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Are Personal Trainers Worth The Price?

Should you pay for a personal trainer?  This week we turn to Tom Wheatley, Iffley Road ambassador to share his opinion...

Back in the 1980s, when group workouts were largely based on people dancing in lycra, personal training was something synonymous with wealth. Large muscular men wearing vests, normally from some sort of Scandinavian country, that came round to the houses of the rich and famous to get them in shape.  

Now, thirty years on, the world of fitness has changed a great deal. For the most part, it’s normalised to the point where living an active lifestyle is no longer the realm of ‘fitness people’. These days, getting up early to go to a CrossFit class or spending your Sunday doing a 10k race is completely normal behavior. The same goes for spending money on fitness clothes. Now people are far more likely to spend their disposable income on the latest pair of technical yoga pants than turn up at a class looking like they’re wearing a PE kit from Grange Hill.  

On the training side of things, you only have to look at Instagram to see feeds of people sharing their workouts, whether that’s in a gym, running or at one of the thousands of new fitness studios that pop up each week. That normalisation has also fed into the world of personal training as well. No longer is it a place reserved for the elite as they prepare for indulgent cocktail parties and flights to LA. Now personal training is something that is far more commonplace, as well as an expenditure that’s significantly more justifiable.  

But who needs a personal trainer? How much do they cost these days? And are they really worth it? 

As the world of fitness has changed, so has the diversity of what individuals want from a trainer. Where once a PT may have been associated with the aesthetic side of working out and nutrition, nowadays the reason for getting one can range from wanting to improve athletically i.e. if you wanted to improve your marathon time through strength training, to resolving biomechanical issues that may be causing problems in day to day life. In both of those cases, the decision to pay for sessions has a clear value at the end of it outside of just looking good.

Are Personal Trainers Worth The Price?Nowadays the reasons for getting a PT can range from wanting to improve athletically to resolving biomechanical issues that may be causing problems in day to day life. 

But, with the cost a personal trainer coming in at anything from £20 to well over £100 an hour, it’s not cheap, and unlike celebrities that have PT’s basically living with them, it’s not feasible for most of us to have one just to keep an eye on us.

Fundamentally the question of getting a PT comes down to paying money to have somebody help achieve a goal you have that you can’t get to on your own. For example, if you’re a beginner using a gym for the first time and you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing, you can either seek the help of a friend that trains or try and go it alone and work it all out for yourself. The latter is a long process that may mean you end up doing thing inefficiently and even risk injury. In this case, a PT may shave off months of trying to get your head around training plans, how to work machines or what sort of exercise you should actually be doing. Picking up a copy of Men's Health and attempting the Rock’s workout may seem like a good idea, but the Rock has been training for a few decades, and he’s pretty good at it.  

That same principle applies to specialist training as well. You may well know how to use the machines in the gym - you may even have been going for years - but training for something specific takes knowledge. Paying for someone to apply that knowledge to the intricate needs of your body is a very quick way to improve. When you read articles on the internet they’re not written with you in mind and you can easily end up training inefficiently or pointlessly.  

Inefficiency is one thing but form and injury are a whole other kettle of fish. The internet is full of really fit people training at high levels: heavy weights, difficult movements and, in a lot of cases, exercises designed to look impressive with minimal training value. It’s easy as a beginner to get swept into this mentality and desperately want to lift heavier or try a movement that looks impressive, but without the correct form and techniques, the risk of doing it wrong is ridiculously high. It’ll also mean that the exercises probably won’t even make you put on muscle because you’re not doing it right.

A personal trainer’s job is to make sure the exercises you’re doing are not only the right ones for you but also that you’re doing them safely and at the right weight level. That’s something that’s very difficult to do on your own or by watching Youtube videos. Even professionals struggle to monitor they’re own form and movements.  

Are Personal Trainers Worth The Price?Paying for someone to apply that knowledge to the intricate needs of your body is a very quick way to improve. 

You can get a level of guidance from heading down to a studio or gym and taking part in a workout class. However, the amount of information and attention you’ll get is minimal in comparison to what you’d get with a PT. A HIIT class is a general workout designed for everyone, the instructor may slightly modify it for individuals, but only from a safety aspect. They’ll also check form as well, but keeping an eye on a class of up to thirty people isn’t the easiest thing. The alternative is taking part in a small group class (normally around 4 people) where you can gain some of the benefits of a PT which a much smaller price tag.  

Whether you want to pay for a PT long term or just to kick you off on the right path, finding the right one is important. Not all trainers are equal and simply having the qualification of a level 3 PT doesn’t mean a trainer actually knows a great deal about the specifics of training individuals. A large part of being a PT is the knowledge and experience that is gained by training people, so make sure to investigate the specialisms and focusses of that trainer. If you’re hoping to strength train for a marathon, a PT who hasn’t worked with runners before make actually hinder you instead of building your speed.  

Ultimately your goal should be to learn as much as you can in order to train in the best way for your body and lifestyle. That’s a massive balancing act between how much you can afford, how much you want to develop and how much time you have to do it. For some, a PT is a very short term investment to train alone in an efficient and learned way, for others they’re a costly, but beneficial long term investment to reach a difficult goal. It’s the equivalent of a plumber coming round to fix your boiler but actually explaining what they’re doing so you can do it in future. You could spend days learning how to do it without them, but aside from being time-consuming you might actually risk something going very wrong.