How to afford a personal trainer


They should leave you sweating on the gym floor, not at the sight of their monthly bill

If just signing up for a gym membership were enough to get fit, we’d all look like casting prospects for the next Avengers movie by now. Let’s face it: sometimes, a personal trainer is the make-or-break difference in whether we finally meet our body goals. But how do you afford one on a tight budget? Here’s how:

Know the rates in Singapore

After a lot of asking around, we’ve determined that the rates for many personal trainers are typically around $60 an hour in Singapore. That’s about $240 a month.

However, there can be big differences. Some top personal trainers – such as SEA Games Gold Medallists, celebrity trainers, training in high-end gyms, etc., can cost as much as $150 to $200 an hour. Likewise, some new trainers – who are just building their reputation – have rates as low as $35 an hour.

(Most trainers will accept monthly payments, but some will ask to be paid at the end of each session).

Do shop around to find someone who fits your budget, and whom you’re comfortable with.

That being said, here are some tips if you’re on a tight budget:

1. If discipline isn’t the issue, consider bi-monthly or even once-a-month sessions

If you need a personal trainer to motivate you (i.e. bug you to come to the gym now, no excuses), then this won’t work for you. Move to the next point.

But if you need a personal trainer mainly for guidance, and already are disciplined, then maybe you don’t need to see them every week. You can have a session once or twice a month, and then carry on exercises on your own until the next session. This can shave a chunk off your personal trainer bills.

However, this isn’t recommended if you have a training routine with specialised medical needs (e.g. asthma, bad knees, heart condition). In such cases, you should aim to have a qualified trainer near you during workouts. You don’t want to injure yourself, especially if you’re just starting out.

2. Having one or two other friends along is almost as good as personal training

Consider working out in pairs, or groups of three. Some trainers will lower the cost per head; you might shave off a few dollars per hour. This is still almost as good as having the trainer to yourself.

This works best when your partner(s) are not significantly different in fitness level or age from you. If you’re both 35 years old and moderately fit, for example, it’s quite easy for the trainer to work with both of you at once.

But if one of you is 35 and the other 18, or one is overweight and the other is underweight, then the trainer may not even agree to do it (their attention will be split between two entirely different routines).

3. When planning for the cost, shave the budget off a vice activity. This will double the health benefits.

Do you have a food budget that includes two tubs of deluxe triple-choc ice cream every week? Or perhaps a party budget that pays for two pints at the pub a week?

You’ll be surprised how much difference this can make. Two pints a week, for instance, is about $25 to $30. At $120 a month, that can pay for half the cost of the average trainer.

Shave the money off this end of the budget, and reallocate it to paying a trainer. This will double the health benefits, as you’re eliminating a vice at the same time. For those with hardcore addictions, we dare you to trim, say, the cigarette budget for a better workout.

Pro tip: if you’re not sure how much you’re spending on food or other activities, check out DBS Nav Planner to find out what your top spending categories are.

4. Consider taking a month or two to train on your own, after you get started

So you’ve started on the training programme, and you’re six months to a year in. At this point, when you have some idea of what to do, you can consider a few months without a trainer.

For example, you might work out for two months with a trainer, and one month without. This is somewhat similar to point 1, but it’s best to do it further along in your training regime – once it’s become an ingrained habit.

It’s important, however, to get a few months of solid training in first; this ensures that you’ll know what to do later, when you’re on your own.

This method can also come in handy if your income is cyclical. Say you’re self-employed, and you know that January to February are bad months: maybe you can work out by yourself on those periods, and save cash. You can resume having a trainer from March onward, and make this the routine.

5. A high-cost trainer is often not better, but just more specialised – think before you buy

A more expensive trainer is not always a “better” trainer (however that’s defined); they are usually just more specialised. For example, a trainer who is a specialised Mixed Martial Arts instructor, boxing coach, or body builder might charge more than a general fitness instructor. This is when costs start to reach the $100+ per hour mark.

Before you decide to engage such a trainer, think if it’s necessary. If you just want to lose weight, for example, a $60-an-hour trainer might be able to do the job just as well.

It’s best to budget for a high cost trainer only if you want to develop in a specific way – such as if you want a boxer’s physique, or you want to be a power lifter.

Bear in mind the real cost you’re paying is not the trainer’s fees – it’s your time, and you must be ready to commit

The true expense will be the hours you spend working out, when you could be off doing something else. This can amount to much more than just the trainer’s fees.

The result will be a better you – but if you’re not ready to commit the time, then anything you pay the trainer will just be a waste of money. There’s no point paying for a session once a week, and then slacking off and not hitting the gym on any other day.

You must be prepared to budget for lost hours jogging, doing resistance training, and so forth. The good news is it’s almost always worth it (medical fees are more expensive than trainer fees, if you’re not in good health).

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