So you joined a new gym. Congrats! Now for the sales pitch: The manager gently suggests (or, err, pushes) you into getting a free training session.
Sure, they probably want to rope you into buying a package—but you should absolutely take advantage of this nice perk. That’s because even one session with a personal trainer can you learn the correct way to perform common exercises, like squats or lunges. You can also use it to get ideas for how to structure your workouts or how to use a new-to-you piece of equipment. And who knows, you might even find that you love working with a personal trainer—and that the cost is worth it to you.
But before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you know these crucial pieces of information about your future trainer:
Your first task: Go to the gym and do a bit of spy work. Watch how a trainer acts with his or her clients, suggests Marta Montenegro, a certified personal trainer and adjunct professor of exercise physiology at Florida International University. Do they talk too much? Not enough? Are they really pushing their clients when you like a softer approach? Or are they too light when you want more of a hard ass? Your goal is to find two or three trainers that you’d be interested in doing an intro session with (from there, you’ll narrow it down). It also helps to go to the gym at different times, otherwise you may miss out on really great trainers that would be perfect for you, she says. (Torch fat, get fit, and look and feel great with Women’s Health’s All in 18 DVD!)
Get to know their certifications and specialties. The American Council on Exercise, American College of Sports Medicine, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association are just a few that certify professionals. These organizations all offer certifications that are all accredited, officially recognized, by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, meaning they require trainers to pass a test proving they really know exercise science. Make sure yours has the proper cred.
Don’t hestitate to ask about a potential candidate’s training philosophies, too, to see if you feel like they actually do know enough, even if they’re certified at a high level. And, also ask if they specialize in anything—prenatal or postnatal fitness, weight management, sports conditioning, fitness nutrition, etc., to ensure they’re the best person to help you. One more question: Ask them what they do during their free time, says Montenegro. It should be something active—you want to make sure they walk their talk, too.
- Related: 5 Women Share Exactly How They Totally Transformed Their Butts
- Related: 3 Strength-Training Habits You Should Quit Immediately
- Making It Work
- 1. Find the Right Match
- 2. Focus on Clear Goals
- 3. Develop a Strong Working Relationship
- 4. Know When to Move On
- Should You Get a Personal Trainer?
- How to Find (and Afford) Personal Training
- Is It Worth It To Be a Personal Trainer?
- What Personal Trainers Should NOT Do
- Why be a personal trainer?
- Personal trainer education and other requirements
- 5 Things Your Personal Trainer Wishes You Knew
- Look for certifications over Instagram hype
- Set clear expectations and make sure they’re on the same page
- Start with one session to see if you’re compatible
- An easy glute workout to lift and firm your butt
- Make checklists of positives to refer to after sessions
- Check for these red flags…
- They understand the difference between ‘pain’ and ‘burn’
- They don’t stick you on a treadmill for 20 minutes
- How much should you be paying for a PT?
- What are the benefits of a PT?
- The Fix
- Step One: Shifting the mind-set, from time to goals
- Step Two: Your life vs. Your Life in the Gym
- Step Three: Personal trainers as coach, friend, and service
- Step Four: Making progress, and using your voice
- Step Five: How long should you have a personal trainer: The most popular client goals, and how long(ish) people take to achieve them!
- Working with a Personal Trainer | What to Expect
- Personal Trainer Job Description: What You’ll Do
- What does a personal trainer do?
- What education or certification will I need to be an athletic trainer?
- What career paths can I take as a personal athletic trainer?
Ask yourself what you hope to get from your sessions. Do you find lifting weights intimidating but want to learn how? Do you need to up your endurance to train for a half-marathon? Or are you looking to lose weight? Bust a plateau? By clearly communicating with a potential trainer why you’re there and what you’re looking to get out of it (even if it is just “I wanted to see what this whole PT thing is about!”), you can make sure they’re a fit.
10 plank variations that’ll help you mix up your workout routine:
Make sure the trainer is looking at you—not just slapping everyone with a one-sized-fits-all plan. At the beginning, you might see results just by doing anything, says Montenegro. “But later on, you need a clear vision for what you want to accomplish,” she says. They should also ask if you have any health or medical conditions, and if you’re taking any medication (some can affect your heart rate). Before you start, they should also check your flexibility, strength, and endurance before hopping into formal sessions.
Don’t necessarily rely on staff recommendations at the gym. They’re running a business and the reality is they may need to help trainers who don’t have many clients. Instead, ask the trainer for client referrals. When you talk to their clients, ask as many questions as you can think of: How long have you been with them? What are sessions like? Are you getting closer to your goals? How do they make you feel when you’re working out?
Related: 3 Strength-Training Habits You Should Quit Immediately
If after all that you found a trainer you like but don’t want to do the solo training thing, ask if they offer partner sessions (where you bring a friend or partner). They may also offer small group training that you can jump into. Both approaches up the accountability factor, which is great, as research shows that can help you stick with your workouts. Plus, group rates are often less expensive.
Jessica Migala Jessica Migala is a health writer specializing in general wellness, fitness, nutrition, and skincare, with work published in Women’s Health, Glamour, Health, Men’s Health, and more.
The decision to hire a personal trainer is an empowering one. Putting a dedicated fitness expert in your corner can net you invaluable expertise and support for devising a smart workout strategy, overcoming emotional and physical roadblocks, and getting the real results you’re after.
According to an American College of Sports Medicine survey, personal training is a top trend for 2011, ranking above core training classes and boot camps in popularity. So, clearly, a lot of people are figuring out that it’s well worth the investment. Establishing an optimal training relationship, though, isn’t as simple as strolling into your health club and booking a session with the first PT who has an open spot in his or her schedule.
First, the two of you are going to be spending a lot of time together, so it’s worth putting in some legwork upfront to make sure you find someone with the right skills and chemistry. Second, you need to make sure you’re ready to do your share of the work required to get what you want out of the bargain.
“Whether you’re new to exercise or you’ve been working out on your own for a long time, using a personal trainer can give you that extra nudge,” says Tom Manella, senior director of personal training at Life Time Fitness in Chanhassen, Minn. “But you’ve got to show up for the experience, body and soul, and be really clear about creating a two-way exchange that works for you.”
Making It Work
After two years of regularly going to a health club, Michelle Nielsen, 36, of Phoenix, wasn’t seeing the results she had hoped for. She admits she felt overwhelmed by all the choices. “I would walk in and see a hundred machines and have no idea where to start. I’d flounder and wander, and eventually I got really frustrated and stopped going,” she says.
Nielsen realized that what she needed was direction and affirmation. “I wanted someone more knowledgeable than me to tell me what I should be doing, and that I was doing a good job,” she says.
Because Nielsen’s husband had been successful working with a personal trainer, she decided to sign up for training sessions, too. Having never invested that much time or money in herself, Nielsen didn’t know what to expect — from her trainer, or from the whole experience.
“Before the introductory session, I was really nervous. I sat in my car for a really long time before going inside,” she says. But once she met with the trainer, discussed her history and her goals with him, and began her plan, her anxiety evaporated.
“My trainer, Ryan Clark, was a great match for me,” she says. Nielsen was delighted to find that Clark was down to earth and respectful of her need for an unintimidating environment. He helped her outline specific goals and guided her toward them without pushing too hard. “It was a very personal journey for me from the get-go, and Ryan recognized that,” she says. “He was proud of me for being there. He knew that for me, showing up was a battle in and of itself.”
Over the course of two months of training with Clark three times a week, Nielsen experienced dramatic results. “My fitness improved leaps and bounds, and my body shape changed — but more importantly, I noticed a huge change in how I feel about myself.”
For Nielsen, hiring Clark proved to be time and money well spent — a happy meeting of minds, personalities, priorities and expectations. Looking to create that same sort of synergy with a trainer who’s dedicated to helping you achieve your own goals? Read on to discover four essential keys to success — gathered from experienced trainers and satisfied clients alike.
1. Find the Right Match
“Shopping around and meeting potential trainers is an important first step,” says Manella. Searching online can be overwhelming, so ask your local club for recommendations based on your objectives and fitness experience, talk with friends or family members who have used trainers, and speak with trainers on the gym floor, he suggests.
“Begin by asking about their credentials,” advises Kelli Calabrese, MS, CSCS, master trainer for Adventure Boot Camp in Orange County, Calif. Certifications, she says, are one way to ensure that trainers have the education required to competently design safe and effective exercise programs. So be sure to ask how long they’ve been training and whom they’re certified through. Because there are a number of organizations that certify trainers, focus on someone with national certifications (such as those from the American Council on Exercise, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association, or the American College of Sports Medicine) or a trainer with a degree in exercise science.
