Is It Time to Hire a Coach?  5 Important Questions To Help You Decide

Are you wondering if hiring a coach or personal trainer is right for you?  Reaching fitness and running goals can be a challenge so enlisting help makes sense.  I’ve been at the same crossroads many times and have found success with different approaches.  Read on for some important questions to consider before you jump in.

In general, studies show that participants are more likely to improve fitness and attain fitness goals when working with a coach or trainer.  While the data relating to fitness goals is limited, there is plenty of data that supports coaching positively impacts goal achievement.  In-person, online, and self-coaching methods can all be effective depending on your needs and circumstances.

Given unlimited means, we would all love to have the best personal coach that money can buy.  However, the reality is, we are all limited in our resources.   Our needs and circumstances need to be considered to maximize how we spend our time and money.  Reviewing the below questions can help you decide whether hiring a coach makes sense for you right now. 

What are your fitness goals? 

ou first need to define exactly what your fitness or running goals before deciding if hiring a coach makes sense for you.   It will also help determine what kind of coach, if any, may be best for you. 

If you don’t have a goal in mind, then no coach will be the right coach.  On the other hand, it might not be the best decision to hire an endurance coach if you goal is build muscle and increase overall strength.  

Below are some questions you can consider in establishing a fitness goal.  They can also help you define the “why” behind your goal to keep you motivated when training gets difficult.

  • What aspects of your health and fitness do you want to improve? (Increase bone density; build muscle mass; lower blood pressure; improve cardiovascular system; decrease body fat)
  • What are your long-term objectives and what steps are you willing to take to achieve them?
  • What types of exercises do you enjoy and what can you most easily fit into your lifestyle?
  • How much time are you willing to commit to a fitness routine each week?
  • Is there a particular event or milestone you want to prepare for (10K, marathon, ironman, etc)?
  • Do you prefer working out alone, with a partner, or in a group setting?

The above questions are just a guideline to help you define a fitness goal that makes sense for you.  You want to set fitness goals that support your long-term objectives.

As an example, my fitness journey began with the long-term goal of improving my cognitive abilities as I age.  Cardio exercise three times a week has been shown to improve mental function, so my goal was to start running three times a week.

To keep me motivated to run consistently three times a week, I signed up to run a half marathon (see full experience here).  Six years later, I’m still running, getting faster, and have accomplished some amazing running and fitness goals.

For more on goal setting see my article here.

How much can you afford to spend on a coach right now?

Cost is the number one issue for most people when it comes to hiring a coach or personal trainer.  An honest evaluation of your current financial situation can help you decide how much you can reasonably afford. 

Coaches and personal trainers can charge per hour or per month.  It can vary widely depending on where you live, the type of coach you hire, etc.

  • Hourly Rates: In-person coaches and personal trainers typically charge between $25-$100 per hour.  I had a personal trainer that charged $70 per hour in 2021 so plan on the higher end unless you qualify for discount rate.
  • Monthly Fees: Online coaches may cost anywhere from $40 – $400.  One that I am looking at is $199/month. 

You will also want to consider the value you are getting for the amount you are spending.  Investing in yourself is always a good decision, but there may be better options.  For example, a gym membership to a facility with fitness classes, a pool, and other amenities may be a better option. 

Lastly, keep in mind it can be a challenge to find the right coach or trainer for you.  In the past, I have been disappointed with a trainer as it was just not the right fit for me.  This experience has definitely made me more hesitant and cautious in hiring a trainer or coach. As a result I do a lot of self-coaching and learn from books, YouTube videos, and others I come across.

Are you willing to commit to having a personal coach?

A fitness coach or personal trainer can go a long way to help you achieve a goal, but only if you are willing to put in the work.  The idea of a coach sounds great, but you will still need to carve out time to communicate and execute the planned workouts.

