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Everything You've Ever Wanted to Ask a (Semi) Personal Trainer

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Welcome to Racked's Fitness Week: five days of workout coverage, so that you can start your New Year's resolutions off right.

Kelvin Gary founded Body Space Fitness on 14th Street after years at a desk job that left him wondering how he could be so young but feel so old. He got his personal training certification mostly to work on himself, but at the request of friends started training others and slowly growing a client list.

At Body Space Fitness, Kelvin's team offers semi-private training—in addition to one-on-one sessions and small group classes—which efficiently uses a trainer's time and a client's dollar bill. After the jump, learn how Kelvin got the guts to leave his well-paid office gig, what exercise people bitch about the most, and why working out with a few strangers will probably get you results faster.

How did you get into this fitness?

In college I played a little bit of sports and have always been an athlete. When I started working as a full time professional, I was an engineer in the field—stressful job but it wasn't too bad because I was on my feet a lot. When I moved into being an engineer behind the desk, I started to notice things that shouldn't necessarily happen were starting to happen—like here I am in my upper to mid twenties and I'd have lower back pain, I was overweight, my knees hurt.

I actually did my personal trainer certification more so to figure out what was going on with me and how I could change it. A young adult shouldn't be aging before his time. One night a couple of my friends from business school were out having a drink and there was a group of girls that were our friends that were talking about fitness and asking questions. I'd start to answer their questions and they'd look at me like, "How do you know all this stuff?"

I started training [other people] and realized that I really liked it and really enjoyed it, people I trained really enjoyed it they saw results they felt better and before too long I had a master client list of about ten clients that I would see in the morning before my normal day job and at night and the weekends. After a while I came to the reality that my current job—while it paid really well— was very rough and wasn't what I thought my purpose was.

Was there any particular moment when you knew it was time to leave your desk job?

We were in the middle of my department fighting with another department and my boss sits down on my computer and types out an email to an executive in another department. Here's this email that looks like it's coming from me but it has the tone and the scathing wrath from my boss, but coming from my email. It got to the point where I would walk out at lunch and go to Duane Reade, sit on the blood pressure machine and my blood pressure would be like pre-hypertensive. I'm pretty sure I was put on this earth for something else.

Your gym focuses mostly on one-on-one training but you also offer group classes, correct?

The unique thing about us is that we do one-on-one training but that's actually not our focus. We actually specialize in is something called semi-private training.

Do you take strangers into the semi-personal training?

Oh yeah. Think about it. Strangers show up to class together right? We assess everyone individually and we usually do one session one-on-one before people join a group. Within the group we will have no more than three clients with a trainer at a time but those three people could be doing three totally different workouts. Each client has their own program.

One of the things you out of [personal training] is the most focused attention [from the trainer] but there's going to be some time frame within that session where it's really me, watching you, counting. Alternatively, I can set you up with the core part of your work out, have you do that stuff, and have two other people going at the same time and be watching and coaching all three people, still giving them pretty individualized attention.

How does that impact cost for the client?

That instantaneously lets us decrease the cost by a third. Plus, it has been shown that clients get results faster when they do things in private groups with an individualized program. It definitely has a lot of benefits in addition to efficiency and in addition to lowering the price point. The faster [my clients] get results, the better the marketing is for me.

It seems like trainers right now have been very interested in battle ropes, kettle bells, and these almost medieval pieces—you never see trainers with clients on machines anymore. Why is that, and what do you attribute it to?

You need to get up, train the body as it was designed—as one fully integrated functioning machine. And this is where my engineering background comes into place. Whole body functional training is our philosophy. Am I going to get them their results faster by making them do shoulder day, leg day, or saying, "Hey, we're going to work everything head to toe, we're going to work it hard, you're going to be sore the next day, you're going to rest up, you're gong to eat right, you're going to come back and work everything hard again."

We use tools that are simple, multifunctional, that you can get your entire body involved in. You can do tons of different things with a rope to work your entire body. A kettle bell swing is a total body exercise. People don't really get that. It's working top and bottom when done the right way. Um, sled. Pushing a sled that's a total body exercise.

When it comes to designing a program for a client, do you take into account what they like doing or is that really not the point?

If someone tells me that I hate running on the treadmill, then chances are I'm not going to put you on a treadmill. If someone says I hate squats. I'll say ok, well, a squat is a very basic exercise. It's a pretty important exercise and we squat a lot in life. I try to dig into it. Why exactly do you hate squats? And it might just be a matter of, "That freakin' bar across my back hurts like hell." Has anyone shown you a sumo squat? Has anyone shown you a kettle bell goblet squat? Has anyone shown you a sandbag squat? Has anyone shown you a dumbbell goblet squat? Has anyone shown you a high low kettle bell squat?

You're going to find a squat that they'll do.

Exactly. Or is it just squats hurt you? Squats hurt my knee. Great. Well, pain is usually a sign that we need to step back and ask why does it hurt? Does that person need to do a bit more trigger point work before I have them do a squat. You know? When someone tells me that they don't like to do something, I'll say ok, well, why. And if their answer is I hate it. I walk all the time, I run on my own so I don't have to run on the treadmill. I rowed in college so don't put me on the rower. But if it's like one of our basic movements and it's something that I know is beneficial to them, I'll dig in and try to ask you know questions that will hopefully lead me to something that will let me help them change their mind on it.

What exercise or moves do people bitch about the most?

Have you ever heard of the Versa Climber? I put people on that to do metabolic conditioning intervals and they hate it.

What's the hardest exercise to do? It's whatever you're not doing. I go to a Flybarre class and for me, it's hard as hell. I go take pilates and it's hard as hell because I don't do it.

Getting back to semi-personal training: When you do have groups of people who do know each other, have you seen any trends in relationships that seem to get results together better?

I think it's probably a tie between sisters and roommates that do a good job. Roommates rat on each other. One will come in and say, "She missed this week." Husbands and wives sometimes can be hard accountability partners for each other.

Are there any complimentary exercises or classes you recommend to your clients to do when they're not with you?

Ninety percent of the clients that come in to the gym are looking for fat loss results. Resistance training and metabolic resistance training with a lot of cardio at the end is going to be number one behind a proper diet when it comes to decreasing body fat. Interval-style cardio is going to be number two. I recommend that they do some sort of interval training that is cardio-based in nature. They can do jumpsquats, they can do walkouts, they can do mountain climbers.
· Body Space Fitness [Official Site]
· All Fitness Week 2014 posts [Racked NY]

Body Space Fitness

47 W 14th St, NYC