The Wrong Reasons to Hire a Personal Trainer

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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PATRICIAAK 11/13/2020
:) Report
KATHYJO56 7/17/2020
I've seen good and bad personal trainers. You have to find what is right for yourself. Report
BOB5148 6/25/2020
Thanks Report
I have never in my lifetime hired a personal trainer!! Report
I'm using a trainer at the present time. I need to re-aquiant myself with the gym equipment. Otherwise, I have been using Sparkpeople resources and other online resources to stay in shape. Great article. Thanks. Report
I think that every person who hires a PT has their own reasons for doing so. If that’s what they need as motivation who’s to say they shouldn’t. If it puts them into a financial situation then that’s another story. I say... do what’s best for you! Sometimes people just need to be in contact with other people to help them focus on “like goals”. Of coarse having a PT would motivate you... what is so bad about that? Report
I hired a PT when my back went to hell and physical therapy didn't work. He taught me proper form and how to use free weights and machines. He kept me out of a wheelchair. Check a university gym if one is near you. There are students working on degrees that may be available who charge reasonable rates. Report
I ALMOST hired a personal trainer, for the reasons listed above. I very specifically asked for a trainer who was experienced with obese people, (who could barely do any exercises like me).

I was in tears after the "assessment". For an hour, the trainer entered my info into a computer program, just so the program could tell me that I was obese, including an adorable female avatar that grew to an elephant, as my weight was entered. :-(

And, the trainer wanted me to commit to a food plan, and working out at home.

Unlike SparkPeople, this personal trainer, didn't understand that I was looking for baby steps. I was completely overwhelmed, and felt incompetent, and demoralized.

I'm sure that there are good personal trainers out there, but I have no idea how to find one. Report
I agree with you that there are people out there who don't really need a trainer. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who can really benefit from one! For example, I would recommend hiring a trainer if you have been working out for a long time and would just like a few more tips to improve the efficiency of your workouts.

Although I do agree with reasons no 1, 2 & 4, I wish you could write a blog on "The right reasons to hire a trainer" too!!! Report
As a personal trainer, I completely disagree with #2 & #5 and partially disagree with #1 & #3.

#2 It is one of my primary goals. To find out what my clients what and how I can motivate them each session to put everything they have into the workout. This happens by building a PERSONAL relationship with him or her. I see people with "workout buddies" in the gym all the time and they do some real dangerous stuff at the suggestion of their buddy.

#5 I guarantee I can get faster and better results than the average gym goer can get on their own. Why? That is my profession. If I couldn't, I wouldn't be in this field. Yes, strength training and cardio training combined will get the best results, but there is more to it than that. If you disagree, then you are obviously not a very good personal trainer. As a personal trainer, I assess the clients current fitness levels, get to know their strengths and weaknesses, compare where their at to their 'goals', use that information to set a series of realistic goals, guide them through a training program geared towards meeting those goals, and constantly motivate them along the way. I know when a client needs to ease up or pick it up. On top of it, it is part of my profession to learn new exercises and exercise variations and stay up on the latest research. The average gym goer doesn't have the time to do that. It allows me to keep their workouts fresh and prevent them from relying on the machines as their only source of exercises.

#1 You're physical fitness is worth investing in. People who buy personal training understand that. Anytime you invest in something financially, it strengthens your commitment. A trainer's job is to motivate their clients to want to change and show them how to live a fitness lifestyle while giving them the tools to do it.

#3 How do you learn the ropes yourself? You don't, you get a teacher. A professional. That teacher/professional educates you in "the ropes".

All in all, I love when a client no longer needs my services. They become one of my favorite people to talk to in the gym, because they have so much knowledge. I can always tap them on the shoulder and say hey look what I learned. Likewise, they can tap me on the shoulder and say hey I've been having trouble with ..., what can I do to strength/change things up/etc.

