10 Reasons You're Afraid to Hire a Personal Trainer

Though personal training is more mainstream than ever, there are still plenty of people hesitant to hire a trainer. They worry about the cost, they worry about the pain and they wonder things like: Will I look like a complete idiot? Is my trainer going to torture me? These fears are normal, but you shouldn't let them stop you from hiring a personal trainer. Learn more about the most common fears and how you can get over them.

It costs too much

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Personal training can be expensive, costing anywhere from $30 an hour to more than $100, depending on where you live and your trainer's experience. Yes, it costs, but there are plenty of reasons to hire one and it can be a good investment. If you end up with an exercise habit, long-term weight loss and a resource you can turn to for advice, that's a pretty good pay off.

If budget is an issue, consider these options:

  • Semi-Private Training - With this, you may train with around 2-5 people in a very small group setting, often in a circuit training format.
  • Small Group Training - This may be a bootcamp-style class with a limited number of exercisers and either a flat fee for a series of classes or a fee for individual classes.
  • Workout With a Friend - You can also save money by working out with a friend or family member.
  • Negotiate with your trainer - Not all trainers will do this, but it's worth asking.

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I'm too overweight and/or out of shape

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If it's been a long time (or ever) since you've worked out, hiring a trainer may bring up scary questions:

  • What if I can't do the exercises? - You need time to reconnect to your body in a physical way and that means you may not do the exercises right. Give yourself time to learn the exercises before getting discouraged.
  • What if I can't make it through a workout? - Your trainer's job is create workouts that match not just your goals, but what your body can handle. Your trainer will check in with you throughout the workout but, if something feels too challenging, say so. Your trainer needs that information to know when to push and when to back off.
  • What if my trainer sees what a fat, lazy slob I really am? - Your train will ask tough questions about your exercise and eating habits, revealing things even your friends or family  may not know. You may feel vulnerable revealing those secrets, but your trainer isn't there to judge you. "Fat, lazy slob" isn't even crossing his mind...He's too busy thinking about what he's going to do to help you reach your goals.

Remember these things:

  • You're stronger than you think you are
  • You know more than you think you do
  • It gets easier with time and practice

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I don't know what to expect

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"I'm not doing pushups, or swinging some weird kettledrum...And I'm not jumping up and down until I throw up." That's what one new client blurted as soon as she walked in the door. She gave a grudging nod when I asked, "You've been watching The Biggest Loser, haven't you?"

In the absence of experience, you may imagine all kinds of scary things that could happen during your personal training session. But, your trainer isn't going to make you do anything you aren't ready for.

What you can to do ease your fears:

  • Do your research - Before you hire any old trainer, get recommendations from friends or use IDEA Fitness Connect to find trainers in your area that have been vetted and, often, reviewed.
  • Express your fears - You can often get instant reassurance by talking about what you're afraid of. Write down questions before meeting with a trainer - What should you wear? What will you do during the first session? Should you bring your own water or towel?
  • Look for warning flags - Look for alarm bells that go off during your first meeting. Did he gloss over important facts about your health history or fail to ask anything at all? Did she say her favorite part of a workout is when her client pukes at the end?

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I'm afraid it will hurt

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"Is this going to hurt?" Well, if you have to ask...

Seriously, exercise shouldn't cause pain. There will likely be some discomfort, of course, which is true anytime your body does things it isn't used to. A few things you can expect when you start exercising:

  • Burning muscles - It's normal to feel some burning in your muscles, especially if you're a beginner or if you're doing high intensity or high repetition exercises. The burning comes from lactic acid building up as your muscles become fatigued. This is uncomfortable, but it will pass and may become less of a problem as you get stronger.
  • The Jello Effect - This is when your body becomes fatigued during an exercise and, as a result, may wobble in an alarming way, much like Jello. This should pass with a rest period, but tell your trainer if you feel very weak and/or unstable. You may need more recovery time.
  • Muscles you've never felt before - Your body has more than 650 muscles. You won't work all of them during one workout, but you may feel like you have. It's normal to feel an exercise everywhere, even in unrelated body parts (e.g., "I think I felt that pushup in my left earlobe.") As you build strength in the weaker areas of your body, this will be less of an issue.
  • Stiffness and soreness - Any new activity can cause soreness within 24-48 hours of your workout. Some soreness is normal and you may find that an anti-inflammatory, a hot bath or a massage can help. However, if you can't brush your hair/walk down the stairs/breathe without pain, you overdid it. Tell your trainer if you experience excessive soreness so he can scale back on your workouts a bit.

You shouldn't feel any actual pain, though - Any sharp, stabbing pain in the joints, muscles or connective tissue should get your immediate attention.

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I'm afraid of an injury

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This is a healthy fear, but one that shouldn't stop you from hiring a trainer. Any movement can cause injury and activities that combine a personal trainer, a new exerciser, heavy equipment and moving body parts can up that risk. Your trainer will do everything possible to avoid this, but there's no guarantee you won't get hurt. Here's how to decrease your risk:

  • Get a check up - I you're worried about aggravating an old injury, see your doctor to get clearance.
  • Be Honest - As you're filling out your health history form, which should happen before you start exercising, list any past or current injuries, surgeries, conditions or illnesses. Tell your trainer about any pain you have, any movements that bother you or any exercises that have caused problems in the past.
  • Give regular feedback - Complaining is probably the most fun you'll have during your workout session and you can make it even more useful by being specific. For example, "I hate this exercise," isn't quite as helpful as, "I hate this exercise because it really bothers my right shoulder."
  • Be your own advocate - If anything feels wrong during an exercise, stop. Injuries often happen when you work through pain rather than stopping. Some clients are shy about speaking up, often thinking: "Well, he wouldn't have given me this exercise if he didn't think I could do it, right?" As brilliant as your trainer may be, he can't anticipate everything.

