How Will You Get In Shape This Year?

Well, we’re finally seeing a little sun now in Vancouver, which is a reminder that it’s time to get in shape for the summer.  Nowadays, the options for getting into shape are limitless. Some methods have stood the test of time, while others are new and innovative.  Of course, there are always methods that are absurd and usually disappear as soon as the promotional hype behind them fizzles out. I  can remember a time when getting a beach body was much simpler.  A time when we didn’t jump from program to program hoping that something would work.  Now it seems much more complicated –  but is it?

As long as fitness is big business, it will only get more complicated because confusion breeds opportunity.  Clever marketers know this and intentionally use confusion and uncertainty to gain your business.  My intention here is to help you gain some clarity when you’re choosing a method for getting fit and healthy this summer.  We’ll look at some of the most popular methods for achieving this.  Are they effective for everyone? A nd what are the benefits and drawbacks of each?

The following fitness program options are evaluated according to 4 main criteria: (1) cost; (2) the amount of qualified supervision; (3) whether the program keeps you accountable for your actions and results; and (4) if the program considers your individual strengths, weaknesses and goals.  They are rated from 1 to 5 –  5 being the best score and 1 being the worst score.  I’ve totalled the numbers to assign an overall value (out of a possible 20)  to that particular program with a brief paragraph to explain why each program scored the way it did.  Let’s get started. . .  

Fitness Gadgets/Home Exercise Equipment

Cost- 4
Supervision- 0
Accountability- 0
Individualization- 0 

Overall Value 4/20 

money flushed down the toiletWhile some fitness gadgets are quite useful, they are only tools and are only effective as part of a well designed fitness program.  Most, however, venture into the realm of the absurd. The Ab Lounge Chair and the Shake Weight come to mind.  There are also plenty of “ready made” fitness programs that you can do in your living room.  Some of these programs are actually pretty well thought out ( for canned exercise programs), but are limited in their effectiveness because they don’t factor in your unique needs as an individual.

Without supervision, you can’t be sure that your technique and execution is correct.  No matter how detailed the pictures of the model performing the exercises included in the manual are, without professional feedback you could get seriously hurt.  There is also no one to be accountable to for your actions and results.  This is why most fitness gadgets end up being used once or twice ( if at all), then stored away until the next yard sale.  Even if they were effective, they would only work if you actually used them, and let’s be honest here, you won’t! 

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Cost- 5
Supervision- 1
Accountability- 1
Individualization-  0

Overall Value 7/20

This is easily the most popular trend in fitness right now.  Bootcamps became popular a few years back and have only gained momentum as more and more personal trainers transition to boot camp instructors.  Many people benefit from the social support that working out in a group environment offers.  This is one of the most important factors in projecting your rate of success on a fitness program.  Without the support  from others around you, you’ll likely go off track.  The energy some bootcamps offer is unrivaled.  When energy and enthusiasm are high you’ll be more likely to stay with the program and get more out of your efforts.  The cost is one of the best features, since most bootcamps go for under $100/month.  This is well within the budget of most people.

military boot camp instructorWith all its benefits, bootcamps do have some serious flaws.  Did you know that military bootcamps were originally designed to “weed out” or eliminate the weak? It was never intended to be a method for getting soldiers in shape but rather to serve as a punishment for those who don’t measure up.  That doesn’t sound like a nice experience does it?

Bootcamp instructors are not always personal trainers (although some are), they provide a workout based on the group dynamic, rather than a personalized program.  The workouts are designed to make you sweat, elevate your heart rate, get you moving and nothing more.  You cannot target your weaknesses and your progression will be limited by the rest of the class.  There is a lack of supervision and the coaching element is missing.  At the end of the day, this service is just another form of group exercise.

If you feel bootcamps are the option for you, there are a few things you want to consider:

    • Who is creating the programs?  Are they experienced and possess a practical knowledge of exercise science?
    • Are the workouts progressive or do they seem to be random sequences of exercises?
    • Will they offer modifications for your unique abilities?

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Group Training

Cost –  4
Supervision- 2
Accountability- 2
Individualization- 2

Overall Value 10/20

This is unfortunately sometimes referred to as Group Personal Training.  If that sounds like a paradox, it’s because it is.  It simply isn’t possible to give a real personalized experience with multiple clients at once.  Group Training is the correct name and more appropriately describes this service.  It is NOT Group Personal Training, as this service does not exist.

Group training can range from 3 participants to as many as 10 or more participants.  This is where the line between group training and bootcamps gets blurry.  For every additional person in the group, your ability to benefit from this service likely diminishes.  The cost is usually a fraction of the cost of one on one training and has many of the same benefits of a bootcamp.  These classes are often run by a personal trainer, so the level of competence and supervision is higher.  There are still issues with the amount of individualization and accountability group training  can offer.  Your value to the trainer tends to be low and if you don’t make the class, you are promptly replaced with someone else.  You very quickly just become a number, not an individual.  At the end of the day though, no matter how its marketed, it’s still just an exercise class.

If you feel this is your best option for reaching your fitness goals, ask  the trainer the same questions you would ask a bootcamp instructor and inquire about the class size.  Also find out if the fitness levels of the other participants are on par with your own.


