Open Thread: How to Hire a Personal Trainer

how to hire a personal trainerAs warm weather approaches, people everywhere are rethinking their fitness routines. For some, that may even include hiring a personal trainer. But finding a good personal trainer can be a slightly difficult proposition: it’s expensive, so you want your money’s worth — but you also want to make sure that your limited time and energy is “spent” well at the gym. So let’s talk about it. (Pictured: study in annoying eddie II, originally uploaded to Flickr by hmmlargeart.)

My own experience with a trainer was less than stellar: It was January 2008, and I was gearing up for a trial with a very small trial team — so I knew a lot of late nights and early mornings were in my future. I went to my gym and requested a trainer, and took the first person they recommended who could meet my schedule. I think I wound up paying about $75 per session for 10 sessions. It was worth it, I figured, if I could still fit into my suits come trial time.

My trainer, a youngish man named F, was a nice enough guy. But throughout our 10 sessions, we floundered. Sometimes he would kick my @!#$@#$ (oh, I still ache a bit from the one-legged walking lunges across the room). Other times, though — actually, a lot of the time — I felt like F was wasting my time, overestimating my coordination (no matter how long I tried, I was apparently incapable of hitting the little speedbag boxing thing with any regularity), and treading on my patience. I left most of the sessions feeling like the 60 minutes spent at the session and the 15-20 minutes walking to/from the session would have been a lot better spent with one of my FIRM videos, going to a spin class, or doing a long run outside by myself. (I ultimately caught a truly nasty cold — right in the midst of trial, too, joy — and ate so little that I wound up fitting into my suits just fine.)

For those of you who’ve had success with personal trainers: how have you chosen a trainer? How have you communicated with him or her to ensure an amazing workout?

Comments

  1. Nice post — I actually just hired a personal trainer, and I really like him. I went on yelp to find people with good reviews in my area (Los Angeles); ended up interviewing two different people. The first one sounds like yours — the gym just sort of gave him to me as someone who was available and could accomodate my schedule. He was nice and all, but I didn’t think he was really “getting” my body and my capabilities. The second was much better — he listened to what I said, then took me through a bunch of exercises to evaluate what I actually could do. If you have the time, I think the interview process is key — if you don’t “click” with the trainer, it’s just not going to work out (pun intended). I think most places will either give you the first session free, or let you do one session to evaluate and then retroactively give you the package discount if you end up buying more.

    If anyone’s in the West Hollywood area of LA and interested in a trainer, I recommend at least interviewing Sam (trainer #2) — his blog is at http://www.allouteffort.com.

  2. i love my trainer! he is the best. but i probably wouldn’t have purchased my package if i hadn’t had three trial sessions with him first. that way i knew his style, what i was getting in to, and he also knows my goals and what i want out of my sessions.

    i think when you’re spending money for a personalized workout with some serious attention and $$$ put forth, you should demand to get the kind of results you want. if you’re dreading your sessions, you should tell them and make them add the fun back in!

  3. JackThread :

    Off-topic but need etiquette help. I was just invited to go to a bridal shower and cannot go. Am I supposed to send a gift to the bride anyway? I know that’s the rule for weddings, and I would probably do that for a baby shower, but not sure what the proper course is for a bridal to-do. We’re not too close if that helps, and I am going to go to the wedding. TIA!!

    • I usually send a gift if I can’t make a shower.

    • somewherecold :

      I would send a small (maybe $20-35) item, but I don’t think that’s necessary, especially if you’re not close. You could give a bit more than you were planning for the wedding gift instead. I just attended my own bridal shower and definitely did not expect a gift from someone that didn’t attend.

    • anonymous :

      Let me be much more blunt: if you’re not going to the shower, you don’t need to send a gift.

      • soulfusion :

        agree – especially if you are not close to begin with. But I am in a community where I often get invites to showers where I wouldn’t describe the relationship as more than an acquaintance so there is no expectation of a gift if you don’t make it. I often feel the invites are a result of the “if I invite so-and-so, I must invite these others . . .”

      • AnonInfinity :

        I agree with this. It never crossed my mind that anyone who did not come to my shower would send me a gift.

    • Sending a gift would be a very nice thing to do but it is in no way expected or the norm.

  4. Diana Barry :

    I’ve never had a real-life trainer – most of the ones I’ve seen at the gyms where I’ve been a member train the same people doing the same things with each one, and their trainees never seem to get stronger or change shape!