And make sure those certifications are current. “An expired certification is not a good sign,” says Manella. Another bad sign: trainers who work in run-down facilities. “Top-line gyms often have the best trainers,” says Philip Goglia, PhD, a Santa Monica–based personal trainer, registered nutritionist and author of Turn Up the Heat: Unlock the Fat-Burning Power of Your Metabolism (Viking Penguin, 2002). If the place gives you the creeps, chances are good that the trainer isn’t a winner either, he says.
Once you meet with the trainer or speak on the phone, you can better gauge his or her experience, the experts say. “You’ll want to know what types of training they specialize in and whether that fits with your situation and goals,” Calabrese says. A trainer with a basic certification will likely not be able to help you train for a figure competition or a triathlon, though. “There are specialty coaches out there who can help you tap into getting an edge on an individual sport,” she adds.
To help determine if a prospective trainer is right for you, Manella suggests asking him or her these questions:
1) What’s your experience working with people like me? (Specify your goals: losing weight, training for an event, coming back after an injury, building strength, etc.)
2) What results have you achieved with your clients? Over what time span?
3) Can I talk with some of your clients? (A good trainer should have no trouble providing references.)
4) How would you describe your style? (Some trainers are gentle and encouraging, while others are more aggressive; some direct, others collaborate.)
5) How much do you charge? (Rates vary a lot based on the trainer and location — anywhere from $30 to $300 per hour — but average from $50 to $100.)
6) Do you offer small-group sessions or other services, such as online training?
If possible, observe the trainer working with another client, suggests Jamie Atlas, founder of Bonza Bodies fitness studio in Denver. “It takes about five minutes of watching to know if the trainer is more into the client or themselves. Habits like chatting too much, being easily distracted and generally having low energy are warning signs of what might be to come,” says Atlas.
Beyond that, personal dynamics are key, says Manella. In other words, it helps if you genuinely like the trainer. “That doesn’t mean you have to be mirror images of each other, but common ground is important,” adds Goglia. “If you have one person who’s cracking sarcastic jokes and someone else who’s very serious, that could be a bad match. You want to be in tune.”
2. Focus on Clear Goals
Prior to your first active training session, discuss your objectives with your trainer so that he or she can come up with an appropriate plan to achieve them.
That process may involve some assessment drills: “You want to have an initial measure of things like posture, balance, flexibility and strength,” Goglia says. “It’s critical to record and retest to understand if you’re getting anywhere.” Depending on the trainer and your goals, you might also measure body-fat percentage, cardio fitness and body weight.
If you’re out of shape or haven’t worked out recently, your trainer may recommend an initial period of training designed to help you build a fitness base and avoid injury. That’s a good thing, because it will make all your subsequent workouts more effective. But right from the beginning, you should see the connection between the plan your trainer has laid out and the goals you want to achieve.
“It’s important to tweak that plan every few weeks as you improve,” says Alwyn Cosgrove, a Newhall, Calif.–based personal trainer and coauthor of The New Rules of Lifting book series (Avery). “But everything you do should be moving you toward your goal — whether that’s improving your cardio output, increasing your strength, losing weight or all of the above.”
If there are days you’re working out alone, you’ll need the trainer to map out the specific exercises you should complete, along with sets and reps. “Your trainer should provide you with routines that have a balance of both upper body and lower body, and also focus on the weaknesses you’re trying to improve,” says Goglia. “But you shouldn’t be doing the same exercises every single session.”
3. Develop a Strong Working Relationship
During the first few sessions, pay attention to how well you and your trainer sync up. Do you understand what she’s telling you to do? How well do you communicate with one another? Is she clued in to your body language to know when you need to be pushed harder and when you’ve had enough? Do you feel motivated or punished by her feedback?
As with any good relationship, you should feel like the trainer brings out the best in you. How he or she goes about reaching that objective may vary. “People have very different learning styles and motivational preferences,” says Manella. “Some clients want to understand the science behind every movement. Others just want someone to demonstrate how it’s done.” Some clients appreciate a little tough love, he notes — the kind you might get from a boot-camp-style trainer. Others want a gentler, more understanding approach.
The important thing, most experts agree, is voicing those preferences to your trainer so that he or she can respond. “Ask yourself, ‘Am I better with this person than I am alone?’” advises Manella.
A good trainer will also be open to answering any questions or concerns you bring to each session. If something isn’t working for you, or you hit a plateau, the trainer should be adaptable and work with you to adjust the routine.
No matter what the trainer’s style, he or she should strive to find ways to make exercise as natural and habitual for you as eating and drinking, says Shannon Wallace Jr., CPT, founder of 368 Athletics in Frederick, Md.
“I tell our trainers their primary job is education,” says Manella. “A good trainer should give you everything you need to know to make fitness a permanent part of your lifestyle.”
Of course, whether or not you comply with that encouragement is up to you. “If you’re only seeing me once a week, then you’ll need to weight train at least twice a week outside of our sessions to see the results you want,” says Eric Wilson, MS, a Seattle-based exercise physiologist and creator of the Comprehensive Lifestyle Plan, a personal-training philosophy that focuses on the whole person. Wilson suggests you duplicate the training experience at home as best you can: Put on music that gets you going, he suggests. Warm up. Give yourself a pep talk. “You need to be able to get in the zone even though it’s just you,” he says.
Happily, the more you get to know your trainer, the more you’ll automatically hear his or her voice directing you through the moves. After a while, you’ll begin to internalize that advice, and it will become second nature.
4. Know When to Move On
Eventually, all training relationships come to an end — ideally, for the happiest of reasons: The client has achieved his or her initial goals, has successfully integrated exercise into his or her lifestyle, and no longer feels the need for a trainer.
Perhaps there’s another chapter in store — refresher sessions, next-phase objectives, sports-specific training — or perhaps not. It’s entirely up to you. Let your budget, priorities and training appetite be your guide.
For Michelle Nielsen, the conclusion of her training sessions felt like a graduation of sorts. “Ryan and I both sensed my confidence and skills had reached a point that I might be able to join his small-group class.” That way, says Nielsen, she still benefited from his direction and expertise, but the classes were more affordable than private sessions.
For some clients, a limited package of training sessions is all they want or can afford at the moment. Other clients are in it for the long haul: “They have the means to pay for a trainer indefinitely, and they like the ongoing accountability and motivation the trainer provides,” says Manella.
As long as the cost-benefit analysis is working in your favor, the decision to keep training is easy. But what do you do when the relationship just isn’t working, or when the investment isn’t paying off the way you’d hoped?
Many clients rightfully walk away when they lose confidence in the trainer’s commitment to their results, says Jamie Atlas. “Clients sense when a trainer has stopped caring and started taking them for granted,” he says.
“If you’re unhappy with your results, or with the experience, you need to sit down and talk to your trainer,” Goglia says. “But, be honest with yourself about whether or not you’re doing the work.” (See the “10 Tips for Making the Most of Your Training Sessions” sidebar.)
Also pay attention to how you feel before, during and after your training sessions. A bit of preworkout apprehension is natural, but if you find yourself dreading each appointment, that could be a red flag. During the workout, you should feel challenged, but not pushed beyond your limits. Afterward, check in with yourself: Are you happy you went? Did you try something new and succeed? Do you feel empowered, or beat up?
An off day here and there is normal, but if you see a pattern of decline or negativity, it could be a clue that you need a change. “If you talk to the trainer and he’s not being responsive or adjusting, it’s time to move on,” Wallace says.
Scott Jackson, CPT, CSCS, founder of Real Life Fitness facility in Nevada City, Calif., recommends an honest approach: “They’re in business, and they need to know how to improve. If the problem was their personality or their commitment, letting them know in a gentle way could help them in the future.” Then, he suggests, find another trainer — “ASAP, while your motivation is still strong.”
Eric Butterman Eric Butterman is a fitness writer who has contributed to Glamour and Men’s Journal.
Photography by Bob McNamara
Should You Get a Personal Trainer?
How to Find (and Afford) Personal Training
Personal trainers work in myriad settings, according to their areas of expertise and who they are best prepared to help. Most gyms employ multiple personal trainers and work to pair trainers with clients based on exercisers’ needs. Some hospitals, sports medicine clinics, and rehabilitation facilities also have personal trainers on staff; and if you are coming off an injury, surgery, or other procedure, your doctor may refer you to one, Ebner says. Meanwhile, many personal trainers are increasingly offering online-based services.
