The following is a guest post from Mike Samuels. His full bio is below.[Enter Mike]
Monday afternoon. You walk into the gym, bag slung over your shoulder and kettlebell in hand, ready to unleash your awesome new workout on your client Kevin when he arrives in 10 minutes.
Mid-way through discussing the weekend’s football with the receptionist, there’s that familiar beep on your cell phone. “Must be someone texting to book in an extra session” you think. You grab your phone, and crap, it’s Kevin. He can’t get away from work early after all, and he’s cancelling on you.
It’s not like you went out of your way to come in on an otherwise free afternoon to see him or anything. Or the fact you reworked your entire schedule to get him in for the session he so desperately wanted. And good job you didn’t spend 2 hours Sunday afternoon reading through the latest research on block periodization, glute activation and myofibrillar hypertrophy instead of going out bowling with your friends, just so you could give Kevin the best damn workout he’d ever had.
Oh wait. You did.
Personal training can be frustrating, draining and at times verges on infuriating. But it can also be rewarding, enjoyable and a fantastic way to make a living. The key is to establish the perfect work life balance.
“You’ll work two or three hours per day”
“With your skills, clients are going to be begging you to train them”
“It’s a great, easy way to make money,” they said.
If only personal training was just like we were all promised when we signed up for the course.
At some point, whether it’s been talking to other guys in the industry, the PT course providers and lecturers, or gym owners and potential employers, we’ve all been promised that personal training is a shortcut to getting rich, without doing much work along the way.
The reality – far from it.
It’s a fantastic job, no doubt about it, and getting to help people is a pretty awesome, not to mention honorable way to make a living. But it aint easy.
5am starts, 10pm finishes, weekend work, and spending your down time planning client sessions, it can be easy to become overwhelmed by your work volume. And that’s if everything goes to plan. Session cancellations, awkward clients and spending more time discussing broken marriages than building muscles – personal training can take its toll on even the most enthusiastic trainer.
Work life balance is important in any job, but it’s especially important for PTs. Your clients rely on you being fresh, alert, friendly and on the money when you’re with them. Work yourself to exhaustion and not only are you doing your clients a disservice, but you’ll likely lose a few, start fretting even more, and sink further and further into this downward spiral.
Not quite the life you were promised, hey?
The solution? Nail your work/life balance with these six easy steps.
1. Take Short Breaks and Trips
It’s difficult to take a two week holiday in the sun every year. No one wants to go that long without earning, and clients, while they may moan about training, won’t be too impressed if you leave them in the lurch for a fortnight while you’re working on your tan.
Short breaks however, are awesome.
You don’t need long – two or three days off is ample to recharge your batteries.
In the last year, I’ve visited Amsterdam, Alicante, Edinburgh, Barcelona and London. Each trip was between two and four days, but was unbelievably relaxing and stimulating and by the time I got home I was ready to hit it hard again with clients.
You should never spend a day at home doing nothing, or just lounging on the couch watching reruns of Friends. By lunchtime you’ll be bored to tears and wishing you were out training clients and earning money.
Even if you take a day just to go and visit a nearby sight you’ve not seen before, or catch up with old buddies, you’ve got to make the most of your time off.
2. Hire a Coach
How much time do you spend planning your own training and diet?
If you’re anything like me, it’s probably a good two to three hours per week. Or should I say, “how I used to be.” I hired Layne Norton as my online coach 18 months ago, and it’s been fantastic.
My training and diet are set for me every week by someone I trust, which takes all the worry and planning time out of it on my part. Having these extra few hours each week to chill is priceless.
Even if you don’t want to go down this online route, find a local trainer or one of your trainer colleagues to help set you up with a plan.
3. Learn to Say No
This is a big one, and something you can really struggle with when starting out.
I used to take Sunday afternoons off. Unless someone asked to train on a Sunday afternoon, which invariably happened at least four weeks out of five.
