WHEN NOT TO HIRE
A PERSONAL TRAINER
When you are desperate to make a change. You’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work.
It seems logical that hiring an expert (such as a Personal Trainer) could be a solid, even necessary, investment.
But not so fast!
Is a Personal Trainer Worth It?
Watch This Video for a Full Analysis
There is no denying that guidance from someone with more experience, expertise, or knowledge, in an area where you are lacking, is worth investing in.
At school, if you struggled with Maths, but it was important to your career path, you might hire a tutor.
If you were keen to learn a musical instrument, you could try to figure it out yourself, but most people would hire an instructor.
And given your health and general well-being are crucial to the functioning of all other aspects of your life, this would seem like a no-brainer.
If you are struggling to make progress yourself, you feel lost, lack confidence or you are simply overwhelmed, then clearly hiring an expert is the route to go.
This may look simple on the surface. But life is rarely that straightforward.
No one has unlimited resources.
Cost is clearly a factor. If you can’t afford the service, you have a problem.
Similarly, time is not infinite. And if your time is already allocated to numerous other priorities, you can’t simply conjure up the time required to invest in yourself.
We will return to these points later.
The point being, that whether a Personal Trainer is worth it is, in part, down to your own personal circumstances, resources and needs.
What has value at one point in your life may not have the same value at another.
Why are you considering a Personal Trainer?
This question is key!
Often the reason is very surface level. You have a holiday on the horizon. You have an event coming up. Or maybe you have just been feeling down about yourself and a recent event was enough to push you to want to make a serious change.
However, if your next step is to jump to a personal trainer, then this is likely a bad move. One that will probably lead to little more than time wasted, frustration or worse, regression and loss of will.
There are several reasons for this.
One of the key ones goes back to available resources.
If you have not weighed up the importance of your fitness goals versus the current demands on your time, by the time you make an appointment to meet with a PT it is going to feel like an inconvenience or an added stress, rather than the benefit you were seeking.
Similarly, if you have not considered the cost of hiring a personal trainer and are walking in blindly, then you are either going to be hiring a ‘professional’ the equivalent of a bargain bin item, or you are going to be so focused on the cost, all value will be lost on you and you will make your excuses, walk away (usually to “think about it”). Then, most likely, end up looking for a cheaper alternative that is not even close to what you were looking for in the first place, before getting further frustrated when you have wasted so much time, money and effort and are no further forward.
What changes are you looking to achieve?
Before approaching a Personal Trainer, ask yourself:
- What changes or improvements do I want to achieve?
- Why are these changes important to me?
- Why have I struggled to make these changes up to this point?
- How do I feel a fitness professional could help make a difference?
These questions are important because, it could be that your problem is not something that anyone else can resolve. You are simply not ready to make a change!
Just because you want something, doesn’t make it a priority to you.
If you have a mountain of work, several deadlines approaching and a hectic family life, just because you woke up 3 days in a row feeling bloated and that you “need to do something” to fix that, doesn’t mean you are mentally placed to make space for any kind of change.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make a plan to do so.
But it is certainly worth taking some time (even if it is reflection time during a shower or during a commute) to consider the importance of these changes.
You might not know how to balance all of this.
That is where a good coach can help you.
A good Personal Trainer is more than a drill sergeant, they are a guide to help you find the right path for you in achieving your goals.
But without clarity in what it is you want to achieve, there is little point in bringing in assistance.
If you wanted to cross a desert or a mountainous region on foot, you might hire a guide who knows how to navigate the terrain. But no amount of experience or expertise is going to allow your guide to help you find the correct destination, when you are not sure where it is you want to go.
Why don’t we make the changes we know are important?
There must be a willingness to understand that this important to you.
If not, this is just fanciful thinking.
I may WANT to own a Bugatti Veyron, and if I lived in the cheapest flat possible, never bought any clothes, lived off scraps and leftovers, took on another job, so I would only sleep 4 hours per night, and so on, I’m sure, within 10 years, I could save enough to buy one (though getting insurance may be an issue).