You can find trainers with NCCA-accredited certifications online through the U.S. Registry of Exercise Professionals. You can also run a search through individual organization websites, such as those from the American Council on Exercise and the American College of Sports Medicine.
Though personal training can be pricey, researching your options and some flexibility on your end can help make services more affordable. Here are some tips to help make personal training fit your wallet.
1. Check Your Gym’s Prices
If you belong to a gym, chances are that you already have a lot of personal trainers available to you. See what personal training rates (and deals!) your gym offers. Even at the same gym, different trainers can have different fees, so ask the personal training manager for the least costly options.
Some gyms may offer their members a complimentary personal-training session, which you can use to pick up tips and decide how much training you actually want or need before you commit to a larger purchase, Johnson says.
2. Shop Around
If you do not currently belong to a gym — or even if you do — it can be worth comparing the cost of working with personal trainers at various gyms near you, Johnson says. Costs can vary widely between facilities. Don’t feel like you have to go with the first one you look into, he adds.
And do keep in mind that personal training costs are often paid in addition to your regular gym membership.
3. See if There Are Any Independent Trainers Near You
In most gyms, personal trainers are employed by that fitness facility, and have to pay a certain portion of their personal-training fees to the gym. This can drive up costs. But some cities have gyms for independent trainers who are not employed by the gym. They may instead only have to pay a small membership or per-session fee to the gym in order to train there. Because these trainers tend to have fewer overhead costs factored into their fees, they can often be less expensive, says Erica Suter, CSCS, a Baltimore-based personal trainer.
And some independent trainers do home visits or train clients out of their home gyms. To find an independent training gym or independent trainer near you, try running an online search for your city and “independent personal trainer.”
4. Opt for Programming Only
“If you are someone who has a bit of experience and understands how to use the majority of the equipment in the gym, then maybe what you need is more programming than anything else,” Johnson says. A better (and more affordable) option might be to book just a single session per month, which is spent doing a progress check and adjusting your workouts as needed. Then you keep up with the workouts on your own (following the trainer’s plan) for the rest of the month.
5. Consider 30-Minute Sessions
“Half-hour personal training sessions are about half the price of a full-hour session,” Johnson says. Half-hour sessions can be effective if you are willing to get into the gym before your session and get in a quality warm-up and then do a quality cooldown on your own afterward. Then during the 30 minutes you spend with the trainer, you focus on the workout itself and only the specific needs you have.
6. Ask About Small-Group Training
Many personal trainers offer partner and small-group training to clients who are willing to split the cost of an in-person session with one or more people, says Johnson. If you and a friend or significant other have similar fitness levels and health goals, you two might be able to perform the same workouts together, with the trainer prescribing individualized variations for each of you.
7. Go Online
“Online coaching is becoming much more popular because of the flexibility to do workouts at your own pace and time, as well as the fact that they cost 50 percent or less per month,” Suter says. Online coaching may not be the best fit for those exercisers who are new to exercise or just learning form, and is generally a better option for those who are confident in their ability to safely perform preprogrammed workouts on their own.
Is It Worth It To Be a Personal Trainer?
Jim instructs the business portion of the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP) and has got the paycheck portion covered. He also breaks down 15 key factors to deciding whether being a fitness trainer is a good career in this blog, including flexibility, benefits, job security, and vacation here.
That just leaves passion, i.e., the day-to-day job fulfillment of being a fitness professional. As you can see from the long list above, there are a wide range of careers to be had in fitness. For the sake of this blog post, we’ll narrow it down to examining a day in the life of a personalized fitness coach, i.e., an OPEX Coach, so you can decide whether or not you could find fulfillment in this role.
Why is passion such an important part of determining whether it’s worth it to be a personal trainer or fitness coach?
A huge percentage of fitness trainers decide to start coaching because they love fitness and want to help people. It is a career that requires you to truly believe in the service that you are offering so that you can inspire your clients to make health and fitness a priority in their lives.
A huge part of training people is the coach-client relationship, and no one can fake passion in the long-term. A trainer who isn’t passionate about what they’re doing will not be able to make it a sustainable career–clients will smell inauthenticity and you will end up resenting your job.
A professional coach, the kind that we are proud to produce, finds daily fulfillment by always making time in their day to Teach, Learn, Move and Create. Every job, even if you’re passionate about it, will have its share of frustrations and bad days. It’s finding this daily balance that keeps the fire burning and keeps you connected to your “why.”
Teach: One of the many roles a coach embodies is that of a teacher. If you aren’t a mentor to others you will lose fulfillment or enjoyment in your role.
Learn: Are you consistently seeking out new knowledge from which to hone your craft? The best coaches never remain complacent in their understanding of fitness.
Move: Do you practice what you preach? Live your fitness life in accordance with what you believe and your clients will respect you.
Create: As a coach, you can live this principle through designing your client’s individual training, lifestyle, and nutrition programs.
Here’s how Teach, Learn, Move and Create plays out in the average day of an OPEX coach.
Average Day of An OPEX Coach
Rising at a consistent time and with the sun honors natural circadian rhythm, creating great daily energy patterns.
6:30am: Morning Workout (Move)
An important part of teaching others the value of fitness is leading by example.
Eaten while honoring food hygiene practices, including no-distractions and thorough chewing. An OPEX Coach prioritizes foods that are well-digested and support mental acuity.
8:30-10am: TrueCoach Programming (Create)
This is a coach’s chance for creative expression, applying program design principles with individual flair. This time is spent fleshing out weekly individual programs based on last week’s results, that are designed with a long-term plan and client priorities in mind. The client receives the program and will train on the floor at a time that suits them.
10-10:15am: TrueCoach Feedback (Teach)
One of many touchpoints the coach has with their clients that extends beyond the time they’re in the gym. This time is spent replying to messages, reviewing workout videos and notes and offering feedback
11am-12pm: Team meeting (Teach + Learn)
Weekly team meetings are an opportunity for OPEX Coaches to present client case studies to show how they are programming and receive feedback from their peers.
12-1pm: Lunch + Walk (Move)
One hour in the gym isn’t where movement stops for OPEX coaches and their clients, so a post-lunch 15 min walk is part of their daily routine to support blood flow and recovery.
1-1:30pm: Consultation (Teach)
Monthly client consultations are a crucial component of the coach-client relationship. This one-on-one conversation is an opportunity for the coach to develop trust as a mentor, and reflect on progress, discuss lifestyle in detail and create an action plan for the next month.
2:30-3:30pm: Education (Learn)
OPEX Coaches are students for a lifetime, participating in regular webinars, mentor calls, forum discussion, and continued education through the OPEX Fitness membership site.
(Coach’s Resource: Keep your coaching knowledge up to date and sign up for the Free Coach’s Toolkit.)
3-4pm: Movement Assessment (Teach + Learn)
New client onboarding always begins with a thorough assessment, including a movement assessment that looks at movement patterns, asymmetries, postural endurance, bodyweight strength, and relative strength. The coach has the opportunity to educate the client on technique and refine their craft as they encounter different movement challenges.
4-7pm Floor Coaching (Teach + Learn)
On the floor, the coach is responsible for helping each client understand and execute their individually-designed workout. They work with all the members of the gym that are training at that time, not just their own clients. An OPEX Coach operates in a small-group personal training setting, moving from client to client to offer individual assistance, while keeping a watchful eye across the gym floor. Every session coached is the opportunity to learn more about movement.
7:30pm Dinner, Unwind and to Sleep
After a busy day, it’s time for a home-cooked meal, perhaps an episode of a new Netflix series, some reading for pleasure and a good night’s rest.
Is being a fitness coach or personal trainer worth it?
From our experience working with thousands of fitness coaches, the answer is yes, so long as Teach, Learn, Move and Create are practiced on a daily basis.
The day in the life of an OPEX Coach described above provides that balance, keeping coaches connected to their passion even on long days and when working with more difficult clients.
This career offers variety, daily education and growth, a balance of physical time with clients and mental programming work behind the computer, and the flexibility to take vacation and work from home.
In short, personalized fitness coaches can have a career they are passionate about and make a sustainable income while doing it. Learn how they do it here.
