January 11, 2017


The pros and cons of commercial gyms v personal trainers

I HOPE YOU found last week’s checklist useful and that you are starting to tick through the eight points I mentioned.

They will really help you out and set you up for a healthy and fit 2017. Don’t worry if you missed out and are only starting back this week.

One of the eight steps I highlighted last week was to choose the right path for your health and fitness goal.

What I always recommend is to go down the route that you actually might like and in turn will get more benefit from.

Fitness doesn’t have to be a chore. If you dig deep enough and find the right path you can turn it into something you truly enjoy and it will perhaps become the highlight of your day.

This could be anything from joining a sports team, signing up for a weekly 5km park run, sourcing a gym to suit your needs, working with a personal trainer, or just getting out on the many hiking/walking trails Ireland has to offer.

In this article I am going to cover the advantages and disadvantages of a few variations of gyms.

Ireland now has a vast selection of training facilities; from large commercial gyms, small private gyms, personal training studios and so on. The list is endless and a lot of people don’t really know what is the best option for them.

So let’s break down a few examples and cover what I feel are the pros and cons of these places. It should then help you out when deciding what way to go.

Large commercial gyms

These are dotted everywhere across Ireland and it’s quite normal now to be living nearby to a large gym chain.

Ireland now has a good selection of these gyms from Ben Dunne, Flyefit, Energie Fitness and Westwood to name a few, and not to forget the many local council gyms.

AdvantagesMost of these facilities are well kitted out with plenty of equipment and offer a vast amount of free classes along with plenty of other services. Many will also offer extras like a pool, sauna and even a jacuzzi.

Some of these facilities even offer 24-hour entry making it easy for you to train at your own convenience and the cost involved generally isn’t that high for the person who ends up using it quite regularly.

They generally have a large team of staff on hand to cater for the large numbers of members coming through their doors.

DisadvantagesThe large numbers coming through the doors can result in a crowded gym floor at peak times, resulting in you not being able to do the workout you had planned.

Large numbers can result in overused equipment and some members not really knowing basic gym etiquette.

At times you may not get to work with the same trainer in classes or on the gym floor. The same trainer that did your free induction may not always be around to check or alter your program.

In the busy months of the year it might mean classes are full so you may need to get to the booking system quickly.

The accountability factor can sometimes go out the window here too as you don’t necessarily have anybody to show up to and the workout you promised you would do today can be put on the long finger.

When signing into these gyms ask about the other costs like a joining fee and take note of the notice period needed when freezing or cancelling your membership.

Private gym/personal trainer

The last five years have seen an influx of small, private gyms being set up. There are now everything from personal training studios, strength and conditioning facilities to semi-private, small training groups.

All of these options are quite different and have their advantages and disadvantages.

AdvantagesWorking with a trainer on a one-on-one basis, or even in a small group session, can offer lots of advantages.

Accountability is a major factor which means you will have someone there to show up to, providing you with plenty of motivation and guidance. Not to mention the most valuable benefit of all the knowledge you can get from them, which can help you down the road when you want to train by yourself.

A good trainer will get to know everything from your lifestyle, your fitness levels and most importantly your goals.

They should know what is best for helping you achieve those goals.

A lot of these semi-private sessions have a good community feel to them which makes it that bit more enjoyable for some people when training with a friend or gym buddy.

Another big bonus is that the layout of the session is generally all mapped out for you within a 45-60 minute timeframe.

With the hectic lifestyles of today most people can’t afford to spend too much time in the gym, so they need to make the most of the time they have.

With a solid training plan, prepared by a trainer, it’s about getting it done and getting in and out of the gym.

DisadvantagesOne-on-one personal training can be expensive. Many good trainers will charge between €50-80 per hour while you can join the local, commercial gym for as little as €30 per month.

That may sound cheap but is it value for money if you rarely show up and if you do, do you know what you should be doing?

Semi-private sessions can cost on average €15-25 per person. It is still pricey but you get most of the same benefits that you’d get with a personal trainer for a fraction of the price.

A lot of the time you can’t just show up to these places. Generally there is a booking system and you need to work with that, which can be good or bad. Good as it might just force you to do it and bad meaning you may not be able to train at the time you want to.

A lot of these facilities don’t have the fancy trappings that most commercial gyms can offer.

For some people they are happy just pottering around the gym and finishing off in the sauna and jacuzzi, while staying in their comfort zone.

I’m a big believer of getting out of your comfort zone every now and then to really chase down your goals.

When training from these facilities a lot of the time you will find yourself being pushed to your limits. This can be a disadvantage or an advantage depending on the individual.


Chip through the eight points I mentioned in my first article of 2017 which is highlighted above.

Find a path that interests you and something that will give you plenty of enjoyment, drive and motivation towards getting after your goal in 2017.

Don’t sign up for a place just because they are under a brand, have the lowest price, best equipment and a huge presence on social media.

Try a few different gyms before deciding where you want to train.

Find a gym/trainer who is particular about technique, has a good pedigree and has a proven track record of getting results.

I hope you’ve found this information useful and if you need any more advice you can pop me a direct message from the links below.

You can also get more advice on my social media pages, which are also linked below.

David Last is a personal trainer based in Dublin. For more information you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Or you can send him a direct message here.

You can also see some of his previous articles here.