My 2 cents. Report
I DEFINITELY DISAGREE with 1-2. I jump started my gym addiction by hiring a trainer for the first few months, and I recommend it to others. Now, I go 5-6 days per week and have kept off 40 pounds. Report
I agree, but that's me. I used to think I should hire one for most of the reasons you listed, especially the first two, but now I commit to myself and motivate myself. I treat my workouts like a valuable relationship, as if they were my family or my job, and I don't just decide to skip them because I don't feel like them. I'm dedicated to at least 30 minutes 6 days a week, but unless it's a harder weight training session, I go over an hour. I restarted my fitness and weight loss journey on February 19, and I have not missed a workout since. I did start wanting a PT this week, though, because I started working more with kettlebells, and while most of the exercises are intuitive, some are really daunting, and I know I could really injure myself if I have bad form. I'd hire a PT trained in kettlebell to teach me those forms. Report
I strongly disagree with points 1 and 2. I hate excercising but commit to meeting my trainer twice a week and always show up. I need the 'appointment' to get me there. I do mostly boxing and kickboxing and you need someone to make sure your technique is good to avoid injuries. He pushes me hard and whilst I don't always enjoy it I get totally into the workout and work really hard. This is the third trainer I've had and they are all very different. Find one who suits your needs. :0) Report
I DISAGREE with the FIRST TWO because I've used a trainer for those specific reasons and it DEFINATELY has helped me!!! I DEFINATELY AGREE with the last 3!!! :) Report
I've never even thought about getting a personal trainer, and thats a good thing because I would have done it for 3 of the bad reasons listed above. At first thought, some of the reasons don't seem that bad, but you gave good views of why that is not the case. Report
I have had a free training session before at my first gym, and I really liked being introduced to all of the weight machines. I used what she taught me to strength train. Part of the reason I don't strength train as much as I should is because at my new gym I have no idea how to work the machines and I'm way too self-concious to try and figure it out while everyone's watching! Same thing with dumbells. I have no idea what to do with them other some bicep curls, and then I'm out!

I can't afford to actually buy a training session, but maybe one day and then I can have a bit more knowledge before I try it out! Report
I have had a PT for going on 7 months now and I LOVE IT! I work out five days per week in a group setting (usually 2-4 of us) with a PT. I NEVER miss a session because I would never let my PT down or my group. Since we are in a group it is much more affordable to have the benefits of a PT. Our PT's are young but I have really enjoyed their new knowledge and enthusiasm. I am capable of working out on my own but this is much more beneficial for me:
I work out harder
I show up every session and do not let myself come up with excuses
I have lost more weight, inches and have gotten stronger
Yesterday at my wo session it was one other person and me. We did our 3 rounds and I was so glad the wo was over. I wo'd hard and was ready for my rest. My PT looked at us and said can you guys go another round. I did NOT want to go another round, I knew I COULD do another round but would have never done another round on my own. We did the round and I worked harder on that round than I did the first three. I was so happy we did the extra round when I finished. These are things my body and mind need and these are things I can only get from my PT.

I also look at this as an investment in my health and my future. I figure it is much cheaper to pay my PT now with the money I will save on doctor's visits and medications in the future. It is a health insurance policy or health savings plan to me. Report
I also disagree with #1, and a bit with #2....
1 - paying someone "forced" me to go to the gym several times/week. After a while, going on those days became my routine so when my PT sessions were done I continued to go because it had become habit. Also, it's a lot harder to find an excuse to not go to the gym when someone is waiting for you to show up.
2 - While I agree that a PT cannot give you internal motivation, I found that my PT gave me the push to keep going when I wanted to quit and helped me see that I was so much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for (both physically and emotionally). So while he did not "give" me my motivation, he helped me find it within myself. I no longer train with my PT but I still hear his voice in my head sometimes, pushing me through the last mile or the last set. So, yeah, in a way he does still keep me motivated I guess! Report
I agree with all of this. Plus, coming from a personal trainer, I hope people reading this will really take it seriously. Thanks! Report
I have never hired a personal trainer, but I'd like to. I know I would get a lot out of it. I just can't afford one. Report
I also disagree with points 1 and 2. I committed $4000 to a huge training package (120 sessions), and it was the best thing I ever did for myself! A year later, I'm down over 100 lbs. You have to know yourself, and I will not go to the gym if I'm not meeting with my trainer. I do not cancel appointments at the last minute because I truly enjoy our sessions. Of course I know how to use the equipment and could easily design a few 30 min. strength training sessions for myself, but you CANNOT push yourself on your own the same way a trainer can. Report
I really and glad to see this - I had thought of a personal trainer but was thinking it was kinda silly to only get a few sessions to just help me set something up that I could do in my home. Now that I have read this this I think I will do it and I think 3 sessions is great!! One to start/set it up and then a follow up a few weeks later then a final one to tweak/followup a few more weeks I think is great.

thanks Report
I have been thinking that it wouldn't hurt me to hire a PT for just a few sessions to spice up my workouts a bit. Despite the fact that I am very overweight, I am fairly knowledgeable about exercise, but I think a variety wouldn't hurt at all..nor would a routine specifically designed for me. Thanks for a great blog, as usual! Report
I definitely agree with number 5. I think too many people feel that working with a trainer will help them get results fast. Unfortunately, some (disreputable) trainers encourage this view in hopes of getting clients. Well, there is no quick way to lose weight. A personal trainer, just like a gym membership, is nothing more than a tool you can use to help you achieve your goals. What a person gets out of a session or workout is dependent on what they put in.