It’s a somewhat different story for fitness coaches in a more traditional personal training model. A typical personal trainer schedule looks more like the following:
Average Day of a Personal Trainer
5am-12pm: Back-to-back Personal Training clients
12-4pm Downtime: client emails, workout, eat, nap
4pm-8:30pm: Back-to-back Personal Training clients
Most personal trainers are only paid for the time they physically spend coaching clients, so they end up with a schedule of early mornings and late nights because that’s when clients want to train. Their ability to help their clients is limited to this in-person time, and most clients can’t afford to train one-on-one for more than a couple of sessions per week. Few personal trainers design long-term programs and most have no touchpoints with their clients to focus on lifestyle and nutrition outside of the gym.
Consequently, client results and retention are an industry-wide problem, and personal trainers end up burned out and disillusioned by the system. It’s the reason why 80% of personal trainers quit the industry within two years–the initial passion for fitness and helping others inevitably wears off.
We’re here to tell you that this doesn’t have to be the case. There is a way to create a fitness career that provides a sustainable paycheck and daily fulfillment. It’s why we’re on a mission to disrupt the traditional personal trainer model with personalized fitness coaching.
Being a personalized fitness coach is worth it.
Read the stories of these personalized fitness coaches and think about whether their careers would light a fire in you…
Blending the Best of Both Worlds with Shayan Vaghayenegar
Vaghayenegar transitioned his clients away from personal training three days a week to individual programs. He noticed a difference right away, he said.
“The biggest thing is how they have become more consistent with their workouts. Before, they trained twice, maybe three times a week tops, and now lots of them are in here five or six days a week,” said Vaghayenegar of his 39 clients, who pay anywhere between CA$299 and $379 a month.
Brandon Heavey: Why He Left NASA for The Fitness Industry
Running a personalized online coaching business is certainly not what Heavey or Latimer expected they’d be doing with their lives, he admitted. Heavey, 38, has his Master’s degree in electrical engineering and worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for almost 10 years, while Latimer has her doctorate degree in pharmacology and completed a postgraduate residency in primary care medicine.
Latimer added her lifestyle today is much more enjoyable than it was as a pharmacist: “I train in the middle of the day. I take my dog for a walk in the afternoon. We also travel a lot because we can work from anywhere. …t’s pretty amazing to have that flexibility to live the life you want while also making an impact on others’ lives,” she said.
Jesse O’Brien: How OPEX Helped Him Fix His Broken Business Model
O’Brien “burned down” his old gym, so to speak, moved locations, rebranded and “started from the ground up,” he said, abandoning the group class method for an individual program design model instead. Today, his clients pay $369 a month for a personal coach to help them with their fitness, health, nutrition, sleep, stress and anything else relevant to improving their wellness, he explained.
This system allows O’Brien to develop more “in-depth relationships,” with his clients, he explained. And his clients are more committed and value his coaching service more, he added.
On his end, O’Brien no longer lives in a constant state of fatigue, where his own fitness suffers, and where he has to pick up a second job in order to pay the bills.
Today, he coaches just six hours on the floor, spends another chunk of time programming for clients, and the rest of the time on business development. This leaves him time to train four days a week and pursue his bouldering hobby.
Marcus Filly and OPEX Fitness: Over The Years
Having these systems in place today means Filly spends just a few hours a week coaching. On top of this, he said he spends about 20 percent of his time on programming for his 20 clients, and the rest of the time—50 to 60 percent of his time, he said—working on business development.
As a result, he also has more time to spend mentoring and developing his four on-site coaches to help them grow their book of clients and have successful careers in the fitness industry. This is the key to growing a successful business, he said.
“I think for people who want to be successful business owners, they need a model or a system that works in the long term for the business, the client, and the coaches, and this model has the best chance of being successful.”
OPEX Fitness is the leader in personalized coaching education. Get an introduction to our system of coaching by signing up for the Free Coach’s Toolkit. Sign up today and take the next step in your coaching course.
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A good personal trainer delivers safe, effective, fun and interesting workouts to all fitness-training clients. The training programs you develop should be varied and progressive, and geared toward improving your clients’ health and wellness. As a trainer, you should be enthusiastic and supportive, so that your clients remain interested and stimulated, which helps ensure they stick with the program — and with you.
What Personal Trainers Should NOT Do
While personal trainers often assume multiple roles with their clients — which sometimes includes being a coach, cheerleader or confidant, there are some responsibilities that personal trainers should avoid.
- DO NOT Give medical advice, physical therapy advice or attempt to make a medical diagnosis.
- DO NOT Create specific meal plans and/or dietary recommendations that include portioning and/or timing of meals and/or supplementation
- DO NOT Provide body massage to clients, or any similar service that can be construed as inappropriate touch.
- DO NOT Serve as a psychological counselor to clients or become intimately involved in personal client relationships.
- DO NOT Have a romantic or inter-personal relationship with a client.
- DO NOT Push your own preferences for fitness goals on clients who do not seek out those same goals.
- DO NOT Allow your credentials, liability insurance and other trainer business standards/practices to lapse.
Check out the detailed Codes of Conduct for NFPT personal trainers, these are professional standards that are required for starting the course and maintaining the certification.
Why be a personal trainer?
Personal trainers are typically driven by a passion for fitness and a desire to share their experiences and knowledge with others. They’re not keen on desk jobs or sitting alone in cubicles ‘pushing pencils’.
Here are common reasons that people decide on becoming a personal fitness trainer. Do any of these sound like you?:
I want to help people live a healthy lifestyle
I want to make my own lifestyle into a career, or have another stream of income doing something I enjoy
I want to teach people about the body and what it’s capable of
I want to love my job
Personal trainer education and other requirements
Start by learning the basics, but know that success requires more. If you’re really going to make it, then you have to be willing to go above and beyond. First things first, the qualification of your skillset and knowledge. This is where personal trainer certification comes in. Being a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) tells potential clients and employers that you have been officially assessed and qualified to work as a trainer.
Education and certifications: An educated trainer makes for happy and successful clients. Certification is the foundation for your long term career (and usually your short term or part time job too). Personal trainer certifications, specialty certifications, and CPR/AED are the places to start.
Those with an NFPT-CPT credential are certified to design and implement fitness training programs for apparently healthy individuals in one-on-one or small group settings. (An apparently healthy individual includes those with no significant disease or physical condition or impairment which prevents them from engaging in physical fitness activity.)
If you already know that you want to pursue this path towards being a qualified and certified personal trainer, then take a sneak peak of the training manual so you’ll to know what to expect. NFPT’s personal trainer manual provides comprehensive teaching for safe and effective training services, complete with step-by-step consultation guidelines and screening assessments. Get your free preview of the first 3 chapters of the trainer manual:
It’s well understood that exercise is integral to health, but all exercise is not created equal, and depending on numerous factors such as body type, age and fitness goals, one person’s preferred workout regimen may look very different from the next person’s.
How does one make sense of it all and figure out what works best for them?
If you can afford it, a personal fitness trainer could be your best bet. The problem? There just so many personal trainers out there and more coming on board every day.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projected a growth of 10 percent from 2016 to 2026 in the employment of fitness trainers and instructors, while IBISWorld determined industry revenue growth of nearly three percent in 2018 in the category of personal trainers.
To help you find the right fit, we consulted exercise experts and fitness junkies to compile an expert list of what to look for — as well as what to avoid — in a personal trainer.
5 Things Your Personal Trainer Wishes You Knew
Sept. 15, 201703:33
Look for certifications over Instagram hype
In the age of social media, anybody can identify as an “expert” and promote themselves as such without necessarily backing it up. You want to make sure that your trainer is certified and qualified to train.
“You need to make sure that your trainer has the education to back up the workouts they’re leading you through,” says Juliette Walle, a personal trainer and education director for modelFIT. “Whether they studied athletic training or exercise science in university, or they have a certification (NASM, ACE, and ACSM are the most common), this means there will be a method to their workout plans and coaching style, as well as a level of safety for you as the client. Similarly, make sure your trainer has their CPR-AED certification. This is so important for your safety in any exercise program.”
Walle notes, “this doesn’t mean they have a ton of Instagram followers or that they look really fit.”
Set clear expectations and make sure they’re on the same page
“Before you even interview a personal trainer, you will want to make sure you are very clear about your own expectations,” says Darleen Barnard, a NASM-certified personal trainer, ACE-certified health coach and the owner of Fit4Health. “If you want someone to hold you accountable between sessions, make sure you let them know and ask them if it is okay to contact them between sessions.”
