Friday, October 9, 2009

When Spiritual Life Really Begins -- By Robert Augustus Masters

A very close friend shared this note with me, and it has been echoing in my head ever since I heard it... Wonderful lines.... Read on

"When your honeymoon with spirituality ends -- and it will end, marked by the arrival of STDs (spiritually-transmitted disappointments) -- and when your affair with being spiritually correct and spiritually "in-style" runs dry, you may say so long to spirituality, but it is a premature goodbye.
Disillusionment with spirituality is not only inevitable, it is also necessary, so that spirituality might be thoroughly de-glamorized. When that disillusionment has had its say--cynicism's couch now being no more than a pain in the butt--and when your fear of re-entering the spiritual no longer frightens or disturbs you, your spiritual life really begins.
Most of the books will be gone; the ones that remain will feel like old friends you don't tire of revisiting, even if only for a page or two every couple of months. Most of the practices will also be gone; the ones that remain will feel as natural to slip into as your favorite jeans or T-shirt, at ease with both being worn and being worn out. Most of your aspirations to be spiritual will also be gone; the few that remain will feel less like aspirations and more like unforced inhalations...
Whatever disciplines we take on will result not from one aspect of us dominating the rest, but rather from a core recognition of what is needed... to it. Instead of being at war with our weaknesses, we bring them into our heart. Instead of trying to get rid of what we don't like about ourselves, we develop a better relationship. Intimacy thus becomes more our path than transcendence.
Seeking will become supplanted by living a deeper life. Questions will still arise, but will ask for something more real than answers. Alignment with the Real will become the ground rather than the goal. Details will cease being just details. Focusing on "might be" will yield to focusing on what's "here now"; that is, hope (nostalgia for the future) will be replaced by faith (radical trust in the now)....
Your longing to be fully awakened will still be present, minus the desperation and ambition that once characterized it. Where once you were in a hurry to "get it," now you are not rushing or pushing, having accepted the fact that you are in it for the long haul. Then, even when you are off track, you are on track.
Life after spirituality is the beginning of authentic spirituality. No fireworks, no applause, no pats on the back from the Important People, no need to present oneself as someone spiritual. This is the beginning of true "nobody-ness." It is not annihilation, but revelation. It is at once bare yet sentient openness, and also the beginning of true individuality.
For every question that arises here, Silence is the answer. Put another way, everything supplies the answer. Nothing is explained, everything is revealed. Beyond knowledge, Wisdom; beyond paradox, Truth; beyond self, Being; beyond everything, Everything....
Life after Spirituality is committed apprenticeship to "What-Really-Matters." All that happens is the practicum. Every situation offers the same fundamental opportunity. The "teacher" is everywhere. There is no freedom from our Freedom. No escape. The implications of this froth then still the mind, awaken and release the body, ground and expose the soul, unraveling all our dreams, breaking us open to what we were born to do and be....
Life after spirituality is a constant "dying" to the now. Emerging from our own ashes becomes "no big deal," but just the way things are in each new moment...."

-- Robert Augustus Masters, in his May 2006 newsletter

Lower-leg muscles - VIPs while working out Legs!

Sometimes we are so focused on fixing things which are not right, that we forget to be thankful for and take care of the things that are not wrong at all! That’s a spiritual tip apt for the muscles of legs!
Before you start wondering, let me tell you that I am talking about – lower leg muscles, especially the calf muscles, anterior tibialis, peroneus muscles.
Everyone- be it male or female is mostly focused on developing their hips and thighs muscles rightly. And the lower leg muscles which are not usually ‘problem areas’ are neglected, when in fact they are highly important muscles and need to be strengthened and made flexible proportionately. They are the Very Important Parts (VIPs).

In fact it is not un-common to find tight calf muscles correspond to referred pain in the upper back and shoulder muscles and also lower back pain! And the interesting part is that most of us have tight calf muscles, simply due to the way we sit and stand.

