Many personal trainers I’ve known were amazing at transforming the lives of their clients. Some of them, though, lost their own health, happiness, and passion in the process of doing so. Why do so many personal trainers burn out, when they have a career that has such a positive impact on others? What causes a once-healthy and fit, fitness advocate to rely on multiple energy drinks, and sheer willpower just to make it through their day?
Little by little, they make choices they know they shouldn’t. They compromise by taking on an extra client hour at the beginning or end of the day. Or, they commit to training someone they know is not a good fit. And little by little, the passion and energy they once had is chipped away, and replaced with fatigue, frustration, and poor health.
In most cases, it isn’t the fault of the company they work for (if they’re not independent). However, some personal training managers ride their top-performing trainers hard until they finally break down. Other managers might not push them, but they also don’t encourage them to limit their hours worked, because it might affect their program’s revenue.
Still, even in those cases, the personal trainer can take responsibility for the situation.
So, if you’re new to personal training, let this article be a warning, so you never reach the point of burnout. For those nearing burnout, use this article to get your life, and your career, back on a healthy track.
Each of us has personal responsibility for our success, health, balance and boundaries in our lives. And we also can’t ignore our bodies when they tell us something is wrong.
The following are the three most common causes of burnout. And just so you know, I’ve experienced each one of them. Fortunately, I fixed things before I actually burned out.
Personal Trainers Have No Boundaries With Their Schedules
The earliest I ever trained a client was 4:30 am. The latest I finished up with a client was 10:00 pm. So, I wasn’t always a saint with my schedule.
I learned pretty fast that the income I made from a 4:30 am client wasn’t worth the sleep I lost, and the lack of energy I felt. The 10:00 pm client cost me valuable family time, as well as just time to turn my attention on something other than fitness.
As a new personal trainer, you need to be there when people are there. I get it. Most people workout in the early-morning, mid-morning, late-afternoon and evening.
You might be tempted to step outside your schedule, because the “perfect” client wants to work with you, but can’t work within your schedule.
Other times, you’ll be tempted to train outside your schedule, because you need it to hit your required revenue goal for your company. And still other times, you might be tempted to take on another client just to make a little more money.
I can relate to each reason. However, the personal trainers who last the longest, and have the most fulfilling careers, hold to their boundaries around their schedules.
If your new client really wants to work with you, he or she will find a way to make it work in your schedule.
You should be able to meet your company’s revenue expectations in a normal 40-50 hour workweek. If not, something’s up with the way you approach your business, or they way they set up their budget.
If you really need more money, find a way to pick up another client within the hours you have available. Or, consider adding another stream of income, so you don’t have to depend on your sessions alone.
Personal Trainers Train Clients They Don’t Love
You have a unique personality. So do your potential clients. Some of those personalities are a perfect match.
Others will grate on your nerves, mentally wear you down, and frustrate the hell out of you.
In the short-term, making an extra $500 a month, to work with someone you tolerate might be tempting.
Over time, you’ll lose your edge, and you won’t bring your A-Game to the rest of your clients. Plus, the client you don’t love won’t get the best support he or she could. They’d get more from working with someone else.
It’s not that there is something wrong with them. They’re just not right for you. But they’ll be perfect for another personal trainer, with a different personality.
Again, I can speak from experience.
I know personal trainers who love working with people who come in with a new excuse every week. Not me. Initially, I took on clients whose hearts weren’t really into working out or getting fit. They just did it because they felt they were supposed to.
It wore me out. Eventually, I made a commitment that I’d only train those whose commitment was equal to, or greater than my own. I felt more excited during the day, and I got better result with my clients.
And many of the clients who I didn’t accept, I passed on to other personal trainers for whom they were a better fit. And you know what? Those clients got way better results with those other trainers than they would have with me. Everybody won.
When you take on clients you don’t love, you lose, and often, so do they.
Personal Trainers Trade All Their Hours For Dollars
The bulk of your income likely comes from in-person training. Or, perhaps you do some online training where you charge people a 30-minute or 60-minute rate.
I would often tell myself, “I can train one more hour per day.”
Each additional hour you work could mean a significant income over the course of a year. Yet, that “one more hour” idea comes at a cost. You can only play “all-out” for so many hours each day. After that, you lose your mojo.
At a certain point, you’re no longer “there” with your clients.
In my opinion, a rockstar personal trainer has about six hours of awesomeness in him or her per day. If you train more than that, you’ll set yourself up for burnout. It might not happen in weeks, or even months, but it almost always will happen.
Fortunately, there are other ways of earning income outside of training sessions. And if you want to make this a career for the long haul, you’ll need to start using them.
You could add products to your product and service offering, and sell them to clients. They’re probably going to buy them somewhere else, so why not you?
You could also sell your programs online. People can buy your programs (or my programs, like VIGOR Training) and use them while you sleep.
You can use the app to sell your programs, as well as track your clients’ progress. If I were still training, I’d use the app as a foundation to my business.
Finding another business that complements yours is an option as well. We have a number of fitness professionals on our network marketing team.
I always tell them that my goal with their network marketing business is that they earn enough money so they can train and coach because they want to, not because they have to.
If you’re at that point of feeling overworked, you know what I mean by that statement.
Love What You Do
As a personal trainer, you have one of the most fulfilling careers in the world. You give people (who follow your recommendations) the gift of health.
But, you cannot give what you do not have. If you don’t maintain boundaries around your schedule, carefully choose your clients, and make the most of the income opportunities you have in front of you, you will burn out. And when your fire goes out, it doesn’t just hurt you. It hurts all the people you could have helped.
Do yourself, and others, a favor and steer clear of the choices that lead to burnout.