T Nation

Doin' it for a living...

After TCs’ article this week, I was wondering how many of you guys make a living from personal training, sports coaching, physical therapy, strength coaching or any other T-Mag kind of stuff?

We’ve got some really smart people on this forum, but how many of you make a living from this stuff?

To kick off, I have been a personal trainer for 18 years (way before it became a recognised job) spent 5 years in the Royal Marines as a PTI and now lecture for a private company who runs 12 week courses for wannabe PT’s. And I’ve also taught a lot of aerobics and step classes - my only excuse is it pays well and you get to shout at hot sweaty chicks who do what you tell em!

Be interested to hear from other “Pros”!

Well I am not a PT but after 3 years and way too much money at a specialized art college, I realized that I was wasting my time there. So I hit the gym and the books and began learning as much as I could about weights and all things related. Then I started training some friends who were interested in being not-fat.

(cue cheesy inspirational line)

I fell in love with that, I could create adonis-like figures better than I ever could with clay.
So now I am on the long task of being able to actually train people and accept money for it, while paying off hoards of student loans, and you can’t train without some form of degree or certificate (which is pretty, but doesn’t mean you are useful) so that means more school.

Okay I guess I hijacked this into a complaint/life history that nobody needed to hear, but one day I want to be an actual PT a T-man PT, training an army of T-men, yelling things like

Hi Patch. What other excuse does one need?!

I am a trainer, although I do it on a part-time basis. I came from the coaching ranks (College and HS FB, College and HS VB, and College LaCrosse). Seemed like a natural extension for me since having a great high school strength coach made me a good athlete, literally. I was coordinated, but he helped develop the power and muscle gain.

One of the biggest obstacles I face (and many trainers face)is the fact that I have the ability to make a very nice wage outside of training, and, in Indianapolis, finding a facility that isn’t worthless has been rough. There are some places with potential, but they are mostly designed for training the secretaries. Although body composition changes are fun to administer, they are not at all challenging. Athletic training, especially for power based sports, I find much more engaging.

There is a great market for true athletic training in Indianapolis and most places in the US, but no one here has correctly addressed the issue. The only solid indoor facilities here are contractually bound by St. Vincent’s hospital, who neither meets the desire of the market here, nor provides even a lick of decent guidance for performance optimization. My wife could have designed programs done by St. Vincent’s and she doesn’t even fancy herself as a trainer. (Former DI V-ball player and college coach, and around a total training nerd 15 hours per day, but not a trainer.)

There are a few places here that tout themselves to be training facilities, but I have yet to see a GHR, or a reverse hyper, let alone chains, bands, weight releasers, plyo area (Indy has tough weather), etc.

So, if I want to become a trainer at one of theses places (NIFS, Better Bodies, etc), I could go through a local place’s 6-month trainer shadowing program, so I will be better educated, in order to prescribe a place’s cookie-cutter programs (isn’t this exactly contrary to ‘personal training’?).

I am sure I would learn quite a bit from the trainers at most places, considering I have yet to find someone who even has heard of, let alone understands the application of accomodating resistance, reactive training methods, conjugate periodization, accentuated eccentric training, hypergravity for priming, appropriateness of plyometric exercises for different sports, CNS versus musculoskeletal fatigue, etc.

I just get blank stares, and they reply that their program has been designed to enhance an athlete’s readiness for competition… hehe… I find it amusing…but terribly not amusing. People actually shell out huge money for the shit that is peddled around here. Sickening.

Plus, I have been doing this for a number of years, and I produce results in performace, not just body fat levels.

So, I generally train someone once per month, doing testing, and familiarizing them with the exercises. Then, I give them a guided program, with exercise pics, and descriptions, plus nutritional guidelines. This way, I can keep costs down for the clients who don’t have huge money. I would love to train in a bigger gym, with more racks and a nicer facility to join (the place I train at now has the essentials, plus all of my personal “goodies”), but I will not work the floor for $10 per hour, and give the gym 50% of the training money I generate from clients who they are getting monthly dues from, and came to the gym solely because I trained there… that is bullshit. No way. They can have half of the money from clients given to me, but when I get people to join in order for me to be able to train them and have to give away 50%… sorry, not appropriate. Plus, half the stuff I use to train athletes I own and bring in with me. Finally, try to bring a set of chains into Lifetime Fitness soemtime… it is almost funny.

