Interviewed in GOODLIFE Magazine August 2015: Personal Trainers: Story by PERRY LEFKO

There used to be a time when you needed to join a gym or athletic facility if you wanted to work out with a personal trainer, but there are a growing number of people who are hiring personal trainers to come to their homes, having built a state-of-the-art gym or having purchased equipment. In an era of busy schedules and active lifestyles, bringing the personal trainer into your home is a convenient way to get in shape if you can afford it.

The phenomenon is occurring as people are moving away from weight training and into functional training to develop strength, conditioning and cardio with exercises that can be done at home without requiring the machinery at health clubs and fitness centres.

Everton Francis, who owns Fitness Dynamix in Mississauga, has been doing personal fitness training for nine years and says it will take off in the next five to ten years because of the Baby Boomer Generation.

“Personal training was always there, but as time has evolved over the years people are more conscious and aware of how they look,” he says. “Personal training is a phenomenon right now as more people are exposed to it. I think it’s convenience as well. A lot of times people will join a gym in January and give it a couple months and then they don’t have the time and commitment. Personal training is convenient. The trainer can come to the home and you get the results there.

“Some people don’t like the big charade at a gym. At home, it’s very tailored to the specific client. It’s very personal, some people like that, especially business people. They like that personal touch. Some of the bigger gyms have trainers there and their programs are dedicated to their style of training. With me in the home, it’s very diverse. I can create a whole workout that tailors to the individual and what they are able to do to meet their fitness goals. We can work with what they have. They may only have a few free weights or stretching bands. We can work with that.

“Some people may have knee issues or bad backs and they don’t want to go to the gym and have that fear of not being able to do it. So you come to their home and they like that they are not in front of everybody.”

Daniel Archibald, whose roster of clients include Toronto Maple Leafs’ captain Dion Phaneuf and his wife, Hollywood actress Elisha Cuthbert, says personal trainers can help clients to understand the proper way to train.

“If you don’t have that person guiding you, sometimes it’s hard to stay on track,” Archibald says. “Especially if it’s something you’ve never done before, it can be bewildering. You walk into a gym and see all this equipment and you have absolutely no idea where to begin, or you Google something and five thousand things pop up for one question.

“So I think more and more people realize the value in getting that one-on-one attention, specifically focused on them. If you have something that you’re not good in as far as academics go, you get a tutor or find someone who’s better at it than you to help you. It elevates your ability. Usually when a person has come to me, it’s at that point where they have tried things on their own and it’s not working and they need me.”

facebook-20150824-133325Mercedes Gold, a personal trainer for 11 years, says personal training takes the thought out of having to plan a workout.

“It takes out the planning and the thinking,” she says. “A lot of clients tell me ‘if you don’t come, I’m not doing it. End of story.’ A lot of people don’t have motivation. It’s not about having fat or whatever, they’re just not going to work out unless they have a trainer. I have a client who’s trained with me eight years, and everyone says ‘you don’t need to go to Mercedes anymore you look so hot’, and she says ‘I only look hot because I go to Mercedes.”

Tony Gammer, who owns and operates Lokaii Lifestyle and Personal Training in Port Credit, says health and wellness are becoming the “in thing,” which has triggered the desire among people to train at home.

“Some of these people either don’t have the confidence to go to the gym, so that’s why they are looking for an in-home trainer, or they are just too busy,” Gammer says, but adds Lokaii, which is a variation of the Polynesian word Lokahi balance, is more like a spa or a destination than a fitness facility and he encourages clients to come to his business.

“We have a lot of free weights, but we don’t have a lot of the machines because machines tend to restrict movement and isolate muscles and quite often in our everyday lives we are not restricted in the ways we are moving,” he says. “We use more functional pieces and incorporate a lot more muscles to work together.”

Kyle Ardill, co-founder of SWAT Health in Mississauga, which opened in January, 2014, says in-home personal training has become popular because of convenience. Ardill says SWAT, which stands for Synergy Wellness, Attitude and Training, has 99 percent of its clients coming to the business’s studio to work with one of the six full-time personal trainers, but in-home personal training is also offered.

“People don’t want to drive outside of 10 kilometres, and if they can stay in their own house it’s definitely easiest for them,” he adds of the convenience factor that has added to the popularity of in-home personal training. “If people are lucky enough to have a gym set up in their house or they’ve built a house that has enough room to get them fit inside the gym, a lot of people decide to do that. But what a lot of people end up doing is they build a home or add a gym to their existing home and it collects dust and they don’t actually use it. So a lot of people actually build a gym expecting they are going to end up working on their own and they can’t, and then they try to get a personal trainer into the gym they’ve already built.

