Thursday, August 6, 2009

To train or not to train

Weight: 260.8
BMI: 44.76

The weigh in is happy (17.2 lbs lost! 6.19% of starting bodyweight and 2.95 points of BMI gone!) but not what I want to talk about today.

So, when I started losing weight, I started comparing gyms to figure out which would be a good fit for me. I sort of centered on Results because it was close and came up pretty often when I googled "Best Gym in DC." Still, at over $100 a month plus a $100 joining fee, I wasn't really certain if I was willing to spend that much.

Then, essentially the day after I'd settled on trying to go to Results for a one day free pass, I got a company wide email that we were considering a corporate membership there and that anyone who was interested should write back. I did, and I got 4 free passes to check it out.

I used them before San Diego. While I was there, the corporate membership deal got finalized. The Saturday after I got back, I went in and signed up for my reduced corporate $65 a month (and no joining fee!) membership. Since then I've used the gym every day but Monday, putting in a solid 40-60 minutes on the elliptical machine. I've been too scared to do any of the classes yet, but I'm on the edge of trying the spinning class or yoga fundamentals. They've got a Zumba class, too, which I kind of want to try solely on the basis of the praise I've read over at Learning to Be Less.

The point I'm trying to get to is that, as a new member, I'm entitled to a free personal training session. I've got mine scheduled for next Saturday (the 15th). I want to sort of dedicate the session to figuring out what I should be doing in terms of weight lifting, since I know it's important and I should be doing it, I just don't really know how. (There are also "floor trainers" whom I'm told I can ask how any of the machines work, but I'd rather just wait till the training session.)

The question is, should I invest in a personal trainer beyond the free session?

As of this point, I'm rather torn on if it's worth the money. (It would be $625 for 10 sessions, $1200 for 20. If I did get a trainer I think I'd set it up so I only met with him once a week, maybe twice.)

I recently opened up a Roth IRA for the first time. I put $3000 in, the minimum over at Vanguard where I opened my account. (Side note: if you're not saving for retirement, you should be! The younger you are the easier it is. I particularly like Roth IRA's because you can always withdraw your contributions at any time, no penalty, and can withdraw up to $10,000 in earnings for a first house or in case of hardship. You use after tax money to open the account, and then it grows tax free and you pay no taxes when you use it down the road. For more on why Roth IRAs are the awesomest awesome that ever was awesome, check out this blog post.) I'd saved up a bit particularly for this, but I did dip a bit into my general savings/emergency fund. There's a maximum contribution of $5000/year for people below the age of 50, and I'd like to put that much in before the end of the year. I think the market is cheaper than it will be for a long time, plus compounding generally favors investing as soon as you can. So, one thing I'd like to do this year is max out my retirement account.

Since the end of high school, I've always had this wild dream of becoming a Foreign Service Officer. The spring of my sophomore year in college, I took the written exam while I was studying abroad in Paris. (It's offered in tons of places in the US, too, but because I was out of the country I got to take it at the US Embassy there, which was gorgeous.) I passed it and got invited to the Oral Assessment, which I failed. And we're not talking a close failure either: I bombed. It was a mess. I hadn't been able to sleep the night before, and I just stumbled over everything and it was all kinds of terrible. I've been thinking of trying again. As part of that, I've been thinking of learning Arabic. While you don't need to know a foreign language to join, knowing a "super critical needs language" (their words, not mine) like Arabic helps a lot. So I've been thinking of taking Arabic classes. They'd be about $800 for the fall semester.

I also want to replenish my emergency fund. While I'm probably pretty secure at my job, and if anything did happen my parents would take care of me (in some future post I'll go into my parents and finances), I like having a bit of savings. I think it's important to save. And I want to get those numbers back up.

So, if I want to add personal training, it means cutting either Arabic, retirement savings, or replenishing my emergency fund. If personal training seems like it's worth it, adding to my emergency fund will probably be the thing to go: it's still got a few thousand dollars in it now, and I can build it up to a level I'm more comfortable with eventually. I'm still not 100% certain though.

So, question for anyone who's ever had a personal trainer: do you think it's worth it? What do you get from your trainer that you couldn't get on your own? How do you think s/he helps you?

