Hire A Personal Trainer Or Get Buff On Your Own?

Working out sucks.  I hate it with a passion because I find it so wasteful to expend energy on doing nothing.  I would rather use the energy to build a house in Somalia, landscape the backyard, or play sports than lift some stupid weights.  That said, working out is also convenient because there’s a gym right across from me that I attend before every team or client dinner outing.  I figure I better pump some iron and jog a little before blitzing my diet!

One of my goals in 2011 is to win a tennis tournament.  To do so, I have to improve my endurance given I faded in both tournaments since we had to play back to back matches each day.  The season really gears up in March, leaving me with a solid two months to get in shape.  I know there is no way in hell I will be able to go to the gym 3X or more a week so I’ve thought about enlisting a personal trainer for help.


For $795, I get 10 one hour sessions with any trainer of my choice at my local club.  Yes, $795 sounds like a ridiculous amount of money, which is part of the reason why hiring a PT might just work!  If you’re spending $79.5 a session, it’s likely you will always attend and work your butt off to see results.  If the sessions were free, I’d probably slack off here and there until I don’t go at all.  Think about how often you go to your gym’s free classes.  If you’re honest, the answer is not as much as you should.

I always thought hiring a physical trainer was for clueless rich people who need a lot of hand holding.  I mean come on, who can’t read the little instructions on the machine and move one’s arms back and forth?  Who can’t go on Youtube and watch a workout video and emulate what they’ve seen at the gym?  And then I realized, maybe it’s not all just about getting fit.


As I was surveying the 12 trainer’s bios with pictures on the wall, I found myself gravitating towards a very fit and attractive looking woman.  I could choose the beefcake body builder guy, the Madonna-arms looking woman, the crazy-eyed man, the woman in this post’s picture (momeee), or this attractive looking woman named Meredith.  Who would you choose if you had the choice?

Meredith has three years of personal training experience and is obviously in great shape.  She’s an ex-athlete herself and can empathize with me on all the mental anguish that athletes go through during crucial match scenarios.  I met her in person and she’s very friendly and fun to talk to.  She invited me to observe her train one fella and I obliged.  She was terrific and her client obviously felt the same when he told me to jokingly “get in line“.

Do you remember in school where there was this really hot girl (or guy) in your class you had a crush on?  The class could be the most boring subject on Earth, but it didn’t matter because you got a chance to see her for 50 minutes.  A personal trainer like Meredith is like that.  She makes you automatically want to get in shape because she’s very attractive and you develop this unconscious desire to look good for her.  OK, maybe it’s a very conscious desire since you’re scheming to ask her out once you’re ripped.  She not only introduces you to some great exercises, she’s also 100% behind you for a full hour.  Some people pay thousands of dollars an hour for this type of companionship.  Just ask Elliot Spitzer or Charlie Sheen!

So what do you think folks?  I know that if I spend $795 for 10 sessions with Meredith, I will be in the best shape of my life and ready to achieve one of my many goals for 2011 of winning a tennis tournament.

Is it wrong that I am gravitating towards the personal trainer who I think will motivate me the most?  Any of you have success with a personal trainer?  Is this one big waste of money?



Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship. Sam focuses on helping readers build more income in real estate, investing, entrepreneurship, and alternative investments in order to achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later.

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  1. david M says

    Wow – that picture is REALLY SCARY! I was eating breakfast when I opened your blog – I have not lost my appitite!

    Spending $795 is not in the card for me – to much money and I do not think it would help that much.

    However, you state that if you spend the $795 you will be in the shape of your life. Thus for you the $795 is a bargain.

    Spend the money – work out hard and get ready to win that tennis tournament!!!!

  2. says

    GO FOR IT!
    Meredith will help you get into the best shape of your life and give you a very good shot at winning a tournament. Why not? Muscle bound guys/gals never well for me. They are too intimidating.

  3. says

    I sure as hell hope that is not Meredith in the picture…

    If you want to get in great shape, forget the trainer and buy P90X. No workout has killed me like that one, and I had hired a personal trainer in the past. (Or maybe he just was no good…)

    However, I also see nothing wrong with hiring Merediith either. Do whatever motivates you. I would probably to self-conscious to hire a really good looking trainer, but maybe that is just the female mind.

  4. says

    Go with Meridith and stay far away from momeee! yikes!

    I think you’re right on about the cash outlay being a motivator. I’ve got all the ability to exercise by just going out for a walk/rn/hike, doing some simple exercises at home, etc. But I don’t. So, like many, I put a nice chunk of cash out there for a gym membership and it has motivated me to go. If for no other reason, I need to convince myself i didn’t waste the money.