    When I wanted to lose some fat for my wedding, I hung out on online fitness boards a lot and learned routines from there – I learned how to lift and not just do cardio. I also hired an online trainer a couple of times since then, which is helpful (they give you exercise routines and also meal plans) and also less expensive than a “regular” trainer. Only good for the self-motivated, though!

  5. Related question: Has anyone tried the Tracy Anderson videos? Specifically the mat workout? I’m thinking about it but the reviews on Amazon are so mixed- people seem to either love it or hate it. Any advice? (I have zero dancing background, am thin but would really like to tone and tighten my lower half especially, generally more of a runner, although I’ve also done P90 and boxing in the past). Oh, and like the rest of you, I have limited time (biglaw junior associate).

    Thanks!

    • If you want an ass-kicking workout in limited time, do Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred and Ripped in 30. Each workout is 20 minutes and gets in full-body cardio, strength, abs, and stretching. I was in a similar situation as you before my wedding where I didn’t need to lose much weight and just wanted to firm up and Jillian’s videos did the trick.

    • somewherecold :

      I haven’t tried those videos, but I wanted to recommend trying different videos on Netflix (if you have it) and Hulu–much less commitment than buying a bunch of videos you’re not sure about. I think I picked up that tip from someone here, so I wanted to pass it on.

      • Any specific netflix titles to try – particularly the ones that don’t require much/any special equipment?

        • somewherecold :

          I’ve done the Self: Best Butt Fast video a couple of times and some of the Crunch ones (like the Pick Your Spot Pilates). I think the audio on the Crunch ones is better (can hear well on my computer without separate speakers). I just looked for things that were available on watch instantly (try keywords of exercises that you are interested in, like “yoga,” or “crunch,” “women’s health,” “self” to get those brands), and I usually look for 30-45 min workouts without any special equipment.

        • I really like Crunch: Super Slim Down on Netflix — it’s a pretty easy routine to pick up, combines yoga and pilates in a way that keeps your heart rate up for most of the 40ish minutes, and is not overly obnoxious (I’ve been doing it on and off for over a year now and it’s still my go-to workout video). It does a pretty good job firming up my ab area (when I do it regularly) and it only requires a mat.

        • Thanks, somewherecold & Megan!

      • I never thought to look on Netflix for fitness videos. Thanks for the tip!

    • If you liked P90, you could try another Beach Body product: Brazil Butt Lift. Don’t laugh, it’s pretty killer, and it focuses on the lower body. The trainer has a hilarious accent, and you’ll do tons of squats and lunges, but I love it. I’m a runner too, and I’ve noticed that my running form and endurance has improved in the past 8 weeks that I’ve used it. I can’t claim to have a super-butt, but it’s definitely stronger.

      *I am NOT a Beach Body coach, I just bought BBL and think it’s pretty good.

    • If you want a great butt, take up yoga. Try classes called power, vinyasa, or flow. Or if you really want to work out hard, try ashtanga classes.

    • Summer in the City :

      Can’t speak to the mat one but I have the Tracy Anderson Perfect Design Series. It is BRUTAL. The exercises vary from “oh this seems easy” and the beginning with complete muscle fire at the end to “holy crap this is even hard to do on the first try.” I haven’t made it past the first DVD yet which is the beginner one. It is a great workout and leaves me so sore the next day.

      Just as background I consider myself to be pretty in shape. I recently ran a half marathon in pretty good time. I go to the gym pretty regularly. I consider my legs to be the strongest part of my body, but they are always so sore after her workouts.

      Also, one thing about her DVDs. She doesn’t walk you through the moves in a normal “workout video for morons” type way. You have to sort of feel like a fool the first time and just follow along. You might want to see if you can find a sample online (her website or I’ve seen her do sample workouts on Shape and Self type websites) to see if it is a style you could do.

    • Thanks everyone, these are great suggestions! I do have netflix instant so I’ll take a look at the crunch video. I was particularly interested in the Tracy mat video bc I heard that its’ great for thighs/butt toning, which is definitely my “problem” area, even when I’m in good shape elsewhere. I”m also trying to avoid bulking up my calves if possible, since they have gotten fairly muscular with boxing-related (high impact) exercises, so I was drawn to the idea of a mat workout.

      Any further suggestions/advice for alternative videos or feedback on Tracy Anderson is much appreciated!

  6. I have never had good experiences with trainers. I am very shy in the gym, and I need a trainer to stay with me so I don’t end up having a panic attack. In my experience, the trainers that I hired that work at the gym would put me on a machine and then walk away to talk to other trainers or otherwise goof of.

