The best investment you can make. Truly. Better than health insurance, better than pouring money into books or supplements or anything else.
Here are some reasons it CAN/SHOULD be a good investment:
1. You take away the guessing, and you put your trust in a well-trained professional who is shaping a program specific to your goals and your abilities.
2. Accountability - by entering into a contract with a trainer, you bump up your commitment to showing up and doing the work regularly, so goals are more easily attained and you develop better discipline in your routine.
3. Results - an objective eye to push you beyond where you are comfortable, but still keep you safe and healthy, which means that you will grow and change more rapidly. A trainer's calling card is 50% their appearance, and 50% their clients' appearance. If you don't look good, they don't look good.
Now, the trick is how to find someone. Most people just go with the desk monkey at the club where they have membership. I think it's a very bad idea. It's the equivalent of hiring your car salesman as your mechanic.
A trainer should
1. Be certified by more than one certifying board or organization, and preferably one that requires hands-on testing and instruction as part of the training, not merely paper testing. For this reason, I find ISSA trainers to be lacking a great deal of the time, although not always (some ISSA programs are rigorous but the basic certification is something anyone can test for - be careful)
2. Have been working in the industry FULL TIME for a minimum of five (5) years with a broad range of clients, the majority of whom have been with them for two (2) years or more and to whom they can refer you for reference.
3. Offer you a list of references, and have a portfolio of before/after results that includes at least three (3) or more current or previous clients in your age range, of your gender, and whose results look similar to your goals.
4. Be the same gender as you (I'm going to take heat on this one, but I feel very strongly that the best application of training principals means having as close a matching experience as possible, and that includes gender...fire away!)
5. Be in superior physical condition, and not smoke, drink or do recreational drugs.
6. Be focused on YOU not on conversation about the weather, what is happening in their personal life, or pop-culture when training you.
7. Explain their approach clearly, answer all your questions.
8. Push you, and encourage you, and keep you informed of your progress.
9. Be on time, every time, and not cancel on you.
10. Be willing to talk to your doctor or other health-care partners about their approach to you goals.
11. Have an approach to working with you that is unique to you, and not just the same thing they do with every client (this is something you discover by asking questions of their references. There is commonality, but there has to be some specificity that is unique to each client reference, otherwise, you've got a desk-monkey who trains everybody the same - that's NOT a good trainer.)
I think a reasonable starting fee is $65 an hour, with discounted rates for more than three sessions a week.