Lately I have felt frustrated, discouraged, and a little maybe-I'm-just-not-meant-to-be-in-this-industry-for-long. Back when I was training at 9Round, I was training full-time and living the dream. I was at 9Round 25-30 hours a week and training the rest at the gym I still work at.
Then it went bankrupt and I had no choice but to seek out clients through my own business in order to make up for the income loss. I kept telling myself 9Round shut down for a reason, that I'm meant to be an entrepreneur and train primarily through my own business, but the truth is that the drive time burns me out. I'll sacrifice a little bit of money for a little bit of sanity if it means being able to drive to just one place and be able to stay there and train clients for a few hours.
When I got my CSCS, I decided to seek other gyms. I was thrilled when I thought I had landed a job opportunity, only for it to become nonexistent because the person who had hired me realized there was no room for me without sacrificing the ability of currently hired trainers to get clients. That was a blow to me since I'm back at square one. I don't feel bitter about the lost job opportunity; I'm just upset I have to continue the search in a city with limited opportunities for personal trainers.
It's downright frustrating and discouraging. Even having my CSCS doesn't make me feel any more confident that I could easily land another job. Perhaps I could build up a full-time online coaching business, but I also love in-person training with a fierce passion. I certainly would not feel as fulfilled training solely online.
So why am I not trying with my current gym?
There is no sales force to specifically sell personal training--no quotas, no real personal training culture...nothing. I could try to convince the front desk people to be pushier with training when signing up new members, but that is not worth my energy.
We basically wait around for people to go up to the front desk and ask about training, which is like 1 person every 2-3 months. I could take the initiative and try to sell training myself, but I don't have the time. When I'm done training at the gym, typically I have a client through my own business that I must train.
I have to go where the money is--and I lose money by driving back to the gym in the form of paying for gas. So I certainly am willing to give up the 35-45 dollars I charge for a 1-hour session if it means spending only 30 total minutes a day driving and not 1-2 hours.
It's not sales I have a problem with. Once the prospect is in front of me, it's not difficult for me to turn them into a client because my passion naturally comes through conversation. But if the leads aren't easily available, then I'm not going to devote an obnoxious amount of energy to make them available. This is why I had a much easier time getting clients through my own business than at the gym.
I am in no way trying to belittle my current gym. It has its own mission, and I knew that when I was hired. It serves its own purpose and it serves it well. I've enjoyed my time, but I want to make a career out of training and I can't make it at my current gym. It's a fantastic place to get your start, but if you're serious about personal training, you're going to have to eventually make the tough decision to move on.
And sometimes it's not easy when those opportunities are so limited.
Put simply, I don't like feeling trapped.
I broke down crying last night, wishing I had never been told about the opportunity at 9Round. If I hadn't been told, I'd still be at the clinic as a physical therapy aide and I'd probably be in school right now studying to progress into the physical therapy assistant program. I would have been able to start in 2018, and I feel like I wouldn't have wanted more than what I had.
I'm going to start school in the summer, yes, but it's only going to take up a fraction of my time since I can't apply for the PTA program until 2019--and I only need 5 classes. To apply for 2018 means having to cram in some relatively difficult classes in the summer, and I'd like to bring up my GPA from a 3.4 to 3.8.
Yet, when I got hired on by 9Round, I suddenly wanted more out of personal training. I didn't want it to simply be a lead-in to physical therapy. I wanted to develop an entire career out of it that could go hand-in-hand with physical therapy.
Training at 9Round refreshed my passion for personal training because I never felt burnt out when I finished a shift there. I adored my job at the clinic, but sometimes I felt so burnt out and rundown doing things that I wasn't particularly passionate about, like paperwork and constant cleaning, that going to the gym right after to train felt burdensome. At 9Round, it was a little bit of cleaning, a little bit of selling, but a whole lot of training. And I loved every second, even when I was training back-to-back-to-back.
Now I feel like I wanted too much and am not where I want to be. I feel like maybe my expectations were too high from the start and I'm getting my comeuppance for wanting more than maybe what I deserve.
It all sounds so silly to be upset about. After all, I put my resume in at a new gym that hasn't even hired trainers yet. There's also two other relatively new gyms in the area that probably don't have all their trainers yet either. Still, it's frustrating being back at square one. I'm making more money now than I was at 9Round thanks to my business, but I'd prefer more clients over more money. I'd prefer staying busy. I'd prefer interacting with a myriad of people and changing a variety of lives.
