Popular television shows and advertisements make personal training seem like a glamorous, life-changing occupation. This is true to a certain extent; you do get to take pleasure in knowing you've helped clients toward fitness, sports and weight-loss goals. But at its root, personal training remains a service profession of sorts in the fitness field. Although you get to enjoy job flexibility and working with interesting clients, you also have to endure the downsides of the personal-training profession.
Working split shifts or several hours throughout the day with short breaks in between is a common schedule for a personal trainer. Expect to see the bulk of your business just before or just after regular office hours, as clients hit the gym on the way to or from work. Although personal trainers do have more flexibility to make time for picking kids up from school or running errands than you'd find during a 9-to-5 job, you're at your clients' mercy when it comes to scheduling. If you can't meet their scheduling needs, they'll choose another personal trainer.
As a personal trainer, you depend on your clients for a steady, continuing income. If your clients pay by the session, a week of unexpected cancellations can leave you with a pain in the pocketbook. If your clients pay for a package in advance, you have to face a different budgeting hurdle: making sure the funds you're living on don't run out before your clients renew their packages. You can buffer your budget to a certain degree by keeping a diverse population of regular clients or teaching group fitness classes.
Your clients depend on you to help them maintain a consistent, interesting and beneficial workout schedule. Whether you work as an independent contractor -- the most common scenario -- or a gym employee, finding another trainer with a compatible personality and training style to pinch-hit for you if you want a vacation is a real challenge. Finding someone to care for clients at the last minute if you get sick is almost impossible, so you might have to cancel or reschedule sessions. Networking with other trainers is one of the best ways to make sure you have backup ready, but you have to be willing to act as backup yourself, too.
If you're passionate about the fitness field -- and hopefully you are if you're working as a personal trainer --, taking classes or exams to keep your certification and knowledge base current might not seem like a drag. But recertifying is still a necessary hurdle you must meet, no matter what else is going on in your life. You must also keep current on your CPR certification, and depending on the specific terms of your employment or contract work, you might also need to regularly renew insurance policies as well.
Although knowing you've helped a client change her life is a gratifying boost, you can only guide. You may occasionally have clients who set a goal, such as losing a certain amount of weight, then fall short and not bother to keep in touch. Your job is to do everything within your professional capabilities to give your client the tools she needs to succeed. But the bottom line is that you can't sweat for her, and if she decides not to do the work, you shouldn't beat yourself up.