I’d tell myself it was worth doing for the money, that I didn’t want to let people down or develop a reputation as being work-shy, so I always took the session.
Needless to say, even though it was only one hour out of the weekend, it made my whole Sunday feel like a work day. Rather than wrapping things up around lunchtime and just chilling out, reading a book or catching a movie Sunday afternoon, I spent the time clock-watching and twiddling my thumbs, waiting for that session time.
Now I say no. Sunday afternoon is a strict non-work time of the week for me, and everybody knows that, so I never feel bad for letting people down as clients don’t ask for sessions.
It is tough, but for goodness sakes, give yourself at least one afternoon a week when you say “Screw it, I’m not training anyone.”
4. Turn Your Phone Off
It seems obvious, but it took me about 18 months to realize I wasn’t a 24/7 business and was allowed to turn my phone off at times. It sounds crazy, but I’d keep it on overnight and answer any texts that came through.
There’s a line between being obsessive with responding to clients and seeming like you’re never contactable, and that line is being punctual with replies. If your phone’s on and you get a text or call, answer it ASAP. I have a rule that I turn my phone on 20 minutes before I leave the house in the morning after I’ve eaten and had some planning or creative time, and it goes off half an hour after I get home at night (or 9pm if I finish early.)
Also – don’t check your emails before bed. If a client has an urgent issue that needs your immediate attention, they’re not going to send it via email.
5. Passive Income Sources
I talked about time off earlier, and the main reason most of us don’t take time off is because we don’t want to lose money. Hey, maybe we did get into the business because we love training and helping people, but let’s face it, the money can be pretty damn good too.
Trouble is, unless you’re a Skype master or can teleport, you can’t really train your clients when you’re two thousand miles across the globe. And would you really want to when you’re trying to sun yourself on a tropical beach, while bikini-clad beauties feed you grapes? (Okay, just me who has holidays like this then?)
Passive income is your answer.
An ebook can make you money year round without you doing jack after you’ve written and promoted it.
Affiliate marketing can be a pretty good money earner too.
Personally, I don’t mind doing a bit of work while I’m away, and actually quite enjoy going into work mode when I’m somewhere completely different to usual, so I choose to write.
There are some great writing gigs out there which pay pretty well if you can get your foot in the door. With a laptop or tablet and just a couple of hours a day, you can make money while you’re living out your dreams climbing a mountain, on top of a glacier, or swimming with sharks.
Note – Writing may be difficult when face to face with underwater predators who’d love nothing more than a chunk of your big, meaty bicep.
6. Periodization System
That feeling of dread when you turn up to see a client and suddenly realize you forgot to plan their session. It’s rabbit in the headlights scenario, or possibly even worse, like your Mom walking in on you when you’re…. well…..
Much like this, forgetting to plan a session only happens once. There’s no way you’re going to go through that uncomfortable, red-faced conversation, accompanied by a shuffling of your feet and staring at the floor as you try to make up the most awesome, super duper workout you can in three seconds flat.
Diligently planning every client’s session takes time though. Time that you don’t really want to commit. Plus, you know your clients aren’t going to turn up for every workout, and their missing sessions can screw with your carefully constructed plans.
You already know this, but personal trainers shouldn’t periodize.
Well, at least not in the traditional sense.
Use this article https://www.theptdc.com/2012/01/personal-trainers-shouldnt-periodize/ to establish some sort of template for each client. This will save precious time every week and should you ever dare to forget to plan a session in the future, at least you’ll know roughly where you stand.
The Wrap Up
Personal training might not be the three-hour days we were all promised, making millions by the time we’re 30 from training bored, rich housewives and professional sportsmen. But it needn’t be overly stressful or take over your whole life either.
The key is to establish a solid work-life balance and make both your work time and down time as enjoyable and as productive as possible.
Mike Samuels is a personal trainer and writer from Southampton, England. He’s passionate about all things health and fitness related, and loves training people to get leaner, fitter and stronger, reach their goals and generally kick butt.