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I have Trainer Trauma


If you've ever left a personal training session crying, limping, crawling and/or vowing to stop payment on your check as soon as you have the strength to lift your phone, you've probably had Trainer Trauma.

Like every profession, personal training has its fair share of boneheads. Some may treat your first session like it's a contest to see how much torture your body can handle. Some do this because they think that's what every client wants. Others do it because a client may request that kind of workout without realizing how hard it really is. The result is, at best, Trainer Trauma and, at worst, an injury.

For every bad trainer there are hundreds of good ones, but you may need to approach your new search with a few things in mind:

  • Ask for recommendations from friends, family, or trusted websites like IDEA FitnessConnect
  • Ask for references - Ask your trainer if you can contact current or previous clients to get the real story
  • Look for experience and education - Make sure your trainer has experience training a wide variety of clients and dealing with any injuries or conditions you may have. He should also have an accredited personal training certification.
  • Be specific about what you want - When you do meet with your new trainer, tell him about your previous experience with Bad Trainer - What went wrong? What do you want to be different? How could Good Trainer make it up to you?

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I'm afraid of failing

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If you've tried to lose weight with diets, exercise programs or other failed ventures, you may be afraid of another weight loss failure. Unfortunately, hiring a trainer is no guarantee for success. A trainer can do a lot of things for you - Teach you an amazing variety exercises, challenge you, give you personalized workouts, track your progress and motivate you. What he can't do is give you what you most need to have to lose weight: A desire to change.

Sometimes, hiring a personal trainer is no different than trying a new diet or a new fitness gadget in the hopes you'll find something that will finally work. The problem is, no diet or gadget or personal trainer is going to make any difference if you don't believe that how you're living is making you more miserable than having to change it.

Having a standing appointment that you're paying for and an expert to guide you can certainly be motivating, but it's no talisman against failure. Before you take the plunge, ask yourself why you want to hire a trainer. Good reasons to hire a trainer: You're not seeing results, you don't know where to start or you're stuck in a plateau. Bad reasons to hire a trainer: You want to lose weight fast, you feel pressured by aggressive salespeople, you want the perfect body, or you think a trainer can magically transform you into the kind of person who is motivated to exercise.

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I'm afraid of committing

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Hiring a personal trainer is a big commitment and it's normal to get cold feet. It's more than just meeting someone for an hour to exercise, you're also committing:

  • Money - You may pay $35-$100 an hour to work with a trainer and that's a big investment. Look at your budget and figure out how much you can spend before signing up.
  • Time - You have your appointment time to deal with, but you also have prep time, drive time and time to workout during the rest of the week. Look at your schedule to make sure you can fit this in.
  • Trust - You're trusting this person with your body, your time and your goals. You should feel comfortable from the very first session. If you're not at ease from the get-go, go elsewhere.
  • Your lifestyle - You're not just committing to an hour of exercise when you sign up for training, but other aspects of your life as well: Your diet, how you spend your time, how active you are, how you sleep, how you deal with stress, etc. Make sure you're really ready to change before making the commitment.

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I'm afraid of looking like an idiot

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When you hire a trainer, you will be expected to do a variety of physical movements and, yes, sometimes these movements will be awkward. Not only that, but your body will have a variety of responses to this physical activity: Sweating, shaking, wobbling or just downright confusion. Some common worries:

  • What if I fart? You certainly could and, frankly, it isn't that uncommon. The best way to deal with it is to laugh it off, saying something like, "I guess I picked the wrong day to eat a can of beans for lunch."
  • Do I stink? - Maybe. But your trainer has inhaled so much body odor, she probably doesn't even smell it anymore.
  • Am I sweating too much? - No. Clients often feel embarrassed when they leave a big pool of sweat on the weight bench. Your trainer is actually quite pleased when you sweat. It means that your body is doing what it's supposed to: Regulating your body temperature. Go forth and sweat.
  • Am I really this uncoordinated? - No, you're not. You may be quite graceful in real life but, when faced with an exercise that involves your limbs going in different directions, you  feel like an idiot. Many exercises feel awkward, exposing the fact that you aren't perfect and that we all have to practice new things. Having patience, an open mind and a sense of humor will go a long way towards easing your self-consciousness.

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I'm afraid I won't like my trainer

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When you're hiring a trainer, you're not just looking at someone's certification, experience and education, you're also look at their personality. Most personal trainers can get along with a wide range of people, but not all personalities mesh very well.

Increase your odds of finding the right trainer by thinking about what's important to you. That might include:

  • Gender - If you have a preference for whether you want to work with a male or female, speak up right away.
  • Personality - Do you want someone who's quietly encouraging, or someone more aggressive?
  • Training style - Most trainers will adapt to what you want and need, every trainer is different. For example, if you want new, creative workouts, make that clear from the beginning so the trainer doesn't stick you on the same old machines. Giving your trainer some guidance may save you, and the trainer, from a bad experience.

Most important, speak up if things aren't going well. You may think your trainer should read your mind but, unless you spell it out, your trainer may have no clue you're unhappy.

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