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COLUMN: What is a personal trainer anyway?

News Mirror launches new fitness column
Ron Cain, left, working with Sooke News Mirror editor Kevin Laird. “Every journey is started with a single forward step,” says Cain, a personal trainer. (Sooke News Mirror)

Ron Cain | Contributed

When I started in the fitness industry in 1982, there was no such thing as a personal trainer.

Nonetheless, I paid my way through my fitness degree by teaching fitness classes, weight room orientations and fitness testing.

I travelled to the U.S. to get my accreditation the first time. It’s much easier today: a week of studying one manual and an online multiple-choice test, and presto, you’re an expert (perhaps not your best choice for a trainer!).

The motivation to join a gym or start home-based training is most often weight loss – not surprising with the growing problem of obesity in North America.

ALSO READ: New guidelines urge adults to cap screen time, sedentary behaviour even in pandemic

So why chose a trainer – why not just talk to your doctor? I love my GP, great guy – and he would be the first to admit he is not a fitness expert – it was not a part of his training. I also really like my chiropractor, but it’s not his job to set me up with a program or go with me to teach me how to do exercises. Physiotherapists are also very valuable.

But a good personal trainer works in concert with other medical professionals to provide a continuum of care.

Here is an example: I was screening a 73-year-old healthy vegetarian lady who was fit and lean. Being cautious, I checked her blood pressure, and it was super high. I informed the lady I could not train her unless her blood pressure were brought under control and gave her a form for her doctor called a Par Q Med, which provides the trainer with details from the doctor and their recommendations.

I saw her two weeks later, and she gave me a big hug because I discovered her diagnosed hypertension, and she was doing well on medication. I enjoy working with clients 40 to 95. They provide more challenges and rewards.

Helping a client referred by a physio for a herniated disk is so rewarding when they are pain-free and back golfing – but unlike a pill, adaptive exercise programs take time and effort to work and there lies the rub – not everyone will stick to a program, but when they do the results can be fantastic.

There was a clinic in Toronto that did hip and knee replacements. For a study, all patients on the surgical list were required to exercise three times a week under an exercise specialist’s supervision. After the study, 50 per cent of the patients improved so much they no longer required surgery.

Remember folks: motion is lotion, and every journey is started with a single forward step.


Ron Cain is a personal trainer with Sooke Mobile Personal Training. Email him at

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Ron Cain