Life as a personal trainer can sometimes feel a bit like being a therapist, a best friend, a motivational speaker, a health guru, and a coach all in one. People seek help from a trainer to improve their lives and often the lines are blurred as to what that actually means.
Especially during the COVID lockdowns, many people relied on their online certified personal trainers not only to keep their bodies in shape but also to give them some sort of human connection amidst their isolation.
Most of us have become certified personal trainers because we have a desire to help people and to make a difference in their lives by imparting our knowledge and passion for fitness. But just like the concept of who nurses the nurse, who looks after the trainer?
According to a study on Trainer Burnout Syndrome, over a third of trainers experience feelings of emotional exhaustion almost every week.
Perhaps it’s time we took all the great tips on fitness and life that we teach our clients and applied them to our own lives as personal trainers.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- Why do personal trainers experience burnout?
- 12 tips for a personal trainer to find a good work-life balance
Very often, the need to keep clients happy, to constantly keep the money coming in, and to seize every opportunity causes us to get out of balance and work excessive hours without breaks or downtime. If anyone ever told you becoming a certified personal trainer is a get-rich-quick trick, they were sorely mistaken. It takes hard work, dedication, and time.
Being “on” all day when facing clients, dealing with different personalities, and sometimes difficult people, can be draining.
And then, in addition to training clients, you need to spend time planning their sessions, marketing, networking, doing admin, and researching and enhancing your skills. It’s great if you can outsource some of these things, but when you’re starting out, you often want to save money by doing everything yourself.
It’s so often the case that when you have your own business, or you are your own business, you never switch off because the only person running this ship is you. The problem is that you can’t give clients the best energy and be an effective personal trainer when you are run down, worn out, and stretched to your limit.
12 ways to manage your life as a personal trainer
Burnout is a common problem experienced by personal trainers. We’ve gathered advice from fitness professionals who’ve been in the business for many years about how to find a good work-life balance as a personal trainer. We’ve distilled these nuggets of wisdom into our top 12 tips for you, so you can learn from the experience of others.
1. Take short breaks and trips
Long trips are tough for trainers for two reasons. First, when you don’t work, you don’t earn, so taking a longer holiday means a big pause in your income, which tends to make us avoid long breaks.
Secondly, your clients will likely be pretty peeved if they’ve been working toward a goal with you and their training has to be put on hiatus for three weeks while you take a break.
But you need a break too. That’s why short breaks are a great solution. Taking three or four days or even just a weekend trip to refresh and reset can do you a world of good, and make you more focused when you get back to training your clients.
Even if you just take a few days to laze around at home and switch off, that’s okay too. Finding your own way to recharge your batteries is key to achieving work-life balance as a personal trainer.
2. Learn to say no
This is a tough one because saying no means losing money or letting down a client. But if you fill up your schedule to the max, you don’t have the time or energy to really give each client a great session. You may be raking in the money for a while, but your coaching practice will suffer and you could end up losing clients and getting a negative reputation.
Another issue is that you will burn out. Taking at least one full day off a week where you don’t accept any clients is necessary for your well-being and your ability to serve your clients in the best way possible. You may think that one client on a Sunday afternoon won’t kill you, but that interrupts your whole day, forces you to get into work mode, and doesn’t allow you the downtime you need.
3. Log off, clock out, and turn off your phone
Set yourself a time at the end of each day where you’re done with coaching, done with business admin, and done with work in general. Turn off your phone, log off from your computer and just step away from responding to every ping that comes your way in the evenings.
Nothing is that dire that someone will need a response at 10 p.m. at night. Give yourself permission to enjoy your evenings and get back to people first thing in the morning.
4. Develop some passive income
If you’ve filled up your schedule and can’t take on any more clients, how do you increase your earnings? If you’re overdoing it and want to reduce your hours a bit, but don’t want to lose out on money, what can you do?
This is where passive income comes in. Some ideas for passive income are creating a training video or video series that you can sell online, so people can work out in their own homes; writing an ebook or book series on fitness or a certain aspect of workouts; and creating an educational course that people can access in their own time.
With the help of technology, there are now multiple ways to earn an income in your sleep. It takes a bit of grind at the beginning, but once it’s done, you have a sellable resource to supplement your income.
