Do I Really Need a Personal Trainer?

The buff and the beautiful parade across the big screen, the TV screen, and the computer screen—those celebrities with not a spare ounce of fat–trim-waisted and perfectly toned. Now, that’s what I want to look like, you think. And when you hear or read an interview with one or another of those whose flawless bodies you covet, all the credit goes to the personal trainers who spend endless hours putting them through their paces, driving them toward the Hollywood ideal of physical perfection, keeping current their membership in World’s Most Beautiful People Club.

So, you think, all you need to do is hire yourself a personal trainer. After all, trainers aren’t just for the rich and famous any more. That’s exactly right—they aren’t. But before you pick up the phone to book a trainer, stop and ask yourself if this is something you really need. After all, couldn’t you just join a gym chock full of state-of-the-art fitness equipment and go at it on your own?

Know Thyself

There are different routes to personal fitness, and the best one for you is going to depend on a number of factors.


Your financial situation: While it’s true that personal trainers have come down from Olympus and are no longer only for the rich and famous, training is still an expense. According to Dr. Sal Arria, president of the National Board of Fitness Examiners, the average trainer charges $60-$70 per session. That said, it is possible to find a trainer who charges as little as $25 per hour in some geographical areas. These may be new to the field and less experienced.

Your needs: What do you want to achieve through your exercise program? Are you trying to improve your overall health and fitness? Are you training for a specific sport or athletic event? Looking to sculpt your body for competition? Have you ever been injured, or do you have health conditions that need to be considered.

Your personality: Are you a person who performs better with a buddy? Or are you a more independent type who prefers to focus on individual goals without the need for face-to-face interaction with other people?

Your motivation: Are you self-motivated, a self-starter, or to you function better with an external source of motivation?

Your experience: Have you exercised much in the past, or are you a rank beginner? How familiar are you with fitness equipment and how it is used?

Making a Decision

Now let’s look at how these considerations will affect your decision as to whether you need a personal trainer.

Finances: You may decide, after careful consideration of your finances, that you can’t fit the hourly rates available in your area into your weekly budget. If you can’t, there are still options available to you. You can try to go it alone, develop a fitness plan from books, and try to follow the diagrams for proper form and adhere to the fitness charts the books provide. You can watch how others in the gym use the fitness equipment, but be warned: many of these exercisers probably learned from watching, too, and might have been observing incorrect form.

You have several options if finances are an issue:

• Hire a trainer for several sessions, to set up a fitness program for you and coach you in proper form. Once you feel confidant, go it alone, adding distance, reps, or whatever at intervals.

• You might consider foregoing one-on-one training and sign up for a series of small-group training sessions at your gym. You will get personal attention, albeit less, and have your group members as well as your trainer for motivation.

• Sign on with an online personal trainer. You will get individualized one-on-one advice at a much lower price.

Needs: If you mainly want to improve your general health and fitness with a combination of cardio and uncomplicated weight training, you might be able to swing it without the professional input a trainer can provide. On the other hand, if you have special needs, such as training for a specific activity, event, or competition, or if you need a program tailored to your physical limitations or health conditions, you will benefit from the expertise of a trained professional

Personality: If you consider yourself a self-contained person and don’t see socializing or personal interaction as a big part of your fitness program, you may feel inclined to go it alone. But be aware that you may be missing out on many of the benefits a knowledgeable and experienced trainer can provide. If you don’t want a person breathing down your neck, you may be a person who can benefit from the services on online personal trainer. You will have the advantages of a trainer’s expert advice while not feeling compelled to maintain social interaction while you focus on meeting your exercise goals

Motivation: If motivation is an issue, you may benefit from hiring a trainer. For some people, paying out that fee is a powerful motivator to show up and get to work. (Do you clean that last bite off your plate when you eat in a restaurant, even when you’re uncomfortably full, because you paid for the meal?)

Other ways to become motivated are:

• Committing to work out with a friend for mutual encouragement.

• Working with an online trainer who can provide the encouragement and motivation that will help you stay focused.

Experience: If you are new at the fitness game, you will benefit from one-on-one training and advice—at least until you have a program that works for you, and know that you are performing the correct exercises and performing them properly. Again, if finances are an issue, you can opt for short-term start-up, small group training, or online training.

Personal trainers are excellent sources of inspiration, motivation, knowledge and advice. The good news is that today there are many training options available to choose from. Whether you decide on one-on-one personal training, small group training, or online training, there is a fitness training solution for everyone who really wants to make it happen.

About the Author

Carol is a freelance writer for a fitness website. She enjoys helping others stay fit and live healthy lives. She can be found at the gym or park if she is not busy writing.