What My Personal Trainer Taught Me About Personal Finance – Revisited

After reading my fundamental planning posts, Ben suggested revisiting a piece I wrote over year ago covering what my personal trainer taught me about financial planning. I love when life experiences can provide financial lessons, and this one contains two of my favorite topics — finances and working out. I also like to give my readers what they want, especially if the request comes from my husband.

In 2015, I described how starting with personal trainer helped reframe my thoughts on the financial planning process. The initial sessions felt a lot like the first steps I go through with my clients: I set goals (I wanted to be Ninja Warrior strong!), analyzed where I was and learned several foundational techniques.

A lot has changed since that post, and I have some additional revelations from my newest adventure.


It’s Hard to Eliminate an Expense You Really Enjoy, but It’s Worth It

Since that original post in 2015, I’ve launched my own firm and, as a result, I can no longer count on a six-figure salary.

That means I’ve had to cut out a lot of unnecessary spending — including that $90 a week on training.  But despite the cost, I kept my trainer for 12 more weeks. Why, you may ask?

Most of all, I loved it. I was getting stronger and more flexible. I felt better during my time with him. I had plenty of savings. Plus, as my own boss, I could go to the gym in the middle of the day when it was mostly empty. I justified the cost because, as I’ve argued before, the true value of something depends on its worth to you. And this was definitely worth it to me.

Eventually I realized that no matter how valuable the experience was, I couldn’t justify the expense while I was building my business. So I had to say goodbye to my trainer.

That process was much harder than I thought. I couldn’t sleep the night before I told him. I didn’t want to disappoint him or make him feel like he wasn’t worth the money. I was also a bit embarrassed that I could no longer afford training; I worried that I couldn’t face running into him at the gym.

When I told him, he completely understood. He’d been self-employed himself. He was gracious enough to continue giving me tips when he saw me working out.

Cutting back reminded me of the struggle my clients go through when they’re trying to prioritize their expenses and set new goals for themselves. I told myself what I tell my clients: I’m much better off in the long run for cutting out the expense. I just have to keep focused on the larger reason for my sacrifice.


Learning the Fundamentals is Key to Lasting Growth  

When I first started with the trainer, we spent time thinking about how my body moved and which muscles to activate when I was doing certain exercises. I had developed some bad habits all those years training by myself. We didn’t lift a single weight that first workout, and I loved it.

Eventually when we ramped up the training, I stronger, faster because I’d learned the proper techniques. I also learned how to build workouts, vary my training regime and adjust my workout depending how I felt.

It also didn’t hurt that I have a propensity to track everything on an Excel spreadsheet. I would come home after every workout and write down exactly what I did, how many calories I burned (yes, I’m that guy wearing the heart monitor) and how I felt afterwards.

Now that I’m back by myself, I’m really thankful for what he taught me. I still have great workouts and can pull from the extensive library of previous sessions. I hope my clients feel the same way, if we ever part ways. I want to empower them to feel confident about their financial moves and give them tools to make smart money decisions without me. To me, that’s real planning success.


Sacrifice is Only Temporary

I’m not going to be working out without a trainer forever. True, my old trainer moved on to another gym, so I may never have him to train with again. But someday, when my business is thriving and I have more discretionary income, I look forward to finding another trainer.

And this is probably one of the most important lessons I want to convey to you as you strive to meet your goals this year. Some sacrifices may be hard, but remember that they are temporary. If you keep your eyes on your overall goals, you’ll realize the true value of some experiences and add them back when the time is right.

Whether you’re trying to accomplish fitness goals, personal finance goals, or any other goals, keep these lessons in mind, especially when you hit rough spots.

Have you experienced personal finance lessons in other areas of your life? Email me, send me a message or Tweet me. I would love to hear what they are.