The Business Of Personal Training

In the world of fitness I am almost 10 years old. For some that is still considered young, but in terms of success that is a long time as the majority of people who become PT's don't get to the two year mark. But that's another story, this is more to do with the business of personal training. More precisely it's about the title Personal Trainer - how and why did this title become synonymous with the fitness industry and how it's developed into a business.

Music teachers and football coaches can be considered personal trainers - in fact anybody who teaches an individual how to do something is a personal trainer. Regardless of this fact, the fitness industry has been given the privilege of using the term personal trainer to describe someone who works with individuals one-on-one to help get them into shape. Why? No one really knows for sure, but we've claimed it.

Most people now look at personal trainers as the person who will help them get their bodies sorted out and as a result the definition of a personal trainer is now quite broad. Nowadays we are considered educators, motivators, business people, nutritionists (must be qualified), psychologists, coaches, exercise physiologists and many more. 

Although this may be great and provide a scope/range that is varied and wide, it does have it's downside. Many who get into the industry don't realise the roles and pressure that being a PT brings and is often the cause for many to leave the industry within the first 2 years. That aside, there are also many who thrive in this high pressure environment and do very well. If they didn't we wouldn't have an industry like we do today.

The profession of a PT (and it is now a profession) has, like many other professions, gone through many transformations. Considered initially to be half art half science, it is now becoming more scientific based due to the explosion of scientific knowledge about the human body and how it adapts to exercise. Despite all this transformation, PT's still must be a "jack-of-all-trades" in order to do well.

On top of obtaining  certified qualifications to become a PT, you need to be prepared to perform many job functions - marketing, communication, business structure, teaching, legal responsibilities, management, education, ethics, program design and safety to name a few.

Also as a PT you must be able to deal with everyone from the self-conscious client who knows little and is almost embarrassed to be working out, to the "expert fitness buff." So people skills must be high on the must know, followed by communication and teaching skills.

For the majority, life as a PT is hard work - if it wasn't, everybody would be doing it. The hours are long, the pay not always as rewarding for those hours and the swing in clients can be varied during the year. But the most rewarding part of all the hard work is the look on your clients faces when they start achieving their results - it is priceless.

Technology is now a key part in the industry, as it is with all businesses these days, and to that extent it is making it easier for PT's to expand their business via online training or tracking of one's clients when not in the gym. Online training is being done as an add-on to one's current business helping to grow their client base. For some online training is their sole business, which means less overheads and setup costs as opposed to the traditional gym. So online is a great way to go from that perspective, but it is still hard work and as more move to online, the competition will be as competitive as it is with a physical gym.

I joined the industry for 2 reasons - firstly to have a business of my own so I can be my own boss, and secondly to help people achieve success with their fitness goals. To keep me on track I have a reminder up on my gym whiteboard as to why I am in business as a PT. It states - "My success will help many people - my failure will help no one." So far so good. The journey so far has been hard, interesting, fun and rewarding. As long as I stay focused on helping my clients and listening to them, my business will become successful. Did I mention earlier that along with all the other functions you need to perform as a PT that you also have to be a great listener?

I stated earlier that in the early days, PT's were considered a luxury and only the rich and famous could afford to have a PT. Also back then it was considered a way to make extra income - a part-time job. Today it is no longer exclusive and is much more affordable for anyone who wants a PT and as a result it is possible to earn a good or even great living as a PT. You just have to be prepared to work very hard (just like any business), perform a variety of roles, be one hell of a good one-on-one communicator and develop good business skills. It's a role that not only are you getting your client to change-challenge-achieve, but you also are changing-challenging-achieving so that your business is successful so that your clients also become successful. Happy training.

Martin McKone