The Most Important Conversation

You’ve joined the gym because you want (or need) to make a change. You smile silently at the team member at the front desk as you key in your check-in number – silently, because you’re already having a conversation with yourself that goes something like: “I’m determined to reach my goal. I’m feeling pretty confident. Well, OK, a tiny part of me is also dreading the point where I’m going to get stuck, where nothing seems to be changing. But personal training is not for me right now, and I’m sure if I ask someone here, that’s going to be the only answer.”

Not true, says Dana Tabacco. She’s the Fitness Manager at 24 Hour Fitness Walnut Creek Super Sport, and works with members as a personal trainer, as well. She knows that for a variety of reasons, personal training is not an option for everyone.

“It kills me to see people walk into the gym, headphones on, and go straight to a cardio machine for 30 to 45 minutes and then walk right back out the door, day in and day out. Most people don’t ask or venture out because they don’t know how or don’t want to look silly, but when you find out how to make the most of all the resources in the gym, you’ll also find out you don’t have to spread countless hours on the treadmill to look and feel great and fit.”

Tabacco would love people to ask these two questions, no matter what gym they belong to, because the answers can be truly rewarding.

Q: Can I get more out of the gym, even if personal training is not an option for me?

Dana Tabacco (DT): Yes! First, just by asking a personal trainer, you’ve got a name and a face that are familiar. And you’ll find out trainers weren’t born fit, or they played competitive sports, or had weight issues, or have kids and partners — so they’re pretty familiar with the challenges as well as the rewards of making an investment in yourself. Not to mention they can probably share a few life hacks that can help. That’s true at any gym.

Second, if you’re walking into a gym for the first time or after a long break, it can be pretty intimidating to figure out where to go and what to do. A trainer can reacquaint you with the gym. At 24 Hour Fitness, we do that in the context of a health and fitness consultation. It’s an assessment that gives you a baseline for what you are ready to take on — that’s your mindset; your current level of activity, your nourishment, and what you do (or don’t) to rest, recover, and get re-energized.

There’s usually opportunity for making some adjustments in one or more of those four aspects of your life. Many times a big takeaway from the assessment is recognition. For example, when it comes to movement, you can adjust to what’s best for you on that given day when you’re just not in a “pedal to the metal” frame of mind. Listening to your body is key: adding variety and preventing overuse and injury will add longevity to your gym experience.

Q: I’ve never used a weight machine or free weights. If I’m not working with a trainer, am I on my own, when it comes to starting to use more of the gym’s resources?

DT: No, you’re not on your own. In fact, the second part of the health and fitness consultation is an assessment of one movement, the overhead squat, which tells us what your needs might be — such as correcting problems, preventing them, or recovering from current or past injury. That gives us a basis for recommending what movement you might consider doing and resources you might use in the gym.

Many times, the assessment reveals something you didn’t even know that you didn’t know about your physiological state or your mindset. Sometimes, that prompts people to decide they want a program to follow, and they want to work with a trainer. If working with someone one-on-one is not a good fit, there are other options, including our online, 24-day “Smart Start” program, and group training through Training Club 24 (TC24).

At this point, I also like to show people the differences between the tools available to them in the gym, especially if they’re unfamiliar. For example, I might show you how a machine will target a muscle or muscle group in isolation, and then show you how a free weight or body weight movement can target that same muscle group and engage others. There are advantages to — or reasons for — each type of “tool.” Your body — and mind — transform through variety, efficiency and new challenges, and there are so many options that there’s no reason to make exercise a punishment. Plus, progress is a lot more fun and exciting than you might have imagined!

Have a question you’d like to submit? Email it to