To work with a personal trainer, or not to work with a personal trainer? That is the question. Well, before I answer that question, the first thing I should do is explain exactly what Personal Training is and how it is different from a group fitness class or even an online or streaming video fitness program.
First of all, personal training is all about you. Not the trainer, your friends, your teammates, or your workout buddies. You.
When you work with a personal trainer, from the very first session, your own individual goals are first and foremost, and the personal trainer utilizes that very first meeting to analyze your own individual strengths and weaknesses, your body composition, your posture, your health history, your prior experiences with exercise, your habits, your nutrition, your potential obstacles to maintaining a fitness routine, and various other important factors in order to design a program that will allow you to achieve your specific, individual goals in a safe, effective, creative, and enjoyable manner. And in that order. No two workouts will ever be exactly the same because the objective of personal training is to help you make progress safely and efficiently, which means constantly adapting exercises and workouts to meet your ever-changing needs. Your personal trainer will continually monitor and assess your progress in order to make those adaptations, and the trainer will communicate the purpose of those changes and adaptations as the program moves along. In addition, the personal trainer will make recommendations regarding the exercises you should be doing on those days when you are not meeting so that you can maximize the benefits of your scheduled one-on-one sessions. And when life gets in the way, an injury or illness occurs, or even if the program results begin to plateau for whatever reason, the personal trainer will adjust the program accordingly to get you back on the path to success. All of this is what makes personal training vastly different from other types of fitness programs.
In a group fitness class, just like in a workout video or streaming program, the workouts are pre-set to meet the needs of the many. Yes, a good fitness instructor will build in modifications and intensifiers to vary the degree of difficulty and prevent injury, but the entire session is comprised of pre-determined exercises that are carefully arranged in a specific order intended to achieve specific outcomes, and these exercises are usually set to a timer of some sort. While this is a great way to get your feet wet if you are new to regular exercise, want try out a new workout style, increase your motivation by sweating it out socially, or simply shake up your usual routine, there are a few drawbacks if you have never had any type of individual instruction. You might push yourself too hard in an effort to keep up with the class, or you might even be performing exercises that could be contraindicated for you based on your health history. In addition, it’s easy to allow your form to slip during a group class, because, depending on the size of the class, it might take several repetitions before the instructor catches your error. And if the class is being offered by video or even live streaming, you may never know whether you are performing an exercise correctly. Even something as simple as jumping jacks can cause injury if done with poor form, and unless the instructor uses the exact set of verbal and/or visual cues that your own individual brain is able to recognize to allow you to correct your form (since we all process information differently), you could end up thinking you have corrected yourself even when you haven’t. Yes, fitness classes are really great, and I happen to love both taking them and teaching them. However, especially if you are just coming back to exercise, are brand new to exercise, or have a history of injury, then a personal trainer might actually be the better investment, at least for a time.
Of course, everything depends on you and your own unique and individual reasons for participating in exercise in the first place. But if you have ever found yourself not making significant progress, repeatedly experiencing pain and injury from exercise, or just struggling to find your way through a fitness routine, then it might be time to schedule a few one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer. I speak from the experience of having my own personal trainer when I say that you won’t regret it, and I still say that it’s the best way to ensure that you stay Always in Motion.