However, on reflection, it is not worth the immediate sacrifices required. So, it can go on a wish-list that can be reviewed as my circumstances change.
As we’ve already covered, improvements to your physical health and well-being are the foundation of all aspects of life.
Once you understand that, it is logical to put these changes as your highest priority.
But we don’t work on logic most of the time. We work on emotion and response.
Research has proven this time and again.
If you tell a smoker that, if you don’t stop smoking you are going to die in 20 years. The brain emotional response in the brain does not respond the way you might think.
The way the brain interprets this is as if you are being told, “If you don’t stop smoking, someone is going to die in 20 years”.
The reason being 20 years is not urgent. It is not immediate. So, it does not register as associating to you. The way your brain responds is as if the information is about someone else.
Similarly, if you are overwhelmed with work and deadlines are looming. Those deadlines are urgent and immediate. If you then tell yourself that you need to look to improve your health and fitness because it will help you cope better with these stressful situations; it will improve your productivity and cognitive thought and is therefore of critical importance. Because you are not critically ill, you are still coping (just) and you are able to keep moving forward. Your natural response will be to get these deadlines out of the way and THEN look to make those changes!
From an outsider perspective this may make no logical sense. But it is how we are wired to respond!
Good Personal Trainers Vs Bad Personal Trainers
This can be the difference between a good PT and a bad one.
A good Coach or Personal Trainer will understand and empathise with these conflicts and work with you to find a level of balance and harmony that you feel comfortable with.
Most PTs, however, don’t comprehend. They have told you something logical and you are not following through, so it’s your fault!
(Side note – we could look at the ongoing political situation, regarding Covid-19 in a similar way).
That said, if you haven’t made the distinction ahead of time, you are never going to be fully on board with the process.
It is crucial that you understand the level of importance the changes you desire truly mean to you.
How important are your goals?
To assess this is quite simple.
Take a piece of paper or open a text editor on your computer.
Make a list of everything that regularly consumes your time and thoughts currently.
This could be anything, but as a few examples:
- Work Deadlines
- Family Emergency (someone close to you is critically ill)
- Impending house move
- Overdue Debts
- Upcoming Wedding
- Upcoming Holiday
- Upcoming Birthday, Engagement or Anniversary event you are organising
- Looming Exams
- Looking After Your Children
- Upcoming Presentation/ Speaking Engagement
- Imminent Birth of a Child
- Acting as someone’s carer
Anything that regularly or currently takes up your time and focus should go on the list.
Then re-write the list in order of importance.
This doesn’t have to be perfect, so don’t spend too long on it. Simply start with one element and put it down, take another and assess if it is more or less important than the first one. Put it down accordingly. Do the same with the next item, comparing it with each of those already listed in order individually.
Once you have a completed list (which may be as little as 3 or 4 items but could stretch into double digits) take your health and fitness goals and assess where on the list they belong.
Remember though, it is not selfish to put yourself first.
It may feel awkward putting your health and fitness above acting as someone’s carer or looking after your children, for example. But depending on what your goals are, this may be more important because it goes to your ability to carry out those other duties.
For example, if your goals are to improve your energy, movement and strength levels, whilst improving your overall health. Such changes will only enhance your ability to carry out those other activities. And neglecting them would be to the detriment of most other activities.
That said, if your goals was to get a six pack in time for your next holiday, but you have looming deadlines, children to look after and a critically ill relative, perhaps this must take a place lower on the list.
The purpose here is simply to clarify to yourself what it is you want to achieve and how important it truly is to you and your life.
How much does a Personal Trainer Cost?
There is a chance that you skimmed through this article and stopped here.
If so, and if this is the most important question to you, chances are you are not ready to engage a Personal Trainer at this stage.
If cost is your primary concern, you are going to go cheap.
And whilst cost is not always an indicator of quality, searching within a service-based industry with cost as your leading motivator is rarely going to lead to a successful outcome.
I’m not saying bargain hunting is a bad thing. Finding a cheaper electricity supplier; a cheaper deal on the same mobile phone; or a better deal on your car insurance is certainly practical. But when you intend to work with someone based on their skill, knowledge and experience, to then go for the cheapest option you can find with the same job title is not a prudent saving.
