Personal trainer – Worth the money or waste of time?
With health consciousness and gym popularity at an all-time high, there are no shortages of personal trainers. The big questions is….. Are personal trainers worth the time and money? Time is indispensable and the average hourly rate for personal training is 65 dollars per session. That is expensive considering the average hourly rate earned by an American worker is less than 25 dollars per hour. Sure you cannot put a price on health, but at these rates I need to be damn sure my money is not needlessly spent. This article shares my experience with a personal trainer to give you insight on what to expect and help you decide if the benefits outweigh the cost.
My personal trainer consultation:
Lisa greeted me with a friendly smile. She did not look apart, average height and build, your ordinary next door neighbor. We sat down in her office for a pre-workout chat. She was inviting and witty. Made me feel comfortable and very relaxed. We briefly discussed my day-to-day food intake, injuries, levels of activities, and fitness goals. Like most of her male clients walking through the door, my goal was to increase muscle mass, lose fat, and most importantly obtain chiseled abs of steel that would make superman jealous. Our sit down mostly consisted of note taking by Lisa which lasted roughly 20 minutes and off we went to the weight room.
My opinion: First impressions are everything – the consultation is where you form your mental image and learn if the trainer is a good fit for you. To start , the trainer’s personality should mesh with yours. Training can become dull and boring working with someone who lacks people skills and energy. Second, Your trainer should look distinct. If not, it likely means this individual does not have the will, discipline, motivation, or possibly the knowledge to improve themselves……how can they help you? Lastly, be sure your trainer is certified. There are numerous credible personal trainer certifications.
Here is a list of my top 5 personal trainer certifications:
1. American Council on Exercise (ACE)
2. National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
3. International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
4. American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
5. National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
Lisa started me off with 5 minutes of stretching and 15 minutes of pre-workout cardio on the bicycle. A steady cruising pace, enough to slightly raise my heart rate but far from exhaustion. Throughout my cycling ride, she explained the benefits of warming up. Most notably it lessens the risk of injury and reduces muscle soreness.
The first exercise performed was 10 strict form push ups followed by alternating dumbbell shoulder press supersets, which she described as a fantastic combination for chest building and shoulder stability. This combination was performed twice for a total of 4 sets. The second set of push ups were executed at a slower pace. The shoulder press started off with a pair of 25 lb dumbbells and finished with pairs of 35s, all of which I easily performed. The next exercise set consisted of pairing sit ups with barbell squats and pairing pull-ups with alternating dumbbell bicep curls. Each exercise followed the same superset concept but with different reps and weight variations.
My opinion: This is where you learn if your trainer is experienced and knowledgeable. For example: I have a bad habit of holding my breath when lifting weights. Lisa quickly noticed and walked me through breathing techniques like which point of the exercise to inhale and exhale. You will also learn if your trainer is inspirational and can effectively evaluate your abilities as well as motivate you for maximum gains. In my case, Lisa was unwilling to push me or failed to realize some of the weights we used were fairly light and not conducive to muscle growth.
Back at Lisa’s office for the sale pitch
Sessions were available in lengths of 30, 60, and 90 minutes. She recommended the latter 60 or 90 minutes based on my fitness goals and current fitness condition. Number of sessions came in at 5, 10, and 20 packages. Package prices were heavily tiered similar to your cable company where you are compelled to purchase the more expensive package due to the additional discounts. Packages did not include diet plans. Food planning is a separate service provided by the gym’s nutritionist expert…… at an additional cost of-course. Surprisingly Lisa did not make much of an effort to up-sell the nutritionist add-on. She thought my current diet was good and only required minor tweaks that she would be able to help with.
My opinion: Although these prices were mid range compared to the industry, they were still very expensive. With proper research, you can find inexpensive personal training services in the range of 20 to 25 dollars per session. Also keep in mind more likely than not gym and trainer prices are ALWAYS negotiable, regardless of what is said or advertised. In my case, I successfully negotiated the 60 minutes/ 5 sessions package down by 30% , a 105 dollar savings after I expressed the packages were unaffordable and raised up from my chair. The trainer quickly played the car salesman tactic of ” let me check if my manager can make an exception for you”. This reiterated the notion gym trainers are salesmen above all.
Should you hire a personal trainer?
Yes. If you fall under these categories.
- Lack motivation
- Requires accountability
- Can afford it
- Needs to reach new heights
- Needs new effective programs
No, If you fall under these categories
- Self motivated
- Cash strapped
- Willing to self learn
- Time scarcity
- You like to do you
There’s no such thing as a perfect trainer. The key is to assess benefits vs drawbacks. Ask yourself does your trainer possess enough positive qualities to help you grow? Are you able to progress to the next level? If your answer is yes, hire the trainer.
In my case, I did not proceed with Lisa. Not because she failed my assessment. In fact she was under consideration but my mind was preset on testing training alternatives such as cross-fit before committing. I ended up in a local boxing gym equipped with a full gym that had an excellent community. Here I was reaping the benefits of small-group classes with one-on-one attention paired with intense high interval weight training that challenged and elevated my workouts.