Karen Singleton is joining us in the Personal Trainer Zone this week. Karen shares her experience of working with clients with complex needs and answers some of your FAQs.
1) What was your inspiration for beginning a career in the fitness industry and becoming a Personal Trainer?
I have enjoyed sports all my life. I have taken part in everything from horseback riding to Tae Kwon Do to (my all-time favorite) playing Squash. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm caused some injuries, notably to my shoulders. I had surgeries and was forced to hang up my racquet.
After pouting for a while, I – reluctantly – started going to a gym and did the standard stuff at that time; step classes, other cardio and weight training. Surprisingly, I liked it. But because of my history of shoulder problems, I needed to modify things for myself and did not see any trainers that could help me to work around those issues.
At that time, I was in the corporate world. I had just married, and my husband and I decided to follow our hearts and make a career in fitness that we both loved.
I became a personal trainer in 1995 when I was already 40 years old. Because of my personal experience, I was drawn to helping people with issues that require some creativity in modifying exercises.
This has become my focus over the years, and I have deepened my knowledge with constant continued education and learning new techniques such as NeuroKinetic Therapy®, the BioMechanics Method® and MELT®.
2) How many days a week do you recommend working out?
My standard answer is in line with the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) below:
1. “Adults aged 18–64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
2. Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.
3. For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
4. Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.”
However, in many cases, individual circumstances require adjustments. I work with many clients to whom those guidelines are not realistic.
I encourage my clients to find ways to incorporate movement into their daily lives as much as possible. As such, I am an advocate for activity meters and standing desks. I would rather see my clients take a walk outside than walking on a treadmill.
3) How long should you rest between workouts?
For healthy clients, doing moderate intensity whole body workouts, one day rest between workouts may be adequate.
For beginner exercisers, even a lower intensity workout of only 30 minutes or less may require two days rest to recover.
The same is true for people suffering from some autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, those who are recovering from cancer treatments, or those who are very de-conditioned.
4) What is your favourite piece of equipment in the gym and why?
Without a question, my favorite piece of equipment is a big ball.
You can use it to make a bench with your own body. You can also challenge yourself when you sit on it.
Regardless of the use, its inherent unstable nature encourages the body to respond by engaging the intrinsic stabilizers.
Only a stable body can be efficient.
5) What is your top piece of nutritional advice for weight loss?
Ultimately, it’s still a matter of consuming less calories than are being expended.
I encourage healthy eating with little ‘empty’ calories. The Mediterranean diet works for many.
I also discourage the consumption of liquid calories. The body just does not look at those as food.
6) What is the most common injury you see with your clients and what advice can you offer for prevention?
Clients who approach me for personal training are often recovering from injuries and may have a referral from a physical therapist. The areas of injury I encounter most often are shoulder and lower back problems.
To prevent injuries to the shoulder, my advice is to start with good posture. Most people walk around with their shoulders literally attached to their ears. They also have forward rounded shoulders.
This faulty posture destabilizes the entire shoulder girdle. My analogy is that it is like moving a door slightly off the hinges and then opening and closing it constantly. It is not surprise that the hinges will eventually break.
Lower back problems are usually the result of a sedentary life. Even people who exercise regularly often spend many hours per day sitting. The latest slogan of sitting being the new smoking is certainly a good reminder.
The resulting poor posture is a major cause of lower back problems. While the common wisdom of strengthening the abs to prevent lower back pain is a valid one, the importance of good posture cannot be overstated.
7) How do you develop individualised training plans for your clients?
Before the very first exercise session with a new client, I go through a comprehensive screening process.
My contract has a portion in which I inquire into work, exercise and recreational habits and circumstances. I also have a health questionnaire which extends beyond the standard PAR-Q which only screens for cardiovascular risks.
When I meet with a client for the first time, I interview him or her based on the answers to the questions, and we discuss expectations and goals. I then do some ‘house-keeping’ screenings like body composition and blood pressure.
The most important part of the first meeting is a musculoskeletal assessment where I evaluate posture, watch the client move in a squat assessment, and check joint range of motion.
