Recently someone mentioned in passing that I was anti-personal trainer. Not true. Even though bad personal trainers provide plenty of material for Tales From the Glitter Gym, not all personal trainers are bad. And it takes two to tangle. If the best trainer in the world has a client that only wants to “tone up” their fat triceps via kick-backs, well they are going to have limited success.
Let me list the reasons that I see for hiring a personal trainer.
- Motivation – Some people need a push to get in the gym. Some people need a push to add more weight or do an additional set.
- Education – Going into a gym can be overwhelming. Figuring out how to do exercises safely and with proper form takes time. Hiring an expert can increase that learning process. In addition to learning the exercises, the trainer will also construct a sequence of exercises or plan.
- Results – There is no getting around the fact that paying customers will demand results.
- A Friend – What starts as a professional relationship can turn into a friendship.
Before I render a verdict, I’ll go through each reason.
- Motivation – Motivation takes practice. Having a trainer push you, especially when you first start an exercise plan, can be very helpful. As one makes progress, self-motivation should come easier. My advice is not to become completely dependent on a trainer for motivation. Push yourself. Just like any other exercise, it takes practice.
- Education – This is the BEST reason to hire a personal trainer. They have knowledge that you do not have. You are hiring them to share that subset of knowledge that will help you achieve your fitness goals. Listen and ask questions. And don’t just rely on your personal trainer for all your fitness knowledge. Even though I do not have a personal trainer, I read books and articles by the best trainers in the business. Although trainers will disagree on the choice of exercises and plans, they usually agree on the safe way to perform an exercise.
- Results – Here is the dirty secret that took me a long time to learn. Diet is about 80% of the game. For women, it is probably closer to 90%. That means no matter how great your trainer is and how wonderful your workouts are, they will all be undone with poor eating habits. No personal trainer is going to make you leaner. Only you are. So how do you measure results? Simple. Are you getting stronger and gaining endurance? Don’t hold a trainer accountable for your belly fat, but fire them if you aren’t getting stronger.
- A Friend – There are cheaper ways to get a friend. The problem with becoming friends is the professional dynamics change. I see it all the time. The intense workouts get replaced with chat sessions. The client starts showing up late or missing appointments – because now they are friends. The education stops and is replaced with gossip. Keep your relationship professional, even if means turning off your naturally friendly nature. For more background on this concept, read The 48 Laws of Power (law #2).
Most of my issues with personal trainers are honest disagreements about exercise choice and the high repetition nonsense. Hiring a personal trainer can be a wise decision if it is for the right reasons (education and some motivation).