You may have tight calf muscles in case (unless you purposefully stretch it post exercise or otherwise) –

Sit on a chair with your legs crossed and heels above and not touching the ground or the footrest (most commonly found).
Sit on a chair where your legs don’t reach the ground or the footrest.
Climb stairs only using the ball of your feet and not placing the full feet on each stair
Do a lot of fast-paced or high impact aerobics or dancing (esp. bollywood dancing) where your complete feet does not have time to touch the ground. So the calves are always contracted.
Wear high heels for most part of the day and life
If your feet don’t touch the ground and you have to balance your heavy bikes on the ball of your feet over a period of time

The flip side of tight calf muscles are stretched muscles on the front and lateral part of the lower leg, like the anterior tibialis and the peroneus longus and brevis respectively, all which result in shin pains, inflammations and bigger problems.
the calves are the unsung heroes in case of legs and need as much attention as we give to the other leg muscles.

Moreover, since our posture could actually keep the calves in tension, an ideal workout for the calves must include stretching and strengthening exercises, both.
If any of the factors mentioned in the previous article that cause calves to shorten ring true with you, then you must initially stretch the calf muscle before focusing on only strengthening it.
An easy example of tense calf muscles could be consistent pain and burning feeling in the calf muscle when standing or squatting even for short periods of time or even when sleeping.

A few stretches would be –

Seated calf stretch –
Sit with your back against a wall, with your legs stretched out straight in front of you. Now slowly bend forward at the waist and try to pull your toes inwards with your hand or with the help of a towel looped around the mid-part of the sole, making sure that the knees touch the floor all the time. Hold it there for around 20 secs and then repeat. This can be done one leg or both legs at a time.
The same posture can be repeated in the standing position as well. So, as you stand, lift and place one leg in front of you, with the heel touching the floor and toes pointing towards you. Now slowly bend forward at the lower back and try and touch the toes, keeping this knee straight but bending the other knee as you go down. Feel the stretch and hold for sometime and then repeat.

Standing Calf stretch –
Stand 1 feet away from and facing a plain wall. Place one heel on the floor and the ball of that feet on the wall. Now slightly bend forward using your whole body, with the other leg behind you, until you feel the stretch on the calves of the foot that’s near the wall. With right placement, you can also stretch the calves of the rear leg, however, the stretch should pre-dominantly be on the front foot. Repeat the same process with the other leg.

You can do this even after you come home from work or shopping or anything that involved walking/standing, however making sure that you are not over-stretching the calves especially when they are cold!
As has been discussed, muscles of the lower leg, namely soleus, gastrocnemius, anterior tibialis, peroneus and more must be given equal importance while exercising.
Also as has been observed, that due to our posture, the muscles of the calves are already shortened, and hence before strengthening them, they must be stretched. The stretches discussed last time can be done on a daily basis after coming home from work as well and need not be restricted to only after exercise.

To strengthen the calves, the simplest exercise that can be done, even at home, is the Calf raise. Many gyms have machines for Calf raises, besides using the leg press machine or even some advanced machines like Soleus Trade for working out calves. Machines with adjustable weights can be used to increase the challenge on the calves, once the body is used to challenge offered by one’s own body weight. For most of us, the challenge offered by our own body weight is sufficient enough for generating good strength.

The exercise Calf Raises can be done as follows –

Stand facing a wall or object that can provide support and position yourself against this using both arms. Maintain an erect posture, with body weight distributed on both feet. Now keeping your feet close together, raise yourself, balancing on the ball of the feet, and at the same time, squeezing the calves. Slowly release as you are coming down and again raise yourself and repeat the procedure.

To increase the range of motion, you can stand off a step or an elevated surface, such that you rheels are hanging off the edge. Now when you raise yourself on the ball of the feet and release, the heels can go farther than ground level and thus increase the range of motion and the challenge of this exercise. Needless to say, placing weights on your shoulders will increase the challenge. Remember to keep the hands free to support the body, else you may lose balance and trip. Atleast around 20 repetitions will help to start with. You can increase the number as your strength increases. Remember to stretch the calves at the end of your workout!

Workout @ Home! - Lower body

we now come to the lower body – a common area of concern for many ladies!
Leg muscles are large muscles groups namely – front part (Hip flexors, quadriceps, anterior tibialis), rear part (glutes, hamstrings, calves) and lateral muscles like tensor fasciae latae, peroneus and many more.
The beauty of leg workouts is that -
- Although they target one of the muscle groups primarily, the other muscle groups are almost equally stressed.
- Also, most of the leg exercises are quite functional in nature

Here are a few exercises for the legs that can be done at home–

Normal Squats -
Stand with feet about hip- or shoulder-width apart. Maintain upright posture and squeeze in your abdominal muscles. Bend the knees and slowly squat down. Keep the feet pointing outwards and check that the knees do not go beyond the toes as you squat down. Return to the starting position by fully extending the legs.To get the right posture, place a chair just behind you and try to touch it as you squat down.
The same can be done without any weights or you can hold bottles/bags in your hand placing them beside your body as you perform the exercise.

