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Having a personal trainer certainly sounds wonderful: dedicated one-on-one time, customized workouts, and a deep well of fitness knowledge never more than a phone call away. What’s not so wonderful, however, is the elite price tag trainers often come with. We decided to find out what a roundup of paying customers had to say about their experiences with personal trainers. What are the best (and worst) ways to find one? What trainer behaviors are the most offensive to a client, and are people willing to continue paying for their services over several years?

We spoke to 1,000 people who had utilized a personal trainer in the past two years. If you’re considering a personal training regimen, you’ll want to start here. Keep scrolling to see what experienced clientele had to say.

Training Status Quo

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First, our study looked at the tenure of personal trainers with their clientele. Only 27% of the people surveyed still worked with their trainers after an average of 11 months, while 73% stopped working with their trainers after just 7.3 months. These brief relationships weren’t cheap, either: On average, people spent $235 each month. And those who met with their trainer at a gym spent even more: Including the gym membership itself, these respondents spent roughly $322 each month, on average, to work out together.

For both men and women, discovering a trainer through a gym referral was both the most common and expensive method. Fewer than 10% of both genders took to search engines to find a personal trainer. People who took another route on the internet, however, appeared to find the best deals: Trainers found through social media charged an average of $25 per hour, more than $11 less per hour than those found through a gym referral. Although more expensive, friend and gym referrals still appeared to be the top way to go.

Accredited Trainers

When looking for the right trainer, physical appearance was more important than any certification or accreditation, according to our respondents. Seventy-three percent of people said their fitness coach being in excellent shape was moderately to extremely important, while only 59% said the same about their certification status.

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Although many debate whether certifications make someone a great trainer, states don’t generally require certification before training someone. Dietitians, however, must have credentials and specific licenses to practice in 31 states, yet 44% of respondents said their fitness trainers also sold nutrition plans, from which 57% had made a purchase.

The extent to which people researched their prospective trainers varied considerably by how they chose them in the first place. For certifications, before and after photos, and reviews, people who discovered their trainers on social media or through an internet search were most likely to do their due diligence. Instagram has become a popular platform for trainers to grow their business and connect with people en masse, and respondents are evidently making use of their offerings.

Dissatisfied Clients

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Particular bad habits made a client much more likely to feel unhappy with their trainer’s services. For instance, more than half of the respondents said their trainers put them on the treadmill on their first day together. Of those, 34.9% said they were dissatisfied with their trainer’s services. People were even more likely to be unhappy if their trainer didn’t return their calls and texts in a reasonable amount of time.

Being distracted during workouts, however, was considered the worst coaching habit: 17.9% of clients noticed their trainer getting distracted during each workout, which correlated with 57% being dissatisfied with their trainer’s services. According to Sylvia Nasser, a certified personal trainer with Equinox, you should “dump your trainer immediately if they are on their phone while training. It’s rude and unprofessional.”

Reaching Training Goals

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Our study wrapped up with a look at how respondents gained more successful training experiences. As it turns out, internet research was the most unreliable. Trainers discovered through social media or an internet search left the highest percentage of respondents unhappy with their services. Moreover, those who found their trainers online also showed the largest average gap between the number of pounds they wanted to shed and the amount they actually lost.

The most successful search method appeared to be personal acquaintance or friend referrals. Trainers found this way were the least likely to have dissatisfied clients, and they also came closest to achieving their clients’ desired weight loss goals.

To Train or Not to Train

Ultimately, personal trainers do show potential to be all they’re cracked up to be – respondents lost 26 pounds during their personal training, on average – but they can often fall short. Although this type of one-on-one exercise can be personalized and attentive, pushing a person too hard early on or having poor communication skills can lead to dissatisfied and unhappy clients, as well as early termination of the training.

Based on these experiences, it’s clearly important to be wary of where you’re spending your money, especially when your health is on the line. Start in a place with trusted, experienced reviews. After all, the data does show that referrals are often the most effective way to find a successful personal trainer. The same goes for the equipment you and your trainer work with. Whether you’re receiving one-on-one attention or exercising on your own, head to FitRated.com to get the right equipment for your needs. Trusted reviews and expert opinions are all available at the touch of a button.

Methodology

To qualify for this study, participants had to report working with a personal trainer or fitness coach in the last two years. Qualifying participants then answered questions regarding the nature of their working relationship with their trainer. They were asked to answer based on the most recent trainer they worked with in case there was more than one.

50.8% of participants were women, 49.2% were men, and 0.4% were nonbinary or did not report an answer. They ranged in age from 18 to 78 with a mean of 35.0 and a standard deviation of 10.9.

Outliers were removed from the numerical data.

Limitations

The data are neither weighted nor statistically tested and are based on means alone.

The study was conducted using an online survey, so participation was limited to people with access to the internet.

Fair Use Statement

Are you interested in working with a personal trainer or helping other people avoid a bad one? We encourage you to share this information with friends, family, and workout buddies for any noncommercial use. Just please be sure to link back to this study.