My Journey as a Personal Trainer Part Two

If you haven’t read “Why I Became a Personal Trainer Part One,” you’ll want to start there.

Contrary to popular belief, getting a job as a trainer isn’t always easy. It certainly isn’t in Augusta, GA, where the average gym is only going to pay you, at most, 20 bucks an hour–and that’s assuming you’re training two clients every hour. Otherwise, you’re not getting paid.

The lack of jobs for trainers in this city is ridiculous. And the poor pay even more so. After all, all of the gyms in this area definitely require certifications (not all gyms do). And those certifications require continuing education credits. So if you’re not making money, getting those CECs (or CEUs) just isn’t worth it.

When I was first seeking a job as a trainer, the best I could do was starting out as a membership consultant at a small gym. Most others seemed to want experience of some sort–a department I was severely lacking in. At the time, the Y wasn’t even hiring. And even if they were, one of their caveats is that you already have experience. Same with the current gym I’m at.

Kind of hard to get experience when most gyms won’t let you shadow due to liability issues, unless you’re already an employee of that gym, which means having to settle on something that will at least allow you to get your feet wet.

Yet, being a membership consultant wasn’t all bad. I received a monthly salary plus commission based off the memberships I sold. In the meantime, I could shadow a trainer whenever I wanted. This was actually more difficult than I thought it would be considering I couldn’t shadow all of said trainer’s clients; not all of them were comfortable with someone else watching, so there were very, very few I shadowed.

Even so, I learned enough, made some mistakes along the way, and was able to adopt my own system that I could use on future clients.

So why did I not just stay there and get hired on as a trainer? A shift in management made things go downhill fast. I’m not comfortable with being overly sales-y, and this new shift in management was encouraging some pretty aggressive behavior that pushed me outside of my own ethical boundaries. Luckily, I had just gotten a job at the Y, so I wasn’t completely doomed.

Of course, I had to crush my expectations when I started the Y. Getting clients is impossible (just ask my boss and the head trainer at the gym I’m currently at, as they also once worked at the Y). The floor hours were meager–as was the floor pay. There was far less than zero incentive to sell training, as we received no commission from doing so. We just got paid per session.

Now I tried to justify this by telling myself it’s my first job and it’s about getting the experience, as apparently that’s what the Y is supposed to be for trainers. Yet, the guideline to even receive an interview was to already have experience.

Trainers have to make money too!

So I had to find a second source of income. My first gig was as a physical therapy aide, and I learned so much more from this job than I ever would have training on my own. In fact, this job is the reason I’m back in school with the aim of getting into the physical therapy assistant program.

After three months, however, a better opportunity with better pay came along, and I started working at 9Round. Of course, three months into my stint there, they declared bankruptcy and I was without a second source of income. Talk about devastating. Not only was the pay decent, but I loved the job itself and the members I trained.

That’s when I had to start my own business, and as successful as it was, the hustle was too stressful. I could see starting a business again, but I’d want to do it with a partner so that way I can share the stress.

The period between January and April was incredibly stressful and depressing for me as I struggled finding an entirely new job at an entirely new gym. I was without floor hours at the Y, and I knew I wasn’t going to get any hours any time soon. There was a surplus of trainers who shouldn’t have been hired, as there was no client demand to begin with. (There was no client demand, even when I was hired! It took me almost two months to get my first client. Where I’m at now, it took me a month to get ten clients.)

I despised the drive time, driving from one client’s place to the next. I was always getting stuck in construction traffic. I had to constantly send quotes for new clients and diligently follow up with them. Cancellations drove me nuts, as I’d be left with nothing to do for an entire day. You can’t really appreciate free time until it becomes limited, so I spent most of my time feeling unfulfilled if clients cancelled. Even though the money coming in was decent, I was miserable.

Then an opening finally came along for the Kroc Center, and the rest, as they say, is history. While I feel a little overworked thanks to school, I’d rather be in this position than being entirely underworked and feeling without a purpose. This job pays much, much better, the commission is great, the benefits are stellar, and the overall employee treatment is superb.

I could have totally given up on personal training; however, the fact that I spent so much on continuing education and so much to get my CSCS strengthened my resolve to make this career work out for me, even if I ultimately have to give it up to go into the field of physical therapy. (Really, I’d like to marry the fields of physical therapy and personal training, as they needn’t be at odds with one another.)

So I got to where I am today through the stubborn insistence that I do something with the education I personally paid for. My career is one with a high turnover, but I have no desire to be part of that statistic.

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