I'd prefer more financial security, too. At my current gym, I can't afford to lose a client because it could be another month or two before I'm able to replace said client. This isn't to say that I find my clients replaceable. I certainly don't treat them as such. This is to say that if I want true financial stability with personal training, I want to be comfortable with losing clients because I know I can get those empty slots easily filled. And getting clients through my own business costed me money, money that I easily earned back tenfold, but money I still nonetheless had to spend.
There is no financial security when you wonder if the clients you have now are the clients you're going to have a month or more down the line. I've got my husband's income I can fall back on, but that's an admission of defeat if I ever have to ask him to pay for something that I can't.
This all sounds like I'm giving in to my feelings of discouragement, but after reading "How to Get Over "Feeling Like a Fraud" and Boost Your Confidence on thePTDC, I'm beginning to think maybe I'm exactly where I need to be. I don't want to be where I'm currently at, but it's also given me a chance to keep learning within my career so that I can keep developing as a trainer.
I'm currently studying corrective exercise through NASM and am loving every moment of it. Most of my clients are special populations clients and all need some form of corrective exercise; thus, it's great to be studying something that is immediately applicable. It's given me a chance to think about my programming and coaching methods in order to improve upon them to keep being the best trainer I can be. I don't know if I'd be studying this if I were still at 9Round.
The new clients I had to take on through my own business have also taught me so much that I wouldn't have learned through 9Round alone. While I enjoyed training at 9Round, I could not give the intense 1-on-1 attention that I can give to my personal training clients.
I learned how to train in a fast-paced environment at 9Round and how to train multiple people with different needs, but with my 1-on-1 clients, I can really dive into nutrition counseling and helping to correct movement dysfunctions that may be causing them pain. I can get more intense with ensuring their form is correct and understanding their different learning styles so I can better coach and cue them.
Teaching boot camp style classes is great, but there's a reason I'm more of a personal trainer than group fitness instructor.
I'm not falling into complacency about my career. While I hate the uncertainty of everything right now, my clientele number not being where I want it to be, all I can do is devote all of my energy to the current clients I do have.
They're all inspiring too. I'm training one for a triathlon who has cerebral palsy. His trainer quit on him at the last minute and he was terrified about not being able to find another one. If I were still at 9Round, I know I wouldn't be training him. Maybe he would have been able to find someone else, but I can't help but to think that I'm the best fit for him because training someone like him is much more natural for me than it would be for others. In fact, he likes to indirectly remind me on occasion that he isn't easy to please--but I've had no problems keeping him happy. I don't have to try hard at all.
I'm also training two who are doctors, one who needs a strict program of corrective exercise due to back pain and limited mobility around her joints. We're seeing improvements, and I'm glad to have a doctor's stamp of approval for my services.
I have another client who had frequent ankle pain from a fallen arch and severe issues with balancing on it, but over time we've worked on it and have gotten her to the point where she's doing Olympic lifts and intense plyometrics, stuff that was impossible for her in the beginning because of her balance and pain issues. Now she rarely has pain and we've restored normal balance to her ankle. Her ankle doesn't even bother her anymore during her 12-hour shifts.
I've helped a male client lose 10 lbs. and have helped his wife discover that her severely low protein intake was hindering weight loss.
I could go on and on, but I'm trying to look for a reason to keep going, to keep trying to find another job that will lead to the fulfillment and contentment I had at 9Round. The only way I can do that is to look at what I have now and to work on bettering something that already exists.
What-ifs just can't cut it. Pining too much for the future only leads to frustration and resentment of the present. I have to try to live in the moment each day and to not burn myself out with concentrating on what I lack. I'll wish for more, but I'll have to learn to not let it consume me. I could be better off, but I could also be worse off. I'll fight for what I want, but I won't let this fight make me bitter.
ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, nutrition coach, young adult author, moody ballerina.
I help people perform without pain.
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The views expressed on this blog are entirely my own. Any advice I offer is not to be taken as medical advice. If you think you have contraindications to exercise, please see your physician before implementing any sample workout plans I present on this blog.
All images are either my own, from Canva, or Creative Commons