The first summer after I started grad school, I was in the best shape of my life. I was working as a swim instructor at the YMCA and snuck off to the gym during breaks to run and do Pilates. I'd even worked my way up to running a whole three and a six kilometres straight without stopping, which, believe me, was a huge feat for someone who approached high school gym class with trepidation.
But after graduating and getting a full-time job, my progress came to a screeching halt. I was working late hours, drinking more alcohol, and couching hard. The most exercise I got was a monthly yoga class and/or lifting my wineglass from the table to my mouth. I hardly even recognised my body and weighed the most I ever had. As cutting as this realisation was, I continued to decline my boyfriend's invitations to the gym while simultaneously giving a monthly donation. I was stuck in a vicious and sedentary circle, and I needed to do something about it soon.
The thing is, whenever I used to get into a fitness groove, I Ioved it. I felt so powerful after an intense and sweaty workout, which consequently ignited my confidence, so the fact that I'd grown to "hate" the gym had me disappointed in myself, despite constantly perpetuating this hatred. I knew I had the ability to be a gym person, I just had to get there. I'd soon find that what I needed a third party to kick my arse into gear, so I signed up for my first personal training session with Simon Lawson, a trainer and Lululemon ambassador in New York City.
To say I was nervous was an understatement. I'd heard horror stories about drill sergeant–type trainers who shouted in your face and worked you until your fingers bled, which I was certainly in no physical position to do. Thankfully, that wasn't the case with Lawson. As soon as he entered the lobby to greet me, instead of immediately whisking me into the gym, he sat down next to me and asked me a series of questions, from my current fitness schedule to what I'd hoped to get out of the session. There was no sense in sugarcoating any of my answers, so I told him I was unhappy with my body and wanted to tone up, particularly in my thigh, stomach, and arm areas, as well as lose weight. I saw the wheels spinning in Lawson's eyes as I explained my grievances, as if he were calculating our entire session in his head, and then we made our way into the studio for what would end up being an incredibly transformative and pivotal session. Take a look at some of the incredible benefits I took out of the experience below.
1. Trainers Take Important Assessments Before a Session
Before even so much as grabbing an exercise ball, Lawson pulled out the scale. I frequently weigh myself at home, so I knew I wasn't about to be shell-shocked, but I was embarrassed about the number that was about to pop up, which, in retrospect is a completely convoluted thought. Who I am as a person shouldn't change after learning my weight—I'm still the same before I step on the scale as I am after. But I'll reason with past-tense Lindsey that standing in front of a particularly (okay, insanely) fit man and having him read off your weight, BMI, and body fat percentage (all of which this high-tech scale had the ability to do) was jarring.
Admittedly, I was initially frustrated that we'd be measuring my BMI, as it's been confirmed by the wellness community that the number is completely bogus, but thankfully Lawson is aware of this. "The World Health Organisation says a BMI between 18.5 and 25 is normal, and above 30 is obese," Lawson explained. (For reference, my BMI was close to 30, and I'd hardly consider myself obese.) "I don't put too much emphasis on this number. I just like to use it as a metric to make sure it's trending down." The most eye-opening part of this whole measurement period, however, was most definitely my body fat percentage. The number was way higher than I expected, and even Lawson was concerned by this number. I was crushed. How did I get to this point? Instead of letting it put me in a bad mood, though, I jerked myself out of frustration and used it as ammo. In fact, it was this exact point in the session that made me realise taking care of my body and staying fit weren't an option anymore—they were a necessity.
Next, Lawson did some assessments to test my movement. At one point, I raised my hands over my head, to which he was able to tell right away that my left lat was tight. We then foam-rolled the area to prep it for the workout. I love that he took the time to thoroughly examine my body to prevent injury.
2. One Workout Doesn't Fit All, and No One Knows This Better Than Trainers
Lawson didn't put me through the same circuit he's put other clients through. Knowing which areas of my body I wanted to focus on and assessing my strength as we went along, he tailored the session step by step. This is paramount when taking a personal training session because pushing yourself too hard, especially if you haven't worked out in a long time, could result in serious injury. At one point, Lawson was having me do push-ups, and considering I have the upper body strength of a kitten, I appreciated that he had me stop as soon as I could barely bring myself back up. He certainly wasn't letting me off easy, but I'd clearly reached my breaking point.
3. Trainers Are Psychologically Attuned
We then moved on to a circuit of Bosu ball jumps, box step-ups, and this crazy-challenging set where I stood on the Bosu ball while holding onto resistance bands, which Lawson pulled left and right as I tried to balance and remain facing forward. In my defense, I went out the night before and had far too many glasses of chardonnay, as well as a big bowl of pho for lunch, so after this set was done, right before I heard the word "burpees," I told Lawson I needed a break.
After about a second of rest, the pho slowly made its way up my body, and I asked him nonchalantly where the bathroom was, thinking he'd have no idea I was about to throw up. Needless to say, pho isn't nearly as good coming up as it is going down. I was so embarrassed and thought I could play it off like nothing had happened in the same way you try to play it off to your friends that you're not drunk even when you've got the dictation of a 2-year-old, but it was written all over my face. We did an about-face and skipped burpees for the sake of my digestive system, moving into sit-ups and bicycles. I instantly felt better and internally praised him for acting as a mind reader and, essentially, an angel.
5. They'll Send You Off With a Bunch of Helpful Tools
Lawson follows up his sessions with a recap of what you worked on as well as helpful tips for moving forward. He let me know that in order to hit my fitness goals, I'd need to engage in a consistent fitness routine that consists of strength training (40 to 60 minutes) two times per week, cardio/HIIT (30 to 45 minutes) two times per week, and mobility work (20 minutes) three to five times per week. This honestly seems like a bit more than I can commit to considering my schedule, but having all of the moves he taught me under my belt (as well as my own prior knowledge of HIIT moves), I feel prepared to go to the gym on my own and re-create this schedule with some modifications.
Depending on where you go, personal training sessions can cost anywhere between $60 and $160 per hour session, which may be too costly for some. However, I recommend making the investment at least once to be assessed, taught some moves, and learn what you need to do in order to achieve your goals. Then, after working out on your own, perhaps you can do another check-in every few weeks. However, if you do have the funds (and especially a lack of motivation), building a consistent relationship with a trainer is an amazing way to stay accountable for yourself. Also, because sessions are pricier than a gym membership, you'll likely feel more invested and committed to going, especially since someone else's schedule is being affected if you cancel.
5. It'll Probably Be the Best Workout of Your Life
Even though we didn't work out for the full hour considering a lot of dialogue happens in your first session, I'm still feeling the burn three days later. In the past, when I've worked out on my own after a long hiatus, I've never been as sore as I was after this session—in the best way. I quite literally feel the burn in my abs, thighs, and arms, the three areas I'd told Lawson I wanted to tone. I can't wait to put each of these moves into practice on my own this week (mark my words).
The Final Takeaway
I'm so happy I took this session. Not only was my gym of choice an incredibly accommodating and friendly environment, but Lawson is one of the best in the biz, and every single discussion we had and move I learned resonated stronger than any other fitness session I've taken part in. And the worst part, seeing my body fat percentage pop up in large digital numbers in front of my face was probably the most important lesson I took away from all of this. Sitting at a desk for hours, then going home to lounge on the couch and sitting even more, all while having an unhealthy amount of body fat, is a recipe for disaster. I went into the session hoping to learn new moves but came out of it completely awakened. This is the start of a new chapter.
Up next, take a look at the one workout that can "reverse ageing."