20 October 2010

Do you need a personal trainer?

You want to get in shape, but is it worthwhile spending the money on a personal trainer?


You want to get in shape, but is it worthwhile spending the money on a personal trainer? Health24 tried it out, and here's what we think. Also check out the gallery of pictures in the gym.

You've been hibernating all winter, and now that you're trying to get back into your summer clothes you realise they don't fit so well anymore. Or perhaps you exercise regularly, but you haven't seen any results from all your training efforts lately.

That's where I was when I took up the challenge to train with a personal trainer twice a week for 10 weeks. Before I used to go to the gym two or three times a week, but I wasn't moving forward, or backwards. My fitness level and weight stayed constant. So when 360 Specialized Training invited Health24 to train with one of their personal instructors, I was keen to find out if this could make the difference I've been looking for.


The assessment

A personal training programme kicks off with an assessment. Here you brief the instructor on what you want to achieve, whether it is weight loss, muscle strength, sports performance or just general fitness and toning.

Here a good trainer will also take your measurements: weight; waist-, arm-, and upper leg circumference; heart rate; and body fat. These aren't the most dignified of exercises, getting on a scale is terrifying to most of us, and in some cases (surely in mine) the body-fat measurement requires your fat being pinched together and measured with callipers (which isn't half as sore as it is embarrassing). But these measurements help you set the bar of what you want to achieve and gives your trainer a good idea of your fitness level and where your problem areas are.

The programme

With your personal goals in mind, the trainer now develops a training programme fit to your needs and fitness levels. In my case, the trainer didn't develop a programme for the whole 10 weeks upfront, but adapted the programme in line with my performance – if you do an exercise too often it becomes easy and your muscles aren't challenged as much, so it is good to change your training routine every now and then to "keep your body guessing", in the words of my trainer.


All of my training took place inside the gym. As I am an aspiring runner I regularly do cardio on my own and therefore hardly any was included in my programme. My programme had a lot of resistance training, but also balance work and practical training - the aim of which is to train the muscles to work together better, and also work the muscles you use in your day-to-day life.

There were the regulars: lunges, squats, push ups and dumbbells. But a lot of new and interesting items were also introduced in the routine: kettlebells, burpies, medicine balls, bosu balls, and more.

Every day at the gym offered a new challenge and not even once was I bored with the class.

Is it worth it?

In one word: Yes.

I thought I knew a little bit about fitness and training - I buy the magazines, regularly read the net, etc. - but unless you go to great lengths to stay up to date with the latest research and trends, it is better to have a professional in charge of your body – especially if you have specific goals you would like to achieve. Not only do they know which exercises work best for each muscle, they also know how to do it right – thereby reducing your risk of injury.

You are also less inclined to skip a workout when a) you have a set appointment and someone is expecting you on the other side, and b) you are actually paying per hour you workout. This may also motivate you to work harder during your hour sessions to try and get the most out of your money.

Not to say a person doesn't workout hard on their own, but if you are anything like me, you never work yourself until your limbs feel like jelly. Working out on my own I do try and challenge myself, but whenever I feel "I can't anymore", I stop. That's where the trainer comes in to cheer, or plead, or scold or do whatever is necessary to get you to do another five reps. And it is those last five reps, I believe, that give the results, physically and mentally.

The results

After 10 weeks of training I am picking the fruit of all my hard work. I feel stronger and more agile during my runs, and my second assessment came back all-round positive: I lost 4kg, lost 3.3% body fat, and have shrunk a few centimetres in all the right places. I am satisfied, albeit a little tired.

Check out the gallery of pictures.

- (Wilma Stassen/Health24, October 2010)

360 Specialized Training, who sponsored the 10-week training programme, is running a special offer from November 2010 to January 2011. They are offering 20 sessions for R1,600 (usually valued at R2,560). The sessions include eight one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer, eight warrior workout sessions and four box fit group sessions. Call them at 021-461-0360 or visit for more information.


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