Wide Leg Squats / Plie
This is similar to the normal squats except that it targets the inner thighs as well, and provides a different stimulation to the gluteus muscles.
Begin with a wide stance with toes out at a comfortable angle. Keep the feet pointing outwards and check that the knees do not go beyond the toes as you squat down. Bend the knees and lower down into a squat, keeping knees in line with toes, abs squeezed in and upright posture.

A major area of concern for women and a major area of neglect for guys – can be used to best describe legs which mainly consist of the hips, thighs and gluteus muscles. Strength and endurance are two parameters that your leg workout must focus on. Strength can be built by using additional weight to your normal body weight while performing each exercise especially the squats and some more advanced exercises like step ups, lunges and dead lifts.

A few exercises for working the endurance muscles of the legs namely hip flexors, ham strings which can be easily done at home.

Standing Hip Extension –

Stand straight facing a wall or sideways to a wall and balance yourself placing both or one palm on the wall.
Lift one leg up at the hip, bending the knee and push the leg down straight and then lift the leg backwards as far as possible keeping it straight at the knee. Make sure the body is standing erect and not leaning forward. Lower the leg so that both feet are together. Repeat for at least 15-20 repetition on each side.

Standing Side Leg Raises –
Stand straight sideways to a wall and balance yourself placing one palm on the wall. Lift the leg on the other side sideways just below your hip level or over the range that feels possible. Lower the leg back to the starting position, as slowly as possible and make sure you don’t rest the foot on the floor at the lowest position. Repeat on each side for at least 15-20 reps.
Lying down Side Leg Raises –
Lie on the floor sideways with one arm bent at the elbow and supporting the head with both legs one over the other sideways.
Raise the leg which is on the top (the one facing the ceiling), keeping the knee straight till a 45 degree angle to the floor and slowly lower them back to the starting position. The slower you take it, the more burn you will floor. Once again, make sure that you don’t rest your foot on the other foot at the lowest position. Let it hang in the air at the lowest position and repeat the same movement. Around 15-20 reps is a good count to work the glutes and the lateral muscles of the leg.
Inner Leg Raises -
Lie on the floor sideways with one arm bent at the elbow and supporting the head with both legs one over the other sideways.

Raise the leg on the top side (the one facing the ceiling) and bending it at the knee, place it in front of the other straight leg on the floor, right in front of you. Now supporting yourself with the other arm on the floor, lift the straight leg on the floor off the ground and upwards till you feel a stretch on the inner part of the leg. Slowly release it to the starting position and repeat.
Around 12-15 reps is a good count and repeat with both the legs.

Incase you are used to doing this workout at the health-club or at home for more than 3 months, it would be a good bet to invest in a pair of ankle weights, easily available at sports stores to increase the challenege of these exercises.

Here are some exercises –

Kneeling Hip Extensions (Variation 1)–
Get into the box position (kneeling down, bend forward and place palms on the floor to support upper body, lowerback naturally arched and head looking down). Slowly keeping one knee touching the floor as it is, bend the other one taking it forward and close to the chest and push outwards, backwards and upwards to the ceiling over a range that feels possible. Lower it slowly down to the initial position. Rememember that a safe range would be that which does not over-arch your back. The entire movement must be executed only at the hip joint. Around 15-20 reps is a good count and then repeat on the other leg.
Incase your shoulders cannot support for the entire duration of repetitions, you can support yourself with your elbows resting on the floor in front of you and perform the same movement.

Kneeling Hip Extensions (Variation 2) –
Get into the box position. Slowly keeping one knee touching the floor as it is, straighten out one leg backwards. Push upwards to the ceiling over a range that feels possible, keeping your toes pointing down to the floor. Lower it slowly down to the initial position, however making it sure that the feet does not rest on the floor at the lowest point. Rememember that a safe range would be that which does not over-arch your back. Around 15-20 reps is a good count and then repeat on the other leg.

