When I started my own business over 8 years ago, I thought most clients who chose small group training over 1-1 personal training would do so because it's usually about half the hourly cost of 1-1. How wrong I was! Clients make the decision for 1-1 vs. group for a wide variety of reasons, and almost none are about money. Here are a few of the reasons I've seen people make the 1-1 vs. group fitness choice.
1-1 training is completely customized. You may have unique challenges, such as a stroke survivor with much less strength and mobility on one side of your body. An experienced personal trainer can create a customized list of exercises to help you work around these limitations while still having fun and getting stronger.
1-1 training lets you bounce your ideas off someone else. While trainers are not psychotherapists, the best trainers are those that strive to be good listeners. When you tell your trainer about your kids, your boss, and how your week is going, they may have a different perspective you find useful. Or it may just feel liberating to share your experiences with someone who is outside your circle of friends and family.
1-1 training has completely flexible scheduling. If your calendar looks different each week, a 1-1 personal trainer might actually save you a lot of money. Most trainers have a 24 hour cancellation policy, so if you cancel in time, you get every session you paid for. Group classes, on the other hand, often charge a monthly rate, whether you're there or not. If you're an ER surgeon who gets called in at all hours, or a sales rep who needs to travel the country for a week or two each month, working with a trainer individually is likely your best option.
With small group training, seeing is believing. Each week, I teach a group class for women with disabilities. While some are experienced exercisers, others are new to weights or unsure how to use newer pieces of gym equipment. When I tell a student she really is strong enough for 8 lb dumbbells, she looks at me like I'm crazy. But when they see the woman next to them using 10's, a whole new world opens up. Even a newbie who needs to use 2 lb weights today starts to believe she can do so much more in the future. Able bodied people feel the exact same way.
In a small group class, each person adds energy to the room. While 1-1 training often revolves around conversations between the client and trainer, group classes are all about great music and the friendships that develop as people get better together. Just one enthusiastic student can raise the energy in a whole studio, so imagine what 3-6 people can do!
Small group classes have synergy with massage and other activities. Many people feel they could afford a trainer or a massage therapist, but not both. Yet for athletes, exercise recovery is just as important as training. And for those coming back from injury, massage therapy can be a key part of regaining all the mobility they had before.
For the same price as seeing a personal trainer 2 days a week, they could go to 2 days/week of small group fitness training plus 1 day/week of massage therapy. Others might choose to do 1 day/week of small group personal training plus another 1-2 days/week of dance or yoga classes.