It feels like such an unnecessary expense: you’re already paying upwards of $100 a month for a gym membership and then they want you to pay another how much per hour for a personal trainer? “Forget it, I got this,” we tell ourselves, and merrily go about following our own workout routines stitched together from various classes, YouTube demos and training apps.
But signing up with a personal trainer doesn’t have to be a life sentence, and there are actually a lot of benefits to using one that make it well worth the cost—even if you can only afford a few sessions, or seasonal check-ins rather than regular weekly appointments. We spoke to Roydian Chan, a coach at Equinox in Toronto, about three scenarios when getting a personal trainer is totally the way to go. (And, no, one of them isn’t the lead-up to your wedding day.)
1. When you’re in constant pain
Neck and shoulder tension and lower back pain are pretty much a given for anyone who sits at a computer all day (it me), and we can easily aggravate these issues when we work out if we don’t know what we’re doing. Not only can a personal trainer ensure you’re not hurting yourself, they can show you exercises that will actually alleviate chronic muscle tension.
“There’s no one magic exercise that will cure all your pain,” says Chan. “And the site of your pain is usually not the site of the problem.” For example, that twinge in your knee when you do squats might have to do with weak ankles or underdeveloped quads. And that lower back pain might be due to flat feet. That’s why you need a trained eye: “PTs know where to look and can devise a program that can ease your pain by targeting the right areas to strengthen over time.”
2. When you’re working out but gaining weight (and it’s def *not* muscle)
There are few things more frustrating than dragging yourself out of bed for 6 a.m. workouts for weeks on end only to find you still can’t fit into your goddamn skinny jeans. Unless you’re eating a cheeseburger for lunch every day (in which case, we salute and envy you), your problem is you’ve plateaued.
“The body is very efficient,” Chan explains, “so it adapts to your exercises over time and eventually finds ways to complete them with less energy. A good trainer will understand that and will constantly switch up the variables in your routine to ‘shock the body’ and make sure you’re getting the most out of your time at the gym.”
3. When you’ve fallen out of your routine and have zero motivation to get back
We’ve ALL been there, at least once a year. You miss a week at the gym, then it becomes two and suddenly it’s been three months since you even thought about lifting a dumbbell. You feel like you’ve lost all your gains and getting back into the routine is intimidating (not to mention, it just sounds exhausting). A personal trainer can get you motivated and ease you back into a workout that still feels effective. “It’s a teamwork thing,” says Chan. “A personal trainer is with you every step of the way and they want you to succeed.”
And it’s not just about your workouts. At Equinox, trainers like Chan spend hours of their off time reviewing clients’ programs, tracking their results and even helping them tweak their diets and making sure they’re taking time for stress management activities like meditation, sending out personalized reminders like “How much water did you drink today?”
When it comes down to it, there are certain situations when it’s better to leave things to the professionals. “I would never try to figure out my finances on my own,” says Chan. “I have an accountant for that. Think of personal training in the same way—you’re outsourcing expertise.”