Why I Don't Pursue Fitness as a Full-Time Career - Erin's Inside Job

Why I Don’t Pursue Fitness as a Full-Time Career

I’ve written a lot of posts about being a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. They were both something that I got into after moving to Chicago because I wanted to be able to give back and help my community approach their physical health in, well, a healthy way.

It’s been over four years since I’ve come to Chicago and over that period of time, like other things I’ve been interested in, my opinions and outlook have shifted some. While I once wanted to pursue fitness as a full-time endeavor, I quickly realized that if I wanted that to happen, I would have to give up my early mornings and late evenings, spend at least a year growing my client base, or open a gym — none of which I really wanted to do long term.

I have gotten a lot of questions and emails from people wondering how to start in fitness or what to do with a certification (this post may be helpful for that), so I figured it was only fair for me to share my perspective on it now that several years have passed.

I have other passion projects

I am really starting to ramp thing up over here in this corner of the internet, with plans out the WAZOO of how to bring you quality content and connection. I thoroughly enjoy fitness, but I like the connections with clients and students more. I enjoy helping people on a journey, which may be evident from the fact that I’ve also made a career out of this website.

Because of this, it sometimes feels like taking on more than x number of clients is actually taking me away from my main goal, which isn’t growing a personal training business.

I’m not willing to work in a chain gym

From the very beginning, I knew I didn’t want to work in a chain gym because I knew my earning potential was so much more on my own. If you’re looking for a more steady set of clients, however, maybe this is a good choice for you.

I only want to train clients

Many people I know with careers in fitness do more than just train clients and go home for the day. They own their own studios, hold fitness sales jobs, or work in a higher level position such as gym manager. For awhile I was the midwest manager of a company that supplied corporate fitness programs and challenges, but this was in addition to my own clients and my own classes at another studio.

I really just wanted to have the one-on-one connection with clients without having to oversee anyone else, so that limited the amount I was able to make financially.

No work, no pay

The problem with working as a trainer or group ex instructor is that it’s not a regular salaried job. You don’t get vacation time or sick days. If you have to not see clients for days or, heaven forbid, a week, there’s no income coming in. I didn’t want to structure my business so that it was necessary for me to be physically present at all times to make money.

I am in no way saying that you can’t have a full-time job in fitness, but it’s going to be difficult. There are certainly people who have their entire schedules packed with one-on-one clients, but personal training in that system tends to lead to burnout after a finite number of years unless you change the way you’re operating.

Most people I know with jobs in the fitness industry do it as a part-time endeavor because they love it. They have a 9-5 job and then teach or train before or after work because it’s something they love doing. This is certainly not to dissuade anyone from pursuing their dreams because I think that anyone can make a career out of something that they are incredible passionate about; it’s really just about how hard you’re willing to work.

11 comments on “Why I Don’t Pursue Fitness as a Full-Time Career

  1. Good post, Erin! 🙂 I really stand by the fact that what we’re passionate about doesn’t have to be our careers. We don’t have to monetise everything we love. At the end of the day, it’s fine to have a separate job and hobby! 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog recently posted…3 Reasons Why You Should Check Out Tate ModernMy Profile

  2. Hey, Erin! Personal trainer over here 🙂 and, I work in a chain gym. I think you represented this topic well. It took me a long time to build up my clientele, and it definitely gets fatiguing trying to sustain that kind of schedule. As you said, I don’t plan to keep this going for many years because it is just A LOT. Plus, I have to trade time for money (and, it is money that I don’t set myself). I believe my value is greater than what I make, not to sound arrogant. But, our job is much more than the 30-60 minutes we get in front of our client, which is really only what we’re paid for. Anyway, I appreciate this post, and I agree wholeheartedly that it is not for everyone. Thanks for posting!
    Mallory recently posted…5 Reasons Why Children + Weight Loss Shouldn’t Share a SentenceMy Profile

  3. Great post Erin! Like you, I pursued an education in Fitness (B.Sc. in Kinesiology & Certificate in Athletic Therapy), however I quickly learned that fitness isn’t a typical 9-5 job and I wanted to be involved with my kids sports, which staying in fitness wasn’t going to allow me the flexibility to do. I now work in a completely unrelated field, but I LOVE that it’s 9-5. I hope to one day return to the fitness industry – maybe on a part-time basis when I retire?

    1. Totally! I actually had someone email me the other day that now that he’s retiring he’s decided to do some training work part time. For me it’s totally better as a part time thing!

  4. Nice post, it will definitely help people know if full-time personal training is for them. Your honesty is a great barometer for anyone considering this occupation.

    On another note…can’t wait for all the new goodies coming!!!

  5. Erin, I’m WITH YOU! I worked at Equinox full time for my first personal training job and quickly realized it was NOT for me. I love to work with people more in a group setting, which is why I’ve transformed my career into fitness writing, fitness blogging and group fitness instructing only. I’m soooo in agreement with your points!
    Ashley @ A Lady Goes West recently posted…Gym inspo: Short weights workouts you can do in less than 30 minutesMy Profile

  6. Great post. For whatever the reason, so few people in the industry are honest about this issue. I see more facilities wanting trainers with a degree in Kinesiology. The amount of money pursuit a four year degree will not pay off to become a personal trainer. So many facilities are not very professional. They turn trainers into sales people. You are better off with a business degree and a certification from NASM or ACE. Also, it us true that there are few benefits or a clear career path. It is a decent career if you are a mom like me and I have a husband with the full-time job. Burn out is real. It starts out fun but week after week takes it’s toll. The best part of have enjoyed is knowing so many people in my community. There are pluses but the sad reality is you cannot make a real living or support of family easily in a fitness type business. Very few can do it. Richard Simmons maybe or Shawn T.

    1. Yes I agree w you! It was definitely something that I used to supplement my income rather than completely rely on it. I know some people can do that, but they’re few and far between

