You’ve seen the documentaries and the MTV shows; human wants to lose weight, they hire a trainer, trainer shouts at them in the gym, makes them sweat, vomit and cry, trainer throws away all of their chocolate and creates amazing salads and within 6 weeks they are half their size. They become confident, beautiful, dye their hair and they even get married. So, you ask, is this what it’s really like having a Personal Trainer (PT) and are they worth the money? Well, I’ve had two, (I still have one) both male and female, so I can share my experience.
Do you need a PT?
First of all you need to identify out your goals. What do you actually want to achieve? Weight loss? Increased fitness levels? Muscle gain? Following this, do you need assistance or can you do it alone?
My main reason for getting a PT the first time (January 2014) was that I had been going to the gym for a year and eating well but wasn’t seeing the results I wanted or expected. I was very frustrated and so for my birthday I asked for a block session. I know right, not shoes or clothes – a PT. I guess it shows how serious I was.
I had tried different methods and exercises and researched online but I personally thought that having a person beside me talking me through things would make a difference. I was right, my first PT was the person who introduced me to weight lifting. Before then, I had hardly done any weighted squats, bicep curls or a deadlift and my PT showed me all of that. I trained with her for six weeks and finally began to form muscle and lose body fat. I learnt the importance of good form, a range of exercises and I was motivated to attend the gym because I knew she would be weighing and measuring me.
So, if you are lost in the gym and need guidance, help with form and exercises personalised to your goals and you feel that you cannot do it alone, I would say yes, get a PT.
What do PT’s actually do?
In my experience, they guide you through personalised workouts and motivate you throughout them. The word ‘personal’ in personal trainer, for me, means that they are not giving you a general workout that they could give to everyone but that the exercises are catered towards what you want and need. For example, currently I struggle with motivation to do cardio so my PT includes a lot of running and jumping in our sessions. Your sessions with a PT need to be personal; unlike a group class all of their attention is focused on you. They tell you exactly what to do and how to do it and they don’t leave your side. When you’re about to give up, they push you through and stop you from collapsing on the floor and when you think you can’t do something, they tell you that you can. A good PT listens to your goals and creates workouts based around those. They also listen to your feedback, so if you enjoy something such as boxing they should include more of that or if you absolutely hate the rower machine they might help you find alternatives (unless you’re just lazy!). PT’s are great for creating new workouts, showing you new exercises, motivating you and correcting your form.
After my block session with my first PT, I was really motivated to get into weight lifting and I was in the gym 5 times a week and I saw great results but after a year or so I got bored with my routine. I was bored with doing the same old squat/deadlift/lunge routine and I was bored with going to the gym alone. So early this year, I booked sessions with a new trainer. My reason for hiring a PT the second time around was very different, this time I needed motivation – someone to push me through my sets and teach me new things. I already knew the basics and I had pretty much reached my goal weight but I wanted something more challenging and my current PT does just that. During our sessions I’ll think to myself, “Why on earth did I hire this man? He is trying to kill me!” but it’s exactly what I need. He has me flipping punching bags, lifting heavier, pulling him on a sledge and more. I feel exhausted after our sessions and that is what I wanted.
So is having a PT like being on the shows on TV? Kind of. He pushes me and tells me not to give up and when I slack on an exercise he tells me to re-do it. Both PT’s I’ve had would make it personal, “Come on Hayley, one more,” and that’s what I like. Having someone cheering your name makes a big difference. Is everyone in the gym staring at us? No, not at all, we find a space in a corner and get on with our sessions. Anyone looking is probably watching in amazement at the crazy workouts we do but attention-wise, all eyes are not on me so if embarrassment or attention is your fear, don’t worry. Do they shout and make me do things I don’t want to? No. I do believe that I am already quite motivated and having someone watching me train does make me want to impress them and not slack so I haven’t needed anyone to ‘make me’ do anything but I’ve never experienced any shouting or rudeness and if I really need to rest I am able to. You have to trust your PT and believe that they only want the best for you so if they say to do something, believe that it will be effective and believe that you are capable of doing it. If my PT did not believe I could chest press a particular weight, he would not give it to me because he’d have an injury on his hands, so if he says I can do it, I can.
Have I seen results?