“It’s much like people who join big-box gyms expecting they are going to be working on their own and then they realize first of all they don’t know what they are doing and second of all they are not going, and they end up using a personal trainer as well. At SWAT we always say you should be able to get a person fit in a phone booth, and anything after that is nothing but a bonus in terms of the usage. You shouldn’t really need any equipment. You can give me an individual and I’ll get them fit. I don’t need anything. The more you have (in terms of equipment), the better it is because there’s more tools your trainer will be able to work with. But if you have a great trainer, you really don’t need anything. You can plop yourself down in a phone booth and I’ll get you fit there. Being able to have a great trainer and work with the (client’s) situation they have at home is very important.”

Glenn Smith, principal and senior project manager with Safetech Environmental Ltd. in Mississauga, works out a gym and also has employed Francis for about five years.

“Working with a personal trainer I find I can do a lot more than alone at the gym because he pushes and that’s how you get better results,” Smith says.
Depending on the personal trainer and his/her qualifications, the costs can vary from as low as $20 per hour and as much as $150 or more. Smith employs Francis three times a week.

“It’s worth it for me because when I’m training on a regular basis and getting a good workout, my mind’s clear and I’m better at everything I do, work and home, and I have more energy,” Smith says. “I decided to hire a personal trainer because I was doing the same routine at the gym. I needed some expertise from someone to show me how to do things properly – technique, maximizing things – and push me. The other thing is when I make the appointment with Everton, I know he’s going to be knocking at the door. So whether I’m tired or don’t want to do it, he’s knocking on the door and I have to do it. That’s the push, too.”

Ardill says personal training is an expensive luxury for people who can afford it but notes it’s paramount for a client to find a qualified person to help him or her achieve their goals.

“What I would always suggest to people (looking to hire a personal trainer) is get as many referrals as you possibly can,” he says. “That’s what this business is all about. Positive referrals go a long way in this business. If you were advising someone to find a personal trainer, don’t necessarily go on-line. Go talk to as many people in the area and see who is fit and feels good and raves about their personal trainer, or come to SWAT where you’re guaranteed a great trainer.”
Gold says people considering hiring a personal trainer should search for one who takes the time to do a questionnaire to learn about previous injuries or medical history. Gold has clients fill out an eight- to 12-page booklet.
“It’s supposed to be personalized,” she says. “If I was hiring a personal trainer I’d want to know where they went to school, what they took, what do they specialize in? Seeing if they are certified doesn’t mean anything because it depends where they are certified and most people don’t know what that means, either.
“We don’t have a governing body in Canada that certifies trainers. I would want a trainer who has a long track record and has played sports. It also depends what you’re hiring your trainer for and what your needs are. You’re not going to hire a crossfit trainer for your Mom. Hiring a girl who is a fitness model just because she looks hot doesn’t mean she can make you look hot. You have to hire sports-specific to what your needs are, and someone with passion.

“If I belonged to a corporate gym and wanted to hire one of their personal trainers, I would watch all the trainers and I would pick one based on their interactions with their clients. Are they on the phone all the time? Are they watching their client’s form? Are they correcting their form or just standing there bored?”

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 7.01.15 PMSimilar to a gym membership, personal trainers will ask prospective clients to sign a liability form called a PAR-Q that indicates they are fit to work out.
“If you are not filling any papers and they’re not giving feedback or asking you any questions, you should not be hiring them,” she says.

Gold also says people need to have realistic expectations when hiring personal trainers, in particular understanding there are no shortcuts.

“It’s very important to me to get there slowly, and I’m very honest. I’m hardcore honest,” she says. “People don’t set realistic goals and you have to have a trainer that’s honest with you.”

Ardill echoes those thoughts.

“I’ve been in the business for a fairly long time and I can generally tell what people really want, but there’s a level of honesty that has to go into the relationship between a trainer and a client,” Ardill says. “If a client comes to me and says, ‘Listen, I just want to work out because I want to feel a little bit better but I don’t have any plans to lose a ton of weight or anything like that,’ I would have to understand that and understand I’m not going to set myself up for failure by expecting big results from somebody if they are not willing to put out the effort. You can really figure out really quickly with a client if you’re a good trainer, but there’s a lot of trainers out there that don’t do great things for people, that’s why we definitely pride ourselves at SWAT on changing people’s lives.”

Gammer says it’s important for people to understand why they want to engage in personal fitness.

“If they are just doing it because their friends are doing it or it’s the in thing, that’s kind of the wrong direction,” he says. “I make sure they are trying to better themselves and not just trying to look good for their friends because that’s not really sustainable. They’re going to lose interest real quick. They’ve got to want to achieve it. I sit down with them and talk them through the whole process and find out what makes them tick and from there we discuss what I call a periodization. It’s basically a long-term plan to achieve their ultimate goals.” GL