However, it is also not insignificant!
If you were to over-stretch yourself to engage, what you believe to be, the ideal personal trainer, the resulting stress you would cause yourself could cause more damage than any benefits from the expert you have hired might bring.
How much a PT charges can vary wildly.
In the UK the average cost of a Personal Trainer is £40-60 per hour.
Remove London from the equation and you can potentially drop this by around £5 at either end of the curve.
That said, this is the average cost.
And whilst there are a high number of trainers working below this level (often in the £25-35 zone), there are some coaches and trainers who charge significantly higher rates (so there are fewer people pulling the average up than those pulling it down).
Cost versus the Value of a PT
With such a large variance, how can you set a level of expectation on what you might pay?
The fact is you can’t and nor should you.
But consider this: The number of personal trainers who remain in the industry longer than 2 years is falling. That number used to be around 20-30% and is now closer to 10%.
That means around 90% of the trainers you are reviewing as ‘experts’ have been qualified for under 2 years.
If all you are looking for is accountability (someone to book in with so you have an appointment, which you feel will make you show up), then perhaps you are simply looking for someone cheap and local.
Though even then, it is not uncommon for PTs, who have a low level of passion for their clients, to be wholly unreliable.
[Side note – I have watched PTs prioritise potential social activities over their clients best interests. I have heard others saying they hope their clients don’t turn up today as they can’t be bothered. And I have watched many trainers setting up one session when they have 4 clients due in that day and just give the same session to each client because they can’t be bothered coming up with anything else].
If, however, you are truly looking to hire an expert. Someone who has experience you can tap into. Knowledge that is of value and will save you time, effort and frustrations, then you should be looking to the other 10%.
It may cost more in the short term, but it’s worth more in the long-term.
Can you afford a Personal Trainer?
In an ideal world, everyone who needs help would receive it.
Though, despite the fact that it may feel like everything has a price tag these days, there is more help available now than at any time in history.
For example, you are reading this, and it isn’t costing anything (but hopefully it will prove helpful in making a sound decision).
Paying more doesn’t necessarily ensure value though. So, how do you get the best value for your investment?
Or how do you work out what level of investment (if any) is a good balance for you?
Work out what you can truly afford
Imagine you are having a discussion with a Personal Trainer.
You feel they could be an incredibly good fit.
You feel confident that you can work together and make solid progress.
Then, the discussion turns to price and the trainer asks, “what is your budget?”
This intuitively feels off to many people.
In many areas of life there is a price and you either pay it or you don’t.
However, in a service-based industry, you can clearly tweak the level of service.
That may seem logical, but it rarely feels naturally intuitive.
Your natural inclination is to resist.
Most likely, the reason is you don’t want to spend any more than you have to. And you are concerned that, if you say a number that is higher than you might have paid, the PT will now tell you that is the price (or something to that effect).
However, consider this: You are looking to enter into a relationship with this person that involves a high level of communication, openness and trust. Yet, your instincts are to feel you are about to be duped into spending more than you should.
Is this really the stepping off point you want to be working from?
On the flip side, if you manage to beat down the cost of the trainer, what have you won?
You now have a trainer that, consciously or not, slightly resents the situation. Or they are going to have to make appropriate modifications.
For example, where a good personal trainer would likely spend many hours, beyond the sessions with you, reviewing where you are in your progress, reviewing your programmes, researching specific information or looking into your nutritional diary etc. That may no longer be cost effective and they are now spending that same time working on their marketing to fill space in their diary with someone else who will make up the shortfall in their income because they have overheads and bills to pay.
The result, you end up with a below par service and your progress reflects that.
Be honest with yourself
In all these elements outlined, the most important element is to be truly honest with yourself.
When you are evaluating your goals, there is no point in making them sound noble if they are genuinely superficial.
The truth is what is driving you.
By smothering that intent, you smother your drive.
Your true passion may well change and adapt over time. But there is no point in trying to sound good when it is not true.
For example: You may just feel you want to look more desirable to the opposite sex. Or you might just want to make someone jealous. And that is what has inspired you to want to make a change.
