Fitness trainers aren’t just for the rich and famous. Today, many gyms offer the accessibility of fitness trainers as a benefit to their members for helping them reach their unique fitness goals. Trainers, whether hired privately or through a gym, can be a worthwhile investment as fitness is defined differently as people age.

Michelle Twitchell, co-owner and head trainer at The Gym in Lewiston, holds a bachelor’s degree in sports science with a minor in nutrition. She said an individual is never too old to get fit.

“You just need to get started; walking through the door is the hardest part of the workout,” said Twitchell.

Finding the right personal trainer for an older client involves asking some simple questions. Begin by inquiring about qualifications including certifications and experience. Has the person worked with older clientele? Are they well-versed in working with people who may have age-related conditions including joint pain and osteoarthritis?

“Personal training is ‘personal’ by definition,” said Twitchell. “In the client-trainer relationship, it’s important to have a connection, otherwise motivation can be difficult.”

The cost for hiring a trainer may, at first, seem intimidating, particularly to a person new or just returning to exercise. The average cost of training services range between $35 and $90 per hour.

Twitchell suggests investing in three to four training sessions to gain the tools to get started and later, arrange additional training to add to your fitness tool box.

“Training doesn’t have to be on-going,” explained Twitchell. “Some people will train one session a week – they forego something else to work training into their budget. Others train more frequently because they need the motivation. That’s the beauty of it. The right trainer will design a program that is appropriate and affordable for you.”

Tammy Begin Dumais is a private certified health and fitness consultant with a degree in sports medicine and health science. She meets with clients at home, their office, or other off-site locations; her experience includes coordination of a health and wellness program for state of Maine employees. Her first piece of advice is to do research.

“The best trainers can be found through referral,” said Dumais. “There are different levels of schooling and thought. You want to make a good match for your personal fitness beliefs. For instance, if you can’t imagine your diet without bread or pasta, you will want a trainer who can build those into your nutrition and fitness plan.”

Dumais, with 22 years of fitness experience, said she practices and teaches fitness moderation and balance, preferring an integrated program of yoga, meditation, nutrition, weight training, and cardiovascular exercise. In her initial meetings with clients, she seeks to determine goals but also determine personality types.

“Stress is a factor to control,” said Dumais. “We are a stress-filled society — overworked and sleep deprived. A fitness program should not contribute another level of stress. So, the type-A person who is ready to go will want to see results quickly to avoid stress. Clients who need time to process will want to ease into a program to not feel overwhelmed. I have one client who lines her fruit up on her desk to make sure she eats it. For her, getting in her daily allowance of fruit is a huge success toward meeting her nutritional fitness goal. I view even small changes as big success.”

Accountability, she said, remains her primary reason for utilizing Oberlander’s services but her fitness goals, over four years, have changed and her programs have reflected the twists and turns of her life.

Chasse first came to the YMCA after sustaining an injury. “When I was ready to get active again, I knew I needed someone with a plan to support me,” explained Chasse. “The YMCA gave me a profile questionnaire to assist in matching me with one of their trainers and they matched me with Nicole.”

The two have proven a good pair; their initial training connection has evolved into a lasting friendship based on honesty, trust, and good humor. Oberlander has helped Chasse overcome back injury and guided her in exercise routines that work within her physical restrictions. Together they have worked on motivation as well as nutrition challenges; Oberlander even helped Chasse get in shape for her wedding.

“I meet my clients where they are,” says Oberlander, a 22-year fitness instructor and seven-year certified personal trainer. “Fitness helps people feel good and it’s never too late to start. It isn’t all about what you look like but how you feel about yourself inside. It’s satisfying to help someone build their self-esteem. I feel good when my clients feel good about themselves.”

Oberlander admitted she gets attached to her clients, some of whom have moved away yet still stay in touch. A certified “Silver Sneakers” instructor, her clients range from senior citizens to teenagers and people of all abilities and condition. What she values most in her trainer-client relationships is honesty.

“I want my clients to succeed; consequently we need to be honest in our fitness efforts and I recognize that fitness is a work in progress. That means allowing for life – the times when eating habits aren’t always what they should be or when unforeseen events interrupt workouts,” explained Oberlander. “What’s important is that clients own their progress. As a trainer, I can plan, support, and motivate but, I can’t do the work. A trainer is there to help you achieve your goals but the results are only as good as what you invest. There must be accountability on both ends.”

Chasse agrees. “I pay for the training. Nicole always shows up prepared. I am responsible to make the change and I know it is an investment in me. My best advice for anyone considering working with a trainer is to make the most of the experience by being honest and working hard.”

“Don’t be afraid,” said Oberlander to older would-be fitness clients. “You’re never too old to get fit and strong. I’m 50 and I have friends over 50 who look and feel great.” She grinned. “Fifty plus is just beginning!”

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