Tricks of the Trade
7 trainers weigh in on the debate about whether to offer half-hour sessions.
At Suncoast Pilates—now celebrating our 20th year of business—we've long had a debate about whether to offer half-hour sessions. After years of experience, we've found that a trainer does indeed spend more than half an hour with a client when half-hour workouts are booked. By splitting the time block, a trainer often loses the other half hour in booking and revenue. A half-hour workout barely gets the client warmed up, the session flies by, and it's time to stretch at the end. We find very few clients benefit from 30-minute sessions; therefore, we don't offer a half-hour option on our website or price list.
Exceptions are made for injured or very deconditioned clients or for those with major orthopedic issues. We sometimes offer those clients a half-hour option until they are able to complete full 55-minute sessions. Clients are actually eager to progress to full sessions. Conditioned, healthy clients do ask for half-hour sessions from time to time, hoping to get lower pricing. However, in our business model, we do not offer half-hour sessions to anyone other than injured or deconditioned clients, since most other clients do not benefit from shorter sessions.
Patricia Welter, PMA-CPT
Owner, Suncoast Pilates
Palm Harbor, Florida
Speed, efficiency and cost are all considerations for any investment and that goes for health, too. Many people want to exercise, but not at the cost of their ever-important time. Some aren't in good enough shape to complete a full hour of exercise nor do they want to work out for an hour. Others simply can't afford the price of an hour session, but they want and need a trainer's guidance.
Thirty-minute sessions enable trainers to help clients who need guidance but don't have the time or the physical or financial ability to enroll in a 60-minute workout. A well-structured 30-minute program can provide most of the benefits of a 1-hour session.
I have been offering 30-minute sessions since I started training more than 20 years ago. I charge 50% of my hourly rate. I've found that my 30-minute clients are the most punctual and easiest people to work with. They often respect the time of others and know that I offer 30-minute sessions as a favor. Some clients do transition into 60-minute clients if they have the financial means to do so. Most, though, will stick with the 30-minute format until they can exercise well on their own. I believe it is wise to offer the 30-minute option. It may be the thing that helps grow your business or it may transform your business by filling a void in your local market that you can dominate.
Personal Trainer, Health Coach and Radio Host
I don't conduct 30-minute sessions. My sessions are 60 minutes long but may go 70–80 minutes. The majority of my clients are corrective-exercise clients. I provide a movement prep that takes about 20 minutes: release, stretch and developmental movement. Then we do intervals of functional movement, stress movement, re-prep, strength and so forth, for about an hour. Depending on the client, I may also provide a short version for homework. However, not many clients do it.
Corrective Exercise and Functional Movement Trainer
Town Sports International Health Clubs
Thirty-minute training sessions work well for my clients who have limited time or a limited budget. Ideally, I schedule three 30-minute workouts a week with them. The three workouts enable us to focus every week on cardio, cardio intervals and strength training. I also use 30-minute exercise sessions for various populations that do not have the capacity to work out for longer than that.Lynn T. Keneipp
Lean and Serene Personal Training
Keene, New Hampshire
I stopped offering 30-minute workout sessions unless it's for my breast cancer survivor clients. When clients sign up for 30 minutes, they usually want more time but don't want to pay for it. The 30-minute sessions might work in bigger studios, but I run a private, small studio. Shortly after we start a 30-minute workout, the time is up. I can't offer clients warm-up equipment space prior to the workout or a dedicated cool-down space. I design shorter workouts for my clients to do on their own, but that is outside their time with me. My breast cancer clients can't handle more than 30-minute sessions—at least not in the beginning. The shorter session is just enough for them.
Everything is fast-paced these days, and the fitness industry is turning to quick solutions like 30-minute workouts to get in as much exercise as possible in the shortest period of time. I don't mean that a short workout is not a quality product; however, mindful exercise and lasting changes are usually not achieved through short workout sessions. Let's teach our clients the importance of making time for their health and fitness.Heike Yates
CEO, Heike Yates Fitness
Silver Spring, Maryland
I do lead 30-minute one-on-one sessions. Clients often opt for 30-minute workouts for financial reasons or lack of time. The feedback I get on my 30-minute sessions is that they provide more "bang for your buck" and are fun and motivating. If a 1-hour session is $100, then I would charge $70 for a 30-minute session. Offering 30-minute workouts gives personal trainers an opportunity to maximize the value of their time.
Why 30 minutes? Many exercise programs and workouts are performed in 30 minutes and claim to be as effective as those done in 60 minutes. Their creators tout: "Do this and you will get results!" That is very compelling. For the most part that's true, if you consider the calories burned during and after the workout and the increase in recovery time. For personal trainers, it's important to consider all the facts about 30-and 60-minute workouts and how they can be effectively used for many populations.
The fitness industry (including fitness apps and personal trainers) tries to educate people about the following four points, and I remind my clients about them, too.
- Quality and volume. The highest quality (intensity or output) workout can be achieved in a shorter duration and can help clients avoid fatigue-related muscle injury. The key factor of an effective workout is volume. And it's easier to maintain 80%–85% of target heart rate throughout a workout when it's shorter and more fun.
- Optimal reps. Muscle groups have a specific optimal rep range per week. Of course this will vary depending on a person's fitness level, reason for training, liking for a sport, weight loss goal, recovery time and more.
- Optimal recovery. It takes 30 minutes to start the recovery process after a long workout. Of course, the process can be improved with good, sound nutrition and sleep habits. With 30-minute workouts, the body can recover quickly and prepare itself for the next workout.
- Effective, short workouts. Each day has challenges and events that can get in the way of long training sessions. Effective, short workouts performed 4–5 days a week or more can provide the same benefits as longer workouts and give people more energy and time to do other things.
Will 30-minute routines replace 60-minute workouts? No. But 30 minutes can be sufficient for optimal results, and they can work for everyone at some point. More is not always better!Jeffrey Kazmucha, MS
Personal Trainer, Phytly
Menlo Park, California
I train clients in 60-minute sessions in their homes. Being with clients for an hour on a regular basis allows me to get to know them better. However, I also create shorter workouts that clients can do on their own. Time is an issue for people, and they sometimes use it as an excuse for not exercising. Giving clients a quick workout that they can do once, twice or three times throughout the day allows them to exercise. Ten minutes seems more doable than 60 minutes. I advise clients to exercise every day even if it's just for 10 minutes.Linda S. Jassmond
Owner and Personal Trainer, Linda S. Jassmond LLC
West Grove, Pennsylvania