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A Quick Primer on How to Find the Best Fitness Solution For You

Get the best value for your fitness dollar.

Ok, some of this may seem obvious, but the reality is that most people are not getting the best value for their fitness dollar. And it’s an unfortunate truth that a sizable percentage of the money in the fitness industry comes from people who spend with the best intentions, but never get much out of what they paid for, whether it’s equipment, classes or gym memberships.

But, once again, I’m here to help!

The first question you should ask yourself is: “Am I ready to commit to a program?”

The second is: “Do I think I’ll enjoy this?”

The last is: “Is it practical and realistic given my schedule and budget?”

If the answer to ANY of these questions is not a definitive “Yes”, don’t spend a lot of money or make a long-term commitment of any kind – yet.

A good interim solution is to see a personal trainer or take some exercise classes with the express intention of getting guidance on your next step. The trainer or group exercise instructor should be happy to provide insights for your particular set of circumstances that may be the best fit for you.

The two basic categories of fitness solutions I'll cover are equipment and services.


The most efficient and comprehensive home equipment solution, short of dedicating an entire room to a multi-piece in-home gym, is a couple of pieces of equipment; one for strength and one for aerobic exercise. The best value I can recommend for most is a Kettler elliptical trainer ($1,000), a resistance band   ($20), and two dumbbells (around $60 total, depending on the weight).

Why this combination? The Kettler elliptical trainer is a triumph of German engineering. It’s an affordable and durable piece of home exercise equipment with a small, space-saving footprint and an outstanding warranty. It integrates the full-body in a high-quality aerobic workout with no impact or joint stress.

The resistance band can be hooked over any top door hinge to create an inexpensive, variable-resistance upper back exercise device (the only major muscle group that’s difficult to work adequately with bodyweight or the smaller dumbbells appropriate for arms and shoulders). And finally, dumbbells are perfect for strengthening arms and shoulders. Lower body and chest can be worked with bodyweight.


Here in the Tri-Valley, there are numerous fitness service options to fit a wide range of needs.

Personal training is available in your home, at gyms and smaller studios. This is best for those who want the safety and effectiveness benefits that only directly focused expertise can provide. It’s a great investment if you find the right match. Here’s a checklist you may want to consult if you’re in the market for a trainer.

Small group training provides some of the same advantages of one-on-one training, but at a lower cost and with a more structured, less flexible program format. And the trainer/instructor is shared by a few to several people (but usually less than 10). It’s the perfect solution for those who are not able to invest in private training and is currently one of the fastest growing areas of fitness services available.

Large group classes work well for folks who are looking for lower cost options and don’t mind or even enjoy a bigger group to exercise with, like Zumba or cardio kickboxing classes. But it’s best to have a good idea about your current fitness level, limitations and injury history/predispositions going in to minimize your risk of injury.

As for the gym scene, just think about what you want and what it’s worth to you. Club Sport in Pleasanton, Lifestyle Rx, and Livermore Valley Tennis Club in Livermore each offer the full-range health club experience but they charge accordingly. 24 Hour Super Sport and Bay Area Family Fitness Center (formally Express Fitness) move in the other direction and feature more affordable pricing options, but fewer frills and premium services. But one often overlooked factor that is important before committing to an extended contract at any club is how the culture and environment fits you personally. I know people at each facility that wouldn’t consider going to any other place, and some that wish they weren’t tied to the place they are so they could try one of the others. The contracts and initiation fees can make that option less viable once the ink is on the paper.

One last category of service providers is the studios that offer either multiple or unlimited class sessions for a flat monthly rate. Jazzercise, various boot camps, , and Reactive Gym, as well as my own studio, Tri Valley Trainer, offer that option with varied formats and demographics in mind. A major advantage with this option is schedule flexibility and increased relative value for the more frequent exercisers, without paying for services that you don’t use.

Be sure to take advantage of any trial offers that discount or eliminate the cost of trying the facility or service. You need to know if it’s a good fit for you.

Then make your choice and get going!

Want to talk in-person? I’m usually at the studio http://trivalleytrainer.com/ and can always be reached at Dan@TriValleyTrainer.com .

B April 11, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Lifestyle Fitness in Livermore is a good one.
Trent Getty April 12, 2012 at 08:46 PM
I'm not from the area, but I like this article. I think any good personal trainer and gym would invite you in for at least one free session to see if it's a good fit. Any place that doesn't is a scam. The gym I chose let me come in for a session and followed up with answers to my questions about exercise, costs, etc, which is why I think they're some of the best personal trainers in Michigan: http://aoskettlebells.com/michigan-personal-trainers/
Dan Taylor April 13, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Thanks B and Trent. I agree with you both!


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