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Should I Hire a Personal Trainer?

When you make a new commitment to exercise by joining a gym, you will usually be offered an orientation to the gym’s equipment, which generally includes some cardio machines (ellipticals, treadmills, stationary bikes, and sometimes rowing machines) and resistance machines. Some of the resistance machines may be oriented in a row or circuit, offering a built-in basic routine for you to start with. This may well be all you need.

When should you get more one-on-one help?

If you have a specific goal, especially with a deadline: A personal trainer can help structure your workouts efficiently, and keep them focused on a goal. If you have a road race coming, for example, a trainer can help you plan pushing out your distance as well as helping you with the strengthening that will make you more efficient and resistant to injury.

If you have a history of serious injury, or a medical issue that could interfere with training: A personal trainer can help you strengthen and support weak areas, and can help you work around other health issues, such as asthma, arthritis, or diabetes.

If you want to learn something new, especially if form or technique is crucial: If you want to do “barbell compounds” (exercises with barbells that work several muscle groups at once) — especially the lifts featured in the Olympics — you should hire a trainer or coach to teach you the proper form and do at least a couple of rechecks over time. Even simpler stuff, like push-ups, can go better with some instruction — if you are starting from scratch, a trainer can help you with modifications and progressions that let you build to more advanced movements.

You want supervision or accountability in your training: This can get expensive, but it definitely works!

If you are new to a gym that has personal trainers on staff, the orientation will often involve a sales pitch for training. If you have one of these needs, give some thought to how many sessions will help you, at least to get started. If you don’t, though, it makes sense to wait. You will get the most out of personal training if you have a specific reason to use it.

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