The Death of 1-on-1 Personal Training

1-on-1 personal training has been around since the beginning of time.  It’s taken on many shapes and many forms, but it has always been a part of coaching and fitness.  It is still quite popular in the fitness industry to this day as it is one of the best avenues you can choose to get results.  But, what if there was a better method available to you?  A superior method that still delivered the custom-designed program, offered better results, was more cost effective, and boosted your sense of belonging.  If there was such a method out there, why wouldn’t you choose it?

Maybe you didn’t choose it because you didn’t know it existed until this reading.  Maybe you won’t choose it because you want that training session time all to yourself, with all the attention and service to you and only you.  Maybe you can’t choose it because your current coach or trainer doesn’t offer it because he/she believes that 1-on-1 is still the best way to get results for you.

Regardless of your decision, I respect it, but I am also here to tell you that after nearly 9 years in the business, I’ve done every delivery method system out there.  From 1-on-1, to small and large group classes, to virtual classes, outdoor training, and this method we call semi-private training.  I’m here to tell you why 1-on-1 personal training is dead and why semi-private training should be the avenue you take to get better results.  Period.

There’s a couple tidbits of information you should know before I dive into why semi-private training is going to be your best bet to get results through health and fitness.  The first is why 1-on-1 training is still around and the second is how I stumbled upon semi-private training by accident, only to discover there was already and entire industry designed around semi-private training.

You have to understand that the only reason we as trainers/coaches ever recommended 1-on-1 training to you as the best method to get results because that is the ONLY thing we KNEW at that time and it’s what we were taught.  1-on-1 personal training was the cream of the crop coming out of the 80’s and lasting through the 90’s, but in the early 2000’s.  So, what else would we offer?  We thought that training more than one person at a time would be too hard and demanding because of all the reps and rest we would have to keep track of…

And there’s your sign.

1-on-1 personal training is pretty much just that: a person keeping track of reps, rest, and everything else you do while still delivering a training session somewhere in between all that.  In fact, too much of a 1-on-1 session is spent as downtime with the coach counting reps for you, or timing or rest, or asking about your current show you watch at night.

Photo Cred: Lep FItness

You’re paying for the session, but you’re also paying for the trainer to count those reps – which you could easily do all on your own!

You probably should be counting your reps or timing your plank anyway because we all know trainers can’t count correctly…ammiright?!

Aside from the wasted downtime issue, 1-on-1 personal training can be extremely expensive.  You have to remember that you are investing in yourself through a coach/trainer, but you are also buying that individual hour of time from that trainer.  The attention should be on you (it would be relevant for the trainer to remember this too) and that can jack up the price pretty quick, especially during peak hours where there are multiple people fighting over it.

The average price for a 1-on-1 personal training here in La Crosse is about $50 (for the sake of this context, I am not including a monthly gym membership fee in this equation, but the average gym membership in our area is about $60/month, so keep that in mind at the end of all this).  These sessions are typically bought in packages, like a 5 or 10 or +20 pack.  So, a 10-pack of sessions would cost you $500 and after they’re used up you’ll renew if you’d like to continue.  And if you’re eager to get results (why wouldn’t you be?) then meeting with your trainer at least 2x/week has that 10-pack lasting about 5 weeks.

You can get some serious results in 5 weeks, but you and I both know that the real results will take a bit longer than that (remember this scenario when I bring in semi-private training).  You can see how quickly this can add up.  Keep in mind that you are making an INVESTMENT in you and your health, which is the BEST investment you can make for yourself.   If we took this scenario and put an experienced trainer’s option for it, those 1-on-1 sessions would go up.  Before I founded Unity Fitness, my 1-on-1 prices were $72/hour – that’s the most a 1-on-1 session had ever been at that time in the history of that gym.

Today, my 1-on-1 session is over $100/hour and that is because you will get 100% of my time, my expertise, and my service, but you’re also taking that hour away from others.