So for now, I train at a place where I pay a monthly fee to be allowed to train there, and it isn’t in the best of locations. The fee allows me to keep all of my training money as long as the client joins the gym. It is a bit of a drive, and attracting higher end clients is tough due to the location. It isn’t seedy, but it isn’t in richy-rich land, and the facility is limited (no fancy saunas, etc). There isn’t an area for plyometric and indoor sprint/agility work, so it is limited in terms of athletic training also.

The market would be wide open here if the situation was just slightly different, but as of yet, there isn’t a truly great facility for strength and athlete training… (nothing big and fancy,… but appropriate.)

Therefore, I just save a little every month to open my own place. I cannot wait. I am fairly close to this goal, as I have friend who is also here because his wife works at the NCAA, and he is also a former S&C coach. We are just a little capital $ away from opening a functional facility.

Right now I work 40 hours as a business analyst, train 10-15 hours per week, and take 3 MBA classes. Soemtimes I get to see my wife, too.

If I were single and younger, I would have roomies, and live poorly until my breakthrough. Having a wife who is on the fast track in Athletic Administration has caused 3 moves in 3 years. So, my client base has been destroyed every year. But, the field has so many rewards, that I cannot stop starting over. It would be too easy to just be a suit.

Lil’ Coach H

The point of this whole pile of bunk is this:

If you are young and not making 50k plus, then go beg CT or JoeyD or IanK or Martin Rooney, or Charles P, or any of the others who contribute here often for an internship. Spend every second that you aren’t on the field or in the gym reading your ass off, and asking questions. Ask coaches to come watch training sessions… learn. Develop expertise. Then go get a job where you can train athletes correctly.

Then, help out as many people as you can to get known. I have trained many people for free, but only if they would tell others about the results. Word of mouth advertising is the best and quickest way to build up clients. Then align your prices and programs with the appropriate market and socioeconomic sector you are serving. You can train 10 fat-assed doctor’s wives for $75 bucks an hour and go home to shoot your brains out with a shotgun, or you can train groups of young athletes and serious people for slightly less and be happy.

I do a handful of free seminars on force training for HS athletes every year for school systems that are poor. My wife also talks about NCAA requirements at them. The feedback is so amazing, and you earn a reputation for being a square shooter. Plus, you may have just helped thousands of young athletes indeirectly, along with coaches who struggle with a lack of education and budget dollars. These seminars mean more to me than almost everything else put together.

Give to receive. Guys like CT, Louie, Dave Tate, Martin Rooney, Ian King, and the rest have given you gems of information for free. When I see dumb-assed S&C coaches talk poorly about any one of these men, I unleash the fury. Just PE coaches who are scared because they are unable to crtically evaluate the information we have gathered from the East and West. Hell, if you were to hard-bind all of the training articles from here, elitefts, and west-sidebarbell.com, you would have more training knowledge than the NSCA requires for certification…ten times over!!! And, it is all free!!!

I had to actually unlearn a ton to pass the CSCS test. But, I have to have the certification for a soccer mom to trust me with her college bound son’s training… the irony of the business.

Finally, if this thread was pretty long for you, then you are a long way off from being able to develop expertise through education. Guys that write articles here almost know texts like Supertraining, Science and Practice, etc, BY HEART. If you don’t like education, learn to like it… your athletes will thank you. I know too man coaches whose only learning comes from CEU’s for their certification. Not at all fair to the athletes… period.

I hope this has been a fair extension to this week’s editorial article.

wow silverback great post…being only 22 and having only 4 classes left before i am a cscs my goal is i want to open a buiseness withing the next 2 years but i never felt there was as big of a need for it in indy as you beleive…i think if you look at defrancos or other buisness in the system there money is primarly made from football…and big time football can not be found in indy at the hs or college level…i have looked at citys like nashville, altanta, some areas in florida and on the weast coast as these areas have large sections of big time football…i beleive one could have a great buisness training athletes but i feel it would take 3 people a speed coach, maximal strength coach, and a nutrtionist…i have also thought about opening just a school for wrestlers, fighters, ucf fighters, muay thai eact as these guys are willing to bust there ass and have found that s&c is the way to become the best…bm

great post silverback.

Hey BigMartin and Silverback…
Down here in Orlando Florida you could definantly find hordes of young people with a need for specialized training fasilitys and I would love to work for one and know some people around here who are thinking about opening up a small gym or 2 in the area in the next few years.
Now mind you I have no degree but, I do have years of experience in training myself and writing up programs for friends, teachers from collage, and people online that I meet. I am learning lots about nutrition and training from this site, books, some of the bigger guys at the gym I go to. PM me if you are interested in this at all.