Kneeling Hip Extensions (Variation 3) –
Get into the box position. Slowly keeping one knee touching the floor as it is, straighten out one leg backwards and diagonally outwards from you. Push upwards to the ceiling over a range that feels possible, keeping your toes pointing sideways and down. Lower it slowly down to the initial position, however making it sure that the feet does not rest on the floor at the lowest point. Rememember that a safe range would be that which does not over-arch your back. Around 15-20 reps is a good count and then repeat on the other leg.

Home Workouts - Upper body

Following the warm-up, many exercises can be done at home, without the need for any equipments or dumbbells and barbells! A few examples would be callisthenics (movements using your own body-weight as resistance), Surya Namaskars, exercises using Swiss Balls, Exer-tubes and an Aerobics Step, all of which will be discussed one-by-one.
Here are some Upper body exercises –

Wall Push-ups
Choose a plain wall or even your Kitchen platform. Stand about one or two feet away from the wall, and incline forward, placing your palms on the wall, with your elbows bent. Now push your body back to starting position using your hands with your heels raised. Exhale while your exert.

Floor Push-ups (Normal or modified)
Lie chest-down with your hands at shoulder level, palms flat and fixed on the floor and slightly more than shoulder-width apart, your feet together and parallel to each other. Straighten your arms as you push your body up off the floor. Try not to bend or arch your upper or lower back as you push up. Exhale as your arms straighten out. Modified pushups are done the same way, except that your legs are folded at the knee and the knees touch the floor.

Bottle Chest Press
Take two 1-litre bottles filled with water and then perform the bench press that you do at the gym.
Lie down with your leg bent at knees and using a grip broader than shoulder width, hold the bottles above your body, then lower slowly to the middle of your chest. Return to the starting position along the same path.

Bottle Flyes
Take two 1-litre bottles filled with water and then perform the Chect Flyes (lying down) that you do at the gym.

Just one word of caution – make sure your hands are dry so that you can hold the bottles in a good grip.

Major upper body muscle groups are – chest, back, shoulders and arms. Some exercises for the chest were discussed last week. This week, we shall discuss Shoulder exercises -

Shoulder Press – Stand/sit erect with your feet shoulder width apart holding the bottles with elbows bent and hands at eye level. Push weight over the head without arching the back until your arms straighten out and lower them back to starting position.

Upright Rows – Stand holding the bottles, hands close together in front and palms facing you. Bend the elbows and pull the weights up until they're at about chest or chin level. At the highest position, your elbows should be slightly above the shoulders and the wrists straight without shrugging as you pull the weights up. Lower the weights back the same way and repeat.

Lateral Raises – Stand with the bottles held at the sides, palms facing you. Keeping a slight bend in the elbow, lift the arms out to the sides, stopping at shoulder level. Lower the weights back to start and repeat.
Front Raises – Same as above however, starting with hands in front and palms facing you. Lift the arms upwards, stopping at shoulder level
Note: Keep the back erect and your abdominal muscles contracted throughout the movement.
Important –
As you progress, you might find that you get used to the weight of the bottles and the exercise seems less challenging. In that case there are 3 options –
a) Start with 2 sets of 12-15 reps and slowly progress onto 3 sets of 15 reps.. Avoid going on to a 4th set! Try the options below.
b) A simpler and more effective option is to vary the speed of your repetitions. So if initially, it needed you 2 secs up – 2 secs down for one repetition, try and vary the speed like 2 secs up – 3 secs down etc. For this, you have to knowingly control the movement. Target the part of the rep when you are releasing a position – eg. Returning from a shoulder press to the start position.
c) Take a slightly bigger bottle (may be 1 ½ litres) or add stones into your 1-litre bottle. You can also replace the water with sand or fine gravel completely!
d) Last option would be to add functional movements / isometrics into your movement. We’ll see that later!

we now move on to the arm muscles – mainly biceps, triceps and muscles like brachio-radialis and brachialis.
Two one-litre bottles held in either hand can provide good resistance for your home-workout routine. Always remember to have a clean, dry hand so as to firmly grip the bottles. Needless to remind that all exercises must be preceded by a warm-up.

Biceps Curls –
Possibly the best biceps exercise! Stand straight with your hands and legs shoulder-width apart beside your side. Hold the bottles down at arm's length beside you, with your arms, shoulders and hands in a straight line. Now, curl the arm up toward your chest keeping your elbows fixed and close to your sides. Bring the weight up as high as you can and squeeze the biceps at the top. Lower the weight slowly to starting position.

