What I mean by personal training is one-to-one fitness instruction.

I’m excluding so-called semi-private training, where an instructor simultaneously supervises a small group of people. There is exercising with others in a group, and there is exercising alone under the supervision of one instructor. Many find the former helpful but I have expertise in the latter.

personal training

Personal training includes a client, a fitness instructor, and equipment.

The client’s decisions and attitudes determine the outcome of the personal training program even before it starts. Fitness instructors need the knowledge, skill, and experience to give good instructions and to say what they see at the right moment. Exercisers have limitations and the more equipment available, the better those limitations will be accommodated.

Here are the three most important things to know if you’re considering personal training:

  • Personal training produces particular results.
  • Each result requires some specific number of workouts done over some specific number of months.
  • You must have good levels of five attitudes to make it through those workouts and months.

Personal training produces particular results

Different occupations serve different groups and give them particular results. Sports medicine is for the injured and gives them diagnoses and repair. Physical therapy is for those who are rehabilitating and gives them normal function. Dietetics is for those with nutritional problems and gives them dietary solutions. Coaching is for athletes and gives them improved performance.

Personal training is for normal exercisers and gives them these general results:

  • Muscular fitness
  • Aerobic fitness
  • Weight loss
  • Hypertrophy

Muscular fitness is the integration of muscular strength, muscular power, and muscular endurance. It causes you to be, look, and feel strong. Aerobic fitness is your body’s ability to absorb and handle oxygen. It helps you be more active while feeling less tired during activity. Significant weight loss equals 5% or more of the baseline body weight. Hypertrophy is muscle growth as measured by the circumference of the upper arm and thigh and the upper torso.

Each result requires a specific number of workouts

Each of those results requires a certain amount of time measured by workouts. I wrote here and here about the estimated amount of time to develop muscular fitness and hypertrophy—anywhere from 34 minutes to 2 hours per workout, and from 2 to 6 workouts per week.

personal training

Using personal training to improve aerobic fitness makes sense for those who prefer to exercise at a high intensity but for brief periods. This result will probably take four workouts per week, for about 3 months. There are lower-intensity ways to get aerobically fit but I don’t think the typical person needs personal training to do them.

Losing weight through exercise alone usually takes 4 or more hours of exercise per week to burn the required calories, the calculation of which I discussed here, for at least three months.

If you go into personal training having already decided to buy some fixed number of workouts per week, and if that number is less than your objective calls for, then you won’t get the result that you desire.

For example, let’s say that you plan to buy two 30-minute workouts per week. You then go to a personal trainer to lose weight through exercise alone. That will take four 60-minute sessions per week. The expected result requires four times the commitment made and, therefore, is unlikely.

Or, let’s say that you plan to buy just one 60-minute session to learn how to do a strength workout on your own. It will take the instructor four 60-minute sessions for that. If limited to one session, you will walk away with a written workout that you don’t know how to do.

Personal trainers should know how many workouts are required for their methods to produce results. Get that information before deciding how much training to buy.

These five attitudes will get you through the workouts

personal training

You will properly do months of hard workouts only if you possess good levels of determination, drive, mental toughness, responsibility, and trust. The sports psychologists Lem Burnham, Thomas Tutko, Bruce Ogilvie, and Leland Lyon named those five things “attitudes” and gave these definitions (which I have paraphrased):

  • Determination means that you are willing to exercise and to make it a habit.
  • Drive means that you aspire to do hard exercise.
  • Mental toughness means that you quickly renew your aspirations after workouts during which things went wrong like mild strains, lightheadedness, etc.
  • Responsibility means that you schedule and keep appointments to exercise and that you follow instructions.
  • Trust means that you believe your instructor.

A very popular saying is that personal trainers “push” their clients. A better idea is that personal training provides the opportunity to develop more determination, drive, mental toughness, responsibility, and trust.

Some people have high levels of those attitudes or are willing to develop them. They will accomplish the inevitable hard work that measurable results requires.