Life as a Personal Trainer, the good, the bad and the ugly!

Right guys, I just want to say first that I don’t want this post to sound negative because in no way shape or form is it. I’ve been a Personal Trainer now for 3 and a half years and I LOVE my job. I love being able to help people on a daily basis. Seeing the change in a person’s confidence is an amazing thing and being apart of that makes you feel like you have done your job right. Although, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine in the fitness world!

I completed a 6-week intense course to become a Personal Trainer, and believe me, it was intense, but I loved every minute of it. I’m a secret geek who loves learning, especially about how the body and mind work. On the course, you learn everything you need to know in order for you to become a good coach. Let’s be honest, completing the course is the easy bit and this is why there are SO many bad personal trainers out there. Just because a trainer has lots of client’s doesn’t always mean they are the best coach for you. It usually means they are a pretty good salesperson. Have a look at that trainer’s client retention. Do they train people regularly and are their clients progressing? But back to actually being the personal trainer!

As a Personal Trainer, you need to learn to sell

One thing I probably found the hardest about being a PT is the sales part. I’m not a natural salesperson, never have been, never will be. I don’t like putting pressure on people to sign up for something they might not 100% be sure about. This is something I really struggled with as a new PT. You need to believe you are worth the amount of money the gym, or you, are charging the members and potential clients. Being a newbie into the industry, and when you first qualify, you think you know everything. When in reality, you know the bare minimum. I learnt so much in my first few months of training clients. But I was very lucky in the sense that after I qualified I went straight into a mainstream gym with shift hours. Let me explain…

When you qualify and look for a job in a gym make sure that you are completely aware of how they work. Some gyms will pay you to do shift hours, where you are basically on the gym floor doing inductions etc. Other gyms will have a deal where you do a certain amount of hours for free, so you don’t pay rent and can charge what you like. Last option is you only get paid when you are with clients, you don’t pay rent but they take a cut of what you earn. Hopefully, that makes sense! If not comment below the gym you are looking into and I’ll explain how it works, as I’ve worked at a fair few! Be aware of the pay system and structure as it can be quite confusing! Personally, if you are new into the industry I would recommend you go with a gym that pays you for shift hours then extra for PT hours. Yes, they will take a small cut of your PT hours but when you are doing shift work you are getting paid no matter what. Bit more of a reliable income when you first start out, unless you feel comfortable selling yourself to the max! Shift hours may not sound fun, but they are the perfect opportunity to chat with members, complete inductions and just build your confidence within the gym facilities.

You won’t walk into a gym and get clients with a click of the finger!

Let me just clarify…Just because you have qualified as a personal trainer and you work in a gym, doesn’t mean you will get clients as soon as you walk in, believe me. Personal training is a luxury for most people and this is one reason why there is such a HUGE turnover of trainers in the industry. You can’t expect people to just agree to give you £300 a month with a click of the finger. This is where I come back to sales and why I found it tough to begin with. You have to understand that you are trying to sell people something they can’t even see or hold. You are selling people an image, a dream if you like. When you first start out you haven’t got those testimonials that other trainers have. You haven’t got those before and after photos unless you’ve had a weightless journey yourself. People are investing in YOU as a trainer. They are putting all their eggs in your basket and expecting you to succeed. Clients will assume that if they aren’t getting the results they want, it’s your fault as the trainer.

However, yes this may be a factor, but at the same time, if you see this client once a week, what are they doing for the remaining days? Have you given them workouts/class schedule to attend? Clients will think they are doing everything they can but sometimes you need to have an honest conversation with people about what they eat/drink on a daily basis. You can become almost like a therapist. Client’s will tell you things that they won’t tell anyone else. They will moan about their work to you, moan about their partner and maybe never know anything about you. You have to be able to build a relationship with someone for them to invest in you. It might take months, weeks or just an hours chat. Some clients may be 100% committed and give it everything, others may just pay you for an hours chat. You have to come to the realisation of this. But getting clients ISN’T EASY! You have to put yourself out there and step out of your comfort zone. Be able to read a person in a situation and understand if they want your help or just want to be left alone. Don’t bully people to sign up for PT as those people are most likely to cancel their contract sooner rather than later.

Do you need a niche as a Personal Trainer?

So once you’ve secured a job as a personal trainer and you are building up your client base slowly but surely, you need to start thinking about what kind of personal trainer are you? Many trainers all have some sort of niche, a specialism. Try to avoid being a ‘weightloss specialist’ if you’ve never really lost a tonne of weight. Every personal trainer is a weight loss expert. Find something you are passionate about and stick with it and you’ll get the clientele you want.

Try to avoid getting into the habit of doing exercises or workouts that grab peoples attention. Being that trainer that comes up with the crazy workouts that aren’t really beneficial may look good, but the trainer in the corner working on their client’s squat technique is going to seem a lot more appealing. I’ve known trainers to stand on their phones whilst with a client, leave clients to get on with a task whilst they attend to another client whom they’ve double booked! When you are with a client, focus on that person and give them 100%, because that’s what you expect them to give you! Having a niche isn’t necessary, but it allows you to target a certain person and usually you’ll get a reputation as being ‘that’ trainer and other staff members will start to recommend you to potential clients.

Remember, having a niche is not necessary, but it does help in the long run! Allows you to target a certain type of people and you’ll enjoy training your client’s more if you appreciate their goal.

Managing your time is crucial to a work/life balance! Stay Organised!

Okay, so if you’ve been working as a personal trainer for a while now and managed to build up a decent client base the time has come to really start managing your time. When you first start out, saying yes to everything becomes second nature. One, because you want the money, and two, because you want clients desperately. This is all well and good, but you’ll find you’re practically living at the gym. Which yes, might sound great! HOWEVER…If you aren’t managing your time effectively enough, you won’t get to do the things you enjoy. Your training may slip, sleep goes out the window which is just going to result in you losing clients as you are not that happy/rested trainer you were to begin with.