Which brings me to the introduction of semi-private training, and to think it all happened by accident.  The truth is this method of training existed prior to me accidentally scheduling two ladies at the same time, but I had no idea it was out there.  I was waiting at my desk, saw two of my clients come into the gym, say hi to each other, warm up with each other, then have a little giggle as they headed back to me.  They asked which one I was going to be training, and after they had both told the other they would leave and come back in an hour, I had said, “Nonsense, I’ll train both of you on your programs right now.  And I’m sorry about the mistake, so today’s session is on me.”

The session was fantastic, and not just for me, but the ladies loved it as well.  They loved it so much that they asked if I could “accidentally schedule them together again”.  So we did.  Then one of my other ladies saw them training together and wanted to know how they got to train together like that.  She then asked if she could join them.  I told her that was their session, so she would have to ask the other two ladies if it was OK.  They both agreed, and now I was training three of my 1-on-1 clients, all of whom were coming in to see me 3x/week during separate hours, down to seeing me 3x/week during the same hour.

I still wrote great programs and I still delivered expert coaching, buy now I was so darn busy with three people on the floor I couldn’t count reps or time certain exercises.  Trust me, I tried, but that was quickly turned into a client saying, “Uh, yeah, but no thank you.  I know how good your counting is.”

Here was the big benefit for the clients: I offered them a reduced price for their training session so now their hard-earned money went further into their investment.  We slashed prices of a training session to around 40%.  Essentially the sessions became about $25-30/hour compared to $50 or more.  These ladies that first jumped into semi-private training with me had been some of the longest-tenured clients this gym, so their rates were grandfathered for showing their loyalty and trust to me and the business.

So, now we have three of the most tenured clients all training in a semi-private setting and LOVING it.  I immediately went and started asking for all of my clients to give this a try, and if they didn’t like it, then after 30 days we could go back to 1-on-1.

Nearly ALL of them changed.  About 90% of my 36 clients changed over which allowed me to take on 7 new clients who were on the “waitlist” for my availability.

This evolution in training ultimately led me to open my own facility under this model.  Then, come to find out, there are a few other gyms in the world that were operating like we were as well.  There are several major benefits that come from semi-private training.  I already discussed the slashed prices, making this method much more valuable than 1-on-1 training, but what I didn’t expect were the faster results and the energy/community-feel this style of training spawned.  Dare I say, semi-private training made fitness FUN?

Of course, the ONLY way semi-private training will work is if there is a great program in place.  Without a program to reach your goals, then what are you actually training for?  A program is like our roadmap to get you from Point A to Point Z.  The coach designs your program and then we get to work!  If there is no program in place, then we are left to take our own roads and detours, which probably doesn’t bode well.  These random turns along the trip will lead you to random places, like random workouts give you random results.

When you invest in semi-private training, or even 1-on-1 training for that matter, you invest in the PROGRAM, in the expertise, of the coach or trainer.  The trainer then choose how he/she will deliver that program.  The proof is in the pudding that semi-private training is superior to 1-on-1 in terms of cost and effectiveness, but here are a few other reasons why it is elite:

