Here are some reasons why.

Trying to get back in shape, or in better shape? Is a trainer really, truly worth the investment?

As with all things in life, it depends.

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER / Unsplash

In part:

It depends on what you hope to accomplish, how willing you are to do the work, whether or not you envision it as a social outing or a workout or both, if it's to prepare for a sport, an event or for the rest of your life. Not the least important, is whether or not you see an investment in a trainer as a nice to have or as a serious investment in your overall fitness. Is this trainer an ornament you get to brag about to your friends?

Or is he or she a critical part of your life plan?

I've used trainers and coaches for much of my adult life. I'm no competitor, but as my body has shifted and aged, I've had to change up and double down every so often. With rare exception, the investment in learning perfect form, the best exercises for this aging female body at this level of fitness to get to this next level or recover from that injury has been beyond worthwhile.

Not only have those trainers kept me on my feet and out of the ER more times than I can count, the times that I have gotten injured meant much-reduced down time.

Fellow Medium peep Elle Beau wrote a comment on a recent article  about the value of getting the help of a professional trainer:

I started working with a trainer for the first time in my life in January. It's made such a huge difference that I wish I'd done it sooner. She really helps me with my form, encourages me, and gets me to do things I'd never have thought of such as doing bicep curls while standing on one leg on an upside down Bosu ball. She keeps it fun and interesting while pushing me just enough (but not too much) and she's become a real friend. I agree that it's a great investment in your health and well-being and I highly recommend it if it's at all within budget. (author bolded)

Elle is at midlife. She's not a fitness pro any more than I am. My Medium buddy Joseph Geary down in Lakeland, Florida, adjacent to my home town of Winter Haven, is one of those trainers. I hear both sides of this all the time, from comments like Elle's to observations from Jay that his female clients are terrified of "getting all bulked up." Jay's later in life like I am, and the value he brings is that he really knows about the challenges of an aging body. That can make a huge difference.

Right now millions of us are peeking out into a brand new world, new from spring as well as from reduced CDC guidelines. We can play. We can eat (okay, okay, we've been doing PLENTY of that). We can gather and talk and maybe even, gasp, HUG.

Photo by Gama. Films / Unsplash

Given that so many of us have more acreage to hug than we might want, more than  a few have returned to the gyms with a vengenace born of the determination to roll the rolls back.

It bears repeating: exercise is not a weight loss plan. It's a fitness plan. Eating better, less, and for your age, unique body and nutritional needs is a weight loss plan.

Even if you didn't gain or lose, even if you emerged from this past year in decent shape, the post-quarantine pall that so many of us now carry might call for being energized into a new program. Partnering with someone who is focused on you, your health and your progress might just be thing to help you regain you body confidence and critical momentum right now.

One reason I wanted to share Elle's comment, above, is that my trainer here in Eugene has been challenging me with some really hard combo exercises. Elle's description, which I bolded, is similar to what I'm doing. Ryan wanted me to work on the transitional shoulder muscles (imagine holding your arms in the football SCORE position, then moving them right in front of your face, without changing their position, and back again). But wait, there's more.

My aging shoulders need that kind of work, but then we added all kinds of variations. First, small weights, starting at three pounds. I hold the weights on one end, one each hand, balancing them upright. Then I balance on one leg while I do the in and out movement, working my shoulders. Then I move my lifted leg up, out, to the side and to the back, all the while balancing, and moving my arms, and holding the weights balanced on end.

Now I do all that while I'm balancing on a soft oval foam, which forces me to constantly correct. There's one hell of a lot going on, my core is working madly, my ankles working to keep me upright, my focus staying on keeping both arms at a right angle.

That's a lot of work in one exercise. I'm up to eight pounds in each hand. That doesn't sound like much until you do this exercise three times in a row, slowly, controlling the motion, not falling over, keeping your balance on one leg. My shoulders are toast after three sets.

I had no idea I could that. I can. Surprised the hell out of me.

The older I get, the more training I have to do to accommodate barking joints,or old injuries. I have no interest in slowing down. But I do, and must, exercise smarter. The aging body has a different set of needs, just as an athlete of 25 who has a very serious knee injury has to accommodate physical therapy or a loss of range of movement.

So does all this really pay off?

Deposit photos

Here are two things: as you and I age, our inner ears also change, and part of that change can mean that those bits that help us balance harden, and we lose some of the delicate sensing. That is in part what can contribute to falls in the elderly, but nowhere near as much as bad medicines, polyharmacy and sedentary habits. But let's just isolate the inner ear as a factor by itself.

Here's what to know about that ear-balance connection:

Why Does Balance Decline with Age? - Jewish Family Services Richmond
At Jewish Family Services, we believe everyone is entitled to services that enrich their life and help their overall well-being. As the city’s most established non-profit resource for care, counseling and adoption, we are dedicated to building a stronger, healthier and happier Richmond. For more tha…

The article points out that balance exercises substantially reduce fall risk. So, to that. The other morning I was doing a yoga exercise which requires that I stand on one leg and lift the other, bend the knee, circle it four times and plant it behind me. Always gave me trouble.

Doesn't now. I started doing those back in the early aughts, never mastered them.

Now I've mastered them, just in the last few months of doing this very difficult routine.

What you train, you gain.

What Elle Beau is doing is training not only for right now, but for her forever. Trainers come in every shape, size, skill set and personality style. I have a perfect match with Ryan, and my $50 an hour investment pays off every single day. It is worth taking the time to research, interview and really vet the person who works with you to get your best.

There are people who want a celebrity trainer for bragging rights. If that's your thing, have at it. For my fitness dollar, I want longevity, endurance, powerful muscles, and a fit body that will take me forward. A celebrity trainer doesn't earn me cachet.

A fit body allows me to cash in on life's options.

Are you worth it? I dunno. If you want to live a long time, the way I see it, this kind of investment is just as key as your investment portfolio. What good is money in the bank if you can't manage to spend it on things you love to do because your body can't hack the demand?

But that's just me.

Meanwhile I gotta go find those 8-lb weights again.

Karakattam:​ Ancient folk dance of Tamil Nadu
Photo by Balaji Malliswamy / Unsplash