    • I mean this in the nicest possible way, but you might need a therapist more than a trainer. In the meantime, if you do try a trainer again, I think if you explain you have an anxiety disorder and NEED them to stay alongside you even if it seems like you’re all set with an activity, they’d be receptive to that (get them to agree to this before you sign up).

      • another anon :

        I think that’s pretty harsh, actually. Maybe it’s because I’ve always used personal trainers at freestanding facilities, not at gyms, but if I am paying $40 or more per session, the person I am paying damn well better be actually working with me at least 90% of the time I have paid for, if not more. It is one thing to step away for a few minutes once in a while to take care of something urgent, but I would not tolerate the trainer regularly going off to chit chat with their friends during a training session.

        Mille, I recommend getting a new trainer. Near me there are a few places where they JUST do personal training, or personal training and a few classes. Where I go now it is literally just me and the trainer in the facility. Maybe something like that would work better for you.

        • I agree 100% that the trainer is being paid to be attentive and that mille’s fundamental request is reasonable. But I also think, in all honesty, that separate treatment is in order for the underlying anxiety issue, which sounds extreme (unless overstated above).

          • Anonymous :

            I agree with E. There is a difference between being pissed off and feeling that you aren’t getting the service you paid for if your trainer walks off, and feeling anxiety/panic when he/she walks off. What Mille described sounds more like B.

        • soulfusion :

          leaving the anxiety issue aside, I have to agree that your personal trainer should not be wandering off during your session! He/she is being paid to train you and focus on you and assist you not only with an exercise routine but to ensure you perform it properly – correct form, etc. And to motivate you through the tough parts. Go through an interview process and find someone willing to work with you.

    • I think you should explain your needs to the trainer at the very beginning. And fire anyone who can’t give you what you need. If you need someone to stay with you to motivate you through your entire workout, make that clear at the very beginning, so when they wander off, it is completely appropriate to call them on it or get someone else.

    • I think you’ve mentioned before that you’re plus-sized (apologies if I misremember). Is insecurity/self-consciousness part of what makes you anxious? If so you might be more comfortable at an all-women’s gym, like Curves or Women’s Workout World. They tend to be a more supportive environment for self-conscious women. Plus Curves uses a set routine, so you don’t have to wander around feeling unsure what to do.

    • SoCal Gal :

      My roommate does training in her clients’ homes. Maybe you could look for someone who does that in your area? Being in a private space might help.

  7. I would try at least one or two one-off sessions before buying a package. I have used a couple and I find that at the beginning I tell them what I want: I would like you to print out a monthly or weekly schedule and ask me to tell you my other workouts between our workouts and I would like you to act like you care. My goal is to have X workouts a week and I would like you to help hold me accountable for that goal. I would like our sessions to be full and challenging and different every time, and I have X minor injury so if I tell you I don’t want to do Y exercise, I’d like you to belive me and find an alternative. And with that direction, and after one or two sessions I can tell if they will work out. I had a great trainer for over a year, I only went once or twice a month, but given my rule-following personality, paying her to check up on me for all my other workouts was really helpful.

  8. I just started working out with a personal trainer a month or so ago, and I’m loving it so far. I don’t belong to a gym, because I have a gym in my building, so I wanted to find an independent trainer. I used Yelp to find personal training studios in my city, contacted them, went back and forth via email with the business manager who asked me a number of questions about my goals, what my personality was like, what sort of personality I’d like my trainer to have, and how much I wanted to spend per session. They paired me up with someone, gave me a complimentary session to see if we clicked, and we did.

    He’s great – he sends me emails with workouts to do at home, gives me nutrition guidelines, checks in with me during the week, etc.

  9. Ooh, this is timely for me as I have been playing with the idea of hiring a trainer to keep me sane/healthy during bar prep this summer. The ideal thing for me would be someone who would come to my house and then we could work out in the park… Does anyone know if there are trainers who offer “house calls” ?

    ALSO – I am about to graduate law school, jobless, and I have polished up my LnkedIn profile to perfection…What do people think about putting a link to it in my email signature? Saavy networking or tacky ?

  10. I’ve had a few different trainers (male and female) and have been with my current trainer for 2 years. I never settle for anything less than someone I love! 50+ dollars an hour is way too much to spend on someone you’re just “ok” with. Here is my personal trainer checklist:

    1. They are interested in, and help you make measurable progress toward your goals. No matter if they’re weight, strength, speed, etc.