Start with one session to see if you’re compatible
Ultimately, you want a trainer with whom you have good professional chemistry. You should be able to tell if you can work well together after just one session.
“It is best to only purchase one session instead of a package at the beginning, that trainer work well with your personality,” says Cary Williams, a boxing coach and CEO of Boxing & Barbells. “Some people love to be pushed really hard, some like to be dealt with delicately. Be sure the trainer fits well with how you learn and respond to training.”
An easy glute workout to lift and firm your butt
March 8, 201903:57
Make checklists of positives to refer to after sessions
Once you find a trainer you like and have done three sessions with them, Nicole Glor of NikkiFitness and the author of “The Slimnastics Workout: The Intense, No-Equipment Routine Combining Gymnastics, Plyometrics, and Advanced Yoga” recommends checking off the following questions:
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- Did they remember what you did last week and how you didn’t want to do those triceps dips because ithurt your wrist?
- Do you look forward to seeing them or dread it?
- Did they push you hard enough?
- Were you at least a little sore?
- Did they ask about your goals?
- Did they combine muscle, cardio and flexibility?
- Did they get down in the floor with you or stand above (trainers should move down to the level of the move that is taking place)?
- Did they correct your form?
- Did they make the workout a little fun?
Ideally, you’ll answer “yes” to all of the above.
Check for these red flags…
Walle provides the following checklist of behaviors that are red flags. These are indicators that you should dump your personal trainer.
- They don’t listen or seem to care when you’re experiencing pain or discomfort.
- They can’t or won’t explain how their workouts will help you reach your goal.
- They lean on body-shaming for motivational purposes.
- They utilize the exact same workout format, number of repetitions/sets or the exact same exercises every session.
- They spend more of the session looking at themselves in the mirror than coaching you
- They aren’t asking you how things are feeling, checking in with you or coaching you through the exercises.
They understand the difference between ‘pain’ and ‘burn’
We’re all familiar with the phrase “no pain no gain.” While this is partly true (you do want to feel challenged), your personal trainer should be sensitive to your body’s limitations.
“The ‘no pain no gain’ quote everyone has heard is only partly true and your trainer shouldn’t believe this to an extreme,” says Vince Sant, an ISSA-certified trainer behind the online fitness platform, V Shred. “There’s a difference between feeling a burn while doing squats and feeling actual pain in your hips or knees. Understanding the difference between pain and soreness is something your trainer has to be able to listen to you about. Making you push through pain could be seriously threatening to your body.”
They don’t stick you on a treadmill for 20 minutes
Your personal trainer should advise you on cardio workouts if you have questions, but they shouldn’t instruct you to do cardio (which eats up time) during your session.
“The time you’re spending with your trainer should be spent doing exercises that you need them for,” says Sant. “Spending half your time on a cardio machine is nonsense because that’s not what you’re paying for. You’re paying to learn methods to build strength, lose fat and be and feel healthy.”
Staying fit is expensive.
There’s the basic gym membership, the additional spinning classes at the weekends, the latest Lululemon gear – it all adds up.
So for many of us, the thought of also paying for a personal trainer can seem like a ridiculous luxury.
And for those of us who already know our way around a gym – can a PT really provide anything that you couldn’t just do on your own?
But bespoke, tailored fitness certainly has its benefits. Our bodies are unique and optimal fitness is a never a one-size-fits-all package – perhaps a personalised approach is the best way to get the most out of your workout.
But when the average price for a PT session in London is £50-£60 per hour (it’s closer to £40 outside the capital), it’s a decision that can’t be made lightly.
We spoke to some experts and gym-goers to find out if it’s really worth shelling out your hard-earned for a one-to-one session.
If the gym has never been your thing, then paying for a PT makes sense.
If you’re terrified of dumbbells and can’t work out how to turn the treadmill on, investing in someone to show the basics seems like a wise idea.
Aimee always had a complicated relationship with fitness. Not being naturally sporty, she found herself in a workout rut, but her personal trainer changed everything.
‘I’m not exaggerating when I say my PT, Georgia, changed my life,’ Aimee tells Metro.co.uk.
‘For as long as I can remember, I have had a turbulent relationship with my body and it’s ability to do sport. I’ve never been gifted in the sports department and, to be truthful, I was terrified that everyone would be laughing at the fat girl trying to do a burpee.
‘My PT changed that. I started seeing her around two years ago after becoming increasingly bored of pounding miles away on the treadmill – and the shin splints and self-hatred that came with it.
‘I told Georgia what I wanted to achieve – to feel good in my own skin and strong – and she taught me how to lift weights.
‘I see her once a month (at £48 per session) where she gives me a routine I can do alone three to four times a week.
‘In the sessions we concentrate on getting my technique right and trying new exercises – something I would never be able to do alone. She’s given me confidence to walk into a weights room and be happy in my skin.’
It’s a common misconception that personal trainers are nothing more than drill sergeants, barking at you to keep doing press ups until your arms turn to jelly and you want to throw up.
But if you find a good PT, they can provide so much more.
Lewis Paris is a London-based personal trainer whose philosophy incorporates a well-rounded approach to fitness. As well as the cardio and the weights, Lewis considers nutrition, rest and building good habits to be critical components for healthy living.
‘The general objective of a personal trainer is to be able to motivate and curate a tailored plan to suit the needs and goals of their client, this can be quite relative as no one person is the same,’ Lewis tells us.
‘I take the title personal trainer quite literally. “Personal” is the keyword, although it can be a lot to take on, in my opinion I believe it’s important to set basic touch points and standards with a comprehensive consultation so I can understand everything about the person I could be working with.
‘No matter the fitness level, a personal trainer will be able to find a person’s weaknesses and create an effective plan to strengthen them.
‘Beginners will have basic knowledge and will be coached to understand the importance of technique and nailing the fundamentals, which are carried throughout all exercises.
‘Seasoned gym-goers will need the extra motivation due to repetition of the same workout routine, lack of technique to ensure the effectiveness of the exercise or the common trap of plateauing.’
So what about these seasoned gym-goers? What do they really get out of it? If you’re strong and fit, surely paying someone to tell you what you already know is a waste?
Claudia doesn’t agree. The super-fit sportswoman is incredibly active, but she says paying for a PT helped her to optimise her specific goals and fine-tune her training.
‘I was training for fitness and weight-loss, so I was also put on a specific training program and diet that helped me achieve that,’ Claudia tells Metro.co.uk.
‘It helped break my training up into bite-sized goals and it kept my sessions interesting.
‘I’m pretty self-motivated with the gym, but when I started to feel too tired or maybe getting ill, I know I’d have to justify myself to him. I didn’t want to disappoint him and therefore had the hardest working six months of my gym life.’
How much should you be paying for a PT?
The average price for a PT session in London is £50-£60 per hour.
Outside of London the average price is £40-50 – so keep these figures in mind when you are getting quotes.
It’s important to look at what other benefits your PT may be offering – including personalised nutrition plans or movement analysis sessions.
At the very top end you can pay around £150 for a single session. Obviously it depends on your budget, but it’s worth shopping around.
Hattie agrees with this – she found working with a PT incredibly motivational, and, as a netballer, she finds it reassuring to have someone there who will reduce her risk of injury when working with weights.
‘My PT is really just there for strength work and weights. With a personal trainer on board, I can make sure my sessions are incredibly targeted – so I can just work on leg strength if that’s what I want,’ she explains.
‘Although I know my way around a gym, I still find it much safer having a PT with me – they’re there to catch the weights and perfect my form so I’m not going to do anything to injure myself.
‘Because I play sport, i’m probably more concerned about injuring myself than the general public – so in some ways it’s even more important for sportspeople to invest in this extra expertise.’
So how does it actually work? You can pay for a PT on a freelance basis, completely separate from a gym – and they will either train you in their own space or outdoors.
Or if you’re already part of a gym, there are usually trainers you can pay for there. Normally, the cost for PT sessions isn’t included in standard gym membership, and you will have to pay an extra fee on top.
For example, at Pure Gym, their personal trainers receive a fee directly from the client – as though they were freelance.
On their website it says; ‘The cost for a personal training session varies from PT to PT. As a benchmark, a personal training session usually costs somewhere around £30-£65, and is 45 minutes to one hour long.
‘PT prices in London are usually slightly higher, costing an average of £40-65 per session. This cost is separate to your membership and you would pay your PT directly.’
