Even if you’re not big on New Year’s resolutions (I’m not, I admit), there’s something about a new year that evokes excitement of starting anew, with a fresh blank page. Oh, the possibilities! Whether it’s mapping your race schedule or outlining a few big goals for the year, January is a natural time to think positively about all that’s to come in the months ahead. With this in mind, I wanted to offer a couple of Fitness Goals 2014 posts, starting with this one on working with a personal trainer. I couldn’t think of a better person to talk with than lifelong runner and certified personal trainer Marc McCombs, who also has worked with runners for the past 10+ years as a Running Fit team member in Traverse City.

Marc McCombs discovered a love for sports at an early age, and eventually realized it was running that made him the happiest.

“I was a good athlete in high school but was not given a whole lot of natural talent. I think that’s what drew me to running—if you do the work, you get better and you run faster. If you don’t, no amount of talent is going to get you to the finish line before an athlete that works harder – simple as that. I like simple, so I worked hard and became a pretty good runner.”

Marc continued to run after high school, eventually joining the team at Running Fit where he found great satisfaction in talking with fellow athletes about their running successes and challenges. However, he wanted to be even more involved somehow. It was following the passing of his mother a couple of summers ago when he decided to become a certified personal trainer.

“I feel that her death could have been prevented by having a healthier lifestyle,” he says. “As a result of her passing, my mom gave me the swift kick in the butt that I needed to pursue my passion and my dream. Shortly after her funeral, I began to pursue my goal of becoming a CPT. I earned my certification last May and have been working with clients and teaching a Running 101 course since then.”

What are the benefits of working with a personal trainer?

A main benefit of working with a trainer is having access to expertise, and more important, accountability. Some mornings, the bed is so warm and comfy, that getting out of it to head into the cold world to work out is something that is very easy to talk yourself out of. Knowing that someone is there to hold you accountable and motivate you is vital to your success. It doesn’t matter if you are training for an Ironman or just trying to shed a couple pounds. Also, preparing with a trainer for an event will assist in getting to the starting line feeling stronger and healthier. A good trainer will teach you what muscle groups to strengthen and stretch while encouraging proper form and technique.

So what are the steps to finding a great personal trainer?

When looking for a trainer, the first thing to do is check their credentials. Are they certified?  Through who? Are they insured and do they possess current CPR Certification?

Every person is motivated differently. A good trainer will take the time to figure out what works for each client and what doesn’t. When looking for a trainer, it is very important that you feel comfortable around them. Keep in mind that this person is going to see you at some of your lowest moments, as well as share in your accomplishments. I think it’s really important to have an interview with a trainer prior to hiring. Ask them direct, honest questions about their training style. Some people are motivated by aggressive, in-your-face trainers, and others by positive, encouraging trainers. It is important to find out what style works best for you.

How would you describe your own style of personal training?

The type of fitness experience I give to my clients is different for each one.  They all have different goals and I feel it is important to customize my training style for each individual. A cookie-cutter approach to personal training will not work. A trainer needs to build rapport and then gain trust, and once this is accomplished, the real work can begin. I try to create a fitness experience with my clients that is challenging but also fun. I like to show my clients that fitness can be a very rewarding and enjoyable experience. If all I did was yell at people and make them hurt for an hour, it would be unlikely for my client to continue a fitness program. I want my clients to have a positive experience with fitness so they will make it part of their daily lives. The results will be a healthier life with more strength, flexibility, better race performance and one very happy trainer.

Marc and his family. "Fitness is important to me now because I get to share that love with my kids, my clients, and the kids that I have coached. There are so many things in this life that we have absolutely no control over. Fitness is one of the few things that for the most part we can control."
Marc and his family. “Fitness is important to me now because I get to share that love with my kids, my clients, and the kids that I have coached. There are so many things in this life that we have absolutely no control over. Fitness is one of the few things that for the most part we can control.”

How do you stay motivated? Any personal story you can share about working through an injury?

When it comes to injuries, I have had my fair share—when you are an active person who enjoys getting the best out of your body, there are going to be some bumps and bruises. [Marc underwent his second knee surgery earlier this month for a torn meniscus] I look at this surgery as maintenance and was able to come back from my last surgery in about six weeks. When fitness is a large part of your life, you miss it when an injury sits you on the sidelines. It’s really easy to get down in the dumps; that’s why I believe it is so important to cross train. My knee may be messed up for a while, but I can still swim, lift weights and eventually start riding a bike and then get back to running. Being able to stay active by cross-training keeps me healthy and in a much better mood. In a perfect world we would never have to deal with injuries and aches and pains. That’s not the case. How we choose to deal with these injuries is what is important. The hardest thing that I have had to learn is when to rest.  Injuries won’t heal unless you give them a chance to heal. I often tell myself that, but it’s not easy.

How can we all keep up with our fitness goals beyond the start of a new year?

New Year’s is traditionally the time of year when the gyms fill with people with good intentions of fitness and weight loss. By February, sadly, a large portion of those same people are back on the couch. This happens time and time again. There are so many reasons/excuses not to workout: I work too much. I can’t find the time. My kids keep me too busy. I’m too old. I’m too heavy. I’m embarrassed. If you keep waiting for the perfect time to start an exercise program, then you will never start. If you want something to change in your life, then you need to change the way you do things. Don’t wait until New Year’s, or Monday or until summer break…Start today! The longer something is put off, the easier it is to make excuses.

cpt2Marc McCombs is an American Council of Exercise (ACE) certified personal trainer. Contact him at 231.392.6094, marcmccombscpt@gmail.com or through his Marc McCombs Personal Training Facebook page. He lives in Traverse City with his wife Carrie and their three children.

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