Guides, Training

December 16, 2020

How much does a personal trainer cost?

By:
Coach Jason
  • How much does a personal trainer cost?
  • How much should it cost?
  • What's the difference between having a trainer or just following a program?
  • Do I need a trainer? How do I pick a one? 

If you're reading this you might be thinking about getting some help with your fitness or might just want to confirm if your trainer is hiding his Bentley at home. Regardless of your reasoning the goal of this article is to give you a clear understanding of your training options, some of the reasons for the pricing of these options, and how to navigate them to choose the best fit for you.

Drake Bentley

Drake might have actually been a trainer...

Why do I feel qualified to write this?

I've been a personal trainer for over a decade, and I've been a fitness consumer for more than two.

I've trained in a big box commercial gym (GoodLife Fitness) but also on my own as an independent trainer in my current boutique space (Apex Performance Club).

I've hired, managed, trained and coached trainers.

I've used coaches, trainers, and various fitness apps and platforms myself and still do.

So I won't pretend to know it all but I feel I have enough perspective to give you a reasonable answer...or at least I sure as hell hope so...

I can't avoid having some bias in the way I feel things should be done but I'm aiming to write this in the most objective way possible, because not everyone thrives in the same environment or has the same budget. 

I'm going to break this down for you just like a training plan, here's how this guide is broken down:

Defining Personal Training

There might be some debate over what's defined as personal training so I just wanted to throw this out there first. Here's 3 characteristics that should exist in every personal training offering in my opinion: 

  • Personalized instruction specific to your goals and needs
  • Some form of two-way personal accountability system/check-in
  • A method and progression plan which takes into account your needs, goals and skillset

Now this doesn't mean there can't be other things that are offered. Habit focused nutritional guidance is something I personally offer since I'm a Precision Nutrition coach, for example, but it isn't the standard, so it's important to clarify that when hiring someone. You want to know what exactly they will deliver. 

In short, you have a coach who is responsible for your success. This means they help keep you on track, provide instruction to accomplish what you're paying for help with, and who you can also hold accountable by being able to ask for help when needed. 

Available Personal Training Options

When many people think of personal training they think of big gym chains. Like here in Ottawa there's GoodLife Fitness, Movati, and Anytime Fitness, which are recognizable brands but you may not know you have other options that are often better suited depending on your needs. 

There are an abundance of smaller gyms like Greco, Free Form Fitness, Fitness Lab, Capital Strength or Ottawa's various crossfits gyms like 1855 that have cropped up specializing in personal and group training. There are also many independent trainers and training businesses like myself who train out of boutique facilities like Apex Performance Club who specialize with specific training populations and have more advanced and/or specialized skill sets.

It might also surprise you to know there's a variety of ways that personal training can be delivered. 

Training can now be offered in a gym, at home, virtually (live video calls), online in a consultant like fashion, or a combination of these. Understanding personal trainer cost requires first determining your options.

Over the past years people have become more savvy that a one size fits all approach doesn't necessarily make the most sense. The industry has responded (and continues to evolve) by creating a variety of offerings. Online availability of training has accelerated dramatically especially with the COVID-19 global pandemic due to many gyms not being able to stay open and people also transitioning to training at home or looking for alternative ways to stay fit. 

It's worth noting that what is offered online can vary dramatically from trainer to trainer, we'll talk about that more in the how to pick the right trainer or program for you section.

Some big categories of training that exist:

One on One Training (Available in a Gym, At Home, Virtually)

1 on 1 sessions lasting from 30-60 minutes. This is personal training you're likely most familiar with. Training is most often done in a gym, but other options include having a trainer come to you like the company GymGuyz or training from your home or location of choice via a live video call now coined as virtual training.

Semi-Private Training (Available in a Gym, At Home, Virtually)

Personal training with on average 2-3 other participants with sessions lasting 30-60 minutes. These may be people you know, or depending on the trainer or business may be matched for you. Most often this is done based on goals or stage of fitness. 

Team/Class Training (Available in a Gym, Virtually)

Groups of 3-12 participants led by a trainer.  Training most often themed upon a common goal like fat loss, building muscle, over 40, or training theme like athletic training, new moms or dads, etc. There's an argument that this wouldn't be considered personal training, it all depends on if it hits the 3 points defined in Defining Personal Training above. Team training can come with some unique community building benefits which we'll talk about in Do you need a Trainer?