Yes! With my first PT I lost about 4% body fat in six weeks and I could see a visible difference in my body overall. I gained size (muscle) on my legs and arms and my stomach was flatter.
With my current PT I can see muscle gain, my stomach is a lot flatter and I am a lot fitter. My outdoor run times have improved a lot since training with him this year. Also, I am generally stronger; this year I have hit a new deadlift and chest press PB.
How did I find the right PT for me?
The first time around, it took me a little while to find a PT that I liked. I wasn’t going to hand over my money to any old guy from Instagram so I did my research. First, I gathered a list of PTs that I had found from websites, my gym, recommendations and Instagram and emailed them about their packages and prices. Following that, I chose three that fit into my budget and booked taster sessions with them. Some were £60 per hour and some were half that price. As much as I wanted to lose weight, I was not prepared to spend that much unless some sort of personal chef would be at my door each morning. I lived within my means and chose people I knew I could afford.
The first taster session I had was with a female trainer in my gym. She had a long list of qualifications, I could tell she was knowledgable and her session was good but the main thing that I didn’t like about her was that she wasn’t friendly. Knowledge is great but as a PT, in my opinion, personality matters. This woman never smiled, she looked moody and she felt a bit like a robot and that intimidated me slightly. I’m a shy person and if I’m going to pay money to jump around and sweat then I need to feel comfortable. Also, another reason why I decided not to hire her was her body. She is bigger than me in size and personally that can’t work for me. The physique that PT should have is debatable but I feel like if I want a flat stomach then I need a trainer with a flat stomach. I believe that you can train someone to get to a size or fitness level that you are not at because it happens all the time in bodybuilding, weightlifting and even football but personally I needed some physical motivation. I needed a woman I could look at and think, “Yes, I will look similar to that soon.’ I know we should not compare our journeys but by looking at her, I didn’t believe she would get me where I wanted to be.
The second PT I had a taster session with was a man in East London. He was very friendly, affordable, motivating and his session was challenging but his gym was just too far away. Also, I didn’t feel 100% comfortable there because it was a body builder type of gym for men only that he had permission to train women at. If you’ve ever been to those type of gyms you’ll know that it’s nothing like ‘PureGym’ and ‘Fitness First’ – there are limited cardio machines, the equipment is not modern and you’re surrounded by grunting men. At that point in my fitness journey I was not comfortable training in that setting but the distance was the main factor. I needed somewhere I could get to quickly before or after work and I knew that if it was too far I would not feel motivated to go. My sessions needed to fit into my lifestyle and not be a burden so although the PT was a nice guy, the location did not work.
Finally, I chose a female PT that works in my gym. Although she was the most expensive out of the three, personality wise she was the best. I felt comfortable with her, she cracked jokes and she really motivated me to push harder. Physically she looks great too. Also, she has been in the PT business for a while and I could tell she knew her stuff. I learnt really food lifting form with her and a range of new exercises. She was strict with my nutrition and if she ever saw me in the gym outside of my sessions she would come over and help me. We did regular weigh-ins, measurements and body fat readings so I knew I was making progress which would motivate me more. I stuck with her for 12 sessions and I have no regrets. Following those 12 weeks she provided me with a workout plan that I could do on my own in the gym.
My current PT was recommended to me by a friend and at first I had reservations about training with a man. I’d heard stories and experienced flirty PT’s but this guy keeps it professional and I’ve had no problems. He is friendly, funny and I feel comfortable training with him. Whilst we train we have good conversations and most importantly each session is a challenge. We do running, boxing, weights, plyometrics, pull-ups and more so no two sessions are the same so I’m always left feeling shattered. I’m on my second block of sessions with him and I think I’ll continue to train with him until I can find a gym buddy because his sessions keep me motivated, increase my fitness and push my strength levels. Training on my own gets boring and I really need someone to push me so although it is expensive, having a PT works for me.
So, yes I would definitely recommend having a PT. Yes, they cost money but so do most things in life. If you really want to challenge yourself and see a change then you’re going to need some help and if your own research is not getting you where you want then hire someone who has experience and greater knowledge. Know what you want, have taster sessions before hiring someone and prepare to be challenged! If you have any questions about my experience or want recommendations then get in touch.