And, for everyone, trainer or no, base instinct, what would you do? Pick three: trainer, Arabic, retirement, emergency fund.


  1. Hey Hadley! This was a very good post, and it definitely got me thinking about my own finances.

    The trainers at the gyms are always way expensive. You should look elsewhere if you really want it and maybe just train one day a week for awhile. I dont think you need one, though, because you could learn the same stuff by getting a Jillian Michaels video and some 3 pound weights and you actually see results way faster with her. I think your other goals are awesome and will benefit you more in the future.

  2. I think you should make the decision after you meet with the trainer for the first time. Personally, I love my trainer because she is helping me tone and lift safely, and showing me the right forms, etc. But, maybe just one session will help create a workout that you can do on your own... good luck!

  3. It's so good that you are so diligent with your finances at your age! I'm very, very impressed.

    I've never had a trainer, but know people who swear by them. They are pricey. As you know I lost my weight without a gym. . .

  4. I would skip the trainer and go for the Arabic! There are so many resources that will give you the same advice as a personal trainer. I have found that DVD's are great for showing how to use certain weights as far as form goes. And when I wanted to use the weight machines at the gym, I found the free personal training session was enough to get me started. If I have questions, I just ask someone! You will begin to notice regulars who probably know more than the trainers!

  5. You are impressive, 23 and saving for

    All three choices are an investment in your future. I know very little about weights, but I personally wouldn't fork out the money for that--but I'm older and have different circumstances.

    I would think there are so many books and helpful people out there, that I might skip on hiring the trainer (unless the person was fantastic) and work on my emergency fund first, then take the Arabic classes. Or classes, then emergency fund/savings.

    It's hard to get out of my 44-year-old, no-parents-to-fall-back-on mindset, though.

    Let us know what you decide.

    One thing to keep in mind is that you are young, you have dreams, and now is a perfect time to fulfill those dreams. I know from experience, lol, the older you get, the more the brain slows down. ;-) Sometimes when we don't go for them, life doesn't give us the opportunity again.

  6. I guess being an economist really pays off...get really pays off...cue the sad laughter! How exciting that you live in D.C. at this time in history. You're living the dream, baby!

    You are young and should do everything you want. Being in the Foreign Service sounds exciting. Go for it.

    The personal trainer thing sounds great. Do the free thing and then see how you do on your own. You'll know if you need one.

    Thanks for you comments. Very encourging!

  7. Great read. I would suggest that you meet with the trainer and have he/she teach you how to use all the equipment on site. I think personal trainers are great for some people but remember they are there to make money too. My friend signed up with a trainer and he told her she needed 55 visits @ $65 a visit. That would not be a problem but my friend is 4'11 and weighs 97 pounds. She wanted to tone up but she was surprised that she needed so many visits. We could not believe this guy. I told her if you need 55 than I need 255 visits. I'm 5'9 weighing in at 281. She decided not to use a trainer. You should write down your reasons for wanting to drop weight and what areas of your body needs toning. When it comes to taking a spinning class go from it. You will drop weight really fast if you take 2 to 3 classes a week. Make sure to ask the spin teacher to help you adjust your seat because it makes a difference in the ride. The seat can be rough on the butt but after a few visits it will not be so painful. Buy a bike seat pad before you go to the first class. The pad will really make the ride more comfortable. Go at your own pace and try to hang in there for 30 minutes. I would only do 30 minutes for the first 5 classes than you can added more time if you are able. You will notice your legs, butt and abs toning up in two weeks. I highly recommend at less two yoga class a week. These classes with will help your mind and body. You should try different teachers to find the one you like because they all offer different moves. Just go for it all! Taking classes is a great way to find out how tough you are. You can also make lots of friends with your same interest. Regarding your picks: Arabic and emergency fund. Good Luck!

  8. I lost all my weight just doing the classes at my gym. Maybe I don't understand what personal trainers are about, but always seemed like just a waste of money, especially for someone who's got a ways to go. It seems more appropriate for someone trying to sculpt themselves below 10% bf, but obviously, many people use them, and most people aren't that thin. Then again, I hate the weights and the machines, and do the strength training classes. I know many scoff, but I've seen some quite muscular guys come in thinking it would be easy, and gotten their behinds handed to them.