But you may not feel good about that. So, you convince yourself you want to be an inspiration to your child or you want to look after yourself so you can be the best you can be for your family.
Remember, if you cannot define your target destination, you are unlikely to find the correct guide for your journey.
This is also true when it comes to your budget
Understand this is an investment in achieving these goals.
An investment in yourself.
And whilst you may not feel comfortable admitting you have more or less disposable income than you truly have, it is better to be clear, in your own mind, what you can truly afford.
For example: You may spend much of your time complaining you don’t have enough money to others. Or that you don’t get paid enough. Then, on sitting down to reflect, you notice you spend £100 every weekend on alcohol and take-aways; going to the pub or going to see a movie. You may also notice that your weekly shop involved buying £20-30 worth of unhealthy snacks that are moving you away from your stated goals. Your subscription to streaming services, that you rarely watch, totals £60 per month. And you have a habit of online shopping for clothes or household items you could do without.
On doing this exercise, you suddenly realise you spend £800 per month on things that you previously believed were lower on your priority list than the goals you had laid out.
This goes into conflict with the person you felt you were.
You might feel guilt.
You may react with denial.
Because the alternative is, firstly, admitting the financial situation you are complaining about is of your own doing. Or, potentially giving up these things that you say are a lower priority, but you enjoy and don’t want to live without.
These are only examples.
It could work the other way.
Perhaps you are too proud to admit that paying for a PT would cause you financial stress. That you genuinely don’t have the resources available to hire assistance without causing yourself undue stress or long-term financial problems.
Knowing the truth
By being honest with yourself, you will paint a clear picture to act upon.
By the time you make a decision, you should have clarity on:
- What you want to achieve
- How passionate you are about achieving it
- Where it comes in your list of priorities
- What resources you have available to you to invest (time and/ or money)
- Your limitations and restrictions (from elements higher on your priority list)
- Your long-term struggles and obstacles
The less honest or clear you are on these points, the more of a lottery your next move is likely to be on satisfying your desire for change.
Know your options
The biggest problem with impulse decisions, where little thought has gone into it, is the solution tends to be one of simply following the crowd.
[7 Steps to Get a Grip on Your Goals]
Want to get in shape? Join a Gym! Go to a Fitness Class! Hire a Personal Trainer!
These are the routes everyone else takes, so they must be right. Right?
If you don’t take the time to look and simply follow the crowd, it’s understandable that is the conclusion you would come to.
But given the majority of people are frustrated with some part of themselves (physique, athletic ability, energy levels, restricted movement etc) then, upon reflection, following the crowd to the generic option may not be the best idea.
However, if you have, as outlined above, taken the time to reflect on what you want, your priorities and your resources and limitations, you are now fully armed to make better, more informed choices in what to do next.
The body and mind are such complex systems, that going generic is rarely a solution for those with a clear purpose.
As a few examples:
Scenario 1 – Pressure, Stress & Poor Self Control
You realise you have been struggling for years to make a shift. Your physical body is now holding you back. You are sluggish. Your focus is not all there at work. You feel climbing the stairs is a real effort. And despite knowing all of this, you can’t bring yourself to go to a gym and you wind down, every night, with a glass of wine and a packet of biscuits in front of the TV. Only to wake the next day chastising yourself and not understanding why you keep doing this.
The common solution – You hire a personal trainer.
You now have accountability to show up to train. You feel less intimidated and worried about not knowing what to do as your trainer is going to tell you what to do and make sure you are doing it correctly.
In other words, this is a smart decision. Isn’t it?
The issues being outlined as problematic are related to stressors and their impact on your body.
The evening binging is likely nothing to do with will-power or accountability, it is the result of a chemical reaction brought on by stress.
The resistance to making the change until now is similarly a mental restriction.
Therefore, engaging someone to show you how to exercise and pushing you forward, who possibly has no experience of corporate stressors or any understanding of the internal chemical reactions that are involved in this situation, may well move the needle for a time.
And the thrill of doing something new (and actually doing something active) is going to cause you to see some progress.