Group Fitness (Available in a Gym, Virtually, Recorded)

Large groups of participants led by an instructor. Group fitness isn't personal training but I wanted to put it in here because it's important to make the distinction. A class setting can be great for many people but it doesn't hit the Defining Personal Training criteria of selection. This doesn't make it a bad option, it simply depends what you need right now which we'll cover in Do you need a Trainer?. 

Online Training (Available Online)

The definition of what's included with this can vary a lot from trainer to trainer. Most often though you have a coach who guides your training based on your needs, you have some form of contact method to ask questions (app, email, text), and you have scheduled meetings to cover relevant topics. The biggest difference here between online training and virtual training is not having someone live with you at all times. 

Online Group Training (Available Online)

This is very similar to Team Training in that it depends on what is included in the service as to whether or not it's considered personal training. Usually these come with a common goal or theme for the training and some level of community accountability and possibly a level of one of one coaching. 

Hybrid Training (Available in a Gym, Online, Virtually)

This usually combines the aspects personal training and semi private training with online training. This means you'll have some combination of live sessions with a coach and some sessions to complete on your own. You'll typically be given the best of both worlds, lots of access to support when you need it, some level of autonomy and flexibility, and have regular touch points towards your coaching milestones. In case you hadn't guessed this is one of my favorite methods of coaching, which is why it's the backbone BID coaching programs. 

Comparing Costs

There are a number of factors that can play into personal trainer cost. Education, experience, their specialization(s), location, and the facility in which they train.

So often time when looking at costs you often (not always) get what you pay for. I'll cover this further in how to pick the right trainer or program for you.

What I'll give you below is some ranges in cost but this can vary based on the above factors so ultimately you won't know until you inquire directly. 

Type of Training

One on One Training

Cost Rating

$$$$$

Things to know

Cost is highly dependent on the trainers experience and specialization.

Cost Range  

$50-$120/session

Type of Training

Semi-Private Training

Cost Rating

$$$$-$$$$$

Things to know

Location might be the largest influence to cost for this but experience, and specialization still come into play.

Cost Range  

$30-$70/session

Type of Training

Team/Small Group Training

Cost Rating

$$$

Things to know

You'll find the broader the audience and the less specialized the skill set the more homogeneous the costs become. The facility, the location and the model/brand they use become more influential to the costs expected.

Cost Range  

$10-$25/class or session

Type of Training

Group Fitness

Cost Rating

$-$$$

Things to know

Group fitness is one of the main attractions to a big box gym for many. Though technically not free, it's often offered inclusive to a membership with a facility. What also falls into group fitness is more specialized offerings like CrossFit, Spin studios, metabolic training classes like Greco, Fitness lab, F45, or any other functional training and HITT style offerings. 

Cost Range 

FREE-$25/class

The following offerings are most often priced monthly so I'll be showing the costs in this format.

Type of Training

Online Training

Cost Rating

$$-$$$

Things to know

Online training is a bit like the wild wild west right now. Costs and what is offered for that cost hasn't really settled yet into a standard but you can safely assume that most offerings will fall in this price range. You can go much higher in the price range depending a lot on how much face-time you want/need with your trainer but the lines between this and virtual training (refer to 1 on 1) start to blur a little at that point.

Cost Range 

$99-$399/month

Type of Training

Online Group Training 

Cost Rating

$-$$

Things to know

Online group training just like online training is highly variable in it's offerings. What influences this the most is usually the specialization, support offered, and individualization.

Cost Range 

$20-$199/month

Type of Training

Hybrid Training 

Cost Rating

$$-$$$$$

Things to know

Hybrid training means you might be training 1 on 1 or semi-private for a period of time then proceeding to online training for other periods. **The costs are most variable but also most flexible to fit a budget and offer the most comprehensive support for your goals.

Cost Range 

$99-$1599**/month

Free vs Paid Fitness Programs 

I've learned a ton over the years from sampling free programs from various sources and coaches. Every day there's hundreds of new fitness programs made available on the internet for you to download. The internet is literally making it rain gains (or losses depending what ya want...).

Making it Rain

The internet supplying free training programs, just gotta work for it sometimes...

There's also a ton of inclusive offerings available to you if you're a conventional big box commercial gym member.

So a fair question you might ask is:

Why you would use a paid program over a free one?

I think it's a lot like doing your own home renovations. You could probably figure a lot of it out yourself especially if you have time and are ok with making mistakes. There's a ton you can learn in the process. 99% of the time though someone who specializes will do a better job, faster, the way you want it, with a much higher likeliness for success. But also like home renovations, you can also hire a lemon every now and then and might have been better off doing it yourself... we'll get into how to best avoid that soon. 

