Fitness: What to Expect

This article was published by Dylan Irving on: 04/20/18 3:20 PM

Fitness isn’t always about how many times you make it to the gym in a week or how many steps you take in a day. For most people, fitness is very much about figuring out a level of overall activity that fits into your lifestyle while challenging you and helping you be an overall healthy person. If you read my blog post about my nutrition services, you may be sensing a trend here.

Here is an outline of what to expect while working with me in terms of a fitness plan. The categories I assess for a new client are:

What is your current level of unplanned physical activity?

What…what is “unplanned physical activity???” Just a fancy way of saying “how much do you move around during your day, NOT counting exercise?” Do you sit in a chair all day, are you driving from place to place, do you work from home, or are you on your feet and moving all day? If you live a sedentary lifestyle now, you don’t need to start out with 3 days per week, 60 minutes per day. Chances are you should start out simply by adding 15 minutes of activity to your week. Sounds manageable, doesn’t it? If you’re worried that this amount of activity wouldn’t be enough for you, don’t. Its simply the first step in a series of steps to get you where you want to go.

On a scale of 1-10, how stressed are you? Take into account your work life AND home life.

What’s your work life like? Are you in a high stress position where you’re managing a lot of people, or in a position to make a lot of important decisions? How much do you like your job? Are you happy? What about your life at home? Our body registers and responds to good stress (called eustress) and bad stress (called distress) the same way. It can’t tell the difference. Your body will register exercise as stress, thus adding it to your overall stress load. If your overall stress level is too high, your body will effectively go into panic mode. This is a situation where adding too much exercise is a very real thing and a very bad idea.

Managing your overall stress level is a very important thing, and often overlooked. A good coach will take this into consideration when programming your overall fitness plan (which, by the way, should likely include things like regular journaling and other stress relieving activities).  For more about stress, click here for a great article from Precision Nutrition.

Do you have a history of injuries or physical limitations?

When we injure ourselves we become much more prone to injury in the same area, or because of compensations from an old injury. I’m able to work closely with physical therapists and orthopedic doctors to address any current injuries, limitations, or imbalances you may be dealing with. We may need to build in some corrective exercises or avoid some exercises to make sure you’re as comfortable as can be.

If you haven’t seen a doctor to address an injury, I have a good relationship with an orthopedic doctor in Baltimore, Maryland. Her bedside manner is top notch, and she will always try to find a solution that works for you. Her referral network is impressive as well; if she can’t help you, she will find someone who can! If you’re a runner or have back pain, my favorite physical therapist to refer out to is Sean Jones with FX Physical Therapy ( Again, if you don’t fit into those categories we will work to find a physical therapist that works for you.

How much time can you commit to working out? How many days per week, and how much time per day?

Do you have 15 minutes once per week, or can you carve out 60 minutes 5 days per week? How much can you commit to without getting overwhelmed? There is no magic number you need to hit in terms of exercise frequency, duration, and intensity. We will start you out at a place that is manageable for you, and build up from there. A steady and consistent progression is the key to your long term success.

What equipment do you have access to?

Full gym access, home gym with limited equipment, or no equipment? Its amazing how much you can accomplishment with no equipment, or only a small selection of dumbbells. No matter what you have access to, a good coach will be able to create a fitness plan that takes this into account.

What is your experience with exercise? How often have you exercised in the past month?

A program for a beginner (someone with less than a year of workout experience, or less than one year of a consistent fitness program experience) will look very different from a program for a person with intermediate experience (2 years of general exercise, or specific program experience), and that will look very different from a program for a person with advanced exercise experience (5+ years of specific program experience). If you were a competitive cyclist for 10 years but haven’t ever lifted weights, you’re an advanced athlete but you would be a beginner at lifting. I start all fitness programs below your intensity threshold, meaning I figure out what I am 100% sure you can accomplish… and start you out a notch or two below that. The goal is to start you off in a way thats comfortable and not overwhelming and slowly and purposefully build up from there.

Are you ready to make this change? What are your hesitations or anxieties?

This is a big one because for most people we’re talking about a pretty big change in behavior. Talking through hesitations and anxieties with me will help me get a better picture of you and what makes you tick. It’ll also help me to address potential stumbling blocks in your big-picture program before you stumble over them. Are you nervous about going to a gym? Lets start by working out at home so you can gain some confidence before you step through the door of your local Planet Fitness. Are you hesitant because you haven’t succeeded with weight loss before? I’ll help you dig in and identify what caused that previously so we can ensure your success this time. In the end, I’ll be much more than your fitness and nutrition coach; I’ll be a partner in your wellness journey.

Video Movement Assessment 

I do a full body assessment to collect information about your body and see what exercises could be best or most appropriate for you. I may also build in some corrective exercises to help with any movement limitations or improper patterns we run into. We hop on a FaceTime or Skype call and I demonstrate a few exercises for you, then have you do the exercises as well. All you need is a little open floor space to do a few simple movements. Here are the movements I assess and why I assess them:

Squats: I watch what goes on at the ankle, knee, and hip, as well as assess posture throughout the movement.
Lunges: I check for general execution of the movement. Single leg movements, like lunges (link exercise video), transfer directly to every day living. More about that in the future.
Overhead Press: Here I’m looking for shoulder movement. Do your shoulders flex far and well enough to get your upper arm vertically next to your ear? I have a few breakouts I use from this assessment to be sure your shoulders are healthy as possible.
Deadlift: Here, I check for general tightness in the hamstrings as well as motor control in the spine. Can you keep your back flat while bending at the hips?
Row: How does the head of the humorous move in the joint capsule? How does the scapula glide over the ribcage?
Weight Bearing on Hands: I believe that crawling and other floor based exercises are essential to preserving long term health and body composition, but if you are limited by your hands, wrists, elbows, or shoulders we may have to use some alternatives.

Once I’ve collected all this information I’m ready to build your fitness program! It comes in the form of either a shared Google Sheet (Android users) or a shared Numbers sheet (Apple users). What I love about these shared exercise journals is that there is no sending back and forth of information. You will see any changes I make in your program in real time, and I can see what information you log into your journal. As a result I’m able to update your program effectively from week to week.

For some beginners, using the exercise videos and careful online instruction is enough. For other beginners and those with various injuries or other considerations, it might be best to see a coach in person either exclusively (to start) or in conjunction with your online program. This is to ensure that you’re kept safe during exercise. For more experienced or even advanced exercisers, less guidance and hand holding is needed and you’re good to go with a general program and updates. You can also send me videos of you doing exercises so I can check your form from time-to-time.

So what do you think? Are you ready to chat about your fitness programming, or simply have some questions you’d like to ask? Click here to schedule your introductory consultation with me.

What about the nutrition component??? I covered that in a blog post here.

Click here for a full description of my programs and pricing.

What is online personal training anyway?

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Who is Dylan Irving?

My name is Dylan Irving. I’m a personal trainer who specializes in body and lifestyle transformations through customized fitness and nutrition guidance.

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