That could create sufficient momentum to drive your onto a successful path. But we are back to the lottery approach.
Whereas, if you were to engage an Experienced Fitness Coach who specialise in working with professionals, managers, business owners and entrepreneurs (yes, I just described myself). You may not need to go anywhere near a gym to begin with. Because your understanding of how and why you are self-sabotaging is a much more important area to prioritise.
This would leave you with a stronger mental foundation to build from. And every step forward would be a building block in the direction of your true goals. Rather than simply making progress away from where you currently are and then getting stuck further down the line before having to start again.
Scenario 2 – Continuous Setbacks
You have a history of hitting the gym. You’ve attended many fitness classes. You’ve tried a few programmes, with varying degrees of success.
However, every time you seem to be getting somewhere, you hit a roadblock.
Sometimes you just seem to plateau. Your progress just stops and you don’t know what to do.
Often, in your attempts to push to the next level, you pick up an injury that means you have to stop for a few weeks.
Other times you get ill. Catch the flu that is going around, a head cold, a tummy bug.
And each time it happens, you feel like you are practically starting again and the frustration is getting to you.
But you have done your assessment and you genuinely can’t afford a PT of the level needed to guide you on the right path.
Common Solution – Hire a cheaper Personal Trainer
They are qualified, so they must know what they are doing. Plus, you’ve found one in great shape and if they can do that, they must be worth listening to.
Again, you might get lucky. But now we return to the lottery approach.
Firstly, just because someone trained themselves well, doesn’t make them qualified to guide anyone else.
Perhaps they have amazing genetics. More likely they simply managed to tap into what works for them, but that is unlikely to work for you.
They may not be so prone to injuries and so, less than perfect training approaches are more forgiving.
Ultimately, as within sport, a great player does not ensure a great coach. And an average player (or non-player) can often excel in coaching.
In such a situation, either paying nothing and simply doing your best on your own, possibly setting aside the money you would have been willing to pay until you have sufficient saving to hire the experienced PT you require, would be a better solution.
However, there may be other options out there.
These are just a couple of examples.
However, the options could go even wider or more specialised.
If you are pregnant or have recently given birth, there are specialists you can work with.
If your psychological barriers are extreme, then, although your goals may be physical, your foundational focus must be to deal with these first and speaking with a therapist could be the best investment you can make.
If your issue is you have a resistance to the idea of using a gym, consider other activities that might give you the output you require. This could be anything from a sports activity, to a hobby or volunteering in a manual labour position to help a local charity. Anything that gets you active is a step forward (just be sure that, if your goals are more than just improving your activity level, that you must consider balance in your approach).
There are coaches who work on strength and conditioning for specific sports from MMA to Golf.
There are dieticians who will look exclusively at your nutritional approach (though if that ‘expert’ involves selling you shakes… run! The exercise of running away will be more beneficial than the plan).
Bottom line – Do some research to fully understand training plans and protocols and sensibly applying them to your own situation, or engaging an experienced coach to simply write you a programme that you then follow on your own, with occasional feedback sessions, could be a route to consider.
Finding the ideal Personal Trainer in My Area
If, after all of this, your conclusion is that a Personal Trainer is the right approach for you, the next step is clearly to find the ideal fit for your needs.
How do you go about that?
Here are the approaches to avoid:
- Hiring the first Personal Trainer to come up on Google
- Hiring a Personal Trainer that is related to you
- Only considering the Personal Trainers in your local gym
- Hiring the cheapest PT you can find
- Hiring a PT based on how they look
Given these restrictions, and given the low percentage rate of finding an experienced, high quality coach outlined already, where do you start?
The thing to keep in mind is, that this shouldn’t be a rushed decision.
Hiring the first PT you speak to is not necessarily a bad move. But that should be because you’ve carried out a little research first.
I realise time is precious, but if you have taken the time to read this content, then you are already showing willing to invest a bit of time.
This is not a quick splurge. This is an investment in yourself. So, at the very least, look into the trainer’s online profile. Have a look at some content they may have put out (though remember, you are not looking for an Instagram influencer, you are looking for a coach).
