Do you need a personal trainer to meet your weight-loss or fitness targets?

It happens every year: Gyms and personal trainers get an influx of calls from people striving to get into – or back into — shape for the new year.

Choosing from working out solo, getting to the gym with friends or hiring a personal trainer is a personal preference — all have pros and cons — but there’s something out there for every workout level.

Todd Hembrough, who has been a personal trainer for the past five years, said he expects the gyms to be jammed full of people for about six weeks — and then, slowly, the numbers will begin to taper off.

The assistant fitness director at FitClub West in Springfield, Ill., said most people drop their memberships to the gym because of a lack of motivation.

“You need to be reaching a goal when you’re in there or it becomes boring,” he said. “Personal training is about motivation, education and safely exercising. How could anyone not benefit from those three things?”

Thirty-eight-year old Angie Sidles agrees. She prefers working out with a trainer, one who pushes her toward her goals.

However, her first experience with a trainer was unpleasant. She said that trainer spent “hours watching the clock” and didn’t seem to care much about her personal goals.

“It’s important to find one that is knowledgeable, educated and passionate about ensuring their clients get the results they are seeking,” Sidles said. “Otherwise, it’s a complete waste of money.”

Sidles has had a better experience working out at CrossFit Instinct in Springfield.

“The trainers immediately learned my name and managed to provide one-on-one training to me as well as every other individual participating in the class,” she said.

“Every workout could be scaled to each individual’s level of ability, and the trainers made sure that every single person was comfortable with what they were doing before the workouts began.”

She is drawn to group classes such as high-impact aerobics, kickboxing and body sculpting.

“With a trainer, I am constantly held accountable for not only my performance, but my attendance and diet as well,” Sidles said. “The motivation and positive reinforcement that come along with a good personal trainer is what has allowed me to constantly push myself to the next level and see results.”

Meeting goals

Personal attention is vital to some — and that’s what personal trainers are supposed to do.

Though they can be costly (most places offer payment plans), some people find that a mix between a personal trainer once a week or even a few times a month coupled with working out on their own can pay off in big ways. They take what they learned from the trainer to adapt it to their own lifestyle and workouts.

“I was personally educated on proper diet and nutrition in order to get the full benefits from my workouts,” said Sidles, who works out six days a week.

FitClub’s Hembrough said the “main reason for training is accomplishing goals or overcoming plateaus. That’s why we educate the client how to do this themselves and not just rely on the trainer but knowing when and how to do these tasks themselves.”

Maintaining motivation is a key reason people decide to get a trainer.

Sidles said varying workouts not only prevents boredom but provides “much better and faster results. Muscle confusion works, and the body responds to it. … An hour a day on the elliptical may burn calories. However, research has shown that performing long, slow bouts of cardiovascular exercise is not the best way to turn on your fat-burning mechanism.”

That type of workout, she said, quickly becomes boring, and a person will quit.

Hembrough said trainers most often will meet with a potential client one-on-one for an evaluation so the trainer can learn what the person’s goals are. If the two mesh well, a good partnership can be formed.

If at first you don’t succeed ...

There’s a trainer out there for everyone, said Molly Suhadolnik. She is the co-owner of CrossFit Instinct and a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym in Springfield.

“Not only does having a personal trainer make you push harder than you would push yourself and give you accountability, but it will help you learn proper form and techniques as well as how to program your fitness regimen. Most people who think it is not for them have not had a trainer before, had a bad experience with a trainer or have too much ego to have someone tell them what to do,” she said.

She advised those looking for a personal trainer to do their homework.

“Talk to people who have had trainers to find out what they liked/didn’t like. Get online and search for local personal trainers or health clubs with trainers and set up an appointment. Call local gyms and get information on personal trainers,” she said.

The initial meeting or trial session should be free from a good trainer, Suhadolnik said — with no strings attached.

“Try it out; if you don’t like their style … move on.”

State Journal-Register