    2. They listen to (and respect!) you when you tell them you can’t/don’t want to do a certain exercise. No matter if it’s an injury, it makes you uncomfortable, or just plain doesn’t feel good. They also remember your preferences/go-no-gos!

    3. They are ALWAYS engaged during your workout, correcting, encouraging, asking you how you’re doing, etc. Someone said their trainer would often walk away from them while they were on a machine and that just amazes me!

    4. They are trying/willing to teach you to go it alone. Some people (like me) need someone to motivate them, but other people just want to learn how to work out safely and effectively. This could be using a trainer to put together a long-term plan for you, teaching you to do certain exercises, or reach some sort of goal. Some trainers just teach you the minimum to keep you relying on them.

    5. They’re knowledgeable and keep your work-outs fresh.

  11. I was apparently very lucky.

    Cost: I live in a town with a city recreation facility that has a list of trainers. The cost is very reasonable, far below a private gym, especially if you purchase training in packs of 10 sessions.

    Fit: I am disabled and use a wheelchair, so I sent an email to all the trainers on the city’s list, describing myself, my disability, and my training goals, and asking if they felt comfortable training me. Out of over a dozen emails, I got exactly two replies. I met with the first trainer who responded, and am still working with him today, three years later.

    The key is to know your goals, or if you can’t articulate them, work with the trainer on defining them.

    • Interesting – I have tendonitis and am pre-carpal tunnel, so I have always been hesitant to find a personal trainer because I am afraid that the trainer will have me do exercises that aggravate these conditions. I don’t know what questions to ask or how to vet a trainer to know that I can safely do what they tell me to do. I generally have extremely low confidence in my athletic abilities (never played sports, can’t ride a bike, never been in great shape, etc), so it seems to me that unless I fully trust my trainer, I am not going to be willing to do what they tell me to do and ignore the voice in my head saying “you can’t do this! you’ll get hurt!” The tendonitis (thanks, doc review) makes me even more reluctant.

      I’m considering taking on three months of serious training to do a 12-hour hike up a national park mountain in the hopes of changing my fitness life before I turn 30, and I know a trainer would really help me… if only I could find the right one.

      • M – Your concerns are legitimate. It’s not realistic to expect personal trainers, who may have had at max a very brief introduction to the wide variety of things that plague mankind, to be knowledgeable about your condition.

        I see two ways to go. One is to find a good PT/personal trainer, who is familiar with tendonitis. Your physician may be able to refer you to someone appropriate, and prescribe PT. Then ask the PT who he/she would recommend once you’ve finished your prescribed (and hopefully paid for by insurance) sessions.

        The other way is to educate yourself more on your condition, and rely on the trainer only for expertise on the training itself.

        I was always an extreme couch potato, and becoming a jock has been my response to mid-life, and disability, and weight gain, and a whole bunch of other stuff. If you’d like to talk about this off line, my contact info is available via my website (click on the little pen/avatar/thingie).

        Oh, and in the it’s never too late category, I’m 51.

      • If you live near a university, you can often get great trainers who are students studying for advanced physical therapy degrees. Our school also has an adaptive fitness department. For example, they offer tandem biking for people with limited eyesight.

      • I have tendonitis /pre carpal tunnel /tenosinovitis too! I went to a physical therapist (in Park Slope, Brklyn) twice a week for six weeks. At the end, I had no pain at all and had strengthened my wrists enough that I could lift 5 lb weights for arm exercises (I am very petite) and three pound weights for wrist specific exercises. My therapist recommended pilates to me to strengthen my shoulder and back muscles, which she said were actually contributing to my arm/wrist problems.

        Get yourself to a physical therapist, get some training to eliminate the pain and strengthen any injured joints. He or she will probably be able to recommend exercises that will go along with your new strength regimen and may even be able to recommend trainers, gyms or classes.

        Seriously, I would probably need surgery this year if I hadn’t gotten physical therapy. Do it!

  12. I work out at a gym that really emphasizes personal trainers. It’s kind of expensive, but it’s worth it to me given my lifestyle and how close it is to my house. Anyway, I found my trainer because I had taken an aerobics class with another trainer who I really liked. I approached her to start training, but she said she was moving gyms. She suggested someone else, and I’ve been going to her for over a year. I love it.

