T Nation

Personal Training as a Career

Any of u guys out there making Personal Taining a career? The reason I’m asking is because my 21yo cousin wants to be a PT and thinks he can make a lot of money out of it. I told him that even with 3 certifications from Cooper Institute and a degree I could not make a good living at 24 hour fitness. I even trained the second most clients at my club (138) in december '04 and got a lousy paycheck.

These clubs now a days are pushing so much on the trainers in terms of sales that it is ridiculous. I hated walking around the club and asking people for “free” fit sessions. It got so bad, before i left that the regional manager told us that we couldnt work out b/w 4-7pm because it was peak hours. My cousin is really thinking he can be the next “Gunner” and keeps talking about that show “Workout” that showed PT in Beverly Hills. I told him that it is a temp job that is just for fun and a free membership. Do u guys have any personal examples so I can show my cousin to prevent him from making a mistake.

[quote]W8 LOGIC wrote:
Any of u guys out there making Personal Taining a career? The reason I’m asking is because my 21yo cousin wants to be a PT and thinks he can make a lot of money out of it. I told him that even with 3 certifications from Cooper Institute and a degree I could not make a good living at 24 hour fitness. I even trained the second most clients at my club (138) in december '04 and got a lousy paycheck.

These clubs now a days are pushing so much on the trainers in terms of sales that it is ridiculous. I hated walking around the club and asking people for “free” fit sessions. It got so bad, before i left that the regional manager told us that we couldnt work out b/w 4-7pm because it was peak hours. My cousin is really thinking he can be the next “Gunner” and keeps talking about that show “Workout” that showed PT in Beverly Hills. I told him that it is a temp job that is just for fun and a free membership. Do u guys have any personal examples so I can show my cousin to prevent him from making a mistake. [/quote]

The only $ in PT is if you rent space in a studio and have your own clients, or if you train “wealthy” clients in their own home.

[quote]jlesk68 wrote:
W8 LOGIC wrote:
Any of u guys out there making Personal Taining a career? The reason I’m asking is because my 21yo cousin wants to be a PT and thinks he can make a lot of money out of it. I told him that even with 3 certifications from Cooper Institute and a degree I could not make a good living at 24 hour fitness. I even trained the second most clients at my club (138) in december '04 and got a lousy paycheck.

These clubs now a days are pushing so much on the trainers in terms of sales that it is ridiculous. I hated walking around the club and asking people for “free” fit sessions. It got so bad, before i left that the regional manager told us that we couldnt work out b/w 4-7pm because it was peak hours. My cousin is really thinking he can be the next “Gunner” and keeps talking about that show “Workout” that showed PT in Beverly Hills. I told him that it is a temp job that is just for fun and a free membership. Do u guys have any personal examples so I can show my cousin to prevent him from making a mistake.

The only $ in PT is if you rent space in a studio and have your own clients, or if you train “wealthy” clients in their own home. [/quote]

That is what i was telling him. But the sad thing is that it is only like 5%of trainers that do make good money. The attrition rate is the worst part of the whole thing. It just isnt consisitent income. Once the economy goes bad, so does the PT business

Yeah I was a PT at Bally’s for a bit. I just can’t stand having to “sell”, harassing all of the members trying to get a new client. Just not my type of style.

I know a few guys who can’t make 25k a year on PT and they work it full time. I’ve heard of guys making as much as 60-70K a year though. How I have no idea, doupt it actually last.

If you ever get slightly out of shape for any reason, you can kiss half of your clients good bye. No injuries, no bulking, etc? You are human and it happens. Early 20s guys think they are superman and will never get injured, will always look great 24/7 no problem.

Most people who try PTing don’t keep on doing it after a few years. They usually move on to something else more stable. A few people do make it in the business. Yet if you think about it long term, its not a good carrier. I don’t know too many older personal trainers.

I know another successful PT that changed his carrier and now is a nurse. Shows its not all its cracked up to be.

I think as a part time to make some extra income, its great! Kinda falls into Bartending and those types of jobs. Make some extra money doing something you enjoy. Just don’t do it full time. The money is not all that for it to be your only sorce if income.

[quote]chrisrodx wrote:

Yeah I was a PT at Bally’s for a bit. I just can’t stand having to “sell”, harassing all of the members trying to get a new client. Just not my type of style.

I know a few guys who can’t make 25k a year on PT and they work it full time. I’ve heard of guys making as much as 60-70K a year though. How I have no idea, doupt it actually last.

