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Group Fitness vs. Personal Training: What Is Right for You?

We had fitness pros weigh in on which workout works for your schedule.


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Between managing the kids and their schedules, staying on top of homework, shuttling them to practices and getting dinner on the table every night, it can feel impossible to find time to exercise. So when you actually make it to the gym, you want to do a workout that really counts. While we all know the best workout is the one we actually do, sometimes you need help deciding which muscle to flex. To find a workout that gets you results (and one you’ll actually stick with), we asked the experts to break down the pros and cons of personal training and group fitness classes.

Personal Training

How it works: Personal trainers give one-on-one instruction, usually focusing on weights or bodyweight moves. During your first training session, you’ll go through a series of exercises and receive a personal assessment of your fitness level. You’ll then work with your trainer to set personal goals like losing weight, building strength or increasing flexibility. Many trainers will also suggest an eating plan to complement your specific workout plan.

Pros: Motivation. “One of the most important aspects of a trainer’s job is motivation,” says Michael Blauner, a Bergen County personal trainer with more than 40,000 training sessions under his belt. A good trainer will keep you moving, interested and excited by talking you through every move and offering nonstop motivation during each session, Blauner says.

He or she will also offer specific pointers on how to improve your eating and create a custom series of exercises to do on your own between sessions. Another plus? A trainer will give you his or her undivided attention. You’ll also get training that fits your needs and schedule, both of which could be the difference between you showing up or hitting the couch.

Cons: Price tag. Personal training sessions can add up quickly and are almost always an additional cost on top of a gym membership. Trainers in New Jersey can range anywhere from $50 to more than $100 per private session. But as Blauner says, “what’s the price tag of your health?”  

Bottom Line: If you’re the type of person that needs a push to get to the gym, a personal trainer is a great investment. If you think you’ll be more likely to show up and put in the hard work because you have a set time and undivided attention, then personal training is worth the splurge.

If you’re on a budget and feel overwhelmed by all the machines at the gym, schedule just a few weeks of personal training to get yourself started on a routine. Many trainers offer discounted rates when you buy sessions in bulk.

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Group Fitness Classes

How it works: Pick up a schedule at your gym or visit a fitness studio class to try a variety of group workouts—everything from yoga to spinning to body pump.

Pros: Energy. If you thrive in a team environment, you’ll likely enjoy the vibe of a group fitness class. “Group fitness classes can provide the structured programming and instruction of a personal training session with the added benefit of being in a fun, motivational group environment,” says Liz Barnet, a New Jersey fitness and food coach and instructor at Cool Hot Yoga in Cresskill, Corefire in Montclair and Ridgewood, Powerflow Yoga, which has locations throughout the state, and Sweat Glen Rock. Another benefit? These classes are more affordable than personal training sessions and are included with most gym memberships.

Cons: One size doesn’t fit all. Because you’re in a group setting, the workout may not be tailored to your needs or fitness level. “Although you should expect to receive detailed instruction and even some one-on-one attention in group fitness classes, it’s impossible for one instructor to provide a workout 100 percent specific to each person,” Barnet says.

A good group fitness instructor will offer options to make moves more or less challenging depending on fitness levels. If you’re new or need modification suggestions, Barnet suggests getting to class early so you can introduce yourself to the instructor and get comfortable with the equipment you’ll need.

Bottom Line: If you thrive off the energy of others or you’re on a tight budget, group fitness classes are the way to go. You might even meet a workout buddy who can hold you accountable to show up to class a few days a week.  

Liz Kennedy is a health and lifestyle writer. She lives in New York City with her husband and son.

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