Q & A: Finding a Place to Train

Q: Stevo,

I've fallen off the wagon and struggled with staying on track in any sort of workout over the past few years. Now that I'm working and have some discretionary income I was thinking that going to work out at a place like SAPT might help me get back on track.

1. I would be much less likely to miss an appointment than to skip going to workout on my own.2. Its better to have someone else create a program for me.3. Hopefully, it would be a welcoming environment and I might feel like part of a group or team.4. It would offer a more complete gym than the one available for free at work.

Anyways, what should I look for to make sure a place is legit? And what is a fair rate?

A. First, EXCELLENT points regarding the benefits of finding a solid training environment. I couldn't agree with you more, and, in fact, you saved me the trouble of listing them myself! All of your points are spot on and there's no doubt you'll find your training/results to be dramatically improved if you find a solid facility with good coaches.

Anyway, I hope I can answer your questions:

1. Look for Semi-Private Training. What this means is that there's a small group-to-coach ratio as opposed to 1-on-1 personal training. This way, you'll have the freedom to roam around and interact with the other people training without having a trainer breathing down your neck the entire time.

It also keeps the cost per session down, due to the fact that the facility owner doesn't need to charge as much per person for that hour of training. This is one of the reasons personal training is so expensive; since the trainer can only work with one person during that hour, it's often necessary to charge an arm and a leg to make that hour "worth it" from a business perspective.

This (semi-private training) is how SAPT sets it up, and it's fantastic because it creates more of a group environment, while at the same time keeping the prices down. And, even though one coach oversees 3-6 people, all of the programs are individualized, which brings me to my next point.

2. The Programs Should Be Individualized. If you walk in and everyone training is following a program written up on a whiteboard or chalkboard, it's probably best that you walk right back out the door.

I think it goes without saying that each person is, well, their own person. Everybody has their own unique strengths, weaknesses, goals, medical history, training history, etc. that demands a training plan fit for them specifically. As such, I highly recommend you find a facility in which the coach designs a program fit for each and every person in the room. This is the best way to ensure safe and effective training, not to mention the fact that your progress can be constantly monitored and fine-tuned throughout the process.

3. Private Facility. Chances are that you're not going to find what you're looking for in a commercial gym. A private facility will be less crowded, and you can count on the fact that each person in there is paying for that session. In general, this creates a more focused training environment. In many commercial facilities (where you pay a monthly fee to workout as many times as you want), it's not uncommon to see people walking aimlessly around, checking themselves out in the mirror multiple times, talking on their cell phone, reading a magazine as they bike, etc. because there isn't as much value placed on that time their spending in the gym.

You also won't need to pay any of the start-up fees, monthly fees, etc. that are typically associated with commercial gyms.

4. Avoid Trainers Who Swear by One Piece of Equipment. A good coach will will use a total system approach.

For example: Are kettlebells useful? Yes. However, should they be the only piece of equipment one should use? Of course not.

Sandbags, sleds, kettlebells, chains, etc. can all be useful in their appropriate context but never is one necessary to produce a solid training effect.

5. Don't Be Fooled By Appearances. Just because Mr. ScottySleevelessShirt has placed in a bodybuilding contest or two, doesn't mean he knows to train other people.Along a similar line, if you're seeking athletic performance enhancement, don't necessarily look for the ol' NFL "veteran" that opened up his own "Spike's Speed Camp."

Although you may have been given good genetics by your parents, or (to still give credit) may have done well for yourself in an athletic sport or bodybuilding, doesn't mean you know how to deliver results for others. To know what works well for you is one thing, but to have the expertise and experience to know how to coach a 10-year old girl who can hardly walk and chew gum at the same time, or to work with a 55-year old man who is twelve weeks post-rehab, is another.

6. If you walk in and see one of these, leave. Immediately.

7. Investigate the Coach/Trainer. How much experience do they actually have? Can they give you five referrals of people that they've worked for that can vouch for them?

You can also walk around and ask their clients what they think. Is the coach reliable? Genuine? Sincere? Does the coach love what he/she does? If they don't immediately know an answer to a client's question, do they do what they can to find out?

8. Cost. This is a tough one to answer. Personal training will typically cost you upwards of $80-$120 per session, so you'll obviously be paying less than this. I would I say anywhere from $35-$65/session would be a reasonable rate, depending on where you are.

If you're receiving a true quality service, then I wouldn't expect to go bargain shopping. Quality coaching, service, and support isn't going to be the cheapest price in town, but you can trust it will be more than worth it.

*9.* Do They Actually Deliver Results??? This should really be #1 on the list.

In today's technology/internet era, it's extremely easy to pass yourself off as a macho-trainer who knows everything, trained Olympians, can bench 500lbs, strips 40lbs of fat off of every overweight client, can shoot laser beams out of your eyes, etc.

However, is this really the case?

Take your time in scrutinizing whether or not the facility you're looking into produces - consistently - actual results! After all, is this not why you're going there in the first place?

For the people seeking added lean body mass, did this occur after working with said training center? Fat loss? Athletic performance enhancement? Improved movement quality? Contest prep?

A quality facility should be able to produce MULTIPLE accounts of real people, achieving real results (and allow you to speak with each person to prove it). And, not only be able to give many success stories, but also have a favorable success:failure ratio. Almost any dvd guru can give some testimonials of people who did well under their training, but what about the failure stories? I think many would be surprised if they knew the success:failure ratio of many well-known training "plans."

10. Consider Distance Coaching. Sometimes a quality training facility can be hard to come by, depending on where you're located. If there isn't one within a reasonable driving distance, then you could look into a distance coaching option.

This is why SAPT opened up distance coaching, as we quickly saw that there were people that wanted to train with us but simply couldn't due to location. With a good program, you'll receive an individualized training program, email and video support, and access to an online video database of the exercises (complete with coaching cues).

It may not be as good as training in the facility itself, but it will still be an enormous step in the direction you desire to go.