As of late I have been bombarded with questions in my inbox and DM’s from curious individuals asking about becoming and working as a personal trainer. More often than not, they have read or heard about my radical transition, one extreme to another, and they are now considering qualifying themselves, thinking the grass is greener. So let’s take a look at just how good is the life of a personal trainer and what’s it like working in a commercial gym (as illustrated in the images to follow, I work for Virgin Active).
I can’t help but wonder why is there so much interest in this profession? Why now? Why not 10 years ago?
The very first thought that comes to mind when asking the question is social media. Everyone is so consumed by it nowadays, plus social media has unquestionably helped glamorise the gym environment tons! From a stunning supermodel that looks a million dollars when punching the focus pads to the cool athletic guys wearing Yeezy’s and drinking vegan blends, it’s hard not to fall for it.
We all live and breathe fitness daily, be it first hand or via your preferred social feed; there is just no getting away from it. A lot of the industry professionals use this to their advantage and promote their work through the various channels, allowing them to establish themselves.
But do not be mistaken – achieving a six pack through your own training is very different to training other people. And if you ask me, that is perhaps one of the biggest mistakes I see from newer trainers – they train their clients in the same way they train themselves. I am afraid it is not a one-size-fits-all industry. Personal training is just that – personal – it is in-depth and bespoke, tailored to each and every individual.
This is a big misunderstanding. People seem to think that the life of a personal trainer is really chilled and that money comes easy. Charge £100 per session and work 6 hours a day, then you have a sweet £220k in your account at the end of the year. Minted.
Ermm no. Not quite. You got to ask yourself why would anyone pay you £100 an hour when you have no experience, no one knows what you’re capable of and you have nothing to show for yourself. Establishing your business is a tough graft. Not only is it mentally draining but you are on your feet all day long, so it is physically draining too. And then there’s the cabin fever at the gym. Regardless of how big and diverse your gym is, by the end of 6 back-to-back hours, that gym is the last place you want to be. Will you still have the motivation to train yourself? Never mind preparing and getting ready for more evening sessions & classes.
How Prepared Are You
And I don’t mean just accreditations wise…
Working in a large commercial gym is seriously hard work and it is not particularly well remunerated. I remember getting up at 04:30, get to the gym for 05:30 so I can open it up for the 06:00 early birds. I would then be on the floor building my business between 06:00 – 20:00. This is a role in which you work long, irregular hours, often for little money! During the quieter times I would be going on my hands and knees, scrubbing the sweat-spattered treadmills. A humble experience and far from the glamorous ideal you might have in mind when setting out on the PT journey.
Working in this environment implies you aren’t picky and you will take on the clients you can get. I am not speaking about their goals – do stick to your niche – but I mean clients who want to train at 06:00 and those who want to train at 21:00. Peak hours are mornings and evenings (before and after work) which cripples your freedom to enjoy an on-demand social life. More often than not this also means barren spells in between, which interrupts your ability to strike up a rhythm and press on.
Financially, when you work in a commercial gym, the client might be willing to pay £60 an hour. Take away the gym’s commission and the overhead charges and you will end up with £20, which is then taxed, so you can take a wild guess and appreciate that you aren’t left with very much in your pocket. So now not only are you busting your ass off trying to establish a regular rota of clients, but you are working crazy exhausting hours and making very little money.
Passion For Fitness
This job certainly is not for everyone. It’s not all glossy and polished and it is a challenge that some people may regret taking on. Writing this post, there was always the risk of sounding as though I hate my job.
I should point out that I actually love it and I have never ever looked back since starting to work in the industry. The learning is ongoing and I am meeting and have met so many fantastic people in the process, it is incredible! So make sure that you have a burning passion for fitness, otherwise going down this route may be a lot harder than you think.
Why Do I Still Do It
It’s simple. I love learning and I love a challenge. I have an incredible team around me where each and every individual has something different to offer. From these guys I am continuously learning, plundering their niches and expertise, picking their respective brains. I remember many times having a client wanting to train with me but I felt I wasn’t right for his or her specific requirements, so I would send them to one of my colleagues and in return, he/she would teach me about their respective field, introducing me to different programs.
The next time, I would be in a much better position to assist and this way, you end up training so many different people in a commercial gym that you gain tremendous breadth and experience. There is no substitute for that and it helps you develop a really strong foundation for the years ahead.
You can have all the qualifications and knowledge in the world but if you fail to apply it and you are unable to connect with the various personality types, working as a personal trainer isn’t for you, trust me. I have seen it happen. Many exceptionally qualified personal trainers came and went, purely because they were unable to adapt and strike up a rapport, influencing the clients’ life.
You also have to be a professional. You may befriend the client but do not be mistaken, they did not subscribe to a 1-hour catch up. It is an hour where someone is paying you a premium price and therefore you should deliver a professional product. It takes a certain skill to tread the balance between ‘familiar’ and ‘professional’.
The Amazing Part
Let’s put this right. If you are in it for the right reasons, this is a hugely rewarding job. Be it weight loss, weight gain, getting stronger, posture, energy levels, conquering some unknown fear or whichever way you add value to someones’ life, you will feel very fulfilled. And that, for me, is the amazing part!
This post is by no means intended to deter people from going for it; but rather a realistic review of what the work entails, aside from six packs and pretty Instagram pictures of squats. I sure hope this frank assessment of the good and the bad has helped, and good luck if you’re considering making the jump to the wonderful world of fitness! ✌️