Hammer Curls –
As evident from the name, this mimics the movement of a hammer driving a nail. Put your elbows at your side and KEEP them there during the entire movement. Hold the bottles in your hands, with hands facing each other and inline with the elbows at the side, to start with. Pull your arms up until your biceps touch your forearms. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Tricep Extension (Both/Single hand) –
Sit on a bench or stand with feet shoulder width apart and hold a bottle with both hands overlapping one another. Take the weight straight up overhead with the arms next to the ears. Lower the weight behind the head until elbows are at about 90 degree angles. This can also be done with one arm at a time.
Tricep Kickbacks –
Hold the bottle in one hand and bend over until your torso is parallel to the floor (Soften the knees by bending slightly keep the abs engaged to protect the lower back). Begin the movement by bending the arms and pulling the elbows up parallel to the bent body and close to it. Holding that position, straighten the arms out behind you, squeezing the triceps muscles. Return and repeat.
The other advanced biceps exercises are Concentration curls, barbell curls and few more, which need increased focus on your posture, form and strength. And for triceps you can try Bench Dips, Close grip Push ups and more… However, these exercises discussed above are quite perfect to work out your arms effectively.

Here are a few exercises for upper and mid-back muscles (latissimus dorsi, trapezius etc.) –

One-arm Rows
Stand next to a bed sideways and bending forward at the waist, place one knee on the bed and support using the arm on the same side as the knee. Place the other leg at some distance from the bed, on the floor.
Hold a bottle in the other hand which is free and away from the bed, and while maintaining spinal alignment, exhale, retract the shoulder blades and draw your arms up towards the ribcage. Keep the elbows close to your body when performing the motion. Inhale and extend arms back to starting position at a controlled speed. Repeat with the other arm.

Bent-over Rows (One arm/both arms)
Position yourself with your knees slightly bent, buttocks pushed back, core tight to maintain spinal alignment, and bend forward so that your torso is just higher than parallel with the ground.
Hold the bottles (or bags) in both (or one) hands in front of you, palms facing each other. Exhale and retract shoulder blades, pull the bottles up bending arms at elbows, to a position just below your chest. Inhale and at a controlled speed, lower back to the stating position.

Stand straight up with your feet at shoulder width. Hold two bottles/bags with your arms hanging at your sides. To start with, droop shoulders down as far as possible. Raise shoulders up as far as you can go and slowly return to the starting position. You can also rotate your shoulders by going up in a circular motion from front to rear and then back down.

Performing around 2 sets of 12-15 repetitions is sufficient for a good back workout. As mentioned earlier, to increase the challenge, vary the speed of movements.

Workout at home, this monsoon!

Monsoons are here!! They are probably the best time to invent the most creative excuses you would have ever imagined! So, while the greenery, beauty and scenery all around, sure are a feast for the eyes, what goes for a toss is the exercise schedule! Exceptions are always there!
So, is there an alternate way to keep those guilt feelings at bay? Yes, there is…. Workout at home! Over the coming weeks, we’ll read about what exercises can be done at home.
Highly suggested is that you set aside a specific time of the day for your exercise. However, remember that anytime of the day is fine, especially if you manage to get to the gym on some days in between. Similar to your routine at the gym, the components of your schedule must be warm-up, core workout / conditioning exercises and cool-own. The core workout can be resistance exercises or simple cardio exercises.
Warming up is essential since the cold weather outside makes the muscles inflexible and cold. Many people choose to skip this without realizing that the first 10-15 minutes of warm-up save you from injuries, strains, joint pains and even your heart! Sudden and intense movements put tremendous pressure on the cardio-vascular system to provide blood to the active part and can prove dangerous. Sudden movements of muscles can also cause excessive strains thereby leading to complications, locally and which may act out in other parts of the body or affect posture!
Typical warm-up steps could be –
Start by simply walking around the house, slowly increasing speed
Once a slight warmth is felt, you can start by movements for loosening the joints – shoulder rotations, hip rotations and twists, forward bends, standing leg curls, hip flexions and extensions, ankle and wrist rotations, neck rotations and other dynamic stretches.
You can now increase the intensity by spot jogging, jogging around the house, climbing stairs, jumping jacks, skipping etc.
Remember to restrict the warm up to 10-12 minutes and medium intensity, just so that you have enough energy left to do the main workout! Don’t tire yourself out during the warm up itself!