Arrange a meeting and don’t just ask “how much?” in arranging it.
Meet with them first.
If they are feel like a perfect fit, then see if they have a solution you both feel can work that fits within your carefully considered budget. If not, ask yourself if there is a route to working with them that could work for you.
If you feel they ‘could’ be a solid fit, but you are not 100% convinced, go an meet with another trainer that feels like they could be a good fit. Then compare the service and the feeling you have with regards working with them as a person (excluding any consideration of cost).
If the 2nd option does not match up to the first choice, possibly try a third option.
If option 2 is a better option, again, consider if you can find a route, within your budget to work with them.
Only if your feeling toward 2 trainers is equally strong (and remember to be completely honest with yourself about this) should cost be the tie-breaker.
Something to consider
If you were buying a house, you would push to get the one that really feels right, based on your budget.
Often people will overstretch their means to get the house they truly want.
Yet, if your house turns out to be a bit broken or you stop feeling comfortable in it, you can always move to a new one.
Not so with your body.
So, taking more time and consideration about how you are going to look after yourself should be a logical route. Many people take months, if not years, looking into properties. And then go to huge lengths to invest more than is comfortable in securing it.
Clearly you and your family need to live in it and feel comfortable. So, it is important.
But again, you cannot escape your own body.
And feeling comfortable in your own skin. Functioning correctly. And having your internal processes (particularly your brain) operating at full capacity, is more important.
So, take the time required to make a good decision.
Once the groundwork is complete, get moving!
Despite the advice to take your time; do your due diligence and ensure you are making good choices. Once you have a route you feel comfortable with, now is the time to take your foot off the break.
It is very easy to get into a cycle of procrastination.
The entire process outlined above should take little more than a few days. A couple of weeks at most.
Then, it’s time to take the plunge.
There is no denying, engaging a personal trainer, when done right, is a big commitment.
You are putting a huge amount of faith in someone you have likely only just met.
You will have based this partially on research, but much on feel (though an educated feel due to having carried out the groundwork on what you are truly looking to achieve and asking appropriate questions).
But the point where you have to commit both physically and financially is going to be a sticking point for many. And it can be easy to start finding reasons to put it off.
You need to get those deadlines out of the way.
You have an upcoming holiday, so you’ll start when you come back.
Trust me, I’ve heard them all.
But you made a commitment to change. You have taken the time to understand the importance of this change. You have ensured you understand that the financial commitment, whilst, perhaps, uncomfortable, will not cause you undue stress or strain.
So, there is now no reason not to commit and get the ball rolling immediately.
Situations and obstacles will always turn up. But now you have a guide to help you navigate your way through them.
So, get moving as quickly as possible.
When not to hire a Personal Trainer
But the purpose of this article was to cover the question of when NOT to hire a personal trainer.
Hopefully, having gone through all the stages above, this should become obvious.
But to conclude, here are sometimes to avoid hiring a Personal Trainer:
- When the cost would cause you overwhelming financial strain and stress
- When you have higher current priorities that leave insufficient time to dedicate to PT sessions
- When you are committed to making a change, but haven’t reviewed other options that may be more suitable to your particular sticking point (ie Coaching; working with a dietician; or simply improving your own education).
- When you are only doing it because they have a deal on (them devaluing their service does not suddenly make them a better option. Only consider this if it is a PT you were looking to find a route to working with previously. And even then, consider that their devaluing of their own service could have a negative impact on their service level).
- When you are only doing it because a friend got great results (unless you feel you are equally as driven and committed and have very similar goals and compatibility with the trainer as your friend).
- Because it is New Year!
If you read this far, congratulations. You have already done more than most would in the evaluation stage of making such a life impacting decision.
with a busy schedule by Mark Tiffney
I hope you found the content above useful and helps in avoiding making a poor, expensive or incredibly frustrating decision.
If you are looking to make a positive change, then hopefully the ideas above help you make a positive choice.
And if you are struggling, feel free to get in touch, comment below or continue to read the other articles on this site.
You never know, one of them may just be all the inspiration you need.
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