  5. EndofExtravagance says

    I shelled out the dough but my trainer wasnt brutal with me on workouts or nutrition. They have to really lay out the plan and be willing to kick u to the curb if you aren’t committed. I like Tommy Europe’s style on The Last 10 lbs on slice. Find a girl who can do that and nor be nice to you or like Jillian Michaels and you will rock it!

  6. Curious says

    Not to poo poo your efforts but I think it is impossible to achieve the “best shape of your life” in 10 one hour sessions. Maybe it is implied that you will be spending additional time in the gym between your one hour sessions honing whatever skills were taught in the preceding lesson(s) but I think you need to manage your expectations going in to this. Sure, get some instruction from a beautiful woman and enjoy yourself but don’t expect to be at an athlete / best shape of your life level if you feel unable to devote 3x a week to the gym. Just not realistic. The thing about endurance is, it is based on time.
    By the way, I don’t want to come off as harsh or negative, I struggle with this very issue of balancing work, family, and a level of fitness I feel is worth my efforts. My conclusion is to prioritize and manage expectations. Good luck.

    • says

      It’s OK to poo poo. I think I will be after 10 hours, b/c I will also work another 10 hours extra over that duration and I’m in decent competitive shape already.

      I’m looking forward to that incremental edge, which gets harder and harder the better shape one is already.

  7. Mike Hunt says

    I’d say get the trainer in the picture. Go out to the track and give your self a minute head start- tell the trainer to try and catch you. In your mind, convince yourself if she catches you she will **** you then and there.

    I guarantee you will set a personal best time record for whatever distance you choose to run! Should pay off on the court…

    For the trainer Meredith ask yourself how would your wife feel if she read your blog and then saw you working out with Meredith?


  8. says


    Getting fit is much like getting out of debt. There is no magic formula. We all have the tools but for whatever reason, choose not to use them.

    For example, you clearly made the case for all of us that you can easily read the directions on the machines or find a YouTube video to watch. Furthermore, there are sites such as bodybuilding.com and muscleandstrength.com that are great; they include motivational stories from regular people, great pictures to look at, and plenty of workout routines.

    Finding the motivation will be hard no matter what the cost.

  9. says

    Is that a picture of Meredith? If you are getting the personal trainer for the right reasons you should do it. The purpose is to learn how to maximize your workout and be more effective to meet your physical potential. I thought I read your goal was to increase stamina. I had a personal trainer a long time ago, it worked really well. I now have a home gym and work out 3 times a week. I stayed fit because I feel and look better. This is the main reason I keep working out (weight lifting & bicycling).

  10. JWizzle says

    $795 is steep, but if it launches a healthy lifestyle, then I’m sure it’s worth it.

    Who knows, maybe you’ll live longer and take advantage of five more years of compounding :P or avoid some costly heart attack down the line. I say any investment in health is a good investment.

  11. says


    That is a hilarious photo. Personal trainers are great but I would recommend reading some great routines online (if you are concerned about cost).

    I have bought the 4 hour body and started using Kettlebells (great results quickly) but trainers are needed to take it up a notch and explain the science behind many routines.

  12. says

    You know sam, you mention a lot of stuff at the beginning of the article that You’d rather be doing. Why dont you just do that? Hard physical labor will get you into shape quick, and you can make exercises out of whatever you may be doing quite easily. Moving sacks of dirt or cement, carrying lumber/tools.
    Although, I think going to the gym will work as well. Maybe consider signing up for a 10k (or more) in feb, to see how you’ve progressed before tourney season starts?

    • says

      It’s hard to find a house to build at lunch hr during work or right after. Land is at a premium here in SF!

      I need strength and endurance training. I will sign up for a 10k, and fail to train for it. I’m sure of it!

  13. SPENDaholic says


    Go for Meredith. She’ll probably get you to the next level since you’re probably already in good shape and she can skip the whole “foundation-building” phase and get straight to the advanced workouts.

    If you win, you can run into the gym telling her you owe it all to her, make her feel good and get a good hug out of it. If you lose, you can hang your head and get a good hug out of it. Win-win!

  14. says

    in my experience the value is the encouragement and accountability (discipline), and it does make a difference. but we all know it can be done without.

    question – why do you feel working out is a waste? you don’t see any benefits gained from it?

  15. Graham says

    Hmm, I hate to be a killjoy, but I would personally have a hard time justifying spending that kind of money on a personal trainer. A amateur athlete myself, my thought would be to invest that money on equipment, nutrition, etc…, but then I’m the kind of guy who has a really hard time spending money on things I might be able to do just as well on my own if it means saving money. That being said, I think Meredith probably could give you some good tips and what not, but I still don’t know if even she will be able to give you $795 worth of an edge….