Free Programs are written for a goal in mind, paid programs are written with a person in mind for the goal.

There's another layer that's valuable to the equation when paying for something that can't be overlooked. When you pay for a program by nature of this action it increases your likeliness of actually doing it. There's some basic psychology at play that the more there's at stake the more you want to extract from that investment. 

Do you need a trainer?

I've written before about my first real coaching experiences and how life transforming they were for me. 

Training can be one of the greatest investments you've ever made in your life.

Do you need to make it?

No.

Can you significantly benefit now and forever from it?

Absolutely yes. 

David and Carole

There's no definitive answer as to whether or not this is the right time to hire a trainer for you but here's a few things you might want to take some time to answer which will guide your exploration of the idea:

  • What are you looking to accomplish? What are your goals?
  • Why do they matter to you?
  • Why now?
  • What do you feel you need to be doing in order to accomplish those goals?
  • How will hiring a trainer help?
  • Are you willing to accept that help given the right person? 

How to pick the right trainer or program for you

The person or program you choose to work with typically has to connect with you in some way first or come through a recommendation. So how can you actually qualify if it's a good fit? That's what we want to explore here.

You are making an investment in time,motivation, and obviously money. Ensuring you get the best return on this substantial investment means doing a little research beforehand.⁣⁣⁣

I run a fitness business but my business isn't necessarily a fit for everyone. And that's ok, there are a ton of amazing trainers and fitness businesses out there that will be.

⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣Here are some questions I'd suggest you answer to determine if a trainer is a good fit for you:

Experience - Who have they helped and how?
You want to understand their track record of success, what people say about them, and how they've helped others and if those experiences have any relevancy to you.

Education - What have they been taught, by who/ what, and when?
This could be formal education, certifications, internships, mentorships. Realistically it doesn't take much to have a personal trainer certification. Much of trainer development comes from on the job experience and industry connections and educational courses. Showing some form of commitment to continuing education shows someone is invested in getting better thus invested in delivering a better experience to you.

Dependability - Do they do what they say they're going to do?
Are they punctual? Do they stick to your agreed schedule or even have a schedule? Do they follow-up as promised? This doesn't mean they need to be perfect but if this is ever in question then this is a deal breaker in my opinion. Why? Because a keystone benefit of hiring a trainer is accountability. If they cannot demonstrate accountability in their smallest actions, regardless of how great a person they are, how can they help you with it?

Communication - Do they give clear and helpful instruction? Do they listen?
Part of being coached is being able to communicate what's working and collaborate on solutions for what isn't. It's clearly understanding your requirements, and being able to provide your coach feedback when they're not meeting yours. Having someone with which you can communicate easily can make this process better for both parties.

Practices what they preach - Do they look like they follow their own advice?

Scrolling through the gram to find the best body to emulate is a really shitty way to hire someone. For real, stop that, you are a unique person with different genetics and history. I do believe though a coach has to practice what they preach to an extent, they just don't necessarily have to be the perfect model for it. Education and experience can make up for some of this.

⁣⁣⁣Passion, Do they enjoy what they do? The 'give-a-shit' factor.
Not everyone is meant to coach. There are great trainers and there are also those who just haven't figured out what the next step is.  In my opinion working with someone who's enthusiastic about their role, what they're teaching, and is focused on helping you succeed is a key feature to look for.

⁣⁣⁣Method, is there a reason behind the coaching decisions they make? Do they have a plan for you, can they explain it to you?⁣⁣⁣
My standard might be higher than the norm for what I expect from trainers, but what I believe is trainers should have a method and reasoning for everything they recommend beyond "because that's what I did". 

If you simply want someone to throw random exercises at you and provide moral support for your workouts that's ok. No shade thrown, but it's important to call a spade a spade. In my opinion that's not a professional trainer, it's paying for a workout buddy and it cheapens the profession.

If you feel like that's shots fired, either because you've known someone like this, or have exhibited this quality. Bang Bang.

I don't say this out of malice, but I put it out there as a challenge to do better. 

Obama mic drop

Good luck in your hunt!

Want to know more about becoming a BID Athlete? Let's chat.

About the author

Coach Jason

Jason Ingham is a personal trainer, nutrition coach, powerlifter, sci-fi geek, multi-time former fat kid, lover of Bay (Bailey), food, and lifting heavy things. When he's not in the gym you'll probably find him buried in a book, crushin' a sandwich, or exploring the cities restaurants.

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