No One-Fit Fitness

Appears in the October 2022 issue.

Fitness is not one-size fits all. The search for the ideal gym, trainer, and fitness regimen to match your specific workout needs varies widely from person to person and depends on your preferences, personality, and fitness level. Hot yoga, spinning, and boxing are great for some, but not for everyone. Perhaps you prefer the motivation of a small group or instead enjoy the quietude of independent training.

Steve Hlavac has seen that quest play out time and time again over his more than 13 years as a personal trainer, including the past 10 as owner of Beyond Measure Fitness Training in Naperville. Many of Hlavac’s clients, in fact, are folks either getting into exercise and fitness for the first time or trying to resume their workout habits after a long layoff. That has given him keen insight into the things people should be paying attention to—and the questions they should be asking—as they (re)start their workout journeys. 

Realistic self-assessment

Among the considerations when evaluating a potential gym or trainer are one’s past fitness experience, health limitations, and general level of activity. And when it comes to personal trainers, ask about their education, background, and experience. Do they work with people at your level? Does their focus really fit with your goals? Does their temperament mesh with yours? 

Hlavac says this type of research and self-examination can help alleviate problems down the road, particularly the kind that can cause a person to give up on exercise before giving it a chance. “For example, the last thing someone with very little experience should be doing is jumping into a large class. No matter how good the trainer, the chances of he or she being able to keep a good eye on that person or to provide the right amount of individualized attention are pretty slim.”

Reasonable goals

One of Hlavac’s favorite analogies relates to martial arts. Just as you wouldn’t expect to be a black belt after two weeks of karate lessons, you shouldn’t expect to be crushing difficult workouts or lifting massive weights right off the bat. Further, some people don’t bother starting an exercise routine because they think they have to work out four or five days a week to make it worthwhile, when the truth is that any movement can be a good start. Hlavac says developing the right mindset from the outset is crucial for sustained success. 

“You have to have the long-term view that all of these fitness movements and routines are skills that take practice,” he explains. “Start off nice and easy and learn the proper technique; as you get more comfortable over time, you can start to ramp up the intensity level. Overall, let consistency trump intensity every time.”  

Healthy muscles, healthy mind

Exercise does a body—and your brain—good. Hlavac believes one of the most underrated components of exercise is the postworkout mental boost a person gets. Regular exercise, he says, is just as good for the mind as it is for the body. “So much emphasis is put on the physical impacts of exercise, but the mental-health aspect is so important as well.”

And that comes from finding the workout routine that fits you best—and that you can best stick with.