2 August 2019
Personal Trainers Are NOT A Charity – Are PTs Valued & Respected?
As I write this, I must admit I’m a little heated and royally pissed, which isn’t all the common believe it or not. It’s 11pm and it’s past my bedtime. This wouldn’t be all that much of a problem if I had the luxury of a 9-5. I’ve been coaching/working since 5:30am this morning, which…
As I write this, I must admit I’m a little heated and royally pissed, which isn’t all the common believe it or not. It’s 11pm and it’s past my bedtime. This wouldn’t be all that much of a problem if I had the luxury of a 9-5. I’ve been coaching/working since 5:30am this morning, which is not that uncommon for me or the average personal trainer.
The first section of this article is nothing more than me rambling about my day so feel free ahead if you aren’t all that interested in the happenings of my life. If you are, great. The initial rambling will hopefully provide an insight into what the average day for me looks like, as it does for most coaches and business owners. This will serve as a the backbone for what follows, which I feel is a rather important to topic not just for coaches or soon to be personal trainers, but also to anyone who is a client of a coach clients or looking to hire someone.
A Long Winded Introduction – A Day In The Life of A Self Employed Coach
Upon waking to my fourth alarm this morning at 5:34am, I dragged my sorry arse out of bed to get to my first appointment of the day – a podcast interview with Lyle McDonald scheduled for 6am. After I finally shut Lyle up, and rushed to my first client of the morning, Rodney, 5 minutes late. Sorry man!
And so, the day officially commenced.
I coached big Rod from 7:05am until 8am, even though his session was 30 minutes. Rod is my cousin-in-law and he is the nicest human in the world. I had the honour of prepping Rod in 2014 when he competed in his first bodybuilding show. He makes me laugh, which I thoroughly enjoy, so I don’t mind at all putting in a little extra and hanging out.
Once we wrapped up the session I resumed my regular activities outside of coaching. Responding to emails, making phone calls, answering client questions, creating and publishing content and responding to social media messages.
By the time my next appointment, Daniel, came into JPS at 9am I was about three long blacks deep.
Dan is also a coach and has his own facility. He is an absolute pleasure to train and most of our discussions center around business, troubleshooting coaching issues and the likes. Which I absolutely love – even though I’m not paid to do this.
As is often the case with me, if I’m talking about topics I am passionate about and who is willing to listen, I lose all sense of time. Dan and I got balls deep in discussions about coach education and how he can better foster a culture that values learning and development, cool stuff!
We went 15 minutes over time, but it was well worth it.
This meant I only had a 15-minute gap between Dan and my next client. The bowels were emptied, I called a friend and engaged in some banter with the JPS members, clients and our staff/coaches. I find interactions with our community extremely energizing. We aren’t afraid to have a laugh on the gym floor and this keeps me sane.
Next up at 10am was my long term client Dan, yes another Daniel. This particular Daniel, aka the big man, has been with JPS since I first started personal training out of Recreation Health Club back in 2010. I appreciate loyalty, a lot, so again I tried to give a little more time than he pays for, especially as he was my last client for the morning and we get along very well.
After Dan, it was back to the laptop, locked in my office and I indulged a little in one of the books I’m currently reading – how selfish, I thought.
Once ticked my daily objective of reading 20 pages of my book, it was back to the hustle. Emails, phone calls, content etc. I find this aspect of my job extremely stimulating, satisfying and rewarding, so it’s no issue and breaks up my time on the gym floor.
A midst a few toilet breaks were discussions with one of our work-experience student Jason as I attempted to answer the bucket load of questions he threw at me. I’m certain I had already answered at least half of the questions he asked, but endeavoured to help him out as best I could. He’s a great kid and really wants to learn, so I took him for lunch with me to chat further. As we walked to the local shopping centre we talked career, life and hypertrophy and I tried to share as much valuable information with him as I could.