I miss working with a trainer. It was a great way to mix up my routine with new techniques.
I've done personal training in the past, but realized I could take over myself. My husband does personal training now and again to get new ideas for his workouts. It's really helping him, so I'm glad he's doing it. He will take a few sessions, then use that knowledge for a long time before seeking more. Report
I did have apersonal trainer for 5 sessions because it was a special at the gym. He taught me the different machines and showed me the ropes on how to do it myself, so I felt it was worth it. I wouldn't keep a personal trainer though; he was pretty tough. Report
I'm too cheap and too shy to hire a personal trainer. I just don't feel comfortable having someone THAT physically close to me while I'm sweatin' it out. I feel uncomfortable working out with other people, another reason I don't think I'd join a gym. But I did take a Zumba class last summer, and I really enjoyed it. Report
I've been going to a PT for over two years, but the motivation to lose weight and add the cardio I needed came when I joined SP. At that point, I entered my PT's spring weight loss contest and won! I plan to keep going to her because she is also a friend and a single mom/former bodybuilder who has a fully-equipped gym in her home, and she looks fantastic--washboard abs in her mid-50s! Report
Thanks for a great, honest post. I got a PT package as a b'day present many years ago - 1 of the best gifts I ever got. BUT I asked for it and am totally committed to working out regularly. The 1 major thing she did for me was to show me how much I could do on my own. I think about her every time I work out, hear her commenting on my form, etc. THANK YOU NOKIA, wherever you are now! Report
I do use a personal trainer... but I do an email program with him,.,. he emails me what to do and I do it and email him back how it felt... it works great as I dont work one on one with him as I am very self conscious .... I worked out a yr by myself with reading articles from here and magazines... but then I hit a plateau and couldnt break it and thats when I hired him,,,

