Can personal training work for you

Liz Ford started using a personal trainer from Stridfit after the birth of her first child. She tells us about how it has helped her..

Now, I don’t know if you’re the same, but I’ve got hundreds of aches and pain since I had my daughter 20 months ago. Within 6 months of the birth I was seeing an osteopath for my upper, middle and lower back pain, and he did some good, but at 25 quid a pop it drained my resources and fitting in with limited clinic times was a pain. Fast forward a year, I’ve been sitting at a desk working on a computer three days a week which does nothing for my neck and shoulders, and my daughter proved a reluctant walker, only getting on her feet at 19 months, so my back and shoulders are all out of line from picking her up and lugging her around all the time. The curvature of my spine is still quite pronounced following pregnancy and so I get quite a bit of lower back pain. 

I couldn’t face spending loads of money on massage or osteopathy again and it would be so difficult finding regular childcare just for the 20 minutes to an hour I’d need for an appointment in the middle of the day. Also, I find whatever good that type of treatment does is totally reversed the minute I bend down and pick up my little girl again. I was looking for some kind of stretching and strengthening help – something to stop my muscles from cramping up, and to help me build up strength to meet every day’s little challenges and to get me back in alignment. I’m happy to put in some time on my own each day doing exercises to build up my strength.

Suddenly I thought of the answer. I would call a personal trainer. I find out about Rob who runs a local personal training company Stridefit ( He is recently qualified as a Level 3 Exercise Instructor (which enables him to call himself a personal trainer). He also has a BSc in Biological Sciences and a post-graduate diploma in Exercise and Health. With all his training he knows what women should and shouldn’t do at the vulnerable times of pregnancy and postpartum.

I texted him and he replied. Two one hour sessions are what is needed for him to assess me, write me a programme and go through every exercise with me. He’ll come to my house – how about Saturday morning? Fantastic. I can’t wait for Saturday.

Rob arrives at the arranged time and we go to the living room and have a cup of tea. We have a nice chat about what my problems are, how much exercise I currently do, how much exercise I can realistically fit into my schedule and what my goals are for an exercise program. We talk for 40 minutes and then it’s time for him to assess me. This is much like a physio would do with an assessment of my posture, my muscle strength and tone and any pain or stiffness. We talk a bit more about my goals and how I can fit exercise around not having any childcare for my toddler. Rob explains his main motivation is to help people feel good about themselves, not to turn them into highly toned muscle freaks. Rob goes home to write a personalised exercise plan for me and we arrange to meet on Sunday to go through it together. Sunday apparently involves sportswear and the park so I might actually break a sweat for the first time.

Rob arrives at my house as arranged at 2pm. That morning, I went into town to buy a top to exercise in and dusted off my trainers which haven’t seen light of day for 4 years and have cobwebs to prove it. Within a few minutes we set off for the nearby park, and on the walk there, Rob has me warming up by doing shoulder stretchers and windmill arm movements. Getting used to people looking curiously at us is the first hurdle, and the second is the announcement that we are going to do some jogging. “But I hate running!” I cry, but Rob is having none of it, and eases me in very gently with intervals of 90 seconds slow jogging and 90 seconds walking. I find I am actually much better at it than I thought. Rob tells me he’s impressed with how I’m not very out of breath. We agree that perhaps pushing a pushchair half a mile up a hill three times a week is quite good for my fitness.

Following the running, which leaves me with a real sense of achievement, Rob gets out the resistance bands and heads to a nearby tree. The next half hour sees us doing various gym-style manoeuvres to strength my back and chest muscles. We also do squats and lunges. The passers-by only express mild interest. Then Rob has me doing sit ups, and he motivates me by giving me boxing gloves and inviting me to punch him every time I sit up. As the rain threatens, we go home and do some yoga style poses and stretches which I have to hold for 30 seconds or so. The whole session has taken nearly 2 hours, I’ve had a proper work out, and I finish up believing I could actually be good at this stuff if I made the effort.

First week
I have lots of pain in my thighs and groin from all the exercise on Sunday but it eases off with a bit of light walking. I receive Robs exercise plan for me over email on Wednesday morning. It involves all the exercises we’d covered together and presents them in combinations which I should be able to fit in during two evening sessions at home in the week and one weekend run. I can’t remember the details of all he taught me but I email him and he replies with links to you tube videos showing demonstrations of the exercises. Given that Wednesday is my first day in a new job, I don’t actually do the exercises straight away. I manage one set on the Thursday night and a run plus another set of evening exercises on Sunday. So far so good.

Week two
This week looks more promising and I manage a set of evening exercise on Tuesday and Friday. The running is slowly becoming easier especially with the help of a new sports bra (Bravissimo have some good ones if you’re bountifully blessed in that department). I know I need to get proper running shoes though. Fitting in the evening sessions becomes part of my routine.

After a month
Rob meets with me again to assess my progress, do another training session with me and write me a new programme. However in the middle of this month, I start feeling really under the weather and I stop training for a while. After a week or two I discover I’m pregnant again. When I see Rob he agrees that starting a new programme is not advisable in pregnancy because of the hormones which relax your ligaments and muscles, making you more vulnerable to injury, so I lay off the running for the time being. However, I still have the plans for the weights and stretches that I can do at home if my shoulders get stiff. I stick to brisk walking for the time being and I know I can look forward to getting back into shape with Rob once I’ve had my second baby.

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