Helping people achieve their athletic goals.

Building muscle and burning fat

Getting paid to work the gym floor, in your element, what could be better!?!

Is the personal trainer dream for me? This week I found out.

As alluded to last week, I wanted to find out if certain career paths, or so called “dream jobs” lived up to my wild expectations, or whether the reality of it being a day in day out job made the dream come crashing down. In order to sort the truth from the rumors, I contacted one of my high school friends who is now a full time personal trainer. We met at his workplace (the gym of course) and got down to business. We spent an hour discussing the finer points of personal training full time and seeing what a day in the life actually entails.

Day and week in the life of a PT-

To understand the typical day of a personal trainer, you really need to start on a Sunday. The reason is two fold; firstly this is generally the only day you have scheduled off to not train any clients. Secondly, this is the “prep day” where you do your washing, buy your groceries and prepare all your meals for the week to come. If you are feeling inclined, you may not even have Sunday off, as emails need to be answered, sessions need to be booked and training plans need to be put together, all ready for your line up of eager (or not so eager) clients for the week.

Monday morning 4am. The alarm goes off to begin the workday. Downing a quick breakfast, packing the days meals, a few towels and change of clothes and you are ready to go to see your first client at 5am. The phrase fake it until you make it rings true here, as you are half asleep but you have to bring your “A game” and give your client 100% of your energy. No half measures. You are likely to have another client or run a boot camp style class with 5-20 participants from 6-7am. From 7am to 8am you might have one more client who starts work at 9am and can fit in a session with you in the morning.

Then the wait begins.

As most people (Miss Health and myself included) work a somewhat regular work day between the hours of 8am and 6pm, the hours in the middle of the day for a personal trainer can be very very slow. There is only so much research on training and nutrition, emails to write and social media promotion you can do during these hours. Many trainers, if they find the energy, utilise this time to do their own workouts to stay in shape to ‘look the part.’ If you live close to the gym, going home is the obvious choice, however, this isn’t always easy and leads to commuting costs, being stuck in traffic and the inability to walk the gym floor looking for potential clients.

Happy hour begins at the gym. 6pm is when it kicks back into life and so does the life of a PT. Clients generally want to come in from 6-9pm so that gives you another three hours of work and therefore income, totaling for the day between 6-7 hours of paid work. However, if you do the simple maths here, you have really been working from 5am-9pm (16 hours). After 9pm it’s off home to catch some shut eye, then begin it all again tomorrow.

Rinse and repeat from Monday-Friday.

Saturday may involve clients, it may not. Bootcamps are a popular option here for personal trainers as you can get many people paying $10 each instead of one person paying $60-70 for the hour you are working.

There is the week of a personal trainer. My 8am-5.30pm workday is looking amazing in comparison at this point!

Pros of Being a Personal Trainer-

There are many upsides to being a personal trainer. For many, they are really living the fit and healthy lifestyle they would do anyway, but get to show others how and get paid for it. Let’s delve into the obvious and not so obvious plus sides of the industry;

You get to change peoples lives:

Being a personal trainer means you get to directly affect peoples lives. You get to see shy, low confidence individuals morph into lean, healthy and happy individuals through weight loss and muscle and fitness improvements. They will soak in everything you say so you can essentially be their health mentor rather than just someone who pushes them physically for an hour or two a week. You are looked up to as a positive role model and from what my friend told me, this is an amazing feeling to be able to do day in day out.

You are socializing with people all day long:

If you love meeting new people and want to talk about your favorite topic of health and exercise, this career choice is a great one. You get to meet people from all walks of life. From the bride to be losing weight, to the up and coming college sports star to the high level executive trying to keep in shape in between business trips. My friend has told me he has learnt so much about life and appreciating people by doing this as a career. Not only do you get to meet new people, but you get to chat to them about their lives and they teach you new things also.

You are your own boss:

Don’t feel like working Friday’s? Then don’t book in any clients. Have a family function on a Tuesday afternoon? Don’t book any clients then either. If you are a personal trainer you are essentially in business for yourself and you are the CEO of your personal training empire. You can grow this business into anything you want it to be. Whether it is helping others for a modest income for 4-6 hours of work time a day, or working 16 hour days, hustling to get as many clients in as you can while selling training plans and supplements online so rake in as much cash as possible in a 24 hour period. The choice is really yours. No more being slave to the clock, going to meetings with colleagues or meeting monthly deadlines, you control how much or how little you work. Bear in mind though, you only get paid when you are in front of a client. Working four hours a day is nice, but living below the poverty line whilst doing it isn’t great either.

