The Value of a Personal Trainer


personal-trainerAs a busy executive and working mother, I continually struggled with finding the time to exercise. Even though I knew the importance of being active, it was hard to fit regular exercise into my already crammed schedule. Early mornings were too rushed, lunchtimes were too unpredictable (also requiring time for a shower and re-do of hair and makeup), and evenings were consumed with dinner, helping with homework, and much-needed downtime from work. Finally, when a persistent low back pain appeared—due to ten extra pounds of unwanted weight and a lack of core strength from sitting at a desk all day—I realized that something had to change.

The one thing that made a regular exercise routine possible for me was working with a personal trainer. I called my trainer, “My Obligation.” Knowing that someone was waiting for me—and I was paying for his time—I was forced to leave work by a certain hour in order to arrive at the gym for my designated workout. There were no excuses. I was able to be more efficient with my workload at the office, reschedule last-minute ad hoc meetings, and delegate as many home responsibilities as possible.

So how did I find my personal trainer? Actually, he found me. He approached me one day at the gym and offered some free suggestions on how to improve my workout for better results. He showed me the right form and other strength-building techniques. We hit it off immediately, and I decided to give it a try. (I guess he was just ‘hustling’ me, but it worked!)

So if you are considering a personal trainer, here are my suggestions about finding the right one for you:

  • Relationship—Just like finding the right coach, working with a trainer is all about the relationship. Is he/she someone you feel comfortable with and trust? Can you talk openly and safely about your goals and your concerns? Does he/she really listen and understand without judging? As in any partnership, you both need to work together to achieve your goals.
  • Holistic Understanding of Wellness—As a health and wellness coach, I understand that well-being is much more than just physical health—it involves all aspects of a person’s life. A professional trainer knows that there are mental and emotional aspects to a workout as well. Sometimes, I would spend the entire hour talking about my tough day at the office while I was doing my exercises. The experience was therapeutic as I was able to vent my frustrations, let go of the stress, and work out physically at the same time. A professional trainer understands the inter-connectedness of mind, body, and soul.
  • Certifications—While there are some certifications and credentials that trainers can possess, there are no true barriers-to-entry to become a personal trainer. Anyone can print a business card. Many certifications are merely marketing ploys by various organizations for more revenue, and the credentials are primarily knowledge-based. There may be no actual observation or validation of their training skills. While knowledge is important, I want to know about the trainer’s experience and how he/she applies that knowledge during the workout. CPR certification may be one that you really want to ask about in case of emergency.
  • Professionalism—I want a professional trainer who is doing this as a chosen career and is not just between ‘real’ jobs. Professional trainers—like other professional occupations—are continually learning and perfecting their craft. They value the customer relationship and are fully committed to pleasing their clients. And, of course, a trainer has to be reliable and dependable, barring any unforeseen circumstances. Although my trainer and I generally have settled into a specific day and time each week, my schedule sometimes changes due to business travel. Over the years, we’ve both learned to be flexible and accommodate each other’s schedules. However, if I’m making the effort to be there on time, I need a trainer who is equally as prompt and consistent.
  • Customization—Customizing the workout for a client’s particular needs is a must. A client may have an injury or sensitive part of the body, and the workout must be adapted accordingly. It’s critically important that the exercises are safe and won’t cause further problems. A good trainer also knows what motivates different individuals. I respond best to positive encouragement, yet often need to be pushed to get to a higher level of performance. There are some days when I am full of energy and others when I may be overly tired. A professional trainer knows how to vary the workout to get the most out of his/her clients depending on their physical, mental, and emotional states. As my trainer often says, “Give me 100% of whatever you’ve got.”
  • Cost—I am fortunate to be able to afford a personal trainer and realize that others cannot. At my gym, the trainers charge anywhere from $60 to $120 per hour. If a trainer comes to your home, it may cost even more but the convenience may be worth it. Sometimes, a trainer can take on a small group of people at one time which can reduce the individual expense.  Ask if the trainers are employees of the gym—who give a majority of their earnings to management—or if they operate independently and can keep what they earn. Independent trainers may pay a monthly fee to the gym and require you to maintain a monthly membership.

You will probably want to try out a particular trainer for a short period of time and see how it works for you. You can always switch trainers or go it alone if you are self-disciplined and don’t need the structure. Over the years, my relationship with my trainer has evolved, and I consider him to be one of my very good friends. I hope you can find the right trainer for you and experience the same benefits of friendship, support, and good health!

Charlene Rothkopf

Charlene Rothkopf is the Founder and President of the Wellness Consulting Group, LLC, an executive coaching and organizational consulting firm specializing in executive and leadership development, managing change, and organizational health and well-being. As a seasoned corporate executive for over 30 years, Charlene’s experience includes strategic planning, designing and implementing company-wide initiatives, talent management, and group facilitation. To learn more about Charlene and The Wellness Consulting Group visit Also check out her blog at


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