Lesley, a sports-lover and netball coach, says she actually saves money on gym membership by opting to use a PT instead.
‘I’ve had the same PT for about 10 years,’ explains Lesley.
‘He comes to my house rain or shine, two or three times a week. And I do my sessions whether I’m in the mood or not. Sometimes I’m chatty, sometimes I can’t talk at all.
‘It saves me money on a gym membership because I actually do a purposeful hour of training. I do free weights (having invested in a squat rack over the years) – and with his help I actually get so much more done in an hour than I could in the gym.’
What are the benefits of a PT?
‘Having a personal trainer on board will greatly increase the chances of someone reaching their goals within a specific time-frame, increase their knowledge of exercise and technique, provide routine, which encourages good habits, expert guidance and advice, prevent recurring or future injuries, improve lifestyle choices and install belief.
‘Its very important to state the facts in regards to what will work effectively and what wont.
‘Doing classes six times a week cannot be sustained long enough nor is it effective, quality over quantity should be the mindset!
‘Yes it encourages a healthy lifestyle, yes you will see results, yes its time-efficient but it can lead to over-training (or under resting), injury, muscle imbalances plus workouts, which are not tailored or specific.
‘Technique is very important and I emphasis this a lot within all of my sessions.
‘When my clients develop the correct techniques it helps to enhance confidence and help them develop and advance their exercises quicker – which they may have previously felt was unattainable – that’s the beauty of my job.’
Lewis Paris, personal trainer
It is a lot of money, but if fitness, strength and endurance is your goal – then it will likely be money well-spent.
That being said, it’s really important to shop around and trial as many PT’s as you can before signing up for anything long-term.
Personal trainers have wildly different styles, and they’re not all going to be your cup of tea.
‘These days I am skeptical about PTs, as some aren’t in it for the right reasons,’ Claudia tells us.
‘I’ve had a few crap trainers who were talking absolute nonsense because they thought I wouldn’t know any better.
‘Or they didn’t keep on top of my progress outside of the hour per week I trained with them.
‘My time is precious, as is anyone’s who works 8-8 during the week, and if I am paying a fortune to improve myself for an hour of my evenings, which I technically could do by myself, it had better be worth it!’
We couldn’t really have said it any better.
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The daily lifestyle email from Metro.co.uk.
Find out more
Before we even look at answering the question, how long should you have a personal
trainer, let me tell you one thing: this is the wrong way to approach personal training!
If you want to achieve “fitness” (whatever that means…but more on that later) in a certain
time-frame, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
The truth is, making the decision to acquire the services of a personal trainer is a big step,
and there are loads of questions you need to ask before thinking about how long you should
retain their services.
You’ve got to measure your budget vs. their expertise. You have to know exactly what you
want, and how well equipped a personal trainer is to help you achieve your goals…
Only after answering these questions, can you even begin to look at how long should you
have a personal trainer (and then you’ve got to think, why am I asking this question in the
That does not mean, however, that how long should you have a personal trainer is an
unimportant question. In fact, as well as showing you how else you might want to approach
your PT work, later in this guide we’ll give you full timelines for some of the most popular
goals outlined by clients.
But first let’s deal with the question itself…
Choosing your personal training frequency, and the length of time you want to hire a
personal trainer for, completely depends on what your goals are.
Now, don’t worry…
If none of what I’ve said so far is helping to answer your questions, there’s plenty of time
yet. In this article, we’ve split all the need-to-know aspects regarding the question how long
should you have a personal trainer, into easily digestible steps.
Become a Personal Trainer
Follow Your Passion for Fitness & Become a Personal Trainer
Basically, by the time you reach the end of this article, you should know exactly how long
you should retain your personal trainer’s services, and all the factors you should consider on
the way to making that decision!
Step One: Shifting the mind-set, from time to goals
If you’re asking the question how long should you have a personal trainer, you might be
approaching your new fitness commitment from the wrong angle.
Think about it…
Why ask how long should you have a personal trainer, when you could instead ask about
what you could achieve in the long-term if you choose to hire one?
Thinking like this doesn’t mean your doomed from the start. Far from it!
In fact, most beginners start out thinking in terms of time rather than achievement, and all it
means is that you have to shift your perspective slightly.
Now, before we talk about what to consider during the decision-making process for
personal training, let’s look at the reason people may ask questions in terms of length rather
Unfortunately, all of this confusion is a product of modern dieting culture.
When people think about health and fitness, they tend to think about dieting, and dieting –
contradicting just about every piece of solid nutritional advice out there – tends to target
Guess what this means…
Got it in one – that most diets are unsustainable in the long term.
Instead of treating your fitness, and your personal trainer like a short term diet, you should
instead view their services as a long-term change.
Placing emphasis on goals over time will also help you find the best personal trainer for you
Goals are a far more rewarding and sustainable approach to hiring a personal trainer. An added bonus is that it will also make it easier for you to find a personal trainer in the first place…
Personal training is a competitive industry, so trainers often try and look for clients who they believe will stick with them in the long-term. Despite what you might think, often this isn’t incentivised by money…
A client who stays with a trainer, and who is willing to develop and change their approach to fitness using a trainers advice, gives the trainer the opportunity to innovate, improve their repertoire, and improve overall as a trainer.
For you, the client, it also means that your trainer will offer you discounts, free sessions, and added services, because they will want to try new things with clients whom they trust.
In fact, one of the first things we teach our Level 2 and Level 3 personal trainers is to make sure their loyal clients are aptly rewarded with such deals. This is the cornerstone of all good personal trainer marketing.
In short then, when you’re looking for a personal trainer, ask in terms of what you want to achieve from your fitness journey, rather than how long you should train in order to “get fit.”
Step Two: Your life vs. Your Life in the Gym
So, we’ve covered why you should approach personal trainers with set goals in mind, rather than vague ideas of “getting fit.”
See, the great thing about a good personal trainer is that they will help you change your whole outlook on fitness, and to a certain extent, on life. Once you make the change from thinking that there’s some end-point where you will be declared “fit,” you can start to enjoy what you do in order to stay healthy.
This has the subsequent effect of rendering questions like how long should you have a personal trainer a bit void: why would you worry about length of time when you’re enjoying what you do?
With this in mind, the next step of deciding how long should you have a personal trainer, or whether you should have a personal trainer at all, is to consider your life vs. your life in the gym.
What we mean by this is that, unless you’re somebody like The Rock or a professional body builder, the likelihood is that you won’t be dedicating your whole life to fitness.
You’ll probably have a job, a family, hobbies, friends… and guess what? All of these things are going to be distractions away from health and fitness.
And so they should be!
Having a balanced social life and a positive mind-set is just as important as improving your physical health.
This is why a good personal trainer will help you see your fitness pursuit as part of your life, rather than a short-term thing that only occurs during the hours you spend in the gym.
Why is this important?
The statistics show that there is no magic point at which you are declared “fit for life.”
Let’s think about this…
You go to a personal trainer, and you tell them that you want to train for four months. Great, for those four months, you’re going to improve your fitness, and you’ll most likely consistently hit your recommended weekly activity levels.
But what happens afterwards?
Rather than thinking in terms of time, a much more sustainable approach is to change your lifestyle so that fitness just becomes one of those everyday things. Like filling the dishwasher or going to work.
This way, you can guarantee – even if you stop seeing your personal trainer – that you maintain some degree of fitness moving forwards.
How to merge your life and your life in the gym, and how your personal trainer can help you
Now, here’s the interesting bit…
Later in this article, we’re going to tell you exactly what you need to be asking your personal trainer in order to ensure that they are meeting your requirements.
But for now, let’s focus specifically on how a personal trainer might help you start changing your day-to-day routines, so that you lead a healthier lifestyle.
Your personal trainer shouldn’t just be there to help you improve in the gym. These days, many personal trainers will offer nutritional advice as well.
In fact, if they aren’t offering nutritional advice – or at least asking questions – then you should speak up.
When it comes to a healthy lifestyle, changing your nutrition for the better is crucial. Try asking your personal trainer what you should be eating specifically around workouts, and what kinds of meals they would recommend to improve your gains in the gym
Finding the right hobby for you
Even the most dedicated personal trainer can’t be with you all of the time. In fact, many of the people asking how long should you have a personal trainer, are asking that question because they have grown bored of their gym routine.
As opposed to spending all your time with your trainer, you should try and supplement your PT work with a hobby.
