Lose weight: An exercise plan

Marie Campbell leads a fairly active life and has been working out on her own for a few years, but she decided she could benefit from enlisting a personal trainer to help her reach her fitness goals. “Just because you hire a personal trainer doesn’t mean it will be easy,” warns Caroline Binek-Hamilton, the personal trainer Campbell works with on a weekly basis at the YMCA in Waterdown, Ont. “A personal trainer doesn’t mean you don’t have to do the work. You still have to show up,” she says. However, having someone waiting for you at the gym may be all the motivation you need. An expert teaching you proper form and designing a program to help achieve your goals are just a few of the benefits of working with a personal trainer.

In determining the best program for Campbell, they first discussed her goals which include improving her flexibility and balance as well as some weight loss. Going over a client’s medical history is a critical first step for any personal trainer when deciding which exercises will be best. In Campbell’s case, high blood pressure and a pin in her knee inserted after breaking her leg on a walk with r dogs three years earlier, all needed to be factored into her program.

“We needed to concentrate on getting Marie to use proper form when exercising and to ensure she was breathing out on exertion,” says Binek-Hamilton, “because if you hold your breath while strength training, it can actually increase your blood pressure.” And if you don’t use the proper form, you not only won’t see the benefits but you may injure yourself.

When it came to designing Campbell’s program, it was agreed that she would work with Binek-Hamilton once a week for an hour at a time. Campbell also works out on her own an average of four times a week. 

Here’s a look at Campbell’s program:

Cardiovascular exercise
What it’s good for: Improving cardiovascular health; lowering blood pressure; weight loss.
How often: For maximum benefit, a cardiovascular workout should be scheduled four times a week .
Campbell’s workout: Warm up on the elliptical trainer for 30 minutes and she walks her dogs every day.

Strength training
What it’s good for: Preventing osteoporosis; improving cardiovascular health and posture; increasing lean muscle, which burns more calories; increasing your overall strength to do everyday activities.
How often: In order to see results, training each muscle group at least twice a week is a must.
Campbell’s workout: After a warm up of 20 to 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer, Campbell does strength-training exercises with free weights, cables or an exercise ball. Campbell does as many as she can; but her goal is 12 to 15 repetitions.

Chest: Incline flyes using dumbbells. According to Binek-Hamilton, the weight isn’t important; it’s the use of proper form that counts. Push-ups on the ball or against the wall for beginners.

Shoulders: Shoulder press, lateral arm raises.

Legs: Leg press, ball squats.

Back: Lat pull-down, seated row.

Lower back: Back extensions.

Abdominals: Kegel lifts, abdominal curls, ball bridges (with head and shoulders on the ball, drop your seat to the floor, squeeze your buttocks as you push them up toward the ceiling and hold).

Obliques: Sitting against someone back to back, pass ball back and forth, changing direction each time).

Buttocks: Ball squats.

Next page: How to stick with it

What it’s good for: Maintaining flexibility is key to retaining your range of motion in your joints and your overall mobility. It’s also a great way to relax and soothe aching muscles.
How often: Twice a week.
Campbell’s workout: “The only way to become or stay flexible is to stretch,” says Binek-Hamilton. “So Marie does an exercise and then immediately afterward, we stretch that particular muscle group.” For example after Campbell does ball squats, she stretches out her hamstrings and her quadraceps. Each major muscle group is stretched between exercises, including legs, chest, back and arms. Campbell holds each stretch for 30 to 60 seconds. At the end of the complete workout, she stretches again, this time focusing on her lower back, hip flexors, glutes and chest.

What it’s good for: Improving or maintaining balance will help avoid falls that can cause serious and permanent injuries as we age. Campbell’s fall while walking her dogs resulted in a broken leg and surgery, so she is only too aware of the importance of balance training.
How often: Twice a week.
Campbell’s workout: “We generally do a lot of our balance work using the exercise ball,” says Binek-Hamilton. “We don’t specifically train for balance, but we train using balance as an extra to make an exercise more challenging. You’re then working both the muscle and your balance.”

Leg lifts: Sitting on the ball, lift one leg at a time.
Ball bridges: Head and shoulders are on the ball. Drop your seat to the floor, then squeeze your buttocks as you push them up toward the ceiling and hold.
Abdominal curls: Binek-Hamilton is a strong believer in the importance of strengthening abdominals, the muscles
required for balance.
Bicep curls on one leg: Using free weights while standing on one leg works arms and improves balance.

Stick with the program
One of the most difficult things about starting a workout program, other than determining you’re going to do it and finding your way to a fitness facility, is sticking with it. If you’ve never exercised before, this can prove to be your biggest challenge. Beginning with a workout that is as simple as possible is a great start.

“There’s no point in designing a really elaborate program for someone if they aren’t going to be able to remember what they’re supposed to do every time they go to the gym,” says Binek-Hamilton. And if you can afford the services of a professional once a week – or even once a month to get you started – it may be just the incentive you need to get to the gym.

What to look for in a personal trainer
If you decide that a personal trainer is right for you, make sure the one you decide to hire is qualified and certified. To find someone, start at your local recreation centre, gym or fitness facility and ask if they can recommend a few personal trainers.

Don’t feel you have to settle on the first person you meet. “Make sure you feel comfortable with the trainer you choose,” says Binek-Hamilton. Depending on your personality, you may be looking for someone who can be your cheerleader and will carry on conversations with you during your workout or you may want someone who doesn’t talk to you at all except to say “two more, one more…”. A good personal trainer should be able to read their client and adjust their style to what the client needs. Also, a good gym or facility will not charge you for the first session with your personal trainer, that way you can be sure that the arrangement is going to work out before you commit to one person. So be sure to ask about payment before you make your first appointment.

Binek-Hamilton, who says 90 per cent of her clients are 50 or older, believes if you stick with a program there is absolutely no reason not to expect results no matter what your age. But perhaps more important than the physical changes is the emotional ones that are practically guaranteed once you start a fitness program. “I train a woman who is 60 and has five kids. She works part-time and recently has had the time to devote to working out. You wouldn’t believe the difference in how she feels about herself now and how great she looks,” says Binek-Hamilton. “Her son recently got married, and people were coming up to her at the wedding and saying, ‘Wow, you look great.’ That was a boost for her self-esteem, and it just made her even more motivated.” And who wouldn’t love to hear that once in a while?