If you ever get slightly out of shape for any reason, you can kiss half of your clients good bye. No injuries, no bulking, etc? You are human and it happens. Early 20s guys think they are superman and will never get injured, will always look great 24/7 no problem.

Most people who try PTing don’t keep on doing it after a few years. They usually move on to something else more stable. A few people do make it in the business. Yet if you think about it long term, its not a good carrier. I don’t know too many older personal trainers.

I know another successful PT that changed his carrier and now is a nurse. Shows its not all its cracked up to be.

I think as a part time to make some extra income, its great! Kinda falls into Bartending and those types of jobs. Make some extra money doing something you enjoy. Just don’t do it full time. The money is not all that for it to be your only sorce if income.

[/quote]

We had a guy at 24 hour who was like 30-33 that had the same clients for like 5 years and could always count on them re-upping. The worst part besides losing clients is also the shitty hours. I would train fron 5-8 am then come back for a 12-1pm go home and then come back to train from 4-9pm. That shit wore me out fast.

If he wants to make a lot of money as PT, he needs to work on two things: 1. marketing. 2. Writing.

  1. Marketing. Get a nice website. Look the part. Start a blog. Choose your tarket audience, etc. There are books written on this subject. He should read them all.

  2. Writing. These days if you write an article people consider you a subject matter expert. I can think of at least three Internet gurus who were not making a living training clients UNTIL they were published in a major forum.

Consider this… If your cousin wrote an article for T-Mag, even if he had never trained a client, don’t you think people would be soliciting him for personal training?

“The Elements of Style” is a better investment than “Supertraining.”

Say someone wanted to be a personal trainer at some place like Bally’s, what would it take to get a job like that? Part-time, of course.

[quote]StevenF wrote:
Say someone wanted to be a personal trainer at some place like Bally’s, what would it take to get a job like that? Part-time, of course. [/quote]

Fill out a resume, have proper certifications (CPR and from a training organization), have the manager hire you. Problem solved. :wink:

The real money in personal training is found working for yourself. As long as you work for a gym, you’re going to have to work crazy hours, and busy, busy weeks to make a significant living. While, if you put those same hours into training on your own, you’ll be able to make far more.

My first piece of advice would be read various fitness marketing info from several sources. Pat Rigsby, Jim Labadie, Ryan Lee, Eric Ruth, Nick Berry, and Alwyn Cosgrove are the guys whose blogs I read almost daily and whose products I’ve used (and am using currently) with great results.

Also, we had a pretty cool and insightful thread here a while back, “Aspiring Gurus”, with some of the members here talking about their training businesses, history, and experience:
http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1240514

[quote]StevenF wrote:
Say someone wanted to be a personal trainer at some place like Bally’s, what would it take to get a job like that? Part-time, of course. [/quote]

I dont know about bally’s but at 24 hour fitness we had to have a bachelors degree and obtain a certified PT certificate fom either Cooper or NASM; they wouldnt even take ACE. Each gym has their own guidelines. U might go up there and ask to speak to the Fit manager. Its weird that at the Golds i work out now, the trainers dont come around and speak to u about training sessions, but at 24 hour, that is how we got our clients. So, u prob need to check out each aspect to see if it is even worth ur while.

I find this a little absurd that a gym would require someone to have their university degree. Maybe the States is different. But from what I understand it’s only the CSCS designation that reguires you to first have your degree before taking their program.

That said - ACE - the base standard training book is just a start. From there a trainer (with no degree or kinesiology background)should look to further their knowledge - continuously. One place to start is Human Kinetics.com who have an online learning centre. But there are tons and tons more.

The truth is that some of the best trained personal trainers are shit. And some of the poorest trained trainers are quite good. I think it comes down to who the person is and why they do the job.

  1. You don’t make a fortune being a PT (trust me, I do it day in and day out)
    Sure it’s says $50 an hour. But it’s not really an hour. It’s an hour and half. 15 mins before and after each session are used up organizing for each client and writing notes about their progress.

And don’t forget the hour it took to build them a great program for them to follow. That was an hour of your time they didn’t pay for. So if you work 8 hours you get 5 clients a day. If you work for a gym, that’s $125gross a day at most! You’re taking home $90 after taxes. That’s $1980 a month. And that’s if you’re decently good at what you do and can retain clients and get them results. See why below.

  1. Unless you’re older and have the financial standing - you’re best to start in a gym where they take half of what client is paying (add that up, it’s not much). If you can afford to have your own studio or own your own business - Car, extra training equipment, licensing costs, insurance for your car, biz and liability, costs of renewing memberships and don’t forget costs of continued education all eat at your bottome line.

