Personal trainers: A luxury or a necessity?

Just how essential is a personal trainer for the modern gay fitness fanatic facing austerity measures?

Personal trainers: A luxury or a necessity?
02 April 2012

With the global economic remaining relatively uncertain, I’ve been reviewing my outgoings to see where I might be able to make some savings.

My twice-weekly workout with my personal trainer is one of those items of expenditure that, on the face of it, would be one of the first things to go if times got hard. The thought terrifies me.

If you’ve never had a personal trainer, then it’s difficult to understand the deep bond and dependency that quickly forms.

Sure you could be doing all of these exercises by yourself or with one of your friends, but the personal trainer also provides that motivation, the discipline, the structure and the guilt required to make sure you get the best results from your workout.

Patrick Nolen, an academic from Massachusetts (US), explains why he signed up with a personal trainer 18 months ago: ‘To motivate me to get in shape. I’m pretty lazy so having someone to push me and yell at me to work is valuable.  Plus it serves as a commitment device – if I don’t show up I lose a lot of money!’

For John Sadler, an accountant from Perth (Australia), the motivation for recently signing up with a personal trainer was a milestone birthday: ‘I am two months out from my 30th birthday and want to look smashing! I’d been in and out of gyms for about seven years years but really didn’t feel I’d made much progress – often I’d get to the gym and not know what exercises to do. The trainer I’m seeing now is teaching me proper technique and lots of variety.’

But a good personal trainer will be giving you much more than tips on how to lift weights – for example Sadler spends a lot of time with his trainer talking about diet.

‘He’s always asking me how my diet is going,’ Sadler says. ‘I know what I should and shouldn’t be eating of course, but to have him asking about the diet every time I see him makes me stick to it more when I’m not at the gym, which is definitely a good thing!’

But how do you know which trainer is the right one for you? Remember, this is someone you are going to be spending a lot of time with each week – someone you’ll probably be seeing more than your friends or family, so it is a big decision.

Nolen took a fairly simplistic approach: ‘I hired the one with the biggest muscles.’

Whereas Sadler relied on his powers of observation: ‘I’ve been working out at his gym for about two years and I chose him because everyone who works with him seems to be knackered and sweating at the end of the session.

‘He seemed to be really motivating his clients and now he’s totally doing that for me too. I initially started seeing him once a week but I’ve increased that to twice a week now as he is really getting results.

‘A trainer also has to be quite physically fit themselves – good-looking always helps too!’ says Sadler.

The need to get on with a client is also an important consideration for personal trainers. Michael Staddon of Create Yourself Personal Fitness, likes to be upfront with his clients: ‘I always say when I see potential clients that I need to connect with them as much as they need to connect with me.

‘If I don’t enjoy the time with my clients then they are not going to get the best out of the session, so if we’re not compatible I will try to find them a trainer who is more suited.’

Breaking up with a client though can be a difficult conversation, as Staddon explains: ‘If it’s not working out for any reason it’s best to end it quickly. This is always tough though as it can easily be seen as quite a big personal rejection.’

Of course cost is generally a fairly key consideration. Most personal trainers will have an hourly rate (although the sessions will generally last for 30 minutes, 45 minutes or 60 minutes).

Rates will vary depending on location and the knowledge and experience of your trainer – to give you a rough ballpark of prices around the world, in the UK you will be looking at around £75 per hour; in the US you will be looking at around $80 per hour; and in Australia it will be somewhere around $100 per hour.

Once you calculate that you will be looking to train at least twice a week with your trainer, the costs quickly add up – plus they’ll also be badgering you to buy a range of supplements and protein shakes.

But is that a luxury? If you’re going to the gym, exercising correctly and thinking about your diet, then you’re less likely to become sick and require time off work.

In its 2011 Absence Survey, the Confederation of British Industry estimated that the annual cost of absence to the UK economy is £17 billion ($27bn €20bn), so it’s easy to see why companies will often support and encourage employees to follow a healthy lifestyle.

Health Insurance is also expensive – by investing in your fitness by going to the gym and training with a trainer, you may be able to reduce your health insurance costs to a more basic cover. Most health insurance providers will also offer incentives for you to follow a healthy lifestyle.

The more intangible benefit of maintaining your commitment to the gym and your trainer is the way that it makes you feel. Regardless of what is going on at work, the wider economy and the world around you, if you’re exercising regularly you will be in a much more positive state of mind.

Studies have shown that vigorous exercise can increase the body’s natural release of endorphins (a natural pain reliever and antidepressant) and enhance cognitive function.

So, that’s decided. The personal trainer stays. Budget issues remain unresolved.

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