04/07/2017 09:03 BST | Updated 04/07/2017 09:03 BST

Do You Really Need A Personal Trainer?

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No matter whether you're new to the gym or have been a regular gym-bunny for years, at some point you'll ask yourself, "Do I need a personal trainer"? Having your own trainer will consume some of your hard-earned cash, so you'll want to ensure you maximise your efforts to get the most out of your training sessions and therefore, get the best value for your money.

Before you employ their services, ask yourself the following questions to see if you really do need a personal trainer and if so, know exactly what you expect to get out of it.

  1.  What are my goals?
  2. What is my level of motivation and dedication to my goal(s)?
  3. What level of knowledge do I have in the subject area of fitness?
  4. What do I expect from a trainer?
  5. What is my budget?
  6. Why do I think I need a trainer?

What are my goals?

Knowing exactly what you want to achieve out of your fitness programme is essential for it to be successful, regardless of whether you have a personal trainer or not. If you don't define exactly what you want to achieve, no trainer will be able to help you. I have discussed how tochoose the right goals here and you canread more about SMART goals here.

While you have to know what you want to achieve, your trainer will be able to help you refine your goals to make sure they're SMART. In fact, it should be the first thing they do with you in your first session. If you have a clear idea before you start, then the sessions you do with the trainer will be tailor made to help you achieve exactly what you want, and not what the trainer thinks you want.

Do you really need a qualified personal trainer

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What is my level of motivation and dedication to my goal(s)?

If you talk to anyone who has a personal trainer already, they will tell you the best thing is they make you work hard (well, the good ones do). Even if you're extremely motivated, a personal trainer will be able to push you harder than you can push yourself.

The fact you have employed a personal trainer means you have asked them for their professional advice and services. Mentally, you have identified them as the expert and are subconsciously more likely to do what they ask you to do. Therefore, squeezing out one or two more reps or pushing your heart rate up just that little bit more tends to happen when your PT is ready to catch the bar for you or standing beside you directing you to go that extra mile.

What level of knowledge do I have in the subject area of fitness?

The time you need a personal trainer the most is when you're new to the gym and exercise. Walking into the weights or cardio room can be quite overwhelming as most machines are not that intuitive for someone who has never seen the exercises before. PTs can not only show you how to use the machines and educate you about your body, but also teach you gym etiquette. You'll feel far less self-conscious when you're with someone who knows what they're doing and is there to help.

On the other hand, if you're an experienced exerciser, think about the last time you really mixed your programme up. How long have you been doing the same routine for? If it's been a while, then you may havehit a training plateau.

There are many different schools of thought and beliefs about fitness and exercise, and these are forever changing. New research is constantly coming out and what we used to do a few years ago, is not what we do today. Your personal trainer will be up on these changing trends and will be able to help you reach that next goal which always seems to be unachievable.

What do I expect from a trainer?

Do you expect the trainer to make you work hard, or do you want someone to just listen to you and keep you company while you exercise? Do you expect them to get the weights for you and put them away, wipe down your benches and fill your water bottle? Or do you expect them to give you direction and focus during a workout while you do ALL the work? I have had different clients over the years who have had a mix of all these expectations.

The client/trainer relationship is just that, a relationship. You'll be spending a lot of time with them when you may be feeling quite vulnerable i.e. in an unknown environment, wearing clothes that may be more revealing than you're used to, sweating it out and not looking your best. Therefore, you have to like and trust the trainer you work with.

Personal Trainers also tend to be a bit of a sounding board for other parts of your life. During sessions, you won't just talk about exercise, you'll talk about your life. The more you get to know your trainer, the more you'll tell them. That's just human nature. It can become quite personal if you let it and if that's what you're looking for.

If you know what you expect from your trainer, when it comes to choosing one, you can ask specific questions around your expectations. That way you won't waste your time with someone who doesn't meet your expectations and you won't waste theirs.

What is my budget?

While budget is probably going to be the biggest determining factor in the decision-making process, it's not just the simple question, "Do I have the money for the sessions"? If you're paying a gym membership, buying workout gear etc., you'll want to maximise your entire investment. If you lack the motivation and enthusiasm to stick to a fitness regime yourself, then having a personal trainer goes beyond just the fees you pay for the sessions.

Your budget therefore doesn't determine "if" you see a trainer, but how often. If you can afford 3-5 times a week, great, you're going to get some great results, fast. If you can't though, then calculate how many sessions a month you can afford and go with that. A good trainer will set you goals at the end of every session and give you a solid plan of what you should achieve between sessions. Having to report on your progress at the next session means you're accountable to someone else. Psychologically, you won't want to let them down and, as you have goals which mean something to you, your motivation will remain high.

Why do I think I need a trainer?

Thinking about why you believe you need a personal trainer will highlight why training on your own might prove to be less fruitful. For example, if you think you need a trainer because you don't know enough about exercise, then it will highlight that you probably won't be able to successfully create a programme that gets you the results you want. If you think you need a trainer to make sure you go to the gym, then without one, you probably won't.

Even though I have been a personal trainer for 30 years, I have employed the services of various PTs at different times throughout my life. At times, I am extremely motivated, know exactly what I want to achieve and how to achieve it and am fine working out on my own. At other times, I have had specific goals where I know that having a trainer is going to get me there faster than what I could by myself.

Everyone is different, and our outlook, motivation and knowledge changes throughout our lives. You may find you need help at some times and not at others. When it comes to deciding on a personal trainer, it's not just about deciding on whether to employ their services, it's about deciding on the type of personal trainer you need to work with in order to get the most out of the sessions. These questions will help you work all that out. Keep in mind, like any profession, personal trainers have different personalities, different skills, different ways of doing things. If you do choose to have a personal trainer, then picking someone who is going to meet your needs and expectations is key to having a successful trainer/client relationship.