now my question is,,, when do I stop using a personal trainer,,,, Report
I bought some PT sessions because I loved my trainer - she helped me do things I didn't think I could do. But she left kind of unexpectedly, and now I have five sessions left and I have to find a replacement trainer! Ugh. Report
As a personal trainer, I have had all the clients that Coach Nicole listed above, as she is right! It is hard to motivate or teach someone who thought writing a check was their ticket to losing weight. But on the other hand, I've had clients for over a year that are amazing! They workout on their own, and they still use me to push them and give them variety. I am their crutch. I am their magic bullet. I am their motivation to work harder than they think they can! I think there are different kinds of reasons, good and bad, to use a trainer. Sometimes it works out very well, other times, it's unsuccessful and it fails. And a lot of times the failures come from reasons listed in Coach Nicole's article. Report
Coach Nicole,
Thank you for a very honest post. Bless you. I'd add #6 - Bragging to others that you have a Personal Trainer may cause those that can't afford one to give up. I suggest trying a gym that offers PT free for a session or two when you join. Then start taking a class, find a friend to motivate you and show you the moves, and maybe hire a PT to offer advice once in awhile if required. Report
Sadly, I've been there, done that. I thought I would get motivated by getting a personal trainer, but when I realized that she wasn't as "motivating" as I thought she'd be, I started cancelling out on sessions. Talk about a waste of money! Report
I could see a trainer for free at my gym, but I never have and probably won't. I know how to use all of the equipment, and I read so many fitness and running articles that I probably know more exercises than the trainer does! Plus... he just kind of rubs me the wrong way, and I don't need to be exercising in front of someone who makes me uncomfortable. Report
I've had two sessions with a P. T. in the year I have been a member at my gym. Both times were free; one was an introduction to the gym to learn the ropes and figure out what programme worked for me, and the second one was when I needed a new strength routine and the trainer was kind enough to devote an hour of his time for me for free (I have a back problem and needed some guidance as to which exercises were good, and at what level, without doing further damage). I feel like I get a little bit of P. T.-time every time I go, though, since I generally go early in the morning when the place is practically empty and the trainers actually have the time to stop and talk to me a little, cheering me on or adjusting my form. Report
I honestly did not know there were so many personal trainers out there. Amazing. If the trainer helps the student - its a good deal.
TerrBear Report
I'm to frugal to spend money on a P. T. Report
I have had a personal trainer for about 3 years now - twice a week when I am not traveling. It is something I've thought about discontinuing but: I really enjoy it - we have done many different things over the years and right now I am in a period of intense strength training; I work out of my home when I am not on the road and it gives me a much needed break twice a week. I like her and I think she is the right combination of drill sergeant and cheerleader. Report
Yes twice and I really enjoyed what he taugh me. Report
I started with a personal trainer in Feb this year. I lost 60+ lbs going to a women's gym that was a 30 min circuit. I did this for a bit over 3 years. It was great, got me working out regularly, even had a weight-loss plan. But after 3 years, I was bored and no longer seeing the results I wanted. I wanted to step up my workout and learn how to use weights correctly. For the first time in my life, I'm almost an athlete:-) it is costly, but I think of it as an investment. I've also started cycling for cardio. I will stay with this for another month, at least. Then, I hope to transition to more independent. I like the idea of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater! Once or twice a month w/PT and on your own the rest. That may be more what I need. Great comments to this blog! Thanks everyone:-) Report
I enjoy working with a trainer much more than working on my own, but I would agree having one permanently isn't necessary. When asked, I normally tell others to hire a trainer for a couple of weeks and then work on their own until they need another boost or a change to their workout. Report
I treated myself to 5 sessions last year. It worked well but I don't want to be dependent on another person. The 5 sessions was just right; I learned new things and learned how to do exercises with proper form. I also felt good that she had a hard time setting challenges for me :) Report
I received two free training sessions when I joined my gym, and was fortunate that she and I clicked right away. I still meet with her once a month, and she customizes a new workout plan for me based upon exercises I enjoy and also around my lower back injury. Report
I completely disagree, most wholeheartedly with points 1&2. I hired a personal trainer a few weeks ago and having that help in accountability and commitment to fitness, has made all the difference in changing my life. I am eating healthier and I care, and I am start to really love workout- whether it's running, yoga or standup paddleboarding... activities I would have never tried before. My trainer IS motivating and having someone who is also invested in my success and health is a great feeling. Totally worth every penny- I deserve to be happy, even if it means shelling out some money for help (whether it be for a trainer, therapist or anything else). It's just money, and no one should judge me for how I spend it in helping myself to be happy and healthy. Report
I hired a trainer when I first started using a gym, to get started 'smart,' then continued until I was sure I would recognize what good form felt like.

Even now, every year, I buy a few weeks of training to make sure I've not gotten sloppy (because, for me, sloppy=injury in short order.) Report
I had a personal trainer for a couple of years and loved it! I needed someone who would push me harder than I would push myself and help keep me accountable. She also made sure my form was correct to avoid injuries, and changed my workout routing regularly. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford to keep her. Now I go to a bootcamp style class every day, and love it just as much! I look forward to my workouts every day! Report
I used to have a personal trainer and for the most part, I found it really helpful. I only saw her once a month, and she would set up my program for the next 4 weeks. This way, I learned how to do the exercises properly, and when I started to get bored, or it got too easy, she changed it up. Also kept me accountable, to a certain extent. That said, I recommend that when you do get a personal trainer, get one who is a bit more "mature". I find most of them are still students and don't have enough confidence yet (or too much!) or aren't always well-versed in knowing when something is medically not a good idea. And they are NOT all motiving. I had one that I simply couldn't stand, she didn't listen to me, and didn't challenge me either. Report
Hmm how funny is that.. I just read an article the other day called the Top 10 reasons to hire a personal trainer and most of these were on there in some fashion but motivation clearly was listed. Lol Well i have plans on getting a personal trainer soon and after reading the pros n cons def think ill be sticking with my plan! (Its my reward to myself when i hit 215) I was convinced of the benefit @ my intro session when he asked if i was holding my breath during the workout, which i was, since then his voice saying "exhale on exertion" is now always in the back of my mind. I dont consider myself a fitness novice by any means, i read a lot and know a lot about the workouts im doing, but ive never met a trainer who didnt know more than me. I think they can be a great resource and be very motivating. :) Report