Hobbies also filter into the goals you want to achieve. For example, if you’re a climber, you might want to improve your ability to do pull-ups and chin-ups, and your personal trainer can help you achieve that.
Basically then, make sure your work with a personal trainer filters into some practical hobby, as you’ll better be able to enjoy the results.
The Competitive Edge
If you’ve spent any amount of time around people on a “health kick” you’ll notice one thing… they’re all competitive.
In fact, this is one positive takeaway from what are often short-term fitness plans.
Personal trainers are great at bringing out your competitive side, challenging you to always strive for more. If you embrace this, you’ll soon find yourself forgetting all about questions like how long should you have a personal trainer.
Instead, you’ll look at what you can achieve, and once you’ve hit your goals, what you can achieve next.
Step Three: Personal trainers as coach, friend, and service
Another reason why so many beginners ask questions like how long should you have a personal trainer, or in general are cautious about hiring a fitness trainer or PT, is because it’s hard to understand the PT / client relationship before experiencing it.
More often than not, your PT isn’t an authority figure like a doctor or lawyer. You don’t go and see them (or you shouldn’t go and see them…) out of necessity.
Instead, having a personal trainer should be enjoyable and life affirming. Investing in the expertise of a PT is the quickest way to get on track with fitness changes, and the only way to make such lifestyle changes is to really invest in your new routine on an emotional level.
So it becomes less a question of how long should you have a personal trainer, and more a case of what can me and my personal trainer achieve.
With that in mind, let’s try and get an essence of what a client / trainer relationship is like, so that we can get to the bottom of how to shift your mind-set from being time-oriented, to being goal-oriented.
Trainer as coach
This is perhaps the most obvious dynamic.
It’s what you’re paying your trainer for, and it’s where their expertise lies.
Everything we’ve mentioned so far comes into play here. An expert personal trainer won’t want to train you for two months with the vague goal of getting “fit.” They will want you to achieve a specific goal, and will do everything they can in order to get you there.
This is why, at least at the start, you should never begin by asking how long should you have a personal trainer…
If you start by asking this, then you’re severely restricting your trainer’s ability to maximise your fitness potential, and to draw you up a personalised fitness programme in order to help you achieve your goals.
Trainer as friend
What’s the point in spending multiple hours a week with a person, without even trying to strike up a friendship.
Clue: there isn’t one…
Viewing your PT through the lens of how long you need to be with them in order to get fit completely devalues one of the most important aspects of having a personal trainer: the opportunity to make a new friend.
Here at OriGym, we’ve heard countless stories of personal trainers being invited to their client’s weddings, to birthdays, and even of lifelong friendships being forged in the gym.
The truth is, once you’ve started working with your personal trainer, you should soon forget asking about how long should you have a personal trainer for.
Trainer as service
Remember, you’re paying your trainer!
This doesn’t have to make things awkward – in fact, it definitely shouldn’t – but you do have to raise your concerns if you’re not happy.
Nine times out of ten, a personal trainer will adapt their programme for you if you want to achieve more, or if you feel like you’re being pushed a little too far.
And on the subject of using your voice…
Step Four: Making progress, and using your voice
Personal trainers are well used to hearing their own voice.
From early morning until night, they spend their days motivating clients, shouting encouragement, and talking about all the small problems clients encounter in the gym and their everyday lives.
By their very nature, they are social animals.
However, what is equally important, especially given the question of how long should you have a personal trainer, is the client’s ability to voice their opinion.
Let’s explore that a little further…
Moving forwards by telling your trainer what you want…
Before we move any further, let’s look at why you’re asking the question how long should you have a personal trainer.
What does that say about how your personal training sessions are going?
Usually, when clients are asking that question, it means that they are losing interest in their fitness sessions, or worse, that they have become frustrated with the lack of progress they are making.
This is why goals are so important: they allow you to move towards a set achievement, which keeps you motivated in the long term.
Now, it’s your personal trainer’s job to keep you motivated, and in an ideal world, they would spot you losing interest long before you became frustrated enough to ask how long you should have a personal trainer…
But remember, personal trainers are busy. And we mean busy. They will usually have back-to-back clients from early morning, right until early evening, and that excludes any group classes they run, and time dedicated to marketing.
So let’s say they haven’t noticed you’ve become bored with your routine, and you’re making no progress…
When should you ask your personal trainer these kinds of questions?
Well, the “right” answer is as soon as possible.
As soon as you feel that you are not getting your money or effort’s worth out of your personal training, you should raise it with your personal trainer.
Remember, they are there to be your friend, your coach, and a service provider, so they will be there to understand your issues and help you overcome them, whatever they may be.
Another way to look at it is to ask how close you are to your goals, and how soon you want to achieve them.
If you’re asking the question of how long should you have a personal trainer for and you’re not frustrated, then it’s usually because you’ve got an event or a deadline coming up that you want to achieve your goals by.
In this case, let’s say you’re running a half marathon, then you need to start asking questions as to how quickly you can make real improvements, and what your personal trainer can do to help.
Of course, to do this you kind of need to know how long these goals take to achieve, and what’s a realistic point at which to start training.
Now, guess what we have prepared for you in the next step…
Step Five: How long should you have a personal trainer: The most popular client goals, and how long(ish) people take to achieve them!
Let’s recap what we know so far…
- When it comes to personal training, it’s far better to be goal oriented than it is to be time-oriented, and approaching your fitness in this manner will help you find a better personal trainer for your needs.
- Your personal trainer routine and your life are not mutually exclusive. A good personal trainer will help you lead a healthier, more balanced life by changing your routine, your outlook, and your approach to nutrition.
- You should have the confidence to speak up and use your voice to change your personal trainer plan, especially if you’ve become frustrated with a lack of progress.
So, where now?
While it is much better to talk to a personal trainer in person, and describe to them your goals, in terms of planning ahead, it is sometimes handy to know what other clients have targeted in terms of achievements, and how long it took them to get there.
But how do you get this kind of information?
We’ve got you covered! We asked practising personal trainers what their clients asked them for help with, and how long(ish) it took to achieve those targets!
We should probably also mention, that we’ve presumed clients approached their trainers as beginners, so the timelines reflect those who had little previous commitment to exercising on a regular basis.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that all of the information above is anecdotal, and people differ with their fitness journeys.
It’s also worth mentioning that in all cases, these were initial targets, and all of the clients chose to continue working with the personal trainers, dispelling the need to ask such questions as how long should you have a personal trainer for.
But if you were worried about time, looking at the above should give you some idea of how long things tend to take when your take personal training seriously, and find the right PT for you.
And before you go!
We hope you thoroughly enjoyed our guide answering the question; ‘how long should I have a Personal Trainer?’
Are you interested in transforming your fitness hobby into a career?
for all the insider tips of what a career in fitness can offer you, or go ahead and check out our CIMSPA and REPs accredited courses to get a feel for what you could be learning!
Become a Personal Trainer
Follow Your Passion for Fitness & Become a Personal Trainer
Working with a Personal Trainer | What to Expect
What can a personal trainer do for me?
Quite a number of things actually. Working with a personal trainer has the following advantages:
- Customized programming- No cookie cutting here. A knowledgeable personal trainer will create a customized exercise program for you, designed to help you reach your unique health and fitness goals. A trainer will also take into account special considerations (e.g. existing medical condition, pregnancy, post-rehabilitation, medications taken, etc) when creating a program exclusively for you.
- Correct technique- When exercising, safety is the number one priority. A personal trainer will teach you the proper mechanics of each exercise and will ensure that you are performing each with correct form, thus maximizing the efficiency of your workouts.
- Enhance motivation- Who wouldn’t like a little extra motivation? Having a scheduled session with a trainer promotes accountability on your part, and can assist in developing adherence in the long run to making exercise a regular part of your routine. In addition to the outside motivation, a personal trainer can also help you develop a more positive outlook on exercise by exploring options for making exercise more enjoyable, reviewing short-term progress towards goals, and assessing feeling- and mood-state changes related to exercise, thereby improving self-confidence and self-motivation.
- Alleviate boredom- Believe it or not, exercising can be fun! A personal trainer can help you select activities that you enjoy, and also choose exercises that will keep you challenged and on track towards reaching your fitness goals. Personal trainers have vast knowledge of various exercises, tools and techniques that can make your workouts both fun and effective.
What can I expect during my initial training session?
