the right sequence and to suit my mechanics. Before, I was naively devoting my time to an exercise program which was inadequate, ineffective and more likely to result in injury. Now, with the correct structure in place, I can build towards my goals whilst attaining enough strength to make any mechanical issues robust enough not to cause me problems anymore.
Documentation A few days after my initial assessment I received my detailed assessment report card, a Physical Active Readiness Questionnaire to assess my health and a Pre Exercise Appraisal, consisting of a series of questions to better inform my trainer of my sleeping, eating, exercising and general lifestyle habits. My advice is to be as honest and thorough as possible. Training should be an inspiring, non-judgmental and positive environment which all leads towards you reaching your objectives. So, if you’re serious about making a change, completing this document meticulously is a no-brainer!
Keeping a food diary: I would describe this more like a short-term commitment rather than a step, and yes, it does require a little more effort. However, I told myself that if I was truly committed to my long-term goals then I shouldn’t and couldn’t neglect this critical part of reaching them. It’s usually just a few weeks of logging everything you eat (even the oil you cook with!) so that your trainer can see exactly what nutrients you are getting, what you’re lacking and your average calorie intake in order to create a meal plan tailored to you. Only recording one day’s meals isn’t helpful as it’s a huge variable, weekly averages are what really counts - so don’t get lazy! Finally deciding to follow through on this introductory evaluation has really positively adjusted my outlook on my journey moving forward. I feel excited and empowered to gain more knowledge about my body and its potential each week. So have a little faith and put your trust in a really great trainer to help you experience some of your biggest changes yet!