It’s rarely acknowledged, but in today’s world, developing a relationship with a personal trainer is pretty important. For some of us, they’re the first person you see in the morning or the last person after you head out of the office. Trainers know you intimately: they see you at your sweatiest and cheer you on to the absolute heights of accomplishment. And, in our busy and demanding lives where interactions are frequently impersonal, working with a trainer gives you permission to take a few minutes of each day for yourself.

Why else is this relationship so valuable? The key word here is personal. Personal training is all about you: your needs, your body, your plans. Most people are surprised to find that their trainers are a little less drill sergeant and a little more therapist, but it’s true! A good trainer looks to you for your input and interprets your body language to find out what you really need.

Here’s what a personal trainer can do for your whole body, including your heart and mind, and why training often forms life-long relationships.

A Personal Trainer Is the Best Coach You’ll Ever Have

Great coaches know when you need to be pushed and when to back off. And they don’t just improve your work ethic or get you to the finish line faster—the best ones change your view of your own limitations and how you approach challenges in your life. But whereas a coach may have 7 to 100 other athletes to work with, a personal trainer has you and you alone in their sights when they’re working with you. That means you get plenty of one-on-one time, leading to a more intimate relationship.

But They Can Also Become Your Best Friend, Too

A lot of clients find that they start becoming exceptionally close to their trainers. After all, once someone sees you sweating from every orifice, your face strained in effort, all pretenses of having it together kind of go out the window. They also get the inside scoop on your love life, your family, and that one annoying coworker in the office. Basically, they’re all ears for anything you’re going through, especially stressors.

Stress tends to be expressed through our body, so if your muscles are tight or you’re looking for an extra aggressive workout to release some built-up tension, your trainer is going to know something’s up. Just as often as not, they end up playing the role of an amateur therapist—one that also gets you a great workout in the process! In fact, most personal trainers are coached to practice “active listening” with their clients, which means they ask questions to get you to open up and paraphrase what you’re saying to make sure they’re hearing you right. Your trainer’s endgame is to understand you better to understand how your day-to-day life affects your body, so don’t be surprised if you end up feeling close to them after working together for a while.

Trainers Teach Fitness as a Coping Method

There’s a value to staying the course, of steadily chipping away at a single goal, no matter what happens around you. While even our closest friendships—indeed, even our marriage or intimate relationships—may be filled with ups and downs, working with a trainer day-in and day-out offers a source of stability for many people. Often, that means that trainers wind up being the ones who help us untangle our feelings during a difficult divorce, or work out frustration when an aging parent becomes ill.

For many, exercise makes for a powerful coping mechanism: physical activity has long been recognized as an effective way to handle stress and other emotional triggers. In fact, some evidence shows that regular exercise can even adapt our coping strategies to ways that are more efficient—for instance, to move toward problem solving sooner, resulting in less stress overall. Trainers and athletes tend to use these skills more than other coping methods, like venting, and usually report lower levels of anxiety and stress. That means that your personal trainer could not only change your whole exercise routine but they could teach skills that help you today, and for the rest of your life.

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Jesse Silkoff is an avid runner and tennis player. He currently resides in Austin, TX where he works as the President and Co-Founder of FitnessTrainer, the leading online marketplace to find a local personal trainer that can help you achieve your health and wellness goals.

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