Are 30-minute personal training sessions the new trend?
Wed, August 20, 2014 at 14:45
Brad Spiegel in Adam Dunlap, Beverly Athletic Club, Crunch, Edmond Adams, Jason Mason, Jessica Matthews, News, Personal Training, The Houstonian

Remember in the late-1980s movie “There’s Something About Mary” when Ben Stiller’s character picks up a hitchhiker who says he has a better idea than the then-popular “8 Minute Abs” video by trimming a minute and finishing it in seven minutes?

That is not the premise behind 30-minute personal training sessions that are gaining momentum across the country. There is much more behind the 30-minute options than just under-cutting the traditional hour-long segment.

That isn’t to say that everyone is a promoter of cutting a session in half. Of course, there are pros and cons on both sides.

The backers of the 30-minute option point to three main positives: price, convenience and variety. And, really, aren’t those the kinds of things that drive innovation and new ideas giving us different options? However, traditionalists feel a good workout can’t be completed in 30 minutes.

If a client can get the same workout on two visits of 30 minutes each than one hour-long session, why not, right? Oftentimes sessions are during one’s lunch hour and fitting travel to the club, the workout and shower in the allotted time can be nearly impossible.

Jason Mason, Fitness director at Beverly Athletic Club in Beverly, Mass., said he has trainers on his staff who offer both. 

“I tell my trainers that (sessions) are all based on them and their clients,” Mason said. “(Trainers) may only have a 30-minute gap in their schedule. If a client only wants to train with them and it fits in their schedule, than that is fine.”

Jessica Matthews, former exercise physiologist at the American Council on Exercise and now assistant professor of Exercise Science at Miramar College in San Diego, said that what it comes down to is getting people to exercise and do it on a regular basis.


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“If someone doesn’t have an hour to exercise then 30 minutes can be just as good,” she said. “It is all about consistency and individual preferences. In my professional opinion, whatever the client needs is what should be the focus.”

Both Mason and Matthews emphasized that with a 30-minute session the onus falls on both the trainer and client. The trainer must be well organized and be sure to have a program in place because there is a little time to waste. For the client, they need to be following trainers’ suggestions outside of the 30 minutes, while being prompt to the session and warming up beforehand and cooling down after – often not part of the 30 minutes.

“As personal trainers develop individualized programs for their clients, I think the length of a session should be personalized, too,” said Matthews. “One size does not fit all. Individual clients have different needs.”

Edmond Adams, Fitness manager at Crunch Fitness in New York City, said his company pushes toward an hour workout. 

“Many people come in with the mindset that a half hour is good, but when go through the session you realize a half hour not enough,” he said. “An hour is perfect – not too much but not too little that you can’t get everything done.”

Adams explained that new clients who come in for personal training at Crunch are given five 30-minute sessions. The first 30-minutes is to assimilate the client with how personal training works at Crunch, with the final two hours more working on a personalized program. The trainers push to have the client combine the time into three one-hour segments (Crunch then will add an extra half hour).

“I tell the trainers to tell the new clients that personal training sessions can be more effective in an hour,” he added. “In 30 minutes if you go through stretching and cool down most of your half-hour is done.”

Just to make matters on this subject a little more murky, The Houstonian Club offers both 30 minutes and 60 minutes, but 45-minute sessions is the option the club thinks is best for the client, for more than just a good workout

“We offer a 45-minute session and that is one we prefer the most,” Houstonian Fitness Manager Adam Dunlap explained. “It is a session time that provides the optimal ability to work out and still gain a social or personal connection. Within our club, we see most of our clients lean towards the 60-minute session, though. We continue to hear that this amount of time allows them to receive their most intense workout and still connect with the personal trainer.”

But like the Matthews, Mason and Edmonds, Dunlap defers to members’ preference.

“It all depends on the client and their preference. That is something we try to cater to each and every day,” Dunlap said. “Some of clients love 30 minutes because they just want to get in, get a great workout, and get out. They don’t want to talk too much, just work out.

Matthews thinks it is in the best interest of the trainer and club to have options open to their clients. Just as there is a wide array of classes to take and machines to use in a club, the same should be for personal training. That is already happening with small group exercise – pretty much personal training but more of 4 to 10 in a class to one trainer. So why not 1-on-1 training?

“You are basically expanding list of services can provide and reach more people. It’s the reason why small group training has become so popular,” said Matthews, who added that 60-minute sessions may also be intimidating to some. “From a trainer’s perspective, it is wise to offer more of a variety. It also varies the schedule of the trainer.”

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