After devouring my 4 sushi rolls and picking up my 4thcoffee for the day, I headed back into the studio and my next appointment at 12:30pm, Big Mike. Unfortunately, Big Mik had to reschedule last minute as he was late to get out of work. Fortunately however, I could shuffle a few things around and manage to squeeze him in later in the day. I would bend over backwards for Mike, he is loyal like a dog and rarely lets me down. So I knew this was a once off and was happy to accommodate.
Given I know had an hour up my sleeve, I took off to see a friend briefly (which I’m trying to do more of these days) and soon hurried back to begin my afternoon coaching work.
At 2:30pm I had my next appointment, Maha. Maha is a mum of two, never trained before and hasn’t even followed a diet. She always asks if she is my least favourite client because she isn’t a bodybuilder or powerlifter and “isn’t strong yet”. I assure her that our sessions are the highlight of my day, which they are. There is only so much “I’m not lean, big or strong enough” from lean, big and strong folks I can tolerate. So, training Maha is nice change of pace.
At 3pm, big Mike rolls in. We ended up training legs together. For context, Mike is state bodybuilding champion and I dare say one of Australia’s best bodybuilders – he’s been stiff in our last 2 seasons working together not to come away with a national title or pro card. We trained legs and it was a productive session, at least until I got distracted answering questions and realized I had only completed 2 exercises out of 4 in 90 minutes. Session done…
Onto the laptop (again) and it was time to skype with some of my online clients who live abroad, which is super cool. Thankfully, the time zones aren’t absurdly incoherent! Once I buttoned up these two appointments, it was back to the gym floor to get into my next 3 PT clients and a posing session with one of my physique guys. All sessions went well and were positive and productive.
I finished up with my client work at 7pm and hurried back to the laptop for an interview with a Perth coach, facility owner and content creator who is hosting one of our seminars later this year. The interview went for 90 minutes, and was a heap of fun.
By this point my inbox had steadily filled up with emails – from 8 to 45. Happy days.
You can use your imagination to have a wild guess at what I did until 10:30pm.
And here we are, dinner not long before midnight and punching back my salmon and vegetables whilst responding to emails and then beginning this piece. It’s 11:30pm and I’m tired, but energised by the passion I have for what I do and the topic at hand – do clients or prospective clients appreciate and respect what goes into running a coaching business ?
I’ll preface the next section with what sparked this article. Recently, Jeff Alberts of 3D Muscle Journey re-shared a comment on one of his stories where a gentleman (I use that term loosely given what follows) asked for free coaching. To Jeff’s credit, he handled it like the professional he is – suggesting this ‘man’, who clearly didn’t value Jeff’s time or work, check out the metric fuck ton of free content Jeff and the 3DMJ guys have produced over the last decade. I was fuming, but not surprised, that this individual had the audacity to ask Jeff to coach for free.
Onto the rant…
Are Personal Trainers Respected & Appreciated?
One could argue that based on the above, I have poor time management skills.
One could also argue that personal trainers often overcharge for mediocre services.
You might even go so far to say that, hey, personal trainers should help as many people as they can, even if it’s for free.
I’m not so sure I agree with this entirely. I’ll address this shortly..
A case can certainly be made for the under qualification of a personal trainer.
I totally agree. When a personal trainer completes their certificates, they are at the mercy of the fitness industry where it’s every man for themselves. Most trainers finish their basic certifications with nothing more than a piece of paper and the prospects of a prosperous and lucrative career helping people get fit.
The problem is, this lack of qualification in what is a tiny component of running a coaching business and providing a service means that trainers are entering an industry they know nothing about and often don’t even know how to do their job adequately. I’m not sure it’s entirely their fault either, and we can play the blame game all day long. But the reality is, the education and learning only begins once a coach enters the work force.
Not only do coaches need to know about fitness related topics, but they aren’t adequately taught many of the requisite level the other inherent skills and competencies required in the job, such as communication, time management, business, accounting, marketing, digital media, the list goes on. h is a coach how to survive in the industry, let lone thrive, given the amount of gaps in their knowledge. Couple this with a lack of experience and most coaches find themselves up sh** creek without a paddle faster than you can say bobs your uncle.