If required, I may make a video of the gait. I may also perform manual muscle testing using the NeuroKinetic Therapy® protocols which enables me to identify compensation patterns.
The goal of all of the above is to find the best entry point for an exercise program. I typically work with clients who have some musculoskeletal problems, are new to exercise and are often in their fifties and beyond.
It is essential to understand potential problem areas before composing any exercise program. Even with younger and seemingly athletic clients, there is often an Achilles heel that reveals itself during this screening process.
8) What is corrective exercise and who can benefit from it?
Corrective exercises are definitely unglamorous, and yet profoundly important. I have go into a bit of (over-simplified) anatomy to explain. The muscles in the body can be divided into two categories: the ones that stabilize and those that move.
Traditional exercises tend to target the moving muscles. Examples include lunges, squats, bench presses, lat pulldowns, and overhead presses. Those are perfectly good and important exercises. They build muscle mass and help create a great physique.
Corrective exercises target the muscles that stabilize. Examples of those muscles are the rotator cuff muscles, the transverse abdominis, and lateral hip stabilizers.
The function of those muscles are to help the body maintain good alignment when performing any of the traditional exercises. A good analogy is to compare those muscles to the foundational structure of a house.
Often, corrective exercises have been prescribed by physical therapists after an injury has occurred. The most commonly seen examples are internal and external rotation of the shoulder.
Corrective exercises in a personal training setting are often the same exercises. The difference is that they are done there to correct an existing weakness that has not yet led to a problem. And even for athletes without any issues whatsoever, such exercises can strengthen the foundation, and thus improve performance in the traditional exercises.
9) You are a MELT instructor – what is MELT and what are the benefits?
MELT® was created by New York City manual therapist and connective tissue specialist Sue Hitzmann and uses a soft body foam roller and four different balls.
MELT® is fundamentally different from traditional ‘foam rolling’, even though some of its techniques appear similar. Its prime target is to restore hydration of fascia which is a major component of connective tissue.
Fascia can be compared to internal scaffolding; its function is to keep the body stabilized and protected. When fascia is compressed for periods of time, it shortens and stiffens like a dehydrated sponge and can no longer return to its original length.
We all know the feeling after sitting too long in a cramped place like an airline seat. Immediate movement usually restores it. But sitting over a lifetime or other repetitive postures compromise this tissue, and poor posture and – subsequently – pain are the result. Poor posture then interferes with the whole-body communication through the nervous system which is imbedded in fascia.
MELT® techniques rehydrate this compressed tissue into its intended function thus restoring better alignment and posture. A second component of MELT® is a series of specialized strength techniques which all fall into the category of corrective exercise.
Regular application of MELT® can restore the body to a much better place as it reduces pain through techniques like low back and neck decompression and length techniques for shoulders and hips. There are also techniques for hands and feet.
It is equally appropriate for a complete novice and for an elite athlete. In either case, it improves function and performance.
10) What are the main services that you offer to your clients?
My ‘bread and butter’ service is one-on-one personal training. How I train my clients ultimately depends on their needs and goals.
With 22 years of experience, I have encountered many different scenarios and issues. I have trained and still train athletic clients but also those with serious conditions such as Parkinson’s and MS. Regardless of the problem, the assessment as outlined above is the cornerstone of my training approach.
Beyond the physical training, I also have certifications as a Health Coach, in behaviour change and weight management. The knowledge I derived from those flows into the time I spend with my clients during our exercise session, even though I provide consultations in those areas as a separate service, if required.
I teach a few classes in the MELT® Method and related connective tissue modalities at a local yoga studio and a physical therapy facility.
About Karin Singleton
Karin Singleton began her career as a Personal Trainer in 1995. Since then she has had a very successful careen in the fitness industry and has built up an impressive range of skills and qualifications.
Karin enjoys working with a variety of people but her interest in helping clients with complex needs has led her to deepen her knowledge in this area. She has a vast amount of experience in this field and is a Medical Exercise and Corrective Exercise Specialist.
To find out more about Personal Trainer Karin Singleton and her services, check out her website KarinSingleton.com.
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