      • Graham says

        Well I guess everything is relative, but for me, it’s the principal of the matter. I like to think that i would still invest the time and research to improve my performance, so I can possibly apply the knowledge gained at some later point. But again, if I were making that kind of dough, it would be mighty tempting, especially if the personal trainer is fit ;)

  16. says

    Go with Meredith!

    I like tennis, now that the days of Saturday morning humilation (ass kickings by far superior players) are over. Our girls’ tennis pool at school was so dire that I ended up captain.

    BF wants to start getting back into fitness (used to be somewhat of an athlete) but reckons organised sessions are the way to go (gyms, with either a PT or else just someone he knows to gym buddy it up with and help push him.) Which will not be me – I hate gyms, and it’d be a waste of money if I went along just to humour him.

    • says

      Awesome you play tennis! Getting one’s ass kicked in tennis is one of the most SATISFYING feelings imo. I LOVE playing a great player and getting blown off the court. I’m smiling from ear to ear!

      It’s the tough close losses that suck.

      • says

        Ass kickings are not my definition of a good time, no matter when side of the score I am on.

        I love tennis, but I have a hard time finding people to play with outside of playing at a tennis club. My schedule varies so much that it is hard to be in a league right now.

        Personally, I will take a tough, close loss any day. I can’t stand feeling like I was no competition to the other player.

  17. Sandy @ yesiamcheap says

    That photo is epic. Just wow. I tend towards being muscular as I’ve been lifting weights since I was 16 but it takes serious dedication, supplementation, hormones and protein to get to that photo. Sorry I’m so distracted by the photo, but I couldn’t get past it.

  18. says

    I say if it works, do it! Any type of motivation is good motivation. A little eye candy never hurts.

    I agree though, it’s hard to force yourself to exert energy without really accomplishing anything. That’s why over the past year or two I’ve stopped lifting weights entirely and shifted complety towards sports to stay in shape. I play hoops a couple times a week and on my days off I try to go mountain biking to keep my legs strong and help me jump! It’s also very easy to keep motivated doing those two things…I’ve either got other people I can’t let down or I’ll hurt myself if I fall off my bike!

    • says

      I’m mean seriously, who voluntarily submits themselves to suffer? Illogical! I need her!

      I LOVE hoops and played 2X a week for a couple years. But, I kept getting injured and felt it not worth it since I play tennis for several teams.

  19. says

    If you base the cost of the PT on a set ratio like you did with car and other categories, then I say why not. I’m not sure what a good fitness ratio would be, but I’m willing to bet you can afford it (I hope I don’t sound too much like Suze Orman, lol).

    I actually would love to have a Trainer personally, but at my current stage of wealth, I can’t afford it.

    Life is short, fitness/health is important, so if I were in your shoes… I would give it a try (especially if the ratio method worked out in my favor)! If I didn’t like it, it’s only 10 sessions…

      • says

        Sorry for the late response… I missed this one.

        If you make 1 to 2 thousand a day, I don’t think $795 over 1.52 months would be too much…

        I guess it depends on how much you value your health. For me, I’d say between .5% and 1.5% percent.

  20. says

    You still need to keep your eyes on the prize though. Aside from motivating you to be in better shape, does she have the skills to get you there in 10 hours? What’s the training? Is she going to get you to do the training from the movie 300?

    I would evaluate everything else and if she is an added bonus than that’s great but what if she gets client just for her look …

  21. says

    That is one terrifying woman.
    I think the muscles and the leather may attract, em, a certain type of customer?
    It’s your money certainly, and if ten sessions with Meredith will set you on the right paht and bring you value, do it.
    For me, a morning routing of kettle bells, squats, push ups and pull ups are enough for strength training.

  22. says

    Hi Sam, The guy in the picture is too frightening and distracting. I’m a time miser and work out in the way that is the quickest! That means tae bo dvd’s a couple of times a week, throw in a nature walk, and an occasional zumba class and I’m done. My motto, is do what works for you. I gotta say, the Zumba class pushes me more than I push myself. Of course, I just want to maintain my fitness, don’t really care about improving it! :)

  23. says

    If it works, why not?! Go with Meredith of course. :-)

    I agree with you that sometimes working out sucks. I too would rather play some basketball, badminton or learn tennis. Good luck on getting fit for your tournament.

    By the way, who do you think will win the Australian Open? Federer or Nadal?

  24. says

    Congrats on this move. I think that you made the right decision here. I’ve been training at various different gyms in the city for the past 5 years and I can tell you why I feel that hiring a hot chick is a good move:

    1. Girls care about form! Females actually do their workouts properly. Most guys want to lift the heaviest weight and they don’t care how they lift. They usually end up swinging it around.

    2. Motivation. Seeing some jacked dude might motivate you at first but your really won’t want to disappoint the hot chick.

