I'm a certified personal trainer and I worked as a personal trainer during college. Even though celebrities, athletes, and regular folks hire personal trainers to help them get fit, I have always believed that most people don't actually need a trainer to reach their goals. While they are warranted—even essential—in some cases, especially if you have health issues, prior injuries, specific training goals, or just don't know the first thing about exercising, most people can learn the ropes on their own.
My favorite clients to train were those who purchased just three sessions with me. Three sessions was plenty of time for me to assess their current fitness level, help them set reasonable goals, design a customized fitness plan, and teach them the basics of using the gym equipment or performing exercises correctly. It was always a great feeling when, at the end of our time together, a client realized that she could take the reins herself or that he didn't need me any longer. If you just want a few new ideas, want to assess your current fitness level (body fat, cardiovascular fitness, etc.), or need someone to show you the basics of exercising, then a few sessions with a qualified trainer is all you need.
So when is hiring a trainer a bad idea? When could you be wasting your money? Here are 5 reasons to NOT hire a trainer.
5 Bad Reasons to Hire a Personal Trainer
#1: Shelling out money is the only way you'll commit to exercising. This is probably one of the most common things I hear from people who are considering hiring a trainer. They don't feel committed enough to working out, but feel like if they pay a lot of money for a fitness program, they'll be more likely to go so as to not "lose" their money. Just as you can't make someone else (like a friend or loved one) want to change, lose weight, or exercise, paying for a trainer won't make you want to do it either. I see this solution backfire many times, because if you're not committed to it already, you'll oversleep, cancel your appointments on short notice (and get charged for it), and likely, not work out as hard as you should during your training sessions—or in between them.
#2: To stay motivated. Some trainers are truly inspiring. They say just the right things to push you to challenge yourself during a tough exercise, and having them there makes you work harder than you might on your own. But just as hiring a trainer won't help you commit to exercise if you're not already in that mindset, it won't necessarily help you stay motivated. Trainers, after all, aren't motivational speakers or life coaches. They're well versed in how the body works and which exercises can best help you reach your goals, but whether that can actually keep you motivated is a tossup. I always say that you're best off finding that internal motivation to stick with a healthy lifestyle versus relying on someone else to do it. But if you're looking for that little push or accountability, why not find a good fitness buddy (for free!)?
#3: To avoid learning the ropes yourself. Many, many people are intimated by the gym and exercise in general. Like I said above, a personal trainer can be an excellent resource to help you get over those fears and learn how to do things safely and effectively. But they should be thought of as tools, not crutches. A good trainer will educate you about what you're doing and why, and as a client, you should absorb this information as a sponge so that you can become your own coach or trainer in the future. When I drive somewhere with my GPS guiding me, I drive on autopilot and don't really pay attention to the route or where I'm going. So if you asked me to do it on my own the next time, I'd be clueless. If you are going to hire a trainer to learn the ropes don't tune out what they're teaching you. Pay attention and learn them so that you don't always have to rely on a trainer to do everything for you.
#4: Because it was a good deal. The fact that your gym is offering a special deal on training packages is one of the worst reasons to sign on with a personal trainer. Talk about an impulse buy! Now, if you really need a few sessions, great—jump on a deal when it arrives. But if you hadn't been thinking about a trainer and are only doing so now because of a "limited time offer," think twice—especially if you're about to commit to a long-term package or contract.
#5: To get in shape fast. Many people believe that a trainer can help them get better, faster results than they could achieve on their own. But really, there is no special "exercise formula" that trainers know and everyday exercisers don't. Cardio burns fat. Strength training helps build lean muscles. Combining the two together will help you get the best results (but only if you're also making changes to your diet). A good trainer will not do anything unreasonable in order to help you achieve a goal that is unrealistic. A good trainer will follow sound exercise principles, like starting you off slowly and gradually increasing your intensity level as you become fitter. It may not sound glamorous, but well, it's tried and true—and safe.
Have you ever hired a personal trainer? Do you agree or disagree with the "bad" reasons above?
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