Cons of Being a Personal Trainer-

After spending well over and hour with my good friend, I learnt that the downsides of being a full time personal trainer is just as much, if not more than a conventional career. I kind of had an inkling this might be the case in the days beforehand, but wanted to hear it straight from the source, rather than rumors .

The Hours:

I’m not sure about you, but working from 5am to 9pm most days sounds like drudgery. I simply couldn’t do that for more than a fortnight. However, my good friend has been doing it for the best part of a decade, week in, week out. Because you have to work when other people aren’t (i.e. not 8am-6pm Monday-Friday) you are left to fit in the workload on either end of the day. This impacts circadian rhythm sleep cycles immensely, ruins any chance of a social life and leaves you flat in energy levels. Hardly the picture of health you would expect from a personal trainer. These hours don’t really allow you to come home for a dinner with the significant other or children.

There is a reason that so many personal trainers are in their 20’s. The hours I feel are one of them. They may not have significant others so don’t need to see them and are happy to be at the gym at 9pm each night. They also don’t have kids to see.

The Pay:

Working essentially on call from 5am-9pm most days, radically changing peoples lives for the better and being in an industry people are willing to spend large on as an investment into their health, you would think it would pay handsomely.

You would be dead wrong.

The arrangement with personal trainers is that they either pay a ground weekly rent to the gym in order to use their facility for their training business or the gym takes a percentage cut out of every client they see. So let’s say your going rate is $60 per hour. You may only see $40 of that after the gym has taken their cut. Factor in you get paying clients for five hours a day (there is a prolific amount of last minute cancellations in the industry from clients) and you have $200 for essentially a 16 hour work day. Multiplied by five work days a week and 48 weeks of the year you are taking home $48,000 pre tax a year.

Now that’s not bad for someone in their 20’s.

However, tell me how you are going to increase that $48,000 figure? Work more clients? That will often mean working Saturdays. It might mean not being able to relax for lunch during the day or do your own workout as you are training clients. Something has to give as you are in a direct exchange for dollars and hours. You can raise your hourly rate, but you can only do that to a certain degree until people look elsewhere. You are essentially capped at a certain salary due to the nature of how you generate your income. You could branch out into selling online programs and the likes, but several other people I’ve asked have said you really lose the personal touch you got into the industry for and that feels like a real cold hard ruthless way to get peoples money without giving them quality service. It is just cookie cutter and probably not going to do them any favors.

You are Essentially a Salesperson and Rejection is a Daily Occurrence:

In order to get your client list up and running, you need to sell yourself. Why are you better than not only the other five trainers at your gym, but better than the other five hundred in your city? You all have the same knowledge, probably the same basic qualifications and dish out the same sales pitch and exercise routine.

This involves leaflet dropping, approaching people while they enter the gym dubbed the dreaded “floor walk” by many in the industry just to drum up some business. If you don’t get this up and running quickly when you first start out in the industry, you simply won’t get paid. The gym will still want it’s weekly rent.

You will get rejected time and time again. I personally used a trainer last year and I had three sessions with him regarding technique for compound lifts and then every weekend on the dot for months afterwards I’d get a message on my phone asking when I was coming in again. I’m sure he was used to it, but I flat out said no every single time, as would countless others week after week.

If you don’t like cold calling as such or constant rejection, then being a personal trainer isn’t something for you unfortunately.

Working in the Industry Kills the Passion:

I’ve got a feeling as I wander through the dream job series that this reason will come up over and over again. The quote of “do something you love and you will never have to work a day if your life” might sound all lovely and give you warm feelings, however there is a downside to being a personal trainer because you are passionate about fitness.

Originally you might have got into personal training because you went to the gym to blow off steam and it was your little sanctuary. Put on your headphones, bust out some squats and deadlifts and head home for a well earned protein shake before dinner. Now your sanctuary has turned into your workplace. Working there turns it into the place of frustration and resentment of going back every day. My good friend tells me he works out at home as working out at the gym he feels like he just never escapes. Mid workout someone might ask him personal training related questions or how to work the treadmill functions. Not exactly a place to blow of steam anymore.

Summary-

Is being a personal trainer the dream I’d imagined it would be?

Far from it!!

The hours, low pay combined with the fact that I’d have to hard sell my services to complete strangers over and over again just doesn’t do it for me. It is a real cut throat industry and the lifestyle seems far from a healthy way to live.

My good friend mentioned his heart just isn’t in it anymore. Having a partner and wanting to start a family soon he is coming to the stark reality that he cannot continue on this career for much longer and he is considering a career change of all things.

The dream has been crushed by the harsh reality of what being a personal trainer is actually like. On bad days, I definitely won’t be day dreaming about this ‘dream job’ anymore.

Next stop, dream job #2 and off to see my ex work colleague who is now a full time residential real estate agent.