Can I Have A Personal Trainer and Still Be #BodyPositive?

Trigger warning: eating disorders, depression, anxiety, exercise/fitness 

Last week, I put up an Instagram story to share that I was off to my first workout with my new personal trainer. I know that might not sit well with everyone in the eating disorder recovery/body positive community- why hire just one more person to tell me how to treat my body and to make my exercise decisions for me?

I’m here to tell you why I got a personal trainer and how this will impact my goal to be completely free of my eating disorder.

First, I want to address the idea that personal trainers are there to dictate your body. That should not be the case, and if you feel controlled by your trainer, it might be time to hire someone else. My personal trainer asked for my input on everything we did and was a positive and supportive force.

To answer the question in the post title- yes, you can have a personal trainer and still strive for complete mental wellness. The question you have to ask yourself is, do you have the right trainer for you? And- do they know what you’ve been through emotionally/mentally/physically? If you are comfortable, it might be a good idea to give them a snapshot of where you’re starting so that they can better tailor your plan to your needs.

My trainer is a 2nd year physical therapy student in my program and is someone I know to be really kind and attentive when I speak with her. I looked up to her before beginning training with her and, in fact, that is the reason that I requested her as my personal trainer. Her compassion and careful attention to detail is exactly what someone like me- someone with pretty heavy anxiety around working out and body image- needs.

***

When I work out on my own these days, I tend to want to overdo it.

Let me rephrase…I definitely overdo it.

I was really active in college (less so while in my Master’s program), and I want nothing more than to get back to that level of activity. However, my mind and body are not ready for that, and I know that because I am facing some orthopedic injuries that would only be worsened by my propensity to go 110% in the gym, I need someone to hold me accountable. Not in the usual Gym Buddy way, but to make sure that I progress slowly and with purpose.

To address the “BOPO” (body positive) side of things- each person has his/her/their own variation of BOPO and what it means to them. I take BOPO to mean caring for my body and my mind, and doing so by giving it what it needs- exercise for a healthy mind, sound heart, strength to be the best PT I can be, and so much more. I have my days where I feel inadequate or ashamed during exercise, but I always feel happier and more relaxed once the workout is over.

Based on that, here’s why I felt personal training would work for me:

  • Personal training is allowing me to enjoy the workout both during and after.
  • I can take my focus off of my body image concerns and put it into my conversation with my trainer – I can be “present.”
  • I’ll get to find workouts that I can enjoy while recovering (via physical therapy! Go PT!) from my injuries.

***

Like I said, I was honest with my trainer from the get-go about my ED and my feelings of low self-worth. I told her that the worst part of it all is that I used to love going to the gym and exercising around other people. It’s that prior-to-injury ability that I can’t help but compare my current self to. My trainer noted that what is great about this new workout plan is that most of the exercises are ones that were not part of my old fitness routine, meaning I have no “fitter” baseline to compare them to. I just do them and strive for consistency and progression over the next few weeks until I see my trainer again.

It is really important to me that I address this last point— I know that getting a personal trainer can be expensive, especially on a grad school budget, and is not accessible to everyone. I don’t mean for this to be unattainable advice, or really advice at all. I’m publishing this post simply in the hopes that it will provide more insight into why I made that decision for myself. Having a trainer is not a necessity for recovery; each person needs something different for their well-being, and no one blog post should decide that for you.

That being said, I want to hear from you! Have you ever had or considered hiring a personal trainer? What was that experience like for you? Let me know in the comments down below.

 

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