  2. Being a PT (of other working people) means you work the hours they don’t - Early mornings, late evenings and every weekend. You don’t pick and choose your hours if you expect to make any money at it. Expect 12 hour days of running back and forth to the gym, 4 hour lulls between clients, where you try to get home to do errands and such.
    Try keeping a girlfriend with those hours! That’s work on it’s own.

  3. Your clients (if in a gym environment) will not be bodybuilders. 80% of the time, they’re not even fit people. They’re overweight, lack energy, have little strength. People with hurting backs, sore knees and banged up shoulders.

On average I’d say 2-10 people that come to you will be in a decent condition. 1 in 50 will be in great condition.
There is a mentality that once you reach an intermediate stage in your training that you don’t require such help and could not benefit from it.

  1. Personal training (IMO) is a done because you love to do it. In reality it’s quite an easy job. It’s not a desk job. You’re not sitting for 40 hours a week. At the same time you’re not labouring your body. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its challenges.

You don’t get “off” days in your mood. You don’t get to not be cheery and happy and social and motivating to be around. You don’t get to be late ever! You don’t get to be mad when clients cancel on you and you can’t fill their spot. You don’t get to turn off they’re chatting about their bad day.

  1. Because of liability issues you are not allowed to recommend ANY supplement (not even a multivitamin) to your clients. You can’t tell them what to eat either. You can sorta tell them what to eat based on government food pryamids.

But if they ask you “hey, should I be taking protein powder or a meal replacement powder before and after my workout?” and you respond with “yes, it would be advisable to take in some protein and carbohydrates, such as Biotest’s Surge drink” and they have ANY adverse reaction to it (or the chinese food they ate 5 hours before) they can turn around and sue you for advising such a product to them.

Only dieticians (university) can truly recommend supplements (and none of them do). That and doctors. Even nutritionists can only recommmend meal plans designed around government food pryamids. And most government food pryamids stop at 75g of protein per day.

There are ways to sorta get around this (by directing them to information sites, such as this one, and have them make their own decisions…disclaimers, disclaimers, disclaimers!).

If the 21 year old still sees all these “challenges” and is still AS excited to be a personal trainer, to help other achieve their goals (not him achieve is own get rich, easy work goal) then I’d say he’s for real and you should support his choice.

Oh, and FYI, most PT’s eventually move out of the business. Move on to managing or owning gyms, change careers entirely, move on to teaching other soon to be trainers, etc.
In the future I plan to go to massage therapy school (a 3 year, full-time, $30,000 course) with the mindset that I will still PT on the side.

Cheers!

[quote]AllTraps wrote:
I find this a little absurd that a gym would require someone to have their university degree. Maybe the States is different. But from what I understand it’s only the CSCS designation that reguires you to first have your degree before taking their program.

That said - ACE - the base standard training book is just a start. From there a trainer (with no degree or kinesiology background)should look to further their knowledge - continuously. One place to start is Human Kinetics.com who have an online learning centre. But there are tons and tons more.

The truth is that some of the best trained personal trainers are shit. And some of the poorest trained trainers are quite good. I think it comes down to who the person is and why they do the job.

  1. You don’t make a fortune being a PT (trust me, I do it day in and day out)
    Sure it’s says $50 an hour. But it’s not really an hour. It’s an hour and half. 15 mins before and after each session are used up organizing for each client and writing notes about their progress.

And don’t forget the hour it took to build them a great program for them to follow. That was an hour of your time they didn’t pay for. So if you work 8 hours you get 5 clients a day. If you work for a gym, that’s $125gross a day at most! You’re taking home $90 after taxes. That’s $1980 a month. And that’s if you’re decently good at what you do and can retain clients and get them results. See why below.

  1. Unless you’re older and have the financial standing - you’re best to start in a gym where they take half of what client is paying (add that up, it’s not much). If you can afford to have your own studio or own your own business - Car, extra training equipment, licensing costs, insurance for your car, biz and liability, costs of renewing memberships and don’t forget costs of continued education all eat at your bottome line.

  2. Being a PT (of other working people) means you work the hours they don’t - Early mornings, late evenings and every weekend. You don’t pick and choose your hours if you expect to make any money at it. Expect 12 hour days of running back and forth to the gym, 4 hour lulls between clients, where you try to get home to do errands and such.
    Try keeping a girlfriend with those hours! That’s work on it’s own.