Write out when you want to work. What times you like to train (ideally). What evenings you like to see friends. It might sound silly but this is going to be the best thing you can do, otherwise, you will feel like you are working 24/7. Once you explain this to clients, they will work around it and it almost builds respect. You are allowed to say no, you are allowed to have time off. You aren’t there for your client’s every call and whimper.

On a weekly basis, I would always have Monday/Friday/Saturday evenings off. Sundays would be a total day off. I found that this, for me, worked well. Saturday’s is always a busy day for PT so it would usually consist of an early start and back to back clients. But if that means I got an extra evening off during the week, then that was fine with me. Take control of your working life, keep organised and this will just push you to succeed. Clients will appreciate you putting the time into their goals, being on time and listening to their needs. It all sounds very simple but if you can remember what they were doing last weekend, it builds up a rapport meaning they are more likely to continue with you as a trainer.

There is ALWAYS something to learn.

Let’s talk clients. We’ve touched on clients goals and how much they rely on you to get them there, but sometimes you might find yourself in a tricky situation where clients aren’t progressing and you don’t know why. You’ve given them all the resources they need i.e. nutrition advice and workout plans, but something isn’t adding up. It’s okay if this happens. We are all human and we all get it wrong sometimes. Be honest with your client and ask them if there is anything that they aren’t being honest about or if there is anything they need some extra help with. Change the way you train that person, talk to other trainers for advice, read articles online. The fitness industry is always changing so you need to keep on top of it and keep learning. Just because you have finished your qualification doesn’t mean you know everything, there is so much more! Client’s may ask you questions you don’t know the answer to and there is no harm in saying you aren’t sure but will find out and let them know. It’s better to do that rather than coming up with something random, they research and see you didn’t have a clue about what you were talking about. Be honest and open.

Think about why you really want to become a Personal Trainer.

One thing that always grates on me when I speak to new personal trainers. I ask them why they wanted to become a trainer, and when their response is ‘because I love being in the gym and training’, literally just melts my brain to mush. Yes, I 100% agree you have to enjoy the environment you work in and have a passion for it, but just a small reminder, you aren’t going to be in the gym training yourself, you are going to be training other people to help them achieve what they want. If you don’t have patience or empathy, being a personal trainer may not be for you. You aren’t going to get on with everyone you encounter as a trainer. There will be clients that you click with more than others. Until you get to the point where you can pick and chose your clients you need to learn to listen to their needs, learn about what they like and find some common ground. If you don’t listen to what someone wants then they won’t train with you for long as they either won’t enjoy it, or aren’t getting the results they planned for.

Why I’m taking a step back from the fitness industry as a PT…

Towards the end of my time being a personal trainer, my views on the industry changed. I’m still passionate about helping people get healthy and I love the practical aspect of the job, as I love training. However, it got to a point where it kills me a little inside, how everyone is so obsessed about looking a certain way and not accepting who they are and focusing on performance. I can still remember the day when I had to complete an induction with a new joiner who was a female 21 year old. I asked the usual questions and made conversation to try and make her feel a little more at ease before getting down to business. When I asked her what her goal was, I was stunned by her answer. Her goal was to be ‘tiny’. In those exact words. I didn’t quite know what to say and I asked her to explain what she meant by tiny and she wanted to be super lean, not muscly with a tiny waist, bearing in mind she couldn’t have been any bigger than a size 6. I didn’t quite know what to do if I’m honest.

Everyone, of course, is allowed their own goal but being sat opposite this young girl whose goal was to be tiny ripped a little bit of my heart away. The fact she saw herself as ‘big’ was worrying. She didn’t want to do weights as she didn’t want to be ‘manly’. I’ll be honest, there was only so much I could say in the hour of her appointment. To try and explain everything as simply as possible, knowing that she wasn’t really listening or cared about what I was saying, wasn’t easy. I think from that day on, the more I spoke to people about their progress or goals, the more I realised it was all about weight or size related. Not about how they felt or performed. Not about how they managed to run for the bus with ease. It was all about the scales or fitting into a certain size. For me, that’s not what I want to promote as a personal trainer. I want to promote health, wellbeing and strength. Focusing on those things rather than the aesthetics. But the fitness industry is mainly based on looks sadly, which is why I’ve taken a step back and actually changing my career.

I hope that may have answered some of you questions or thoughts about being a personal trainer. It is a great job and I’ve loved doing it for the past 3 and half years. But for me, now, it’s time for a change and go into the health sector as Ambulance crew. Putting my passion for helping people to a new level! If you want me to explain anything more or you have any questions about being a PT, drop it in the comments below and I’ll get back to you!


V x


  1. Leah
    April 16, 2019 / 8:40 am

    I stumbled across this post and found it really helpful in terms of my current situation as I’m coming to the end of my 5 week PT course, am wanting to go into a gym first to build my confidence and gain experience etc… but have no idea where to start!
    I’ve been researching into different gyms but it’s quite difficult to find out specific info in terms of their procedures with PT’s and whether it’s rent, part time salary and so on.
    I’ve found Everyone Active and possibly Fitness First?
    Are there any that you could recommend? I would be really grateful ?
    Thanks xx

    • Vikki
      May 3, 2019 / 8:32 pm

      Hey! I’m so glad it gave you some insight into the world of personal training! I’ve not heard of Everyone Active but I know Fitness First is a self-employed basis from what I’m aware. I worked with David Lloyd to begin with where I worked designated shift times and then PT was extra. The wage still isn’t great, but so much better than going solo straight away! Hope that helps

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