5. Learn the art of flexible periodization
Unless a client is a professional athlete, their workout regime is not the center of their life, but something that adds value to it. This is why strict periodization does not work for your average client. Because life happens and when it does, it throws your perfectly curated periodization chart into disarray.
Learn to make a periodization template that is adaptable, is flexible, and takes into account the things that are going on in your client’s life. Mapping out their sessions based on phases that can then be extended if they miss one, rather than on workouts planned down to the last inhale, will give you and your client some breathing room. Then you can have an arsenal of workouts in your back pocket, depending on the phase and goal. If they miss a session, you can lift and shift that plan to the next week.
6. Plan out your week like it’s a session
You spend hours planning out client sessions, but be sure to dedicate an hour or two a week to planning out your own life.
Checklists are really helpful to ensure you don’t miss anything and to help you prioritize tasks. Allocate time for training, designing workouts, marketing, accounting, travelling, meals, and leisure time. This will help you to keep your life in balance.
If you don’t have the energy to do it, hire a trainer for yourself, at least to get you started on a good path. It may sound a bit strange to hire a personal trainer when you already are one, but if you tend to neglect your own needs, having your own coach will help keep you on track.
7. Find a mentor
As a trainer, you are a professional, but you are also constantly learning, growing, and sharpening your skills. Find someone more senior and experienced than yourself who can act as a mentor and give you guidance when you need it. This could be a former coach, your instructor from your certificate course, or anyone you know and respect in the industry.
Building good relationships within the industry will mean that when you hit a roadblock, you have a support system and resources to turn to.
If your business is booming and you have no time for any more clients, consider forming mutually beneficial relationships with other professionals. You could outsource your marketing and accounting, act as a referrer to a nutritionist partner, and hire other coaches for your business. That will free you up to work on growing the business and allow you to focus on your long-standing clients.
9. Save time through being an organizational genius
Getting your business in order is an instant stress-reliever and can also be very satisfying. Wherever you can, automate emails, follow-up texts, and payment links, and have a standard cancellation policy.
Keep your client folders up-to-date from day one, and create templates for everything that can be templated. Small admin tasks done consistently will save you a load of time in the long run and keep your business and life organized and efficient as a personal trainer.
10. Consider taking your business online
Recently, as a result of the COVID pandemic, many people have moved to working online, shopping online, and training online. The demand for online personal trainers has risen, as people prefer the safety and comfort of their own homes.
This means it’s a great time to take your business online and start offering online training sessions. This is also a very scalable business model and means you can maximize your time by not needing to travel to clients or have them travel to you. Register for the PTDC’s free mini-course for help building your online business.
11. Get a therapist
As mentioned above, it often happens that clients come to you to improve their fitness and end up telling you all of their problems. This is a good thing in a way, because it allows you to better understand your clients and their health goals. This can, however, take its toll on your mental health, especially if you are an empath and find it difficult to detach yourself from other people’s suffering.
This is why it’s a good idea to see a professional to unburden your mind if you feel that the weight of helping others is pressing down on you.
12. Look after your mind as well as your body
Every certified personal trainer feels the need to embody fitness and look toned and healthy at all times. This has the obvious effect of attracting clients because they see what your training can do. No one wants to go to a hairdresser who has bad hair.
What we often forget is that our minds are just as important as our bodies. Relaxing and focusing the mind is essential to being a positive, motivational, and inspirational trainer.
Consider doing activities that give you pause, such as meditation, yoga, a hot bath, or whatever it is that allows your mind to unclench and get clarity and calm.
Being a personal trainer can be a fun, rewarding, and lucrative career. It can also be draining, tiring, and frustrating, and take a lot of time to get your business going. That’s why you need to be able to roll with the punches, keep your mind and body on track, and remember just why you chose this as a career in the first place.
If you are working 18 hours a day, never taking a day off, missing quality time with loved ones, and not actually enjoying or balancing your own life, how can you hope to advise someone else on living healthy?
We hope these tips and tricks have got you thinking and have reminded you that you are your biggest asset, when you consider your life as a personal trainer. Without you, your business wouldn’t exist, so an investment in yourself, your health, and your happiness is probably the most sensible and profitable one you could ever make.