    A few things: At one point, my back got really strong, to the point that I couldn’t wear some of my strapless dresses. I had to tell my trainer that wasn’t going to cut it, so she modified my work out, and problem solved. I really appreciated that.

    Also, one of the most important aspects (and, unfortunately, one of the most annoying aspects) of training is the guilt that goes along with it. My trainer asks me which days I am going to do cardio, and then follows up with me about it. She acts disappointed when I don’t do it. It’s nothing over the top, but it’s nice to have that accountability. In all honesty, the guilt may be self-imposed, but either way, I get way more cardio this way.

  13. DH worked as a trainer after college and while he was in grad school, so I never had to pick a trainer. But in speaking with him about the other trainers at the gym, it’s really key to figure out what you want from a trainer. There were some who did it as a side job while they pursued acting or whatever “real” career they wanted, and there were trainers-for-life. Some took the job more seriously than others. If you just want someone to be accountable to or for chat therapy, you might go based on personality. If, like me, you need someone to kick your ass and not be nice about it, you’d need someone with that work style. For instance, DH had very little patience for the clients who clearly only hired him so they could convince themselves they were “really trying” without actually putting in much effort. But he’d go the extra mile for clients he thought were really trying and were dedicated, spending time the night before to plan out routines.

    If I didn’t have DH to give me free training when I ask, I know which of the trainers at my gym I would choose based on observing them working with others, as well as chatting with them. While I love one of the trainers at my gym personally, I’d never hire him because I’d be more likely to kick his ass than vice versa.

  14. Anonymous :

    A pilates studio opened up just down the block, and I’m really tempted to try it out.

    A few years ago I did martial arts classes and loved it (lots of cardio, great class full of super-cool women).

    I find pre-paying for a scheduled class where people are expecting me makes me find a way to attend the class.

    • I loved Pilates – back at my old job, I would have a late office duty once a week (meaning I didn’t have to get in until 11.30, or 14.30 if it was a really late duty day), and there was a pilates class that fit perfectly time-wise before work.

      It was a great work-out with a great trainer. I later tried pilates again at a different gym, and hated it, because of the new trainer, even though I enjoyed the exercise itself. I would see if the style fits you before committing too much.

  15. Another E :

    I think Amelia’s checklist is really key – those are such important factors in finding someone who works for you. I think a number of trainers will probably give you a free/discounted trial run of one or a few sessions before you commit to paying for their full package, and I suggest you ask around and experiment before settling down with a trainer.

    I’ve worked out with a number of trainers over the years, with varying degrees of success. After I graduated from college and began working my first full-time job, I experienced a general bodily spread similar to my freshman year of college. I was insecure about how much weaker I’d gotten since I was a competitive athlete in high school, but finally I reached out to my all-time favorite trainer and asked him if he would whip my butt back into shape. I’ve been back with him for a few months now, and I’m so happy about that decision. The reason I went back to him after such a long time was because he was the most motivating person I’d ever worked with. He was the best at inspiring me to do the final rep or go just a little bit faster or longer; I’ve worked with trainers with good technique before, but I need someone who will motivate me – for the rest of the stuff, I might as well use a workout video. If I’d settled for my first trainer, I’d probably be having reasonably satisfying workouts, but I wouldn’t emerge feeling triumphant and powerful, which is the inspiration I need to keep going when I’m busy, tired, sore or just not in the mood for another session.

  16. Anonymous :

    Unless you are serioulsy out of shape, don’t waste the $$$$. You should get a membership to a fitness magazine such as Shape. Also women’s health and fitness has a book that you can buy that teaches you the proper form for lifting weights.

    • I disagree. I think its helpful to use a trainer when starting out a fitness routine to not be intimidated by the gym. But I think a trainer can help with accountability and motivation. Everyone is different. For many, its not a waste of money (and I don’t use a PT now, but have in the past).

    • I think that if you’re motivated, you can definitely use the money better than on a trainer (speaking here as someone on a pretty tight budget — my gym membership itself is an extravagance). You might not need the sessions as frequently, and you’ll probably get more out of them if you aren’t only working out with the trainer. They are good for showing you how to do the exercises, or checking form and so on — that’s a great use. I’ve gone the cheapy route and just grabbed a free trainer for a few minutes, too.

      For strength-training, I highly recommend “New Rules of Lifting for Women.” It encourages women to lift heavier weight, which will give much better results. The book contains about six months’ worth of work-out plans, plus a diet routine. I very recently completed the program and have noticed great improvements in my strength. My major milestone was being able to do chin-ups for the very first time. I didn’t religiously follow the diet, but I found the work-outs fun, challenging and rewarding, and would suggest it to anyone looking for a weight work-out. It will work as your primary exercise, or I included it along with martial arts and some cardio.

