If you’re wondering whether you need to hire a personal trainer for teenagers, you are NOT the only one.
Earlier this year as lockdown kicked in, I realised my 14-year-old had barely moved an inch in days. There seemed to be a hundred reasons to stay in her room, whether it was Snapchat, Netflix or the PS4.
While I’m not averse to kids socialising online, I was very aware that without the usual routine of hockey club and school PE lessons, my teen was in danger of turning into a slug. I worried that by the time life returned to ‘normal’, Flea’s fitness would have shrivelled up and died.
It’s Hard for Modern Teens to Get Active
Actually, it’s an issue that has pre-dated lockdown.
Flea has been saddled with a PE teacher who isn’t especially inspiring or interested in kids that aren’t naturally sporty. By the middle of Year 10, my teen was basically doing one hour of school sport per week. It’s not nearly enough.
We’ve signed Flea up for sports clubs outside school, and a YA gym membership. But there’s so much nagging and cajoling involved in getting a teen away from a screen and to a spinning class that it was just miserable, for both of us.
My concern was that the lack of encouragement from adults, combined with my teen’s natural lethargy was impacting on her health and wellbeing. Flea was falling behind other kids in sports, which knocked her confidence and enthusiasm. Honestly, her fitness is miles away from where it was a year or two ago, and I didn’t want this to become a long-term issue.
Why We Hired a Personal Trainer for our Teen
Here’s what I realised about teenagers. When you’re nagging them to ride a bike, or walk the dog, or practice hockey in the garden, they can always say, “I’ll do it in a bit!”
But if they have a scheduled appointment where they HAVE to show up, there’s no option to put off exercise until they’ve watched that film, or played that video game.
Working with a personal trainer also removes the need for teens to exercise in front of other kids. For any teen who feels self-conscious about their body, or doesn’t like being the “worst” kid in the group, this is a big bonus. You also don’t need to contend with a PE teacher or coach who’s trying to divide their attention between 20 kids, some of whom they like more than others.
The biggest advantage to having a personal trainer for teenagers, though? Flea has her own personal cheerleader. Flea has spent most of the past year or two being in a PE class with a teacher who thinks my teen is unenthused, uninteresting, and untalented. Now she’s working with a personal trainer who encourages her, a lot. He praises her to the sky when she works hard, celebrates each improvement she makes and inspires her to think about what she could achieve.
Finding a Personal Trainer for Teenagers
I would usually have asked at our gym for information about personal trainers, but this is lockdown and the gyms are all closed. I found one lovely trainer who works at the gym but he could only offer Skype sessions for now, which I didn’t think was quite right for Flea at the moment.
Instead, I found a personal trainer who has worked with two women I know locally, and they both recommended their trainer, saying he’s a really nice guy but works them very hard and has really helped their fitness. I did a bit of Googling to check out his credentials (he works with our local YMCA), and then contacted him via DM. Dan was lovely, very positive about working with a teenager, and was happy to do sessions in a local park, or at his home gym, with social distancing and appropriate safety measures.
What does it cost?
Obviously, a personal trainer costs more than the gym. While Flea’s gym membership is around £40 a month, we pay around £140 a month for the personal trainer.
Most trainers will offer a free, initial assessment, and there should also be a chance for you to ask about their training, their philosophy and so on. After that, the most cost-effective approach is to book a block of sessions. Flea’s personal trainer offers a discount for blocks of six sessions, so we started out booking 12 sessions, over six weeks.
If the cost is too steep, ask trainers about small group sessions, which offer many of the advantages of personal training, at a much lower cost. Flea’s trainer does three small group sessions on the waterfront that are open to up to 8 people, and cost about 25% of one-to-one training.
For personal training to help Flea improve her strength, conditioning and fitness, Dan recommended training 2-3 times a week. We opted for twice a week, since Flea started weekly tennis coaching and hockey coaching at the same time. I figured that having four scheduled exercise activities a week would be enough of a shock to her system!
What a Personal Training Session Looks Like
Flea’s personal training sessions are initially focusing on building core strength. As a hockey goalkeeper, and does a lot of fast, lateral movement, Flea’s trainer thinks building up strength in her mid-section and groin is important in protecting her from injury.
During each session, Flea works through a series of planks, lunges and squats. There are things called “Copenhagen Side Planks” that honestly look like torture, and another exercise where Flea holds on to ropes attached to a wall, leans backward, and then uses her upper body strength to pull herself upright. Repeatedly. And not forgetting the thing where she pulls along a massive piece of metal with weights on top of it.
Here’s Flea’s trainer demonstrating a Copenhagen side plank:
As Flea’s strength improves, the sessions will incorporate more cardio training, to help with speed and agility. At the moment, though, most of her cardio comes from tennis and hockey.
Things are obviously a little different because of social distancing. Flea is doing 1-2-1 coaching with all her activities right now, and her personal trainer needs to maintain an appropriate, safe distance during workouts. This means he isn’t doing any exercises with Flea where he might need to physically correct Flea’s posture.
Our Teen’s Experience of Personal Training
When I first told Flea I’d booked two sessions a week with a personal trainer, she was less than impressed. My teen agreed reluctantly that she would *just* do it for six weeks, and see how she felt. Some bribery may have been involved in this conversation and it might have involved cold, hard cash.
Now, three weeks in, she’s asked if she can continue seeing her personal trainer after she goes back to school next term. So it turns out that my lazy lockdown teen actually really enjoys the sessions!
The first couple of sessions were really tough, and there were lots of complaints about sore knees and aching sides. But I noticed by session four that Flea was coming out of her training sessions smiling. After three weeks, I have noticed her general mood is improving, and she is more enthusiastic about her training. Today she even downloaded a running app, without any prompting from anyone. I REPEAT, MY TEENAGER VOLUNTARILY DOWNLOADED A RUNNING APP.
Now, I don’t want to give unrealistic expectations of working with a personal trainer for teenagers. They can’t work actual miracles.
We did both have a laugh this week when Flea brought home a notebook from her trainer with a daily schedule that said my daughter would do 30 minutes of stretches each day, go to bed by 11pm and – wait for it – be up by “8.30am, at the latest”. Oh, how we laughed. My teen hasn’t seen 10am in a long, long time.
But overall, I would say the biggest benefits of having personal trainer for teenagers are:
- Having someone encourage and cheer on your child and help them enjoy being active
- It’s massively helping Flea’s strength and (eventually I hope) her fitness
- I’ve found Flea’s mood has improved and we have far less drama at home!