During your initial meeting working with a certified personal trainer, he or she will begin the process of getting to know you. It is this information along with your trainer’s expertise and experience that will assist them in developing a customized program for you. Depending on your fitness goals, your trainer may administer a variety of assessments during the initial session, or may reserve some assessments until a point in your program that is more appropriate. The assessments that are ultimately selected are done so in line with your fitness goals, and are used to establish a baseline for progress comparison further down the road. Assessments are also used to gauge your current level of fitness, which can assist the trainer in developing your customized program (in terms of selecting proper exercise intensity, appropriate weight for strength training exercises, etc) and meeting your health and fitness needs. Examples of assessments that may be conducted include body composition assessments, movement screens and postural assessments.
How many times a week do I have to meet with a trainer?
Just like the program itself, how many times you meet with a trainer is a very individualized decision that depends on a variety of factors, including your fitness goals and your motivation level. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal of a quality personal trainer is to promote self-efficacy within the client, enabling them to take ownership of their exercise experience. It is for this reason that a good trainer will seek to truly educate clients (about things such as proper form, appropriate intensity, ways to stay motivated, ways to progress, etc) as opposed to just simply putting clients through a workout without having them understand the rationale as to why certain exercises were selected, and how the developed program relates back to their health and fitness goals.
How do I know which trainer is right for me?
It is important to note that not all trainers are created equal. When in comes to selecting the right personal trainer for you do some research and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember that it is your body and also your time and money. Choosing the right personal trainer ensures that you will receive the most from your training sessions and also that you will enjoy the experience. Keep in mind that an investment in the right personal trainer is an investment in your health and your success.
Ready to get started? Find an ACE-certified personal trainer in your area.
Personal Trainer Job Description: What You’ll Do
Here’s what you can expect on the job as a personal trainer.
Today’s new generation of personal athletic trainers are taking a holistic approach to fitness; they know that fitness isn’t just about going through the motions of a workout, it’s about having a healthy lifestyle and attitude. A great athletic trainer should be able to encourage and motivate clients to look at fitness as a positive element in a healthy life.
Personal athletic trainers can focus on specific areas of fitness, or take a broad approach to encompassing all elements of being fit.
What does a personal trainer do?
Many athletic trainers work in fitness centers, but some others work for educational services or hospitals, depending on their specialty. Where you work will determine your daily responsibilities, but typical duties for a personal athletic trainer include:
- Demonstrating exercises and routines to clients
- Assisting clients in exercises to minimize injury and promote fitness
- Modify exercises according to clients’ fitness levels
- Monitoring client progress
- Providing information or resources on general fitness and health issues
- Providing emergency first aid if necessary
In any place of work as a personal fitness trainer, it’s important to remember that in addition to helping clients get into shape, you’ll also be responsible for their safety during your workouts together, and for fostering positivity.
What education or certification will I need to be an athletic trainer?
You can become a personal athletic trainer with a certificate, a two-year associate’s degree or four-year bachelor’s degree in health and fitness. Both a certification and an associate’s degree provide you with sufficient training to have a career as a fitness trainer; the advantage to having a bachelor’s degree is that it can raise your chances of advancing to management positions.
The degree you choose to earn will depend on your goals and interests for your long-term career path. Once you’ve earned your degree, you can obtain personal training certifications from a number of organizations, including:
- American Council on Exercise (ACE)
- American Fitness Training of Athletics (AFTA)
- National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
- National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
After you’re certified through a nationally recognized organization, you’re eligible to begin working as a personal athletic trainer. It’s important to know, however, that you will be expected to regularly complete training and education that will keep you up-to-date on shifting health and safety regulations. Learn more about what you’ll study.
What career paths can I take as a personal athletic trainer?
As a certified personal athletic trainer, your workplace options will vary depending on what your interests as a trainer are. Possible workplaces include:
- Fitness and recreational centers: Many fitness centers offer complimentary fitness trainers, or customers can pay for training sessions. Your job will involve creating training plans, overseeing workouts, and monitoring progress for multiple clients.
- Civic and social organizations: In these kinds of organizations, you will likely be providing the same fitness guidance you would in a fitness center or gym, but clients will typically be lower-income. Organizations like the YMCA/YWCA employ trainers who have a passion for fitness and also a desire to provide useful health information to this demographic.
- Hospitals: For patients who are recovering from injuries, many hospitals will employ in-house personal trainers to work with rehabilitating patients. You will assess what the patient can and cannot do, and then provide a fitness regimen to help them regain mobility and full function. Often, trainers at hospitals will focus on helping recovering patients regain lost muscle.
- Self-employment: For trainers who are also comfortable marketing and promoting themselves, self-employment can be a great career option. Running your own personal training business will be tough, since you will need to advertise yourself and build a client base, but if you can pull it off, benefits include dictating your own hours and keeping all of your profits.
Learn about pay and salary projections for personal athletic trainers.
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Personal trainer Simon Margheritini works with a client. Photo: Marco del Grande
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Unprintable expletives fall from my exhausted mouth. Seconds later, a 45kg dead-ball hits the floor with a dull but satisfying thud.
Two weeks before, after 10 failed attempts and what can only be described as a hissy fit, I failed to lift a 10kg-lighter dead-ball and declared it impossible.
I credit my personal trainer for this accelerated progress.
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Pushing clients beyond their own motivation is one argument for personal training. Photo: Marco del Grande
How can anyone not love personal training, I pondered, after hoisting the 45kg ball for a sixth time.
I justify the expense ($90 per hour) for three reasons. First, it’s an education course and workout in one. Charles Sturt University charges $7104 a year for its Bachelor of Exercise Science course. A PT charging $70 twice a week costs $7280. OK, you wouldn’t be quite as clued up, but you’d get more exercise than sedentarily sitting in lectures.
Second, my PT pushes me far beyond my own capability. At the point I’d usually give up, he somehow gets me to push out five more muscle-tearing reps.
Third, my PT is my life coach (the expense means this is the only thing I’m never late for), my nutritionist and my motivational speaker – all in one.
Not everyone agrees. Gutbusters founder Gary Egger recently dismissed public personal training as embarrassingly “middle class”.
“They’re a rip-off,” says Yannick Lawry from Sydney of the various personal trainers he’s used for six years. “They all give wildly different, confusing advice. When I ask a PT why we’re doing a certain exercise, they blind me with jargon. It’d be helpful to have information which made sense – but then they’d never make money.”
Steve Proimos has been a PT in Sydney for the last decade and concedes that PTs aren’t always good value: “We bring value through knowledge, variety, motivation and, most importantly, accountability. Nothing’s more important than actually turning up. That’s half the effort right there. If someone has all the above, what’s the point of a trainer?”
Veteran PT Simon Margheritini runs Go And Get Fit, a PT studio in Sydney’s Waterloo. He agrees with Steve: “If the client doesn’t do the trainer’s ‘homework’ (better nutrition and exercise between sessions), their weight loss and toning-up goals won’t be evident. Having time booked to see a trainer makes a statement that exercise is a huge priority in the client’s life.”
Lawry suggests a cheaper accountability alternative: “Gyms could offer a more honest, low-cost service encouraging attendance by calling members and nutrition advice leaflets. I’d even accept a 10-15 per cent membership fee increase for that.”
Like all services and industries, the levels of skill, expertise and experience can vary wildly, colouring client perceptions of the profession as a whole. Proimos rails against “inexperienced clowns” who complete three months’ training and proclaim themselves “master trainers”.
“What a load of crap! What’s worse is that big corporations/schools allow it. They should start at the bottom and work up like the rest of us,” he says.
Margheritini, a 13-year industry veteran, agrees: “There’s an influx of under-qualified professionals cashing in on the new trend. Always check the trainer’s qualifications before commencing a program.”
Adam Stanecki runs a centre in Melbourne’s Fitzroy for the increasingly popular CrossFit style of training. He recognises its limits: “Group training like CrossFit reduces costs. But individual attention is reduced. If class sizes are too big, results may be poor and the potential for injury higher.”
Some, like me, remain evangelical, if also slightly skint. Chris Stephenson calculates he has spent $24,640 on personal training in Darlinghurst, NSW since he moved there more than three years ago. “That number did surprise me, but having digested it, a personal trainer for me is worth every cent. The technique, expertise and new programs ensure you don’t plateau.”
Finding the right trainer and avoiding “imposters” is essential, Stephenson says: “You get a partner and co-conspirator in helping you achieve your goals. Goals which make me feel stronger, more confident, less stressed. For me that’s worth every dollar and more.”