Many of us are feeling the impacts of a more sedentary life during the pandemic—and we’ve seen the way that nearly a year of staying home has impacted our kids’ fitness, too. From sports camps during the summer to gym class, gymnastics lessons, and team sports during the school year, our kids have had fewer opportunities to move in the ways they love.
As we begin to see a light at the end of the isolating tunnel, they may be feeling like it’s time to start moving again—and they may be looking for more targeted help than a few jogs around the block. They may want a personal trainer. If they are, here are some things to keep in mind.
Encouraging kids to stay active is great. Inviting them to join you for a walk or a hike is wonderful. Finding a physical activity you love doing together, such as skiing or shooting hoops in the driveway, is even better. Suggesting it’s time they hire a personal trainer—especially without any prompting from them—however, is likely to be insulting or embarrassing.
Nothing says, “I think you need to lose some weight,” like unsolicited advice about getting in shape. No good can come from that; however, if they come to you with the idea of getting a personal trainer, there are some things to keep in mind to help them decide whether it makes sense for them and what type of trainer to look for.
Before you say decide how—or whether—to move forward with hiring a personal trainer, you need to understand exactly what your teenager hopes to get out of it. If they were playing a particular sport before everything shut down and they are about to pick it back up again, they may be feeling like their body isn’t in the shape to jump right back in and may want a trainer who specifically knows what drills to run with them to get them back in the groove. If that’s the case, you might look into whether an experienced high school coach in your area does this type of training on the side, rather than a personal trainer at your local gym.
Another situation might be that they have decided they want to run their first 5K this spring and would like to get in better shape as part of their training. Or they want to learn different exercises they can do at home as a break from the monotony of the treadmill. Or they’ve realized that regular exercise helps minimize their anxiety, so they’re looking to prioritize it by building in some consistency and accountability. These are all valid and understandable reasons for considering a personal trainer.
Be on the lookout, though, for any indications that the desire for a personal trainer stems from body image issues or disordered eating. While girls with eating disorders may be focused on losing weight or maintaining a low weight, a boy’s disordered eating often includes a desire to look lean and gain muscularity, which can lead to excessive exercising. Talk with them about their fitness goals so you can better understand what they hope to achieve through the process.
The vaccines are (slowly) rolling out, but it’s going to be at least several more months before life feels closer to normal. If your teenager is considering a personal trainer, talk with them about how to do it in the safest way possible.
The trainer should already have precautions in place, such as an outdoor training location or a well-ventilated, uncrowded indoor location. Discuss mask usage and the importance of staying at least six feet away from the trainer whenever possible, as well as washing hands or using hand sanitizer before and after each session.
Our teenagers probably are not the only ones who could benefit from a little extra movement. If you sense your teen wants to get on a more consistent exercise regimen but they seem embarrassed to take the next step—or if you’ve got younger kids that you’re struggling to keep engaged in physical activity—you might consider hiring a trainer for the whole family.
Look for personal trainers in your area who offer group packages—your whole family might as well be the group. Interview a couple of trainers (you can do this virtually to start) to find someone who would be a good fit to work with the different ages and fitness levels within your family. Your trainer might meet you once a week at a local park to run you through some stretching and warm-up exercises, and then set up relay races for you or coach you through a game of flag football. It doesn’t have to be all push-ups and running laps—look for someone who can make it fun for the whole family to get moving.