Business

Paying the Price for a Personal Drill Sergeant

By May 22, 2015 No Comments

Written by: Paul Sullivan | New York Times


 

Omar Amanat, the chairman of the Aman Resorts Group, is on the road a lot for his job, visiting his company’s resorts.

 

On these trips, he likes to cycle through the surrounding area — often with his personal trainer from New York to make sure he doesn’t take it easy.

“I do intervals, and knowing when to switch up the intensity level is important,” Mr. Amanat said from Montenegro. “Otherwise, I’d be looking around and drop off for some gelato.”

Dale Noelle, a former model who owns her own modeling agency, True Model Management, has traveled with her trainer, too, but prefers to use her more for the convenience. “She came at 9 p.m. the other night,” Ms. Noelle said. “I like that she’ll come at 6 a.m. or in the middle of the day, too.”

And while she and her trainer often work out in her apartment in New York, Ms. Noelle says she gets bored easily and likes that her trainer is creative. “She makes up exercises for me because of injuries I have,” she said. “We work out outside, in Central Park or in the Hamptons. We’ve done exercises on stand-up paddleboards.”

This is the kind of personal attention that only money can buy. Whether it is worth the price is in the eye — or biceps — of the beholder.

“People don’t need a personal trainer,” said Ryan Serhant, a real estate broker and star of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York,” who actually has two trainers — one for weekdays and one for weekend martial arts.

“If you can wake up every morning and have your own routine, to each his own,” he said. “But because I am so busy, it’s an investment I’m willing to make.”

With summer approaching, and bathing suits coming out of storage, what would you get if you could afford a top trainer? And can you replicate any of it if you can’t afford to pay a trainer to follow you around?

A well-qualified personal trainer who comes to your home will cost $120 to $150 an hour. A trainer who offers nutritional advice costs about $200 an hour, and those with their own brand and following can command $250 an hour. In contrast, a basic trainer at the Equinox chain of gyms in New York costs $105 an hour, or $92 an hour in a package of 24 sessions.

Matthew Cluney, chief executive of Ballast Partners, which does financial services marketing, said he decided to hire a trainer to work with him two days a week in his building’s gym because he felt that he was throwing money away on a gym membership he never used.

“I’m paying a premium for sure to do this, but I feel like I’m getting a lot more from that time,” he said. “I feel like all that money I’m spending is directly going to me. For me, it’s worth the premium.”

Mr. Amanat says he hardly thinks of the rates he pays — which he wouldn’t disclose — because he feels his trainer is so focused on his health, at home and when they travel abroad.

But personal training rates go up quickly, particularly when travel is involved or requests for services are unusual. One trainer said the going rate was $2,000 a week to travel with a client, in addition to all flight, hotel and food expenses for the trip.

Dan Anderson, a martial arts instructor in New York, said he once signed a three-month contract to train an executive at any time with only one hour’s notice. Essentially he was at the executive’s beck and call.

Mr. Anderson said he calculated the fee by adding up his hourly rate, weekend rate and on-call rate and rolling them together. He wouldn’t disclose the actual fee, other than to say it was “expensive.”

“I’d get a call, and I’d go and wait at the Plaza Hotel,” Mr. Anderson said. “This person canceled every single time.”

He ended up training the client a half dozen times in the three months. One time, after waiting for hours, Mr. Anderson and a world kickboxing champion the client also had on retainer ordered oysters and Champagne from room service.

Even under normal circumstances — where people actually exercise — the top personal trainers monitor everything a client does.

Louis Coraggio, chief executive of Body Architect, his personal training business, and trampoLean, a fitness program that uses mini-trampolines, says he limits the number of private clients to six so he can focus on them intently.

“I’m committed to them,” he said. “I’m willing to pack my bags and go on vacation with them. I make that very clear when I start with them. It’s not just something that stops at the end of the session.”

“Of course,” he added, “everything has to be worked out with the numbers.”

With new clients, he will create a gym for them at home. If the space is small, he will emphasize balls, resistance bands and other equipment that can be stowed away. When clients travel without him, he asks them to text photos of the hotel gym, and he sends them a workout tailored to the equipment there.

Tommy Boyer, a former dancer who owns Manhattan Wardrobe & Beauty Supply, said he was awakened on many days by Mr. Coraggio buzzing from the apartment’s lobby.

“I roll out of bed and he’s there,” Mr. Boyer said.

He credits this arrangement with keeping him fit and free of back pain, from injuries sustained as a dancer. It is also something he cannot avoid, whereas he might skip going to the gym, which is six blocks from his apartment.

Personal trainers also look at the client’s diet. This is where people who can’t afford a personal trainer but still make it to the gym can take heed.

Mr. Amanat said his trainer, who goes by the name Joe Trainer, focuses a lot of time on what he eats. “Nutrition is just as important as working out,” he said. “At first, I gained weight because I was so hungry. I had to train myself to eat less.”

Likewise, Mr. Serhant, who says he goes out most nights for work or fun, remains just as focused on what he eats as on how often he exercises. “It’s 70 percent diet, to be fit and look fit,” he said. “You can’t do a really great workout and be spent and then eat bagels all day. You have to treat your body like a car.”

The real reason to have a trainer, in a gym or next to you while you cycle in the mountains, is to push you into working out more than you otherwise would.

Ms. Noelle said that after having her first child she was doing the same exercises and struggling to lose the last 10 pounds of baby weight. And Mr. Boyer said he would be 30 pounds heavier without Mr. Coraggio’s prodding.

“When I want to cancel, he asks me why,” he said. “If I say I’m tired, he says, ‘We’ll figure something out and get a workout in.’ He really cares about what he’s doing and about what is working for me.”

Even Julie Karlitz, chief executive of Strap-Its, a women’s apparel company, who has a tennis court in her backyard and gym in her house in Alpine, N.J., said she could not push herself to work out without someone there.

“I truly hate working out,” she said. With her first trainer, she said, “I used to turn the lights out and pretend I wasn’t home when he came to my door.”

She opens the door now, she said, because she feels she needs to look fit for her business and to show her daughters, who are 18 and 20, the value of fitness.

“You buy a pocketbook today and it’s out of style next year,” Ms. Karlitz said. “I feel like a trainer is money well spent. It’s your health. It makes me a better mother. It makes me more focused in business.”

So this weekend, while you’re sipping a cocktail at the beach or on your deck, remember: Many people with trainers would be doing the same thing if they didn’t have someone to count the calories in that margarita and hand them a jump rope first thing in the morning.

Correction: May 27, 2015
The Wealth Matters column on Saturday, about on-call personal trainers, misspelled part of the name of the company of which Omar Amanat, whose trainer accompanies him on business trips, is the chairman. It is the Aman Resorts Group, not the Amman Resorts Group.