The fitness industry has never seen a year like 2020, and we hope we never do again.

As we revealed in our annual personal trainer salary survey, 58 percent of personal trainers lost some or all of their income because of the pandemic.

But at the same time, 21 percent made more money.

Our best content in 2020 attempted to bridge that divide, helping the trainers who were set back when gyms closed become more like the coaches whose businesses thrived.

We did that through our articles, podcasts, newsletters, and social media posts, along with the interviews and articles we did to spread the message beyond the PTDC.

No matter how 2020 went for you, we sincerely wish you a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2021.

Best Article of 2020

How Five Coaches Grew Their Online Business in Difficult Times

We published this article in August, which we thought (optimistically, it turns out) was the tail end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gyms were reopening, and it seemed like a good time to profile online coaches whose businesses had thrived during the lockdown.

The five coaches are based in four different countries on three continents, from sub-Saharan Africa to the American Southwest.

Three are current or former gym owners who trained in person for years. Two are part-time coaches who’ve never trained clients face to face.

They include:

  • A survivor of sexual abuse who coaches other survivors
  • A gym owner who got knocked flat by COVID-19
  • A scientist who knew she had to leave her job after she told her boss to kiss her ass
  • An engineer whose love for dancing led him to train his fellow dancers
  • A former broadcaster whose successful transformation inspired him to become a nutrition coach

Five unique people. Five unique stories.

The one thing they all have in common: They built successful online coaching businesses in a time of unprecedented challenges.

Best Commentary of 2020

The Fitness Industry Is Broken – A Story About Hope

“Nobody saw the coronavirus pandemic shutting down the gyms and throwing tens of thousands of fitness professionals out of work,” Jonathan Goodman wrote in March.

“But everybody knew something was wrong.”

Jon first realized the fragility of a fitness career back in 2008, when an injury forced him out of the gym. Those two weeks without pay made him start thinking about how to build a more sustainable career.

You probably know the rest of the story:

Jon published his first book, Ignite the Fire, in 2011, the same year he founded the PTDC. He was promoting online training by 2013, and in 2016 he launched the Online Trainer Academy.

But it wasn’t until 2020 that a global pandemic showed everyone else what Jon learned in 2008:

“The fitness industry was long overdue for a course correction.”

Best Online Trainer Show Episode of 2020

How to Handle Sexual Harassment with Online Training Clients

Somewhere in the world, at this very moment, a guy is sending naked photos, unsolicited, to his female online trainer. Or telling her what she should wear in her videos. Or communicating with her in ways that make her feel physically unsafe.

Those are just a few of the stories podcast cohost Carolina Belmares and producer Amber Reynolds share on this sometimes horrifying, sometimes darkly funny, and always eye-opening episode of the Online Trainer Show.

GO DEEPER: A Fitness Pro’s Guide to Sexual Harassment

Best Social Media Post of 2020

Nine Truths About Personal Trainers Every Client Should Know


We posted this one multiple times in 2020, and for good reason: Each time, it finds new readers who want to share its message with their own clients and audiences.

Best Newsletter Item of 2020

One of My Clients Died Today, by Laura Flynn Endres

Laura originally posted this short essay in Fit Pros Unite, one of our Facebook groups. We shared it in issue 36 of our free weekly newsletter.  

One of my clients died today.

His name was Don. Retired teacher. He was 85. I’ve been working with him exactly one year this week.

He had some pretty significant health issues and was well outside of what is reasonable regarding scope of practice and liability. But his doctor cleared us because Don really wanted to do it, and he had nothing to lose because he wasn’t going to get better by lying in bed.

I really meant to turn him away, but he was just so affable and sweet and appreciative. At the end of our initial consultation, he hugged me and said, "You’re family now."

His caregiver messaged me yesterday and my intuition told me it was bad news. I waited to call her until I was done seeing clients, and that was the right decision. He was failing and his kids were flying in to be there for the end. I spent the rest of the day in tears.

I didn’t know if I should reach out today. I felt like I fall into that gray category—not family, maybe not on the short list of people to notify. But when you train people in their home, it does feel a bit like family.

Turns out, I was on the short list of people to notify.

When his caregiver called to tell me, she shocked me by saying that his wife, who I also train, wanted me to come for our regularly scheduled workout. She feels better when she sees me.

I’ve never been a "just workouts" kind of trainer. We’re not just in the fitness and health business, we’re in the people business. We’re doing important work here.

More Great Content

How to Succeed as an Online Coach – Mike Matthews with guest Jonathan Goodman

Writing, Communication, and Media in the Fitness Industry – Mike Robertson with guest Lou Schuler

How to Motivate Clients for Home Workouts – Guillermo Munoz, the PTDC

What the Best Personal Trainers Know That You Don’t – Lou Schuler,