      My body definitely looks stronger, but I’m not huge, and I still fit all my clothes! There is a series of the “New Rules” books, but I can definitely recommend the one I mentioned.

      But if the trainer motivates you to get out there — go for it.

    • soulfusion :

      I strongly disagree with this. Everyone has different motivators and different priorities for their $$. For me, it is worth the money to have an individual who will hold me accountable for my exercise routine. Not because I’m seriously out of shape or don’t know how to work out. I am simply extremely busy and investing the money is worth it to me to have someone else worry about the details of my workout routine.

    • Maddie Ross :

      Disagree. I’m in really good shape (do tris, run 10Ks, etc.) but love my trainer. Her entire job is stay up to date on new equipment, new methods, etc. She constantly changes up my routine and adds elements I would not try on my own.

      • yea, its like hiring a house cleaner. I COULD do it myself and save the money, but, I am happier, more motivated and feel better when I prioritize that into my budget. Its also one of the few things that will guarantee me getting up at 5:30 am to do it – if someone is waiting for me and I have paid them to be there to kick my butt!

        My mom does “group” training at our local gym, for only about $15 a session. More often than not, it is only one other person.

    • another anon :

      Yeah, but without the trainer, I just wouldn’t do it. My primary reason for going to the trainer is that it MAKES me do weight training at least once a week. I know myself well enough to know that without that scheduled appointment, I’m just not going to do the weight training part of working out, because I really dislike it. The fact that I know that someone else is going to be inconvenienced if I don’t get up and go really helps keep me honest.

  17. There are a few trainers in my area who have opened their open personal training studios, but they offer small group pricing. For example, I am OK with my trianer having 2 to 4 other people working out at the same time as me, so I get a cheaper rate and still pretty individualized attention. She manages to keep us all busy on different tasks.

  18. knock-out bod :

    Also, to those that have a physical condition that might limit the work out options, make sure your trainer has some actual background in anatomy, physiology, or kinesiology. My mom has a muscle/nerve disease called fibromyalgia, and a few of the trainers that she first worked with didn’t understand that “tiring her out” wasn’t an effective way to help her, due to the fibromyalgia. Her current trainer has a master’s in kinesiology and several graduate-level certificates in different specialties, so she’s made much more progress with him.
    I’m in agreement with the other posters about “clicking” with a trainer. You need to know what you want to make this happen. Are you looking for accountability, education, variety, etc? I was an athlete in high school, so I know the educational piece of fitness. My short time with a trainer helped add some variety to my usual 3-mile run/30 minute free-weight sessions. He stretched me by adding balance and agility, as well as changing up the target muscle groups throughout the workout. However, he annoyed me to no end by switching between counting EVERY. SINGLE. REP, and asking, “You doin’ ok?” then saying, “You’re doing, great”. So the whole time he kept talking to me, which drives me nuts when I’m in the middle of the set.

  19. Anon (for this one) :

    I had a bad experience with one of these guys. I hired a guy for 3 sessions and after the first one, he and I went out for a drink. Afterward, he wanted to have sex with me, even though he knew I had a boyfriend. I did not go through with the other 2 sessions, but he did not refund my money. Lesson: Pay as you go.

  20. My gym offers these sort of group personal training classes. It’s basically an intensive, 45-minute weight training class, with abs work and some interval work that involves lunges or squats between weight lifting sets. We use machines, free weights, bungie cords, and medicine balls. The classes range in size, but on average they seem to be around 6-8 people. It’s also incredibly flexible, so if I can’t make my usual class, I can just go to another one. For me, it’s the right balance of serious work out, enough individual attention, and a bit of socializing (some of us have been in the same class for several years). That said, I was in pretty decent shape when I started and wasn’t really looking to lose weight, plus I’m good at picking up “choreography” so didn’t need a lot of instruction in how to lunge or squat properly. I’m also (usually!) motivated to push myself, at least within the class. I find that committing to a class situation is better for me than trying to just go to the gym on my own. I am cheap and do not want to waste the $$!

    A group situation is going to be a lot cheaper than a personal trainer (this program works out to about $20 per class, two classes a week) and in a small enough group might provide enough one-on-one time for some people. The program I do is called TnT Fitness, not sure if it’s available elsewhere or just specific to my gym chain.

