The gift of personal training: good or bad idea?

The answer might surprise you. But for me, it’s a “no” (with some conditions for when “yes” is the right answer). Maybe you think personal trainers just want to sell lots of training packages, and don’t get too concerned about whether their clients are self-motivated, but in the majority of cases that would not be correct – we know that self-motivation is critical, even with someone “telling you what to do” – you still have to show up! It’s not like a gym membership, where you can choose to just dip a toe in, try some machines & wander around until you’re comfortable. Having a personal trainer is having someone focused 100% on YOU for an entire session, and that may be very uncomfortable for someone who wasn’t thinking about such intense interactions.

I compare it to getting someone a pet – there’s a sizable commitment on the part of the person getting the gift, so you should be very sure it’s the right thing to do. In my opinion, the giving of a fitness gift is best handled as a conversation about helping someone with something they already know they want to start doing.

Maybe when you have that conversation, you find out they just needed the tiniest of final, tiny nudges. Possibly, that nudge might be you deciding to join them & have semi-private sessions together every week – this is a great idea! One of most important factors in starting up with a new health/fitness goal is having social support, someone who is on your side & ideally is also looking to make similar positive changes. That’s why couples or best friends who work out together often have greater success than one half of such a team going it alone. Feeling like there’s someone counting on you (and having someone you can count on) to get your sneakers on & go can often be the push you need on a day that you’re just not feeling it. And your workout partner will also get the benefit on the day they just don’t wanna, and you help convince them that they actually do.

So that’s my two cents: If you’re convinced that a personal training package is the right gift for someone in your life: talk to them first, ask them if that’s something they’d like to do with you as a team, and be prepared that they may just say “no”. And that’s fine – you’ve shared the idea of exercise with them & maybe they’ll kick it around mentally for awhile, and see where it takes them – it could become a greater desire a few weeks, months, or even years down the road. Motivation & commitment come from a person’s individual desire to make a change in their life towards a personal goal, and it’s not really possible to supply that desire for them, if that’s not where they’re inclined to go right now.

Finally, it bears remembering that offering someone you love a tool – that is most often used to change appearance & lose weight- may come across as you telling them that you think they need to change, and it’s possible that giving a gift like that can cause misunderstandings & hurt feelings. It pays to think whether it’s possibly going to make them feel worse about themselves, even if your intentions were 100% loving & positive. It’s the holiday gift-giving season – kindness is still the best gift of all. Now I’m going to stop talking like a budget guru and go shovel some snow :-).