  3. Your clients (if in a gym environment) will not be bodybuilders. 80% of the time, they’re not even fit people. They’re overweight, lack energy, have little strength. People with hurting backs, sore knees and banged up shoulders.

On average I’d say 2-10 people that come to you will be in a decent condition. 1 in 50 will be in great condition.
There is a mentality that once you reach an intermediate stage in your training that you don’t require such help and could not benefit from it.

  1. Personal training (IMO) is a done because you love to do it. In reality it’s quite an easy job. It’s not a desk job. You’re not sitting for 40 hours a week. At the same time you’re not labouring your body. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its challenges.

You don’t get “off” days in your mood. You don’t get to not be cheery and happy and social and motivating to be around. You don’t get to be late ever! You don’t get to be mad when clients cancel on you and you can’t fill their spot. You don’t get to turn off they’re chatting about their bad day.

  1. Because of liability issues you are not allowed to recommend ANY supplement (not even a multivitamin) to your clients. You can’t tell them what to eat either. You can sorta tell them what to eat based on government food pryamids.

But if they ask you “hey, should I be taking protein powder or a meal replacement powder before and after my workout?” and you respond with “yes, it would be advisable to take in some protein and carbohydrates, such as Biotest’s Surge drink” and they have ANY adverse reaction to it (or the chinese food they ate 5 hours before) they can turn around and sue you for advising such a product to them.

Only dieticians (university) can truly recommend supplements (and none of them do). That and doctors. Even nutritionists can only recommmend meal plans designed around government food pryamids. And most government food pryamids stop at 75g of protein per day.

There are ways to sorta get around this (by directing them to information sites, such as this one, and have them make their own decisions…disclaimers, disclaimers, disclaimers!).

If the 21 year old still sees all these “challenges” and is still AS excited to be a personal trainer, to help other achieve their goals (not him achieve is own get rich, easy work goal) then I’d say he’s for real and you should support his choice.

Oh, and FYI, most PT’s eventually move out of the business. Move on to managing or owning gyms, change careers entirely, move on to teaching other soon to be trainers, etc.
In the future I plan to go to massage therapy school (a 3 year, full-time, $30,000 course) with the mindset that I will still PT on the side.

Cheers!
[/quote]

Thanks man, I think u summed it all up. Reading your points made me realize that I made the right choice in quitting when I did an joining the military. I am gonna cut and paste these posts for my cousin and e-mail it to him. I think that most people though dont think its that bad until they do it and have 5 clients in a row and your 2nd and 4th cancel on u and u get to sit on ur own time and not get paid for it. U used to hate that. The worst yet was setting up an early morning fit(where u give free measurements and bodyfat calcs) and five min before it starts u call them and they are still in bed and say “sorry man I’m just too tired to come in”. Most clients have no regard that this is ur job and this is how u pay ur bills. I do agree that PT is a great side job and actually know quite a few guys who are firemen, policemen, or fit models who rent out spaces at private gyms and do very well. I made my most money when I trained the same group of people at their apt gyms in a 3 hour back to back span charging $25 an hour. Then again i didnt have insurance. They all eventually dropped me after one got married, one bought a sports car, and the other lost 15 pounds and 8% BF and decided she could do it on her own. She called me later and said she stopped going the week after she dropped me and gained it all back.

[quote]W8 LOGIC wrote:
chrisrodx wrote:
The worst part besides losing clients is also the shitty hours. I would train fron 5-8 am then come back for a 12-1pm go home and then come back to train from 4-9pm. That shit wore me out fast.[/quote]

Im a personal trainer. Wanna make more money? Stop bitching about hard hours and work your balls off. I wake up at 4am to open my first gym, my shift closes at 130, I then go home and cook up three meals before I head to my other gym and train clients from 3-9pm. Is there money in personal training? Yes. The question is how much do you want it? Ive also been with one of my gyms for awhile and know everybody there. I dont have to market myself and thats why I didnt take one of the jobs I was offered by a big chain gym.

[quote]Easy E wrote:
W8 LOGIC wrote:
chrisrodx wrote:
The worst part besides losing clients is also the shitty hours. I would train fron 5-8 am then come back for a 12-1pm go home and then come back to train from 4-9pm. That shit wore me out fast.

