Clearing the fitness fog: what’s right for me?

The world of fitness can be a confusing and crowded place to explore.

As well as the many ‘experts’, with their quick fix tips, we also have an ever-growing number of new and exciting fitness groups, clubs and camps on offer. All of the conflicting fitness advice and the myriad of training options available online can leave you feeling baffled, bewildered and fed up with the whole endeavour.

So here’s a breakdown of a few of the training options out there; with the costs, benefits and the drawbacks of each. I hope this sheds some light on the matter!

 

Personal Training

What is it?

As the name suggests, it’s training that’s personal to you. It’s normally one-to-one (you and the Trainer) sessions with exercises that have been selected specifically to address your goals and compiled into a long-term programme that will normally be reviewed, tweaked and progressed every 2-4 weeks.

Where is it?

It will vary depending on which Personal Trainer you hire. It could be one in your gym, a Trainer that may have their own premises where you can go to train, or a mobile Trainer who will come to you to train in the park, in your home or in your back garden.

How much does it cost?

Most Personal Trainers will charge anywhere between £30 and £65 per hour (in London it will be much more). It will sometimes work out cheaper than that with seasonal offers or by paying upfront for blocks of sessions. It will depend on the Trainer and which part of the country you live in.

Why do it?

  • The Trainer will work with you to agree time-dependent fitness and nutrition goals that you will work towards throughout your programme
  • They will design a personalised programme tailored to your specific needs and goals
  • You have someone dedicated to your exercise and your needs during and between each session; motivating, challenging and correcting where they need to
  • The trainer should ensure that every exercise you perform is demonstrated first and that your form is analysed and corrected if necessary
  • The exercises and the overall programme can be regressed or progressed if and when necessary from week to week, to ensure that you are progressing at the right rate and without plateau; therefore avoiding weeks of zero progress
  • Most will also offer nutritional advice tailored to you
  • Flexible time, venue and regularity, depending on your schedule

Any drawbacks?

  • If you don’t want to be the centre of attention it might not be for you. Your Trainer will be able to hold you accountable and the spotlight will be on your regime
  • It may not suit all budgets; depending on who you choose to train with, where you train and how often
  • If you prefer exercising in big groups where you can blend into the background you may prefer group training or classes

Who’s it perfect for?

  • If you have a specific set of fitness goals in mind e.g. ‘I want to get fit for a 10K race in September’, ‘I want to lose 5kg of body fat for the summer holidays’
  • If you need a little (or a big) push in the right direction
  • If you are really serious about getting fit and healthy
  • If you need the flexibility to train at your convenience, where and when is most convenient for you
  • If you’re not a fan of the gym environment (select a mobile Personal Trainer if this is the case)

 

Group Training

What is it?

You will often find that Personal Trainers will offer training for small groups of people, usually who have formed into a group themselves and have approached the Trainer. Group training is the perfect compromise between Personal Training and large exercise classes. The group session will usually be around the same hourly rate (give or take a few quid) and you will be splitting the cost with your mates. Group sessions will follow a similar format to one-to-one sessions without as much personalisation of the exercise programme.

Where is it?

As with Personal Training it will depend on which Trainer you select. It could be in the gym, or at a venue that suits the group, such as a house, a garden or the park (as long as the space is big enough to fit the whole group).

How much does it cost?

Usually fractionally more per hour than for just one person. You obviously split that cost between the group members (unless you’ve got a very generous friend who wants to take the hit). So for example: 1 hour may cost £40 (can be more) and with 5 people in your group, the price per person, per session, would be £8. Obviously the more people being trained the lower the cost per person. As with Personal Training there are usually offers to reduce the cost if you can pay for a block of sessions up front.

Why do it?

  • Compromise between big classes and Personal Training
  • You’re sharing the cost of the session with your mates
  • More personal than big groups of strangers
  • Your form would be closely monitored and any necessary regressions or progressions would be made
  • Great accountability due to others going through same programme
  • Good way of socialising with friends you struggle to see normally (and much healthier than heading to the pub, I’m sorry to say)
  • Flexible time, venue and regularity, depending on the schedules of the group

Any drawbacks?

  • You would normally need to form the group yourselves, so you need at least 2 or 3 mates who have an interest in getting fit and healthy
  • You would all need to have similar goals, as the programme will be virtually identical for all members (with a degree of personalisation, according to ability) e.g. all want to lose fat, all want to improve 5K run time

Who’s it perfect for?

  • If you have a groups of mates that you want to get fit with
  • If you want a more cost-effective way to get fit at your convenience without losing the personal touch you get from a dedicated Trainer
  • If you don’t like the idea of turning up to a class with a room full of people you don’t know
  • If you like the idea of Personal Training but can’t afford it yet

 

Online Coaching

What is it?

This one is relatively new, but is gaining popularity due to it’s flexibility and availability, no matter where you live in the world. Normally for a monthly fee (instead of an hourly rate) you benefit from ongoing support, training, advice and coaching online by a qualified Personal Trainer. Through the use of online resources, YouTube films, video calls, regular texts and scheduled calls, the Trainer coaches the client through a tailored exercise programme, with set training sessions. The Trainer will usually also offer nutritional advice and is always working with the client towards a set goal or goals.

Where is it?

As long as you have a computer, a phone and an internet connection you can access this type of training anywhere in the world and workout wherever you like.

How much does it cost?

This varies considerably. The main reason for this is that most online packages also vary and not all offer the same level of support. Prices are usually charged per month but it can differ and some trainers prefer to charge for multiple months at a time. Cost per month can be as much as £300-£400, but most will be a fraction of that price (phew!).