Kick & Box for Fitness

High Energy, sweaty bodies and pumping music is what comes to mind when you think of a kickboxing class in your health club. Kick-boxing and variants like Tae-bo, Cardio Kickboxing are quite popular these days and promise high returns on investment!!
Traditionally, Kick boxing is considered as a contact-sport whereby moves from martial arts and boxing are combined to defeat the opponents, with some standard rules. However, in the realm of fitness, it is modified into rhythmic kicking and boxing movements and self-defense moves targeting the cardio-vascular system without or with minimum use of padding or other safety guards.
The advantages of Kickboxing are -
· Since it involves a high proportion of leg muscles, it gives an intense endurance and cardio workout.
· It improves alertness, coordination abilities, flexibility and above all brings in discipline and a sense of self-empowerment!
· When used wisely and with inanimate objects (!) it can be used to vent out anger and frustration!
Somethings you have to be careful about –
· Know your current fitness level. Kick-boxing, as is the case with any martial art form, focuses much on ‘core stability’. The core muscles are your deep muscles of the mid-region of the body (like rectus abdominus, ). These muscles are, in most people not well-trained due to sedentary lifestyles, over-weight, obesity and postural problems.
· Hence, start out slow and keep the intensity low at the beginning inorder to avoid excessive stress on the knees and lower-back. Use it as a progression from the Aerobics class or after atleast a month of ‘regular’ gymming and body conditioning. A group can be quite motivating but do remember your individual capacity and avoid over-doing it.
· Warm up thoroughly – especially your leg muscles (hamstrings, quadriceps, calves), lower back muscles and shoulder muscles. A warm-up based on dynamic stretches targeting these muscle groups is ideal to avoid strain injuries.
· Build your base well – Learn the techniques, body positioning and speed of the kicks and boxes to get the best out of your workout.
· Also remember to cool down well using static stretches, hydrate yourself well and incase you feel breathless in between, remember to slow down without stopping abruptly.

Getting the best from your Personal Trainer!

Help the trainer to help you –
All relationships are 2-way streets and you, as the client can always make things easier by following these tips –
· Be regular and on time for your sessions. Commitment from your side will ensure commitment from the trainer as well! Incase of any delays or absence, make sure you inform the trainer as early as possible.
· Avoid chit-chatting with the trainer in between the session. You can fix up a mutually convenient time, either before or after the session to share your thoughts. Also make sure you don’t waste any time on the mobile in between the sessions.
· Although most trainers offer to put back the weights that you use for your workout, offer to do this yourself or atleast assist the trainer in putting them back. The trainer is there to help, assist and guide you and must be respected.
· Incase you learn or come across some information that is conflicting with what your trainer has suggested, bring it to his notice politely and discuss a way to use the information optimally.
From the trainer’s end, note that he does not -
· Answer any calls or talk to other clients or trainers when he is with you, unless there is an emergency.
· Start diagnosing problems and advising medications/supplements for you
· Suggest extreme starvation or fad diets and sets un-realistic targets for weight loss
· Ignores or dismisses your questions and avoids discussing ways to accommodate your considerations
· Recommends a level of workout that is too hard for you and unnecessarily pushes you to higher intensities
· Gets too personal for your comfort and asks you personal questions or suggests meeting post-session.
Communication is the key to getting the best out of your training and your investment – in the training and in your life!

Personal Training - everything about it!

Personal Training – Necessity or Luxury?
Gone are the days, when choosing a Personal Training option at the health club was the domain of the rich and the wealthy! These days fitness enthusiasts, carrying along their “Fitness Gurus” with them is a common sight at many of the gyms! A very special thanks to Bollywood for this!

So, if you too are determined to get one yourself, make sure you agree with at least 2 of the below reasons!
Beginner –
In case you are just beginning a fitness program for the first time in your life, you can definitely use the services of the personal trainer. This is especially so, in case you use the gym facilities at peak-times – the times when the gym is very crowded, during which the general trainers might find it difficult to pay detailed attention. They can guide you on the right technique and form of each exercise and also help beat the initial soreness that accompanies initial days of exercising. Please note that this need is relative and may not be applicable to everyone!

