I have always considered myself a fit and healthy person.
I never saw the value in having a personal trainer to yell at me when I was already at the gym regularly – I mean, what more could they do for me?
Turns out, they can do a lot.
I recently took on the Vision 9 Week Transformation Program at their Hunter Street Sydney studio — here’s what I learned about health, fitness and myself.
You will both hate and love your trainer
Before you begin your program, you undertake a short personality test which essentially tells the trainer how best to push you — whether that be with gentle, positive encouragement, or forthright.
This test is just one of the systems Andrew Simmons, Vision’s founder and CEO, relies on so his clients achieve results – which Vision guarantees on its flagship transformation program.
“That’s the promise we hang our hat off, but we’ve only been able to do that through the systems we’ve developed and the market we work in,” Simmons says.
You’ll be surprised how accurate and effective the test is, and how it is then used against you — and yes, you are going to hate your trainer at some point, and it’s probably around the time you feel like throwing up in the middle of a session.
But it all changes when you start seeing results you know you wouldn’t have achieved on your own.
You aren’t as strong as you think you are — physically
It turns out it actually doesn’t matter if you can squat the equivalent of your own body weight, or bench press an ox, if your form is wrong. In fact, all you’re doing is risking a serious injury.
You’re also not training efficiently, because you’re just shifting the strain onto surrounding muscles and joints instead of the ones you’re supposed to be targeting.
My extremely patient personal trainer spent a lot of time in the first few sessions taking me back to basics on things like bench press, deadlifts and lat pull-downs to ensure that my form was correct before we started pushing up the resistance. This is really important to avoid injuries – which in my case could have been my back, shoulders or wrists, and people that sit at a desk all day need to be wary of this.
The slow and steady approach is made a lot easier in a small studio where you know that you won’t need to line up for the squat rack.
Simmons started building his business with a focus on the trainer/client model, which was purposely different to the commercial gym models.
“We flipped the model,” Simmons told Business Insider.
“So rather than being part of the busy gyms where you couldn’t train with a client properly because you couldn’t get them onto the equipment, our studios are designed for our clients.
“If you want to train here, you have to be a personal training client. It means we can service the clients better.”
You are stronger thank you think you are — mentally
While sometimes it felt like my trainer was trying to break me on that final hill sprint, when my legs felt like lead and my lungs were on fire, I realised the next time I jumped on a treadmill it would feel a little easier.
My trainer used my competitive nature against me. If I said “enough”, he’d reply with a straight face “really?”, and knew I’d keep pushing.
At the end of the day, you walk out of the gym feeling incredible for not giving up.
“It’s more important what people think of themselves than what I think of them,” Simmons says.
When it comes to hiring trainers, Simmons says he looks for a very specific type of person — they need to have passion and empathy in equal portions.
“It’s about hiring people that are good people; I ask new trainers “how would you feel if you helped someone lose 20 kilos?” and you can see if they’re invested in wanting to help people.
“Often the best trainers are our former clients that have been through their own journey and can both inspire new clients and empathise with them.”
It’s all about making informed decisions — not just sacrifice
Part of my nine week program was the Vision Nutrition Sessions, which teaches you about different types of food and their impact on your overall health.
While I didn’t have to give up alcohol, I learned the valuable (and devastating) life lesson that drinking it slows down your weight loss process, no matter how hard you train.
I also didn’t give up sugar, much to my trainer’s chagrin, but to keep it in my meal plan it meant that I would have to sacrifice something more nutritious and satisfying.
I soon learned to look at food more holistically, and it surprising made me more mindful what choices I made.
Simmons said his team worked with many nutritionists and sport scientists over the years to build the systems that could help any person, of any size or body composition, to eat the best food for their goals.
“Much of the early nutrition literature focused on plans for elite athletes, whose energy expenditure was far greater than the average person,” Simmons says.
“We found that following those programs lead to clients over-eating.
“Similarly we found that those clients with certain body types tended to either lose or gain fat fast or tended to either find it easy or difficult to gain muscle… [but] those with more muscle and those with more active daily routines simply burn more energy.
“This led us to create our program which considers all of these factors.”
The system worked — slowly. I found that if I was craving something sweet at 3pm, I made healthier decisions (and didn’t eat the leftover birthday cake in the office).
“If we don’t help people with their food intake they simply won’t reach their goals in the most effective manner,” Simmons says.
If your body works harder, your mind doesn’t have to
Going into the nine week program, I knew that the first change I needed to make was in my attitude towards my fitness regime, which at that point could be summarised as “trying to out train a bad diet.”
As with any kind of change, the hardest part is turning it into a habit.
Whether it’s lower carbs at night, or swapping out something sweet for a healthier option, it’s all about incremental changes that add up over the long run.
“Make small changes so that they become habits,” Simmons advises.
“Expecting yourself to make wholesale changes immediately is unrealistic.”
But balance is the key. For example, it doesn’t matter if you cut out ice cream, if your body isn’t getting the macronutrients, such as proteins, fats and carbohydrates, it needs.
If you’re lacking in these, it won’t matter how hard you train, you’re not going to build lean muscle mass — you’ll just end up burning it.
“It’s so important to educate our clients about the effect food alone has on weight loss.”
And as my trainer reminded me many times: muscle mass burns more calories than other tissues – so, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day and the less calories you must cut out to lose weight. You can give your will power a much needed rest.
*This journalist was invited to do the Vision 9 Week Transformation Program compliments of Vision, but ended up paying in her own blood, sweat and tears. (OK, only sweat.)