Sorry about steeling the thread a little but, I guess it kind of pertains to it seeing how I am using to hopefully put out an idea of how to build a T-Nation Bootcamp(training business) in Fl.

Thanks for your feedback guys - good to hear from fellow pros!

I teach on a certification programme and I can tell you for a fact, a lot of people who are hoping to become PTs have never set foot in a gym before! Thats right, they are 100% newbies. Luckily I have them for 12 weeks to try and make them into T-men/women but sometimes it’s an impossible task. (I spend my first two weeks on squats, deads, military press and bent over rows - we don’t even talk about machines till week 3!)

We get good students who totally embrace the whole idea of holistic training and others who are merely looking for a certificate and don’t care about the content of the lessons/course. I had one guy who basically replicated “Body for Life” for his final exam - man did I fail his ass! And another who told me she really didn’t like weight training and would be doing nothing but CV for her clients…she too didn’t make the cut!

Sometimes, these half wits manage to pass their assessments and exams but you know they will be very poor trainers…but we will always need ditch diggers and plate stackers and they make the rest of us look good!

One of the things I really emphisise is that thier certification is the tip of the ice berg as far as thier knowledge goes and its provided them with a few basic tools…they MUST continue to attend more classes, read more books, search web sites, talk to other trainers and coaches etc and try to learn as much about their subject as possible…some will, some won’t - you can lead a horse to water…!

One things for sure - T-mag certainly helps me keep up to date with the good stuff!

Big Martin,

I couldn’t agree with you more about the football thing. I am from Florida myself, and spent quite a few years in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Both places embrace football and the market is wide open in these areas. GR has so much disposable income that it is crazy, and certain areas of Florida also have the income necessary.

Having coached College Football and College Women’s Volleyball, I have a uniques perspective on the training business from the athletic side. My sister and wife both went to college on volleyball scholarships. I also played semi-pro soccer in Grand Rapids after I injured my knee at UF.

One thing I can tell you Big Martin is this: it isn’t the sport necessarily, it is the level of disposable income. My father is well off, and he would spend hundreds of dollars for my sister and I to be in group lessons in tennis…why? Not because we were good at tennis, but because it kept us from watching TV or being bad. basically, it was a babysitter. It also helped us both to be pretty good at the game, although I chose track in college over tennis.

My mother spent thousands on my sister every year for her to play elite V-Ball. Elite soccer is the same. AAU basketball is also expensive if your team travels, but this gets into the socioeconomic question again.

My point is this whether the kid plays soccer, v-ball, basketball, baseball, lacrosse, tennis, etc., speed is a key factor. Speed is the difference between DI and DII. I have coached or played all three levels. We had some huge guys at the DII school I coached football at (we average 306 including the TE), but they were mostly too slow to play at the next level.

Speed and gaining muscle size and strength is important in many sports, and I believe is marketable. And, Indy has disposable income galore on the north side. The south side has pockets, but the north side has carmel, fishers, zionesville, and geist is close. I only emphasize disposable income because it is necessary for sustained business.

BM, you are right about getting some guys together with different attributes. There is no way as a former wide receiver that I could make as big an impression on a lineman as you could…period. But, when I vertically grab the rim with both hands at under 6’ height and am 32, many kids listen. Plus, I can still leave most kids in the 40 and dust everyone in the pro-agility. You probably would have the same problem with soccer players or lacrosse players due to not really speaking their language, and not displying the same qualities they desire.

So you are right. Plus, if you get into doing speed camps (something I have done before when I lived in Hartford), you may need to bring on additional people. These can be very profitable. But, you have to find a place to do them. I have called Indy Parks and Rec about 50 times, and haven’t gotten anyone to return my calls, so I am going over there on Wednesday, and am going to call somebody out on it.

Dark Angel,

My sister played for Orlando Volleyball Association, and I used to bartend there for a while. I agree that Orlando has a huge market for real training facilities. As you get closer, I would love to keep in touch. I like Indy, but am a football guy. The fair weather fans here disturb me. Just different in Florida.

How would someone become a trainer. I should say I would like to become a trainer but I have no time nor money to go college,are there any programs that one can get certified using the knowledge acquired from years of training. I heard of gyms certifiing average Joes who have been working for a matter of months and now they are "Trainers"with clients. What’s up with that?