Do you really need a personal trainer?


For the fitness novice, the gym can be a scary place.

In an environment filled with endless jargon and myriad muscle groups, lifting techniques and recovery practices, the gym can be intimidating as it is exciting.

Many Americans, in an attempt to bridge the gap between the prospect of personal fitness and the lack of structural know-how necessary to achieving such fitness, have opted to hire personal trainers to see them through the endless rows of machines and free weights.

As a result, the fitness industry is booming. Americans spent over $10 billion on personal fitness in 2015 — a sizable portion of which was dedicated directly to personal trainers, according to marketing research firm IBISWorld.

But with personal training contracts often ranging in excess of $300 a month, many novices, in search of a more frugal means to get healthy, have opted to forego these experts in lieu of fitness apps, online forums and even the written instructions posted on each machine.


The case for personal training

Personal trainers, as argued by a body of scientific literature and by local industry experts, offer two distinct advantages to their customers: expertise and motivation.

The trainers hired by the majority of local fitness clubs are trained professionals, armed with an intimate understanding of proper workout structure, lifting form and recovery methods.

A number of scientific studies corroborate this notion.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut, for example, took a sample of 46 women and divided them into two equal groups, both of which were assigned a regimen of common weight lifting exercise to perform over a 10-week period. The catch, however, was that one group was given a personal trainer, while the other was left to its own devices. At the end of the study each woman was tested on her one-repetition maximum, or the most she could lift one time, and the results were compared.

The results spoke for themselves.

These data indicated that the presence of a personal trainer…resulted in a better resistance training stimulus yielding greater strength improvements over time,” wrote Dr. Nicholas A. Ratamess, lead author of the study.

While the fitness gains were seen to be greater in those who worked with a trainer versus those who approached the gym alone, scholars have argued that the reason for this may extend beyond merely the trainer’s workout acumen.

“Personal trainers and certified strength and conditioning specialists have the ability to connect with and motivate clients and athletes, which can be a large factor in exercise success,” wrote Dr. Doug Jackson, founder of Personal Fitness Advantage, in a study on the psychology of personal training.

Proper motivation, Jackson wrote, can be just as imperative to exercise success as knowing the proper workouts and techniques.

Those interested in working with a personal trainer have a variety of options within the Santa Clarita Valley. LA Fitness offers three Santa Clarita locations with personal trainers on staff. 24 Hour Fitness, Anytime Fitness and Orange Theory all offer similar services.


The case for training alone

Although many believe them to be important to  their personal fitness goals, trainers are not cheap.

24 Hour Fitness in Canyon Country, for example, offers 50 minute sessions at a rate commensurate with $74 per hour. Mind, Body, and Soul Fitness in Saugus provides 60 minute classes for $80.

Yet, many local gyms and fitness chains do not publish the costs associated with their personal training programs on their respective websites.

Among these is Anytime Fitness which, despite having a lengthy web page describing the benefits of its personal training program, does not list any personal training costs. The franchise did not respond to The Signal’s request for comment.

LA Fitness’ website is similarly devoid of any mention of the costs incurred by enrolling in its programs.

The Signal, however, independently verified that a typical LA Fitness plan ranges from $180 to $360 per month.

Included in these plans are monthly fitness evaluations and access to a personalized training area, from which normal LA Fitness members are precluded, said an LA Fitness employee who asked not to be named.

Costs are usually not discussed until a fitness evaluation has been completed, confirmed the employee.

The Irvine-based fitness chain did not respond to The Signal’s requests for comments.

With personal training costs on the rise, and often difficult to ascertain, many gym-goers have opted to use fitness phone applications in lieu of a traditional trainer.

The New York Times reported on this phenomenon in 2015, finding that these apps were significantly cheaper than soliciting a personal trainer.

The Times also found another, less intuitive benefit — training apps, as initiated by the user, work in complete concert with the user’s schedule.

Although less effective than traditional trainers, many users in the Times’ study found training apps better suited to their daily lives.

The Apple iTunes App Store has an entire section dedicated to these applications, a majority of which are free.


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