Semi-Private Personal Training (partner training)

Cost- 3.5
Supervision- 3
Accountability- 5
Individualization- 3

Overall Value 14.5/20

 Semi-private personal training, also referred to as Partner Training, is a great option for people with similar goals who want most of the benefits of one -on-one training.  People who choose this option are typically co-workers, family members, couples or people who just want to save money.  For individuals, the cost is usually about 30-40% lower  than the cost of one-on-one training, which is great for most budgets. With only 2 to 3 clients to supervise, the trainer can usually manage to track, measure and assess each client’s progress on an individual level. Plus, you are not only accountable to your trainer but also to your partner. Just make sure they offer thorough initial assessments as part of the service.


30 Minute Personal Training (1 trainer-1 client)

Cost- 2.5
Supervision- 5
Accountability- 4
Individualization- 3

Overall Value 14.5/30

30 minute personal training is another option that is increasing in popularity.  I’ve already covered this service in great detail in an earlier post.  Check it out here!  What this training option boils down to is a great workout in half the time for about half the price. It’s obvious why this would be appealing, but is it effective?  For some people it is a fantastic option, for others, it just won’t cut it. If you are completely new to exercise, are limited in how often you can train or lack enthusiasm and focus when you work out then 30 minute sessions might not be for you. On the other hand, if you are already proficient in your exercise technique, too busy for long workouts, are budget minded, can maintain optimum concentration and execution during a workout and if 30 minutes is adequate to achieve the program objective, then this is probably your best overall option.

You should also be warned that many trainers only train with the 30 minute model which means they tend to book as many as 15-20 clients per day.  This severely compromises the quality of the program and the focus of the trainer.  If your program doesn’t include progress tracking, coaching and accountability measures your results will suffer.  Just be careful when trying to cut costs because quite often you’ll be cutting into your results as well.


60 Minute Personal Training (1 trainer-1 client)

Cost- 1
Supervision- 5
Accountability- 5
Individualization- 5

Overall Value 16/20

60 minute, one on one personal training is personal training in its purest form.  Many other programs use the name, but if it’s not one on one, it’s not personal training, plain and simple.  This is the highest quality of service you can get from a fitness program.  And, of course, if you want the best this is usually reflected in the cost.  This also where the greatest range in pricing exists among different personal trainers.  No wonder people are confused about personal training costs.  I know trainers that charge $120/hour.  YIKES!  I also know equally talented trainers that charge only $50 per session. My point is that you will pay more for full (60 minute sessions) but you don’t have to pay outrageous rates for it.  Shop around and you’ll find one that works for your budget.  Even still, some people will not be able to afford this, which is why there are other options available, such as the ones discussed already.

The reason true personal training programs are so effective is because the trainer has ample time to spend on your program design and make modifications along the way.  Your needs and limitations are carefully carefully considered and your program is customized specifically for YOU and only you.  This simply isn’t possible with any other program outside of one-on-one personal training.  Because the trainer only sees 6-8 clients per day (on average), you have a much higher perceived value to that trainer and this will be reflected in their service and commitment to your success.

If one-on-one personal training sounds like the best option for you, you need know a few things before hiring a personal trainer.  Never take a personal trainer at face value alone:

    • What is their educational and fitness background?
    • Does their style of training match your personality and expectations?  Do you require specialized training?
    • Do they offer a free trial so you can make an informed decision before demanding a commitment from you?
    • Are they experienced?  Do they have testimonials to back up their claim to results?
    • What is their health and fitness philosophy and are they are a living example of that philosophy?


Doing It All On Your Own

Cost- 5
Supervision- 0
Accountability- 0
Individualization- 2.5

Overall Value 7.5/20

Of course, you can opt to join a gym and use the trial and error approach.  At only $50-70 per month, it is by far the most economical solution but has many potential downfalls.  Here’s a list of a few questions you have to answer before you get started:

    • Can I set realistic goals and establish an appropriate timeline for achieving them?
    • Do I know how to choose the right exercises and perform them safely, effectively and efficiently?
    • Do I have a plan for managing my nutrition to meet the demands of my program?
    • Do I have the skills to design a long-term fitness plan?
    • Do I have the kind of support, accountability and motivation I need to succeed?
    • Do I have strategies for overcoming monthly plateaus in my progress?
    • Do I have a plan for maintaining my results when my program is over?


If you answered yes to all of these questions then going it alone will probably work for you.  If you answered no to all or most of these questions, then you’re going to need some help from a professional fitness coach.  Even professional athletes have at least one in their corner, sometimes a few different coaches.  The point is, you can spend time researching everything yourself or blindly following fitness “gurus” in the hopes of designing a program for yourself or you can leave it in the hands of an expert.  The choice, as always, is yours.

If you enjoyed this article, please quickly do me a favor and share with others and comment below.


Craig Simms

Craig Simms

Craig Simms is a personal trainer and weight loss coach in Vancouver, B.C. Craig has been a fitness leader for over 21 years and has amassed over 25,000 hours of personal training experience in that span. He specializes in personalized weight management programs.
Craig Simms
Craig Simms

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