  • The trainer becomes the coach. Semi-private sessions require the trainer to become a coach and…well…COACH!  That means you’ll get more dial-in feedback and expertise as well!  This is why we call ourselves fitness coaches at Unity Fitness and NOT personal trainers.  We are here to coach you in movement and fitness so you can become the best version of yourself.
  • Results come faster. Results come at a premium in semi-private sessions because you’re not only getting better coaching, but you’re also getting more accountability and building off the energy of the other members that are showing up to that session.  There’s something special that brews in a semi-private session that you simply can’t create in a 1-on-1 session.  It’s more effective and efficient on nearly every category measured.
  • You take ownership over your own journey. You have to form more ownership over your session and your journey.  1-on-1 training can sometimes feel like you’re getting your hand held from time to time.  Semi-private requires you to be in control, in that driver seat, and the coach is your guide with you behind the wheel, like a GPS.  More ownership over your own journey is an incredible ingredient to your lifelong success.
  • The energy is unmatched. The energy and social aspect of a tight-knit, like-minded community might be the best thing about semi-private training.  When you go to “battle” with others who share similar goals as you, it brings the most out of the group (there’s that energy thing again).  You also develop relationships, which is key to success in any goal (and your overall well-being).  You could be a lone wolf, but you’ll stay as a lone wolf with your trainer.  Don’t you want someone to celebrate your success with?  Maybe someone else who has gone through something similar and can help you get through it?  That happens in semi-private training.
  • It is a better investment. If we take the same example from earlier at $50/hour for a session, the cost would be at least $500 over the course of 5 weeks at a frequency of 2x/week.  5 weeks isn’t much, so you would most like renew for more sessions.  Now you’ll add that $1K and a monthly gym membership and you’ve got yourself almost $1,200 in investments through the first couple months alone.  Semi-private training’s investment can cut that down substantially, basically putting your monthly investment at $300 or less per month ($25/session x 20 sessions + 2 months’ worth of a “gym membership” at $60/mo) for more training in an environment that breeds better results.

As long as the program is designed for success, there are several methods in which you can deliver results in the fitness industry.  Large group classes can also get results and bring boatloads of more energy, but you don’t get the custom-designed programs or individual coaching that is needed to take you to the next level.  Remote/Virtual coaching works, but there’s something about the presence of another human being that elevates you to another level.  Small group training can work to feed off of energy and a well-designed program that can be modified to each person, but this can’t get quite as specific as personal training can, plus, like a large group class, you could be limited by the equipment being used.

So, assuming the program is in place, the only reason 1-on-1 training trumps semi-private training is if you want that personal attention.  Maybe you’re a little selfish and that’s the only time slot each day that you get all eyes on you – and that’s OK!  It is your PRIVATE TIME, and I love that!  Maybe the coach believes he/she is doing something so special with you behind that he/she feels the rest of the world isn’t ready to see the stuff you’re doing.  I like to think that’s more of the reason for the athletes out there.

Or, maybe the coach believes this is the way to go (most likely because he/she doesn’t want to work any harder), which is OK too.  There is no doubt that semi-private is tougher to coach!  We’ve had to let go more coaches than we’ve hired because semi-private training is a beast in a league of its own and it brings out the best or worst in the coaches.  They have to adapt and evolve quickly for it to work like it’s supposed to.

I’ve heard the argument before that people prefer 1-on-1 because they don’t want to be around other people when they train because they don’t want anyone watching.  I’ll assure if, each member is so darn busy focusing on what he/she should be doing, that you would only be so lucky if they sat and watched you workout while they were supposed to be working out 😉.

The point is that there aren’t strong arguments for 1-on-1 training be better, but they are fair arguments, nonetheless.  Through nearly 9 years in the industry, I’ve seen and done it all.  I’ve researched and learned from the BEST in the world and semi-private training is the superior method.  For the value in the coaching you receive, the results you get, the ownership you take, the community and friends you make, the energy you create, and the price you pay rhyme (OK, I’m down rhyming), it beats 1-on-1 training rather quickly.

Keep in mind, I still offer 1-on-1 training at Unity Fitness.  Again, I know not everyone is suited for the semi-private system.  Like I mentioned, 1-on-1 training is meant to have 100% of a coach’s expertise, service, and time, so you’ll invest through that.  Semi-private offers 100% of a coach’s expertise, service, and a portion of his/her time.  1-on-1 training will take up an entire offered through our semi-private membership, and that’s why the investment is actually higher: because you’re getting 100% of our time.

If you’re a 1-on-1 client and looking to change things up or would maybe like to come experience the difference of semi-private training, I’m going to offer you the same thing as I offered by clients at the old gym: I’ll give you 30 days to test drive it.  We meet every guideline through the COVID-19 protocols, including socially distancing our members and boosting our deep cleaning procedures to make our facility operate safely.

If you want to come experience better, simply click on this link and book your free consult.