Do You Need a Personal Trainer?

If the thought of heading to the gym garners about as much excitement as watching an episode of 60 Minutes, it may be time to rethink your fitness approach. You may be in a rut due to workout complacency, boredom, or lack of defined goals. Or, if you’re just starting out and are new to the gym, intimidation may be keeping you from exploring all your options and maximizing your use of available equipment and training techniques. A good trainer will address all of these concerns and more. The key is to choose a good trainer. And, determining what “good” is, consists of many qualities, both tangible and intangible.

Here’s the problem. You walk into a new gym and tell them you want to join. You get shuffled to a sales person who gives you a tour, has you fill out a bunch of paperwork and sends you to the Fitness Director or whatever trainer is open and available. Granted, this isn’t always the case, but often times it is.

This comes to my first point: a great gym staff will know its trainers well and will be able to pre-match you to someone who, more than likely, will work well with you. If the staff doesn’t do this, make sure you know what your goals are and ask to be matched to a trainer who specializes in those goals. The more detailed your goals are, the better the match will be.

Next, ask if you can get a trial session or if you can buy a small package with the trainer. This lets you get a feel for the trainer’s personality, knowledge, training style, and compatibility. Since most gyms do not offer refunds on training, this step is crucial.

Once you get to this point, you will begin with a fitness consultation. This is not only for the trainer to assess you, it’s for you to assess the trainer.

Once you find a trainer you like, commit yourself to at least three months with that person. Success doesn’t happen overnight, and the longer you work with the same trainer exclusively, the better he or she will be able to get to know you, your body and lifestyle, and can continue to better custom tailor the program to you. If you pay for the sessions up front, not only will you likely get a discount, but you’ll force yourself to stay accountable for the long-term since you’ve already laid down the cash!

Even after hearing all the benefits of getting a trainer and fitting into the description of a person who should get a trainer, you still may be hesitant for one of several reasons. Here are some common myths about hiring a trainer:

Myth #1: I only need a trainer for a few sessions, just to learn some new machines and get a few ideas. 

Busted! Good trainers do more than give you exercise options and count your repetitions. They offer accountability, especially for those of you with busy schedules or a bit less willpower. They keep you working out efficiently and effectively, monitoring difficulty and intensity. They continually provide feedback on your program and nutritional advice.

Myth #2: I’m afraid if I talk to a trainer, I’ll get tricked into buying a three-month program. 

Busted! #1: Why be afraid? If you’re serious about changing your health, it takes time. Six weeks is the normal time frame to form a habit. Permanent habits (usually changed one or two at a time) lead to lifestyle changes, which ensure your long-term success in health and fitness. If you can turn the rest of your life around in 3 to 12 months, isn’t it worth the time and money invested in your future?

Busted! #2: Most trainers offer programs for as little as two weeks. Think about this though: if you haven’t stuck to a program in the past, do you think you will after working with someone for only a week or two?

Myth #3: Personal Training is very expensive. I can’t afford it.

Busted! #1: If you’re taking your family out to dinner three times a week and if you’ve got Direct TV’s Sunday Ticket package, you can probably afford personal training. It really is a matter of priorities. Think about the investment in your health – something that you can yield a return on in as little as a few days, and as long as the rest of your life. That’s better assurance than your 401k or IRA!

Busted! #2: If you’ve number-crunched and there is no way you can afford training, almost all trainers offer partner training where you and a friend split the costs or half-hour sessions that are about 45 percent cheaper than a full hour.

Busted! #3: Personal training is a valuable exclusive service. You might be able to get a “cookie cutter” program from a weight-loss website or a fitness magazine, but you don’t get the personal time and customization that you get with a trainer. Would you go to a medical Web site for general treatment so you didn’t have to pay a doctor for a proper diagnosis? Probably not!

Busted! #4: If you’ve joined a gym on an annual contract but have worked out three times or less in the past year, you paid more than $300 for one workout! You work hard for your money, so you should invest it in a quality, professional trainer who will give you the most for it.


There are several reasons to consider hiring a personal trainer, such as getting yourself out of a rut or taking your skills to a new level. Here are 10 more reasons:

  1. A trainer can provide you with private instruction and expert advice.
  2. A trainer can help you define, assess and set realistic goals.
  3. A trainer can customize workouts and workout plans to help achieve your goals.
  4. A trainer will keep your workouts/exercises safe and highly efficient for your body.
  5. A trainer will ensure you are doing exercises correctly and will instantly correct you if the exercise is too difficult, doesn’t feel right, or is too easy.
  6. A trainer will challenge you and keep your workouts fresh and fun.
  7. A trainer can introduce you to new techniques and equipment.
  8. A trainer will keep you continually progressing toward your goals and can help you avoid – and quickly get out of – ruts/plateaus.
  9. A trainer will hold you accountable and keep you motivated.
  10. A trainer can help maximize the time you have available.


• Do they look the part and walk the walk? If fitness isn’t a priority for them, how can they expect any more from you?
• Are they qualified with a degree in the field or Nationally-accredited certification?
• How much experience do they have working with clients who have similar goals to yours?
• What other credentials do they have (i.e. athlete, bodybuilder, health/fitness writer)?
• Are they personable, friendly and non-intimidating? Do they make you feel comfortable?
• Do they listen well? Do they seem excited about helping you and committed to your goals?

• Do they ask lots of questions to find out your history and goals?
• Do you get their undivided attention during consultations and training sessions?
• Can they offer testimonials/references?
• Do they keep up to date with education and latest research?


By Alissa Carpio, NASM-CPT