    Another point. I took my certification as a personal trainer and worked in the field for a bit. A personal trainer is not just some one that will show you how to do a proper deadlift. They are your own personal workout partner. It’s someone that will inspire you and push you more than you could do so on your own.

    • says

      Hey man, that’s really cool you got your personal trainer certification! How long did it take, and how much did it cost? I was thinking maybe I could get certified too, and that way, I could make money and get in shape at the same time!

      My clients would motivate me so much to get in shape!

  25. says

    My best friend is a PT. I never work out with him (well… I did once and he almost killed me). I think I can do pretty well working out by myself. I know what I want to achieve, so I don’t need anyone to tell me what to do. :-)

  26. says

    I say go for it. It is just as important to invest in your health as it is your wealth. $700 is a small price to pay to get yourself in top health; the trick though will be to keep it going and make that $700 investment pay off. If you are someone who needs someone to push you then a trainer should do the trick. Try it out and see how you do. That is really the only way you can evaluate a method to see if it will work.
    As you know, I am getting my personal trainer certification this year, and once it is complete I plan on starting a fitness health blog with videos, tips, and routines. You might find it useful once it is up.

  27. Brian says

    I got a personal trainer that really worked with what I wanted to achieve. Its $72 per session and its totally worth it. I dropped 15 lbs and lowered my body fat by 6% in the first two months. I would only go twice a week to the gym and play football on th weekends. The cost mkaes me go and work hard for every minute of it. My trainer showed me how to eat better, train for specific events properly, and a lot of ways to change up a boring exercise routine.

    If Meredith will help you get where you want to be the best, then go for it. If you need a hot trainer or a drill sergeant to motivate you to work harder then hire one. Its all personal on what makes you give that extra effort.

  28. says

    If you really think that it will make a difference, then why not? Isn’t it worth the $795 for you? On the other hand you might beat yourself up and wonder why you didn’t go for it when you had the chance.

  29. says

    I know everyone has been bashing this and I am supposedly a frugal minimalist but I reckon it may be worth it and not just with Meredith either, any decent trainer. The thing is you are not pan handling for pennies so the relative spend of $800 is not going to kill you, money is just numbers anyway right! Tennis is your passion and you don’t want to fade. Commit and use her expertise to really push at those small endurance humps you have to overcome and see if it’s worth it. If it goes bad and is an $800 lost, it’s like a bad poker night right?

    Good luck Sam.

  30. says

    If the buff trainer leads you to work out more then go for it! I loved working out a gym went my insurance basically paid for it. Now, I just do it at home. Not the same but it works.

  31. says

    So, it’s been almost two weeks, did you finally pull the plug?

    You strike me as a person who knows himself and works hard at what he does. You know the stuff you think you should do to get fit without the help of a personal trainer but you gravitate towards the other option.

    Admit it, you’re itching to spend money! :D

    I’d say, if you wanna do it, do it right. Not sure how 10 sessions will be sufficient for a lofty goal you have. My husband and I bought 50 sessions with a personal trainer for just a little bit over $1000 (it’s Asia, baby :D). So far we’ve seen remarkable result in terms of weight loss (for my husband), reduced fat ratio and increased fitness. We’re climbing a 4095m mountain in March to celebrate this achievement. We plan to continue using this service on a less regular basis to keep moving up to the next level and avoid falling back to the old bad habit (which is more important).

    Working out is boring as hell, so having a PT makes it more fun and you could chat with another human being while lifting weights (although the thought of “hating my trainer” pops up more often than I care to admit). That being said, bringing your wife/partner/life partner/girlfriend/soul mate/whatever on board will be a good motivator. I know when my husband’s improvement surpasses mine, I work out even harder.

  32. says

    Well, paying for a trainor per session is great. But I think all you need to have is the internet and you would know how you can get buff without asking help from that scary lady in the picture. LOL

  33. Heather says

    OK, I’m late to the game here, but a good personal trainer who you work well with will make working out much more enjoyable, and you’ll understand what you’re doing (and how you can use it in real life). Why would it be wrong to choose the trainer who you think will be the most motivating for you? It’s the only logical choice.

    I opened a personal training center seven months ago — just me in a room we converted in our house — and my clients and I have a good time. But there are some people who I would not be a good fit for. That’s OK. In something that is that personal (you are talking about manipulating your body, which is pretty personal), of course you should go with what feels the best.

    How’s it going?

  34. says

    First of all that is a hilarious picture! It can be so hard to stay disciplined with a workout regimen. I was probably in my best shape in school when going to gym class was a requirement, lol. I’m addicted to yoga now though which has really helped improve my flexibility and lowered my stress levels. I think it’s great you’re so active and working towards fitness goals. Best of luck!

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