Stacey Margaret Jones: Central Arkansas Women Weigh in on Pros & Cons of Personal Training


My experience with personal training with Robin Drayer at Burn Studio has exceeded my expectations. She motivates, challenges and advises, and after just a couple of weeks, I’ve already been pleased with the results. That made me wonder what other central Arkansas women have thought of their personal trainers and the private training experience.

A few of my friends participated in a discussion about personal training experiences in Little Rock and around:

  • Christie Ison, 38, North Little Rock, owner of Fancy Pants Foodie and, has fibromyalgia as well as fatigue issues, so while exercise is important, it has to be done correctly or it can be part of the problem for her health, not the solution.
  • Ashley Kersey, 33, Sherwood, an accountant, has worked with personal trainers on three separate occasions, usually for about 90 days at a time. Her most recent trainer switched jobs, or Ashley would still be working with her.
  • Deede Phelps, 71, Little Rock, is a dancer and teaches two aerobic classes at Jim Dailey Fitness Center and three dance classes each week at Shuffles Dance Studio. She works out with a personal trainer twice weekly.
  • Deborah Sallings, 64, Wye, a retired attorney, is a marathoner and triathlete and has been working with a trainer for about 10 years.
  • Lynn Ramage Schaefer, of Conway, 54, a senior lecturer in the intensive English program at UCA, works out with a trainer regularly at the university’s fitness center.

Why Work with a Personal Trainer?

Of course, engaging a personal trainer is an added expense, not just of dollars but also time, and I was curious why people who already belonged to fitness clubs or had existing athletic regimens would invest in trainers.

Ashley said she uses a trainer’s services when she needs extra motivation for an event. She works out regularly, but not as intensely as a trainer works her.

“When I work out with a trainer, I see faster results and it educates me on how to get a better work out on my own,” she said. It’s expensive, but to her that extra push is worth the money, and so she budgets funds for when she wants to get in shape for trips or special events.

Christie said the investment was worth it to her because she wouldn’t do it on her own, and the activities were critical for her overall health.

Deede, who is very active with her aerobics and dance teaching, wants to make sure she gets an upper body workout that dance and cardio don’t provide. Her trainer helps her use weights and machines to target areas that need strength training. Her trainer helps her make up for what she lacks in her regular, very active, routine.

Deborah sticks with her trainer because she knows she has someone who can show her how to use the gym’s equipment, watch her form to ensure the greatest benefit and make sure she gets a total-body workout.

“It’s fun to be around a good trainer who is prepared and having someone attend to me and my needs,” she said. “Plus, my trainer has encouraged me to expand my comfort zone and do things, such as marathons, that never in my wildest imagination would I have thought I could do.”

A Learning Experience

Deborah’s experience is the kind of surprise many people on my virtual panel have had.

“I thought I worked out hard on my own,” said Ashley, “but with a trainer, you can push your body to do so much more.” She said her trainers spurred her to use heavier weights, run faster sprints and do more reps than she would try at the gym on her own. She was also motivated to make healthier choices in her life outside of workouts because she was pleased with the results from her training sessions and wanted to make the most of all that hard work with healthier eating habits and more sleep.

Lynn’s trainer helped her surprise herself. “She makes me do things that I didn’t think I could do,” she said. “She sets the strength training machines on much higher weight than I have been using. At first I complain a little, but I do it.” Working with a trainer helps her challenge her expectations and beliefs about herself and learn what she is really capable of.

Christie’s experience indicates how important it is to find a trainer that suits not only your specific fitness needs, but also your personality: She was surprised by the various levels of expertise and professionalism among her trainers, from low to high.

“Some were obviously just going through the motions, even saying the same scripted lines that some manager had told them to say,” she said. “Others were only into working super hard, leaving me injured. Only a select few were educated on different body needs and methods to really help.”

But all of our panelists spoke mostly of the good that came from working out with a dedicated expert. For one thing, a good fitness expert can help you train around any issues or injuries you have so you can stay in shape while you wait to get everything back on track. 

“It’s not safe to try an exercise without supervision after injury,” noted Ashley. No one plans to get hurt, but working with a trainer can help  minimize the damage an injury can have on an athlete’s overall health. 

The Flip Side

Of course, even the best intentions can go wrong, and my friends had bad experiences, too. Ashley wasn’t alone in her complaint about a trainer who didn’t listen to her preferences.

She wanted to train in the women’s only room, but the trainer insisted on holding the sessions in the main room with a lot of men, when there was a women’s only room with the same equipment. “Working out should be something you enjoy,” said Ashley. “But that experience made me so miserable, I changed trainers… and she lost potential referrals.”

Lynn had a trainer for a little while who was proselytizing about her religion to her clients, and that was not the right fit for Lynn, who quickly switched to working with someone else.

Christie has had difficulties with substitute trainers who were filling in for her regular expert but don’t understand how to accommodate her specific health issues, even though overdoing it always lands her in bed for a week to recover. (This is a good reason to make sure you know who your trainer is going to be, if you work with a large facility.)

Deborah has in the past worked with a trainer that had a set routine she did with everyone and made no real effort to tailor it to each client’s needs. “It wasn’t horrible, and I got a lot from my sessions, but I didn’t feel the dedication from her that I feel from my current trainer,” she said.

The Heart of the Matter

For several people, the biggest benefit of having a personal trainer was that the investment made them accountable and guaranteed their workouts would happen, and that they would be quality sessions. 

And that 30 minutes of intense training? Deede said she’s always amazed at how quickly the time goes by with her trainer.

Ashley said it also impacted many decisions throughout her day, such as getting a good night’s sleep and choosing healthier food. “Having a trainer makes it harder to lie to yourself about what you’re doing to your body,” she said.

What Should You Expect to Pay?

My informal poll of this panel indicated clients are paying from $10 to almost $60 for half-hour individual sessions, either once or twice per week. For some, gym membership fees are required in addition to the private personal trainer session costs. Studios and gyms may offer group training for small numbers of patrons, which can cut down on the cost per session per person, though it also lessens the personal attention clients receive.

Should you have a personal trainer


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