On work, success, and fun in a fitness career; they are not always braided…

Fitness Job; It looks good from afar…

I’m often approached by people about what is required to get involved in fitness as a career.  Generally the questions center around what education is necessary and what marketing tendencies might be required to maintain a successful business.  The primary question though, is about how much fun and how satisfying it must be to have an easy job.

Friends, people from the online fitness community, people from my real community, and occasionally even clients, present these questions to me; often woven together by the belief that a fitness career would be a far better, far more uplifting and far more fulfilling career path than the thankless and ordinary job they are currently slaving away at for, that asshole

I thought it would be fun this week to offer some thoughts, perhaps not otherwise entertained, to those who might be interested in fitness training as a career.  These are random, possibly incomplete, and in no particular order.  I may come back and write more on this topic later on in this series.


Location: Choose your demographic wisely…

Straight up, a part of my success is that I live and work in a small, isolated community with a proportionately abundant population of people who have discretionary income and plenty of spare time; we’ll refer to them as retired millionaires.  I also have many working class clients with less spare time.  A part of my success is that I make equal time for both, and in-turn, have been able to weave my reputation well into my community at all levels. 

The “small, isolated community” part has been more central to my success than the average income per household.  In a small town when you do a good job for one person, ten more people know about in a matter of days, and this can help advance the business.  Conversely, do a bad job for someone in a small town, and twenty more people will know about it in a matter of minutes.  My demographic has been useful, but not exclusive in the success of my business.

Passion:  “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  Mark Twain

That is absolute bullshit.  I do love fitness, and I chose this career that my body always be proximate to my exercise, but a J-O-B is a J-O-B!  Yes, telling attractive women that they need to arch their backs more and keep their chins high, and getting paid for it, is a rung on the ladder of success well above making sandwiches, washing dishes, and removing rats from the drains at the Bagel Deli as I did when I was 16-years old. 

However, work is work and days can be long – and hard – and frustrating – and some unforgiving.  There are typical business concerns that arise daily when I’m not in a client-session; invoicing, insurance, correspondence, scheduling, collecting money, and keeping my studio clean to name a few.  For every hour I spend in a training session, I might spend 15 minutes addressing some combination of these. 

A key part of my success is what I call the 80/20 rule.  Eighty percent of the time I act as my own employee, and 20% of the time I act as the business owner.  Since we all know the boss is always a prick and never works hard anyway, this rule helps me keep things in line.

Understanding the client:  Most people are more fragile than they seem…

A gym can be an intimidating place.  Even the most successful, best educated, and results oriented people, as well as many dedicated athletes, can be intimated when they enter a gym – whether they show it or not.  It took me many years to learn this.  The best way to overcome this is to foster immediate success with a client.  Not falsely, but consistently reinforcing all they do well during the workout.

A confident client acts confidently in the gym and is more likely to want to return.  A client broken down emotionally is more likely to stay down – I have seen it many times.

Commitment To Their Workout: You can lead a horse to water…

There must be acknowledgment from the trainer that most clients aren’t into exercise as the trainer might be.  Why else would they be paying for the assistance?  My clients range in age from 13 to 88 years old, all of them with unique personalities, agendas, needs, and levels of commitment to the program, but with one thing in common – if they would exercise on their own, they would exercise on their own.

The best way to get the most from a client is to find out quickly how much they are willing to give.  This is done by asking them – again and again and again.  Like echo-location during the workouts, continually sending out feelers about how they feel during the course of an exercise, I gather and use the information to help choose their future exercises and build their future workouts.  However, when I ask those questions, the eyes usually give more information that their words.


That’s it, all I can think to share – for the moment.  If anyone has thoughts of fitness as a career path, or knows someone who is considering it, I am always available to answer any questions – you know where to find me. 

Please check back next week for Part-2 of this series, Dialogue; Conversations Over Crunches. Should be a fun one, wink wink, nod nod.  Be well.  rc

Oh, and there is this from Los Lobos — the best live band on the planet.  Enjoy…

8 responses

  1. I am on the other side of the fence so if I ever look for a personal trainer these posts will certainly help me narrow down my choices.

    For now, I am my own personal trainer and I find valuable information about how to approach my training program.

    “Understanding the client: Most people are more fragile than they seem…
    The best way to overcome this is to foster immediate success with a client. Not falsely, but consistently reinforcing all they do well (…)”

    This is what I need to learn to be a good trainer for myself. Not easy for a person who is too self critical.

    There is more, but this would make this comment way too long.

    Looking forward to future posts.

  2. A buddy of mine was a PT for a few years. He said the worst, WORST. part of it was the hit he took to his pride when a client would quit & go back to their lazy unhealthy ways. I forget but I think he said 50% did so in 1 month and 50% of the rest did so by 3 months… something like that. Even though he the motivation to do this was largely up to the client to manifest, he really wanted to believe he could help them find it. Sometimes he did, but too many he didnt and that in part saw him change careers.

    Not sure if how he took things is the norm for PTs, my guess is not, but I can see where clients who fall from commitment could grate on you.

  3. Roy,
    Very true…that no matter how much we love what we do, there are still moments that feel more like work and less like “fun”. And that’s alright, because if we are still doing something we love – that just makes the “less fun” parts more okay.

  4. You said it best with Commitment to THEIR workout…. That is the one thing, honestly, that has helped me within my own journey. That leading a horse to water… YOU instilled that early on in some of our conversations. You listened and gave advise from MY perspective. Your insight into people is what more trainers NEED to be successful. (oh no this is going to be long winded, I can tell..)

    That goes a long way. Just like any other work or career, too many people these days do follow the :Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life: personal agenda. They take it for granted that it is their agenda..their happiness BUT when you work in a service type business…it is about the customer…sharing what you love with a NON believer..letting the passion spill over instead of trying to force feed them.

    Yes..I appear to others as not as committed, not as active, but I try. I don’t get how someone can push their bodies to the extent that they do with weights, running, that hard work…BUT LORD I want to. Just like someone can’t get why compulsive eating isn’t easy to give up just by saying no…You can’t understand until you have been there. but you can show a person HOW to WANT to…and that is what you do….regularly….I read every post you write..and it sticks with me… THANK YOU!

  5. I agree Roy. I have PT’d in the past & it is very true.. ya have to learn the person & ya have to foster what they need & do that by listening & yes watching. I write a lot about tough love this year & I absolutely believe some need that.. but in person, when I train, I go by feel & what is best for them. It may still be tough love but in a different form.

    Great post & yes, a job is a job no matter how much you love the work…. of course better than not liking what you are doing! 🙂

  6. Dang Roy, lmfao. Your best post by far. Will be tweeting this one up. As you know, I’m getting certified but doubt I will train in a gym… not sure I will even train anyone in person. Maybe people who come to me, but mostly online stuff to start. I just don’t want to ruin my love affair with the gym. Working there would kill it.

    I’m confounded by the unmotivated, which makes me wonder how I could ever motivate others. You make a good point that you’ve got to keep asking over and over what they’re willing to give. People don’t know! They don’t know what their goals are either. You’ve got a challenging job, Roy and you’re pretty damn good at writing too.

  7. Yes: a job IS still a job. We can still enjoy it, we might love it, but there are always going to be times when we get frustrated or stressed or over-worked.

    Since starting freelance, I’ve found it really interesting to spend about 3/4 of my time employed, and 1/4 of my time to be my own employer… you really do need to adjust your attitude to those different positions.

    It’s good to hear this all from a trainer’s point of view.

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