Do You Need a Personal Trainer?

Find the right personal trainer for your goals.
Find the right personal trainer for your goals. Getty Images

A personal trainer can provide creative, effective workouts, prevent injuries, ensure you hit your goals, and provide consistent, non-judgmental fitness support. Working out with a personal trainer increases your fitness-goal success rate by over 30 percent, according to a study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. The study found that the influence of direct supervision during workouts had a huge effect on the outcome of training.

But one-on-one sessions aren't the best fit for everyone, and the individual attention is expensive — anywhere from $75 to upward of $400 an hour. We spoke with celebrity trainer Jay Cardiello, whose clients include 50 Cent and Jennifer Lopez, and Ryan Krane, fitness consultant and founder of the Get My Body Better online series, about how to find the best workout options and trainers so you can reach any fitness goal.

Figure out your needs
You need a routine that fits your schedule, your goals, and your budget — not to mention your exercise preferences. If you don't enjoy your workout, you won't stick to it. "People who thrive with a personal trainer have a specific end-goal or are trying to fix a certain problem with their training," says Krane. "Personal training gives you your own program and makes you accountable to it. That produces specific results." That can be as particular as perfecting your squat, training around an old shoulder injury, or taking two minutes off your 5K run. To see success, you have to be highly motivated. "But personal training comes with a valuable sense of safety and comfort because your program is incredibly specific to you," says Krane.

Find the type of trainer who will maximize your potential
To know which trainer can help you meet your goals, you have to identify whether you want to increase strength, endurance, flexibility, speed, balance, or a combination of those areas. You also need to make sure you and your trainer will be a good team. Consider what kind of person motivates you: someone demanding, or someone upbeat and encouraging. You also need to know your weaknesses — whether that's a bum knee or hatred of treadmill intervals. Make a list of what's holding you back, or what you struggle with, before you meet with your potential trainer. You can use IDEA Health and Fitness Association to search for and find a certified trainer near you. It's a good idea to interview a trainer by making a list of questions for him or her to answer via email or asking them in person before committing. 

Put your trainer to the test
Before you commit to a trainer — and his or her price tag — you need to determine that the payoff will be worth the price. "Hiring a personal trainer is an investment in your body," says Cardiello. Whether you are hiring a trainer through a company, gym, or independently, Cardiello suggests that you make sure he or she meets these requirements:

  • Certified with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, ISSA, ACE, or the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
  • Current insurance policy.
  • Trained and certified in First Aid and CPR.
  • Has never had personal injury lawsuits brought against them. You can ask them for verification or the gym that they work at. If they can't provide proof, don't hire them.
  • At least three outside recommendations that they can supply.
  • Registered dietitian certification, if they supply nutrition plans.
  • Offer a free evaluation and trial session.

Try a different approach to personal training
If your lifestyle, or your wallet, can't accommodate regular in-person sessions with a trainer, that's okay. Meeting with a trainer a handful times can help you dial in things like form and proper programming, and give you fresh ideas for workouts. You can also get personal attention via the web. Countless services and trainers now allow you to hire a personal trainer and workout via web cam, which is great if you spend a lot of time traveling. Krane, for example, offers online training sessions via Skype.

A more affordable alternative, group training, offers many of the benefits of a personal trainer and typically cost $10–30 per session. It's best for those of us who needs a little extra competition and camaraderie built into a workout. "Group workouts also provide structure and a set schedule," says Krane. "Plus, you get the benefits of having a trainer design your workouts." To find this type of customized group training, never hesitate to approach a personal trainer and ask if he or she does group classes. If not, then IDEA also has a "classes" search option on their Fitness Connect search engine that you can customize to find any type of class you want, from boot camp to kickboxing or circuit training, nearest you.