Why do it?

  • Can be great value if you select the right Trainer
  • Still benefit from a personal approach with your own specially designed programme
  • You will have regular contact with a Trainer and Coach and so you’ll have a degree of accountability
  • Flexible for those who want to vary the places and times that they work out but still need some direction

Any drawbacks?

  • No physical contact with your Trainer apart from online video calls, therefore you need to have a lot of determination to stick to a programme without constant supervision
  • If you’re unsure about an exercise move then it is up to you to research the correct form or take the initiative to ask the Trainer- essentially you need exercise self-awareness

Who’s it perfect for?

  • For relatively experienced exercisers who have the drive to get to the gym, go for a run or exercise with their own equipment at home
  • Those who need a professionally designed programme and a critical friend

Bootcamps

What is it?

The term ‘bootcamp’ has morphed over time. What started out as a gruelling military training camp for new recruits has slowly, but surely, become something all together more humane, and – dare I say it?- Fun. Normally for over 10 participants and generally held outside, exercises will involve functional moves, HIIT, team games and an obligatory set of ‘punishments’ if you don’t abide by the rules and/or don’t pull your weight. Bootcamps will usually last for 1 hour.

Where is it?

Bootcamps are usually held outside in parks or recreation grounds. If weather’s an issue (which it tends to be in the UK) there are bootcamps that utilise gyms, leisure centres, school, village or church halls.

How much does it cost?

The price can vary but you’re usually looking at between £4 and £8 per session. Bootcamp leaders will sometimes offer deals, such as block payments to cover a certain duration of time where you can go to as many sessions as you like. Or they’ll give you a free session after you’ve paid for 10, for example.

Why do it?

  • Mainly they’re fun! Honest.
  • The exercises are normally ‘exercise by stealth’; in other words, you’ll be playing games, it will be competitive and you won’t realise quite how much exercise you’ve been doing.
  • You’re likely to meet lots of new people (some you’ll like, some you won’t- such is life)
  • If it’s outside, you’ll benefit from the fresh air and sunshine
  • It usually works out as one of the least expensive fitness groups to join

Any drawbacks?

  • There is virtually no personalisation to the programme; most exercises will be selected for the average exerciser. Although there will be ‘easier’ and ‘harder’ versions of most of the exercises, it’s up to you to decide if you need it to be easier or harder. Some might be at risk of overestimating their ability and some will definitely underestimate their own physical strength; therefore not maximising the effectiveness of the workout or causing yourself an injury
  • Nobody will be monitoring your progress from week to week and there is very little accountability
  • You’re not always guaranteed that a qualified Trainer will be leading the session. This can be problematic when it comes to your safety when exercising and also the possible ineffectiveness of the bootcamp itself

Who’s it perfect for?

  • Great for those who want a fun and affordable weekly exercise session with lots of people
  • If you’d prefer to run around outside rather than be cooped up in a gym
  • If the only way to get you exercising is if it’s disguised and competitive
  • If you don’t mind being shouted at from time to time

 

And here’s a shorter summary of some of the rest…

Yoga and Pilates

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The good: Good for the mind, as well as body; improves flexibility (good way to avoid injury), posture, balance and coordination; increases the appearance of overall muscle ‘tone’; can improve your overall strength; great for relaxation and stress relief.

The not so good: Most forms are not high energy or very intense, therefore you’re not burning as many calories or working your cardiovascular system effectively (although it depends what type of Yoga or Pilates you engage in and how advanced you are); can be a little too easy to just relax and not put your all into the class; times and days are restricted to a class schedule.

Spinning

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The good: Great cardio workout; if you’re a member of a gym and you’ve already paid your membership fee, classes can often be free; often set to music which is an extra driver to get pedalling.

The not so good: If you’re there to socialise there’s not really much opportunity to be chatty; can be quite intense and not much variety; sessions will be held at set times and if you like a particular instructor you’ll restrict your options even further.

Running clubs

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The good: Great cardio exercise and a greater calorie burner (great for weight loss); you’ll be out in the great outdoors; if you’re running in a club you develop a sense of belonging and with that a sense of accountability; free or a small club fee; can enter races as an extra challenge; good for general weight loss.

The not so good: Although running is a great calorie burner in the short-term, you will burn more calories even at rest with resistance exercise integrated into your regime (resistance exercise is vitally important for healthy joints, muscles and for overall functionality); you’ll normally be exposed to the elements, given that we’re living in the UK; too much pounding the streets can affect your joints if you don’t wear the right footwear.

 

Still unsure what to choose?

There are obviously more options out there, so here are some questions to ask yourself before you plough the web and sign up:

  1. How important is getting fit and healthy to me?
  2. Am I comfortable exercising in a group environment?
  3. Do I like training with friends?
  4. How likely am I to exercise without someone with me?
  5. When do I want to exercise?
  6. Are there any specific days of the week or times of the day that I can’t make?
  7. How much money do I have/want to spend?
  8. Do I know what I am doing or do I need extra help?
  9. Do I want or need the additional advice and expertise offered by a Trainer?
  10. Do I prefer training inside or outside?
  11. What happens if I need additional advice?

I hope that’s helped and made some things a little clearer. I’m afraid that there aren’t enough hours in the day to shed light on some of the fitness and nutrition nonsense online, so my advice would be if it sounds too good to be true it generally is.

Common-sense, determination and a little patience are the starting points to getting fitter and healthier.

Thanks for reading! Please comment below if you’ve got any questions or suggestions.

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