  21. Personal recommendations are good. Sometimes personal trainers will also lead group-ex classes, so you can try them out and see what their style is like.
    But I’d suggest interviewing potential trainers and being clear about what you want. Some questions (for yourself and for the trainer):

    1. What are you looking to get out of the sessions? Improved endurance? Balance? Toning? Are you training for a particular event? Just want to look better in a swimsuit or need someone to be accountable to? What do you want to accomplish at the end of 1, 5, 10 sessions?

    2. What are the trainer’s credentials? What do they do to stay in shape? Do they have kooky nutrition philosophies that they are going to try to push on you? If you belong to a specific gym, does the gym’s philosophy match with what you’re trying to accomplish?

    3. How much hand-holding do you want/need? Do you need the trainer to simply walk you through a new move or to count your reps for you? Do you need a cheerleader or a coach?

    4. What would you do if you weren’t working with a trainer? What’s missing from your workout routine, or that you aren’t able to get on your own? Are you always in Zumba class, but need someone to force you to lift weights? Do you really want to try kettlebells or burpees or the boxing ring, but don’t want to do it alone?

  22. Christine :

    Instead of hiring a personal trainer, I joined a CrossFit gym in my area. Part of the reason was that one of my friends hired a personal trainer and was paying $40 dollars a session, once a week, which amounted to $160 dollars a month. In my eyes, if I am going to be paying that much, I want to have a work out that can be done unlimited times a month and will guarantee results. So, I joined a CrossFit gym, pay $160 a month, work out 4-5 times a week and am in the best shape of my life. Many gyms have cheaper options if you only want to go 2 times a week.

    This being said, I’d never get a personal trainer because I know I can get the best bang for my buck by crossfitting.

    • Crossfit seems really interesting – can you explain more? The website is a little confusing to me. What do you actually do?

      • Christine :

        CrossFit is a high intensity work out program focused on strength, endurance, and flexibility. You will lift weights (sometimes very heavy weights) or you will do body movement exercises (like squats, sit ups, pushups, pullups etc). What I love about crossfit is that you rarely do the same work out. So, as you saw on the website, they post a different WOD (workout of the day) and that is the exercise you are supposed to complete for that day. I, too, was very confused when I went to the website because I didn’t understand half of the movements or terminology. That is part of the reason I joined a gym in my area (I believe they call them affiliates). They taught me the proper technique so I didn’t get injured. To karenpadi’s point, they really work with you so you are comfortable with the movements.

        On an average day, you will spend 40-60 minutes in the gym which includes the warm up, stretching and the WOD itself.

        As a side note, I don’t work for any crossfit gym, I am simply a member and absolutely love what it has done for my health and overall fitness.

        • Christine :

          And to clarify, each gym has small classes run by certified crossfit trainers.

        • Hmmm, that seems really interesting. I’m looking for something new to do, now that my jazzercise groupon is coming to an end. Which was totally fun, just not as intense as I would like (although I’m amazed that using 3lb weights 3 times a week for 5 min each time gave me toned biceps).

          I’m gonna look into crossfit. I’m a little worried about my knees (I can’t do squats, jumping jacks, lunges or running up and down stairs) but I’ll email the gym and see what they say. Thanks for your responses!

          • Christine :

            We have some women at the gym who also have similiar issues with their knees. Often times they substitute the running exercises with rowing and still get a great workout.

            Most gyms have a free intro class! Good luck! I hope you like it.

      • Ru:
        There was also a thread about Crossfit a while back–it may be useful to read. Those who are into it will praise it like the newly-converted, but there were varying reactions. Definitely worth checking out, but be warned.:)
        http://corporette.com/2011/01/14/holiday-weekend-open-thread-7/

        • Christine :

          Thanks for posting this link….I think one of the things I like the most about my gym is that you are NOT judged or made to feel uncomfortable about having to scale a workout. If you are feeling like crap one day and don’t want to lift a lot, then no one is going to pressure you. From the thread, it is obvious that people have had different experiences which is unfortunate.

          Also, I am NOT a believer in the diet they preach. I have fundamental issues with it and do not believe it is healthy. However, crossfit has encouraged me to make healthier choices (ie more veggies and less processed food). I always knew I should do this, but crossfit helped with that transition.

        • Thanks for the link, Res. I’ll definitely be careful, I can’t bear to stress my body more than it can tolerate. And I’m hard to convince anyway =).