Despite the inherent flaws in the education of trainers, coaching (like all jobs) is work. It’s someone’s career, albeit fleeting for many or half arsed by others. Nonetheless, coaches wake up each day to go to work and make a living just like you. They deserve to be paid for the work they do. I don’t think that’s an unfair expectation, do you?
Not all coaches are worthless and most decent practitioners put in a significant amount of time, energy and effort into catering to the needs of their clients irrespective of whether they are paid or not. Most go above and beyond for their clients and like my staff at JPS, they genuinely care about their clients.
Anyhow, the overview of my day just gone was indeed rambling and rather useless information for the most part. If you made it this far, thanks for listening. The point I wanted to illustrate is that I (like a lot of other coaches) invest a tremendous amount of time, energy and effort into helping my clients outside of paid time.
For example, when I read, research, attend seminars or enrol in courses I am seeking to enhance my knowledge, skills and ultimately my ability to help my clients. This is often comes at a large financial cost – if I’m paying to learn AND not working, it’s a double whammy for the wallet. Yet, I know this is what I have to do in order to provide a top notch service, and that’s fine with me. We need to do work beyond the paid session to ensure our future isn’t compromised.
What I’m not as fine with is when people use, abuse and demonstrate a blatant lack of respect for somebody else’s work.
Is it just and fair to expect to expect someone to work for free?
Is it ok to bargain with an individual providing a product or service we desire?
Are we within our rights as consumers to ask for an extension on a payment for services we have been provided or will be provided?
This isn’t a fruit market nor are we operating in an 18th century marketplace folks. This is the 21st century and we have abundance and admittedly, I am naturally inclined to support capitalism which supports wage labor and a voluntary market.
If hiring a coach is a luxury, that you can’t afford, then don’t sign up until you your financial situation improves
If a trainer is a necessity, then surely you will account for the cost of this service within your budget. You NEED them, right?
And just a reminder that what you pay for when hiring a good coach must account for the fact that a session on the gym floor is all but a minor component of a coach’s duties and practice, especially those self-employed.
A coach offers more than technical advice and a kick up the arse during a training session.
We write your programs;
Answer your emails, phone calls and messages;
Check in with you outside of the session;
Update your plans;
Review training footage; and
Reassure you that you aren’t a failure or worthless piece of sh** for eating that piece of cake you weren’t supposed to.
Coach’s and personal trainers very rarely have the security of a salary, health benefits or any form of stability in their work schedule or income. The aforementioned are reasons that the fitness industry chews up and spits out the vast majority of aspiring trainers.
It truly saddens me, and at times I can’t help but think the attitude that consumers and clients adopt towards our profession is part of the cause.
What angers me is the very small percentage of individuals who don’t appreciate that a trainer is a human too, who like them, is trying to get by and make a living.
Now, I’m very fortunate that nearly all of my clients (I think) respect and appreciate me, my work and the fact that coaching puts food on the table for my kids and pays the bills. I am lucky to now be in a position where I can turn down the fruitcakes who expect me to work for free. But not all coaches are in the same boat – free work is part and parcel with obtaining new clients: free sessions, trials, referral discounts etc. It’s a freaking bizarre industry that’s for sure.
I hope this article serves some purpose. Whether you are a coach, soon to be coach or current/future client, I truly hope that things brings awareness to the fact that time and work must be valued and duly paid for. There are no free rides in life, and personal trainers are no exception.
To my fellow coaches and budding your trainers looking to get into the industry. Hang tough. Remember, you must work long, hard and tirelessly for your paying clients. This is how you create value, and in doing so will be rewarded in time. Plug away and find the silver lining. As per my introduction, our job is pretty awesome. Everyone has value, you AND your clients. Enjoy your time with them and ensure you go above and beyond, always.