The Hidden Truths Behind Working As A Personal Trainer

In this article, I shall share with you the some of the hidden truths about working in the fitness industry. If you are thinking of joining this industry, read on to help you deliberate on this choice. A disclaimer : This was written based on my own personal experience during my time as a Personal Trainer in a commercial gym. Things may have changed since.

I was inspired to write this because I have seen people come into this industry not for the passion but for the money and perceived freedom instead. I’ve seen some quit their comfortable jobs to later find out that it is not easy. I did exactly this and it took me close to 4 years to accept and embrace this fact.

What I reference below is based on commercial chain gyms which have a business model that may differ from Crossfit boxes, yoga studios, calisthenics etc.

Let’s take a look at how people may view working as a personal trainer:

1. Flexible working hours
2. Fewer working hours
3. A lucrative salary
4. Working in a stress-free environment
5. More time to do your own training
6. Loving your job
7. Enjoy a large social circle
8. Certification is required
9. Eating healthy everyday

How much truth is there to these perceptions?

Well let’s discuss them in more detail.

1. Flexible Working Hours

Yes it is flexible but being flexible doesn’t mean you can leave the gym or do what you like while working for your company. Unless of course, you end up working as a freelance trainer. Working under a company still requires you to clock in a certain amount of time. I used to wake up 5am and end work at 12 am, 7 days a week.

2. Fewer Working Hours

As I have stated above, the hours a trainer works in a gym is crazy. You may be clocking in 8 hours eg. 8am until 4pm but if your scheduled client comes after 4pm, you will have to stay until that time to train the client. To find a database of clients that nicely fits into the schedule requires a lot of skill and planning which is almost impossible in your early days as a trainer.

3. A Lucrative Salary

Earning around $100/hr is possible if you are a freelance trainer but that really depends on your credentials and qualifications. If you are working for a gym, you will only be earning a part of the fee. Earning 5 digits is possible too at the expense of working through the entire weekend. I know of some friends who do that. On a side note, if you choose to be a freelancer, you have got to worry about your CPF in future.

4. Working In A Stress-Free Environment

It is often perceived that there is little or no stress when you work as a personal trainer. However, it is because the public does not see the stress of a daily, weekly and monthly sales target. Your monthly target differs based on the ‘rank’ of every trainer. During my time, trainers would be under a lot of pressure to encourage their clients to purchase personal training packages in advance to help them achieve these sales targets. The office where I worked in contained so much negativity and competition that it constantly consumed my positivity.

5. More Time To Do Your Own Training

When I first worked in the first gym, I thought I would have more time to train but I was wrong. Being constantly tied down to sales and working from 5am until 12am, I did not have adequate sleep and rest. I then found out that the trainers at my gym also had to survive on about 4 hours of sleep. Due to all these factors, the motivation to train diminished. That explains why some trainers are out of shape, underweight etc. They are not to be blamed. It is the system which made them this way.

6. Loving Your Job

I totally disagree on this perception because back then, I was so deprived from sleep, troubled from sales and not getting enough ‘me time’ that my passion for fitness waned and I really questioned my decision to be in this industry. However, I kept going and never failed to give my clients my 120% effort so that their money is worth my service.

7. A Large Social Circle

I would agree this to a certain extent as you do meet many people through a job like this. Although I have 5000 friends in Facebook, I seldom assess social media. But knowing and meeting many people meant nothing as I have no time to socialise and having time with family was a struggle as well.

8. Professional Certification Required

Gym members would sometimes view our advice as more valuable than that of a doctor’s because of the relationships we build through our work. However, to become a practicing doctor, you need to have studied 5-6 years. For a personal trainer? You do not even need a certification. Anyone can be one! Yes, you are reading this correctly. I only hold a simple $150 exercise sports certificate but have 10 years of training background before I quit my job to join the fitness industry.

After joining the fitness industry, I see that many stop upgrading their skills and knowledge. Many times, I have seen trainer teaching a squat and the client squats with knees caved in, every single rep. After 30 minutes, the squat was still not corrected. If you want to make a difference in people’s lives, you will definitely care about this correction.

So I hope you enjoyed this post about what are some of the perceived advantages and the hidden truths of being a personal trainer. If you are thinking of being a part of this industry just know that at the end of the day, anything is possible but that will take a lot of patience, planning and determination.

Yours Coach,
Amirrudin Ong


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