Some prefer the flexibility of having a fluid schedule and not being accountable to anyone but themselves.  You can do yourself and your coach a service by being honest with yourself and your circumstances.  Your circumstances may not be right for fitting a coach into your lifestyle at this point.

On the other hand, you may need someone else to hold you accountable and stick to a routine.  Enlisting a coach or personal trainers can be just the extra push you need to commit to your goals and yourself.

When Should I REALLY invest in a Coach or Trainer?

There is a difference between needing and wanting a coach or personal trainer.  There are a lot of benefits to in-person coaching, but one of the most important is for injury prevention.

Below are several situations where you REALLY should hire an in-person coach or trainer. 


If you are new to the sport of running you should invest in at least a few sessions with a coach to learn good form and techniques.  Having an experienced coach can help you establish good habits as back habits can be hard to break later and may lead to injury.

Injury Prone:

If you recovering from an injury and/or are injury prone than definitely invest in a personal trainer or coach.  Muscle imbalances, mobility issues, poor technique can all contribute to injury and can be identified and targeted with professional help.

Chronic health issues:  

If you suffer from a chronic health issue it may be best to also seek an experienced trainer or coach who has helped others with similar issues.  Always consult with a physician before starting any exercise program.

An in-person coach is the best choice when it comes to evaluating your form and establishing better habits.  A good running coach is much like a physical therapist.  The reason you GO to PT is so they can watch you do the exercises and give you immediate feedback.    

Likewise, a personal trainer can help evaluate your weaknesses and design exercises to target those areas.  They can also ensure you are doing the exercises properly to avoid additional injury as you get stronger.

Ambitious Goals: 

If your fitness goal is rather ambitious goal for the timeframe you have in mind, enlisting a qualified coach is best way to ensure success.  A study done comparing the effectiveness of different forms of coaching found that when it came to high goal achievement, self-coaching was not sufficient.   See study here.  

A coach or trainer can provide a lot of benefits beyond injury prevention if you have the right coach.  They can provide a tailored training plan, provide motivation and inspiration, and can use their experience to help you.  There is no doubt that a coach will help you, but it’s not the only path to success.

Are there other options that may be a better fit for me?

There are various options available besides hiring an in-person coach.  Group coaching, online coaching, AI coaching, and self-coaching are all viable options.

  • Online Coach: Virtual coaches have become very popular.  Reputable coaches with a lot of experience can easily be found online.  They have many advantages over an in-person coach besides affordability.  Just having a bigger pool to choose from makes it easier to find a better coach for your needs. 
  • Group Classes:  It may take a little research, but look for any group coached sessions.  There are a few advantages to going this route, cost being number one.  Group classes can be offered at a lower cost, but you won’t get as much one-on-one attention.  This can also be an advantage as it allows you to try out a coach or trainer without much pressure.  You also have the added benefit of others being around providing more support and encouragement.
  • AI Coach – This one is the newest method of coaching that you may not have heard about yet.  There are various forms of “AI Coaching” available so you may want to do some research.  Some involve apps that provide more personalized training plans based on data you provide.  Others involve smart devices that you wear as you exercise providing immediate feedback and encouragement.  One of the easiest ways to get AI Coaching is simply to leverage GPT Chat by asking it to design a plan for you.  I’ve done this and after adjusting my request a couple of times, I got a pretty decent training program.  
  • Self-Coach:  Some people thrive on being their own self-coach.  Designing your own training plan gives you more autonomy and control.  Using this approach, you are not tied down to just one way of doing things, although following some sort of program is recommended.  I have personally found my heart rate monitor to be a great way of self-coaching.  Since using my heart rate monitor, I have remain uninjured and reached new PRs. For more information on self -coaching see the article here.

Key Takeaways

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can”.  A coach or trainer can provide enormous benefits, but there are many paths to success.

Before taking the plunge and investing precious time and money be sure to make an honest self examination with the above questions.  I’ve had success with and without coaching and found the most important ingredient is NOT GIVING UP.

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