What a Personal Trainer Should Know Before Entering the Fitness Industry (Part 1…I think)
It’s funny the contrast.
When I was 17 or 18 and told people I was going to be a personal trainer, there were oohs and aahs and talk of what a growing field personal fitness was becoming.
Fast forward 6 years or so, and now the response tends to be,
“Oh, that’s cool, my friend Blank is a trainer, too.”
“Oh, is that right?”
“Yeah, he’s big into the kettlebells. What’s your thing?”
What I Wish I Could Say
“Stretch mats. I’m really big into them. They can be used in ways that you would have never thought possible for fat-torching, ridiculously fast muscle growth, and mad strength gain.”
What I Actually Say
“Um, well, I mean, I don’t really have a thing per say. I keep an open mind to everything and throw out what doesn’t work.”
It’s so incredible how much the fitness industry has grown. It has met and exceeded all of the predictions that were present back around 2008. Its created jobs where there were none and made quality information more accessible than ever before.
But few things crush me more than when I see someone full of passion and really wanting to do things the right way enter the industry only to have the passion squeezed dry and in another industry within a couple years.
Most trainers leave the industry within 3 years.
The same thing that happens when a client experiences frustration with their results, even though you know they are on the right path.
Expectations were not set.
They had a completely different view of what would happen when they started training. No matter how ridiculous it might be, it’s their view. And if, as their trainer, you never knew what they THOUGHT was going to happen, you are operating on a completely different level than them.
And that won’t end well.
You will be seen as a bad trainer, even though you were doing all the right things for them. If they thought they were going to lose 10 pounds in one month and they lost 3.5-4 pounds (pretty solid and realistic for most), they will be upset. That kind of thing.
Back to expectations for the industry.
There need to be a few.
Because far too often, people go into this thinking it is going to be a breeze and they will start training big-shots left and right while getting a shoulder massage from a rotating cast of S.I. swimsuit models.
I don’t want any of the following to come off as a discouragement to entering the industry. It absolutely is not. But it’s the truth and you deserve to know it, so nothing catches you off-guard. I would rather see you go in prepared and stay in the industry, making it even better, for decades to come.
First thing I’ll tell a trainer-to-be;
You have to pay your dues
I then feel 60 years old for a second before life moves on.
One of the things that drew me to fitness is that there is no real ceiling. You choose how far to push yourself and the directions you can expand are pretty much endless.
I always knew I wanted to be a facility owner, so in college, when they told us how many job options there were, I never really thought twice.
“Yeah…duhhhh. Why else would there be a degree for what we do? Plus, I’m only going to work somewhere for a couple years anyway.”
Looking back, there should have been an asterisk next to job options that read;
*these jobs are in no way responsible for allowing you to maintain a basic living
When you graduate, you basically have 3 options
#1: Commercial Gym
#2: Collegiate Strength and Condtioning
#3: Private Studio
95% of the commercial gyms out there don’t give you any money. Whenever I see ads for gyms that offer training for dirt cheap, I cringe, because I know that the trainer is only seeing 30-40% of even THAT number.
If you go the collegiate route, that number will come out even lower when you add up all the hours you spend training, programming, scheduling, and consulting for multiple sports TEAMS.
You will be on a small salary if you finish up your graduate assistantship (most college programs require a masters, which some reimburse if you work for free) and will only see real money if you work up to a head coach position at a major university.
As for private studios…well, not many exist, much less openly bringing on new coaches without experience. There are some in most cities, of course, but they tend to be smaller operations with even smaller budgets for your payroll. You will probably have to intern first and have a part-time job on the side.
How are you supposed to give your all to a client for such little money?
If this is a question that crosses your mind, this industry is not for you.
Because for many years, you will work for far less than you are worth. And if money gauges how much effort you put forth, the industry is better off without you.
I was paid $500 a semester to work in the strength and conditioning department at Evansville.
I remember the head coach and I were calculating what we actually made with the hours put in.
It came out to $3.
We laughed hysterically, because we were like, “we are some crazy mofos to be doing this”.
But we freakin loved it. If anything, it just made us more proud.
(I ended up saving all of that fortune to get Jess a ring)
To reiterate, your hours will far outweigh what you are paid.
And when I went to work for a private studio after college, I never saw a check with four figures.
So that’s 3 years working for money that would only allow me to help Jess out with her student loans and not actually contribute anything to living expenses.
And I honestly never thought once about it. I was (and am) so passionate about getting better that getting shafted didn’t matter, because I knew I was headed straight to the top.
I would have lived in my car if I were single.
The only reason I think about money now is because I do run my own business and I have to be vigilant about saving enough to open a bad-ass facility in the near future.
After those 3 years, I packed us up and we moved to LA. And appropriate money was gratefully made.
But if I had let the money thing go to my head in those 3 years, I would have become resentful of the industry and eventually gotten so fed up it would have overwhelmed why I wanted to enter this industry in the first place.
I’m not saying that everyone will need 3 years of paying dues and struggling, or even that after 3 years things will get better.
But I know too many passionate professionals and if you are authentic, hard-working, and relentless, you will attract success.
Burnout only occurs when you start to lose your WHY.
If this is lost, then you only see the WHAT, and that reality is often too hard to accept.
So to wrap up this first part…don’t expect to make a bunch of money right off the bat. It will take a while.
Focus on really helping the people you are fortunate enough to work with. Give your all to them and be the best that you can be. And have some fun!
It will pay off (no pun intended).
Dominate All Life,
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