    • karenpadi :

      Me too!

      In crossfit classes, the instructors really keep a close eye on the beginners so it feels like a personal training session until you get comfortable.

    • For Corporettes in Massachusetts area, my friend and his wife own Crossfit New England. It’s in Natick. Apparently, it’s awesome, but killer.

      I work out a lot, but I don’t think I can handle it.

      My own recommendation for those of you who are pressed for time is ea Sports Active 2 for wii or Xbox. I play it everyday and I’m in the best shape of my life. It’s really awesome.

      I also go to the gym at lunch (BSC is in my building). I take a bunch of the classes. What I really like is all the different ways both the gym and the game provide for working various parts of my body.

      • Anonymous :

        i have been doing crossfit for 5 months and am totally addicted. it’s so much fun. there is also a social component i really like. Now, when i go to the gym by myself, i’m lonely and bored. crossift all the way.

        • inquisitiveanon :

          Can someone who does Crossfit please explain to me why the women (in competitions at least – maybe day-to-day training classes are different) wear skimpy shorts and tops and brightly colored/patterned knee socks? I don’t get it.

          • Christine :

            The socks are to protect your shins from some of the lifting exercises. You can get some pretty nasty and ugly scrapes on your legs. The socks are truly functional.

            As for the skimpy shorts and tops, some say it makes it easier b/c the clothes get in the way, but I’ve been doing crossfit for a year and my normal running shorts with baggy tshirts are fine. IMO, taking my shirt off is not going to “improve” my time or make it “easier” for me to lift something…but that’s just my opinion.

          • karenpadi :

            I’ve brought this up at my gym. It’s really those women’s personal preferences and the men who like to photograph them…but it really bugs me too (and I’m two years into Crossfit). I wear yoga pants and fitted tank tops but many girls wear t-shirts and capris.

            Take a look at Kristan Clever. She’s the top woman (world champion!) and she wears long shorts and a baggy t-shirt for every workout (she also rocks a buzz cut).

  23. I think with a trainer, you have to know your body and know what you’re capable of and comfortable with. I HATE running, so I’ve always told the few trainers I’ve had that I’d do pretty much anything else. I also have no problem telling them when they’re working me too hard and I’m feeling dizzy or nauseous. But more and more I’m realizing that controlling my weight has more to do with what and how much I eat rather than how hard I work out.

    • ugh, I know. The older I get, the more my weight is directly affected by my diet, regardless of exercise. But, working out still has a huge effect on my mood, endurance, and strength.

      • So true. Exercise is a tiny part of the weight loss pie. However, it’s vital for heart and lung fitness, preventing osteoporosis, and overall well-being.

  24. Although very expensive in NYC, I found that getting a personal trainer was helpful in keeping me motived. I gave mine up when I moved because the gym was no longer convenient. It helped that the gym let me try out trainers. I definitely suggest trying out a few to make sure that you click. I didn’t click with the first trainer, but the second one suited me well. I agree that having a trainer isn’t necessary for everyone, but for those considering it, I think that the price really shouldn’t be the deciding factor…after all, a lot of us spend a ton on clothes, maybe the money would be better spent on health…

  25. Has anyone tried the personal training-only gyms, especially any of the ones in DC? Any feedback?

    • No feedback on personal training only gyms, but I have been very happy with my trainers at Vida Verizon Center. I found the first one because she also taught spin/pilates reformer – we “broke up” earlier this year. (She has a corporette type job and fitness was her side passion). The training manager matched me up with my new trainer based on my requirements – basically answers to the questions from Amelia’s list.

      • Oh, I’ve heard great things about that Vida gym. A couple of my friends go there.

        I’ve just noticed a few personal training-only places popping up, a couple on U Street and one in Glover Park. I have a gym in my building to do cardio, and so I was wondering about getting a trainer elsewhere.

    • I used to live in DC and ha a great trainer there but we’ve both moved since! I had a gym near work (Rockville) and then worked out with him once or twice a week at the gym in Logan Circle–but since I couldn’t go there without him, I had to have another. If I weren’t already a gym member there it would have been annoying.

      • I used One to One fitness for severla years, I found that their trainers were consistently excellent, and more knowledgeable and experienced than trainers I’d worked with at other facilities.

        • Alumna-ette :

          BodySmith is amazing. I worked with Patrick, who is one of their owners, for awhile and had fantastic results. The advantage of a place like that is to be able to both take good classes and to really focus on specific “target” areas as needed.

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