Im a personal trainer. Wanna make more money? Stop bitching about hard hours and work your balls off. I wake up at 4am to open my first gym, my shift closes at 130, I then go home and cook up three meals before I head to my other gym and train clients from 3-9pm. Is there money in personal training? Yes. The question is how much do you want it? Ive also been with one of my gyms for awhile and know everybody there. I dont have to market myself and thats why I didnt take one of the jobs I was offered by a big chain gym. [/quote]

Waking up at 4AM and working until 9PM is not good money if you count how many hours it is. You could work those hours any where and be balling with over time.

[quote]chrisrodx wrote:
Easy E wrote:
W8 LOGIC wrote:
chrisrodx wrote:
The worst part besides losing clients is also the shitty hours. I would train fron 5-8 am then come back for a 12-1pm go home and then come back to train from 4-9pm. That shit wore me out fast.

Im a personal trainer. Wanna make more money? Stop bitching about hard hours and work your balls off. I wake up at 4am to open my first gym, my shift closes at 130, I then go home and cook up three meals before I head to my other gym and train clients from 3-9pm. Is there money in personal training? Yes. The question is how much do you want it? Ive also been with one of my gyms for awhile and know everybody there. I dont have to market myself and thats why I didnt take one of the jobs I was offered by a big chain gym.

Waking up at 4AM and working until 9PM is not good money if you count how many hours it is. You could work those hours any where and be balling with over time. [/quote]

That is true, but the difference is I ENJOY being in the gym setting. I would much rather be working in the gym then doing construction like I used to do in the summer. Being miserable everday because I hated that kind of labor.

Too much leg work for too little money.

[quote]Easy E wrote:
Ive also been with one of my gyms for awhile and know everybody there. I dont have to market myself and thats why I didnt take one of the jobs I was offered by a big chain gym. [/quote]

100% spot on. I consistently turn golds, ballys etc down on a consistent basis for this reason. I work at a smaller, family owned gym and know all the membership and the owners. This gets me better treatment from management, an in with potential clientele, and the sales staff at my gym sells PT for me. They will refer me, sell the training, then all I have to do is schedule and train.

However with this benefit, it is still work! Try coming in at 4:30 am to train til 8 am, run home for a two to three hour nap, come in for my own workout then begin my evening run. I do this Monday thru Thursday. Friday is my day off, then a booked schedule on weekends. Try having the motivation to push yourself thru leg day, or grueling chest and back day already having been in the gym for ten to twelve hours…

We do this because we love it. It’s not for the money, or the glory, it is for the client and the pure happiness that comes when they lose weight, do something they couldn’t do, or say thank you for getting them somewhere they did not think they could go.

Another guy said try to keep a woman on that scedule, this is correct. Another thing is, Personal Trainers are not the easiest sort of man to date. I have been turned down by apparently interested women when they find out what I do. I hear things like, other PT’s I know were assholes, or dating a PT will make me self conscious, or they will talk to you just to get free advice and walk away. These are all just as much a part of the business, and anyone intending to make a career at is has to understand this coming in.

The majority of your client base at a commercial gym will be women, 30 - 50, married and out of shape. Athletes will be few and far between. Getting people to do hang cleans and 300+ lb deads will be normally a dream. It happens sometimes, but not very often. They aren’t just paying you for your knowledge either. You are a captive ear for the next hour. You will hear more about these people’s lives than you ever bargained for. You will know about their kids, their husband, their dog, their sister who kissed their boyfriend in high school and their neighbor who steals their trash can every time it is outside.

If you intend to make a career in this field, use PT as your back up or open your own studio. Personally I’m looking for loans and liscencing to open my own place within the next couple years. I already have 2 others who will come work for me, and a steady client base of my own, and theirs who have said they would come over once I get running.

This is one way I can ensure further success down the road for myself. The idea of writing is a good idea as well. You may not start out on a site like T-Nation, however any exposure is good exposure in this instance.

[quote]TrainerinDC wrote:

We do this because we love it. It’s not for the money, or the glory, it is for the client and the pure happiness that comes when they lose weight, do something they couldn’t do, or say thank you for getting them somewhere they did not think they could go.

[/quote]

Well put DC! Eazy-E made some good points too.

Regarding writing and getting exposure. The best and easiest place to start is local community papers. Check local rec centres (or local government website) and see if they have a newspaper (usually parks & rec type division).
These are the most likely to accept an article from someone with no previous experience in writing. Just don’t go off about 5x5 or 10x3. Keep it VERY basic. Goal setting and follow through. When best to work out. What to do when you miss your workout, etc, etc, etc, etc.
Some will let you post which gym your work out of and an email address and you can drum up new clients that way.