Motivation –
One of the most important reason people opt for Personal training is motivation. Due to various personal and professional pressures, adherence and consistency at the gym, sometimes becomes a problem. Needless to say, with such pressures, physical fitness becomes of utmost importance. A personal trainer in this case can be of great help, by designing a time-efficient workout.
(May be the Personal Training fees could also motivate you to be regular!)

Efficiency –
A Personal Trainer can design an individualized and effective workout, rather than just wasting time on in-effective workouts. He also takes into consideration your personal health and fitness history, likes and dislikes and time-availability before he designs an optimum workout schedule for you!

Special Conditions – Incase you are recovering from any Surgery – Cardiac, joint or otherwise and exercise has been recommended in the rehabilitation program, it’s a great decision to get a personal trainer. The trainer will provide the adequate attention and feedback required in such complicated situations. Please note, that a Doctor’s clearance for exercising is very essential prior to starting any post-operation schedule.
Even in case of some previous history of severe joint problems or other complications, exercise under guided attention is a good option!

Improving technical skills – For those of us interested in improving our performance at competitive or recreational sports, a high-level of training is required. Performance-enhancing training is a different ball game completely and requires advanced knowledge of sports physiology and related exercises. These kind of trainings, usually cater to skills like agility, mental power etc. apart from strict focus on strength, stamina and suppleness.

Shattering the ‘Plateaus’ - The dreaded ‘P’ word, which basically shows its face once your body gets used to the exercises you do over the months and years. Reaching a Plateau slows down results even if you try to increase your intensity of workout… Breaking a plateau needs advanced knowledge of various modes of training and exercises to break out of the rut!

Frequent Traveller – In this case, you can have your personal trainer custom-design quick workouts while travelling, and also check on your motivation levels while travelling and when in town!

Choosing a Personal Trainer!

Living in an age where a “Consumer is the king” has its own advantages and disadvantages! So, while the consumer has different options to suit his needs and requirements, it also puts quite a bit of responsibility on the consumer to find out and update his knowledge about the different options. And more so, if you are dealing with people who, in turn are dealing with your life!

So, while hiring the services of a Personal Trainer is a good idea especially if you are an absolute beginner, need motivation, want to enhance your sport performance or you have some medical conditions, you need to know how to choose a personal trainer to suit your requirements.

Here are some tips –
Certification – Ideally, the personal trainer must have recognized certification from reputed institutes. Some of the international certifying institutes, which offer certifications easily in India, include American Council on Exercise (ACE), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and a few others including some Indian Institutes.
This is especially so, incase you are exercising post-surgery or have a history of health complications!
Although, the Fitness Industry, today is more experience-driven rather than knowledge-driven, these certifications definitely offer high-quality and comprehensive knowledge about the human body and exercise.

Experience – Experience is an important factor in choosing a trainer. An experienced trainer can intuitively know the needs and limitations of his client and be flexible enough to modify, thanks to his vast knowledge.
However, what would be a better option is to also check the credibility in the claims made by him/her. Because, he/she could have a lot of experience in making the health conditions worse, rather than better!!

Personal Comfort Level – Your first meeting with the trainer can help you gauge your personal comfort level with the trainer usually through his body language, mannerisms and genuine interest in your well-being. Some of the trainers are very commercial and unaccommodating in their approach, which can be very easily detected in the first meeting itself.
Also, since personal training needs the trainer to come in close contact with you, make sure you check out their track record in terms of work ethics and also other factors like punctuality, attention, commitment, regularity etc. Ideally they should be fun, challenging within limits, creative and innovative!
Some other factors to check for are –
· A Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and First Aid certificate is a must for every trainer.
· The trainer must be a good listener (listens patiently without jumping to conclusions or advising you to follow their rules) and motivator.
· In case you are going for post-surgery or rehabilitation programs, be sure to check if the trainer has the requisite expertise in dealing with such complications, and must always demand a Medical Release from your Doctor and work in tandem with your doctor.
And there are other factors like –
· Does the trainer ever insist you to take supplements so as to ensure faster results and moreover to buy the supplements from him?
· Does the trainer show you exaggerated outcomes like losing 10 kgs in a month and the like, thanks to his training?
· Does the trainer force you to stick to a pre-determined schedule or not accommodate any changes as the training progresses?
If the answer is no to all of the above, then you can pat yourself on the back for having made a good decision!