I was drowning in a cesspool of lack-of-motivation when 9Round, a kickboxing cardio franchise, went bankrupt in January in my particular area. I trained there for about 20-30 hours a week, so the income I was generating from that job was decent, not to mention I was madly in love with the job itself. Meanwhile, I was also holding down a job at a YMCA where getting personal training clients was impossible. For whatever reason, personal training is just not a thing at any Y branch where I live.
To put things in perspective: It took me almost two months to get my first client at the Y. And the only reason I got said client is because another trainer couldn’t take her on. So it’s not like this client was totally brand new to personal training or even a new member. At my current gym, I got my first client in a week. I’ve been here for two weeks and I’m up to six. So it definitely wasn’t for lack of trying.
In any case, when I lost 9Round as an income stream, I was left wondering just what the crab apples I was supposed to do. No gyms were really looking in my area, the Y wasn’t generating much income for me, and even though I had plans to go back to school (I’m in school now), I still wanted my own stream of income not contingent on my husband’s.
Needless to say, remaining in the purgatory of not-knowing is never fun. I was given a job offer at a Gold’s Gym that had to be rescinded because the fitness director found out the new one opening up where he wanted to hire me was going to use their in-house trainers and not a contractor. I also had an opportunity with Burn Boot Camp, but due to my hip impingement, passing their physical fitness test was/is impossible for me. And of course I did apply at the new Gold’s Gym, but they ended up hiring trainers they already knew from other gyms. I almost felt like the Y was working against me. It has a reputation for hiring less-than-skilled trainers.
Talk about massively frustrating. There’s not a whole lot of gyms in the Augusta, GA area, so you can imagine my despair when I began to feel like I just wasn’t cut out for the fitness industry.
During this time, I did have my own business going. While it was exciting in the beginning, the constant hustle of having to get clients and then replace clients who no longer wanted/needed training was wearing me down. Not to mention that even though I received payments upfront, getting cancellations was still discouraging. After all, training those clients who had to cancel was all I had going for me that day. The constant stress sapped my motivation for anything else.
I never even wanted my own business. It was supposed to be a temporary Band-Aid that stayed on much longer than I would have liked. Yes, I was successful at it. It sustained me. But it was stressful, it took constant hustle, the drive time drove me nuts, and sometimes clients would slam down a ton of cash for training only to ask for a refund before they even started with me due to a life crisis. At that point I could have used a no-refund policy, but could I really do that to a woman who’s sickle-cell anemic son ended up in the hospital with pneumonia?
The only business I want at this point is online coaching, as I won’t have to worry about cancellations. I don’t need to be physically present, so clients can work out on their own time.
Having your own business is not as glamorous as it seems. Entrepreneurship–real entrepreneurship–isn’t #girlboss, MLMs, pictures in the Bahamas, financial freedom, a pretty thing you can put on Instagram, a motivational post you can publish on social media.
It’s hustle, hustle, hustle, like waiters and waitresses hustling for tips during their busiest nights. You can find financial freedom, but the hustle will never end. If you relax for even a moment, your business is in danger of collapsing. Probably the only people who can ever rest easy are those whose businesses turn into massive empires that employ hundreds or even thousands of people.
I’d like to use my days off to relax, not think about following up with that one prospective client interested in kickboxing.
As it were, with client-based businesses, you have to keep pushing for new business. You can argue the stress is the same working at a gym, but depending on your gym’s model, someone else may be responsible for getting you your clients.
When I was rejected from the new Gold’s Gym, I fell into despair. I considered quitting. Why was I even trying? No one was looking. And then I began to believe that it’s not that gyms weren’t looking–they just didn’t want me. Not even my CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) was enough to get me through any doors.
I broke down sobbing in my car after that rejection and called my dad who recommended seeing my therapist again. I didn’t, but I was strongly considering it.
Yet, unless you’re prone to depression (which I used to be in my early 20s), you wake up one day and your mind forcibly tells you that something has got to give. You have to make something happen, and fast, so that way you don’t continue feeling so lousy. So I got back to it, submitting my resumes to other gyms, even if I knew they weren’t hiring. I even put my resume in at a clinic I used to be a PT aide at (I’m going to school for physical therapy assistant). Dad even suggested I try to make something of my “useless” English degree.
While I was once again swimming against the current of job-search hell, I kept trying to keep my mind on a few positive bits: I was on a waiting list for the Gold’s Gyms that used a contractor, my client retention is mostly good, school was starting soon, I had continuing education to keep me busy, and I knew that even if everything blew up in my face, I’d never have to worry about homelessness or even starving or whatever.
But there’s something to be said about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: when you’ve got your base needs met, you tend to want more.
This perseverance began to pay off. The Kroc Center owned by The Salvation Army was finally looking for a personal trainer. Even though I didn’t meet one of the qualifications that required you to merely work in a fitness facility for two years, I still applied. And I got an interview. A week after that, I got a job offer. Three weeks after the offer, I started. And it’s so much better than I had originally imagined. And, yes, it took all the way from January to May to find something. And I take an enormous amount of pride in knowing there was only one position available, and I got it. I was doubting my abilities for a bit there.
The Y really lowered my expectations for what to expect in the personal training industry, so I am pleasantly surprised by how much different personal training is at my new job. And I don’t mind being brutally honest now because I’ve been waiting for a platform to discuss this when I was both ready and felt safe to do so without any repercussions.
When you’re told how great a job is going to be and it’s not, you feel mislead and lied to. It’s a terrible feeling being an employee of a company that will never have a shred of loyalty toward you.
Now there was actually a brief moment where I considered not even applying at the Kroc because I didn’t meet all of the qualifications. But I am glad I did. I get an hourly rate plus commission off packages of training I sell. So even if I wind up with zero clients, I can still make money from the hourly rate. That has always been the ideal for me–to make some type of money, even if I’m not training.
I found my dream job and didn’t even know it!
So what’s the ultimate takeaway?
- Keep pushing. I get it. After months of not being able to find a single thing, you just want to give up. And who could blame you? You might have even had to take a less-than-ideal job in the meantime, and you’re being stuck with it a lot longer than you would have liked. Opportunity is out there. Sometimes you just have to be patient. Something will come along. Something always comes along. If the Kroc didn’t work out for me, I would have had Gold’s Gym–I was just waiting for a position to open us is all. If you believe this, if you believe in the unscientific concept that the universe eventually balances itself out in people’s personal lives, then you’re more likely to keep your ear to the ground so as not to miss a single opportunity.
- Let yourself despair. You do need to have moments where you wallow in your self-pity so that way you can feel the full effects of what unending stress can do to a person’s mind. Let yourself think getting out of bed is pointless. Let yourself think nothing good is ever going to happen. If you drown in these feelings, a healthy person’s mind is eventually going to click and scream, ‘This sucks! Feeling this way sucks! Something has got to give! Feeling this way isn’t good for me.’ You’ll then get some motivation back to do what needs to be done.
- It’s okay to be depressed. Sometimes you do give in to the depression. That’s okay too. Joblessness or being stuck in a job you hate can cause depression. This just means you need to reach out for help. Don’t make it a solitary effort. After all, depression kills all motivation. It will kill your ability to get the job you want since you won’t be paying any attention to opportunities that arise. It’s an insidious psychological disease. Be cognizant of this.
- Think of the story you’ll tell. When you do finally land your dream job, you’ll have a story to tell for people who are in the position you once were. Desperate job seekers could use more motivators, could use more stories of people who have been where they were and have overcome it. We all want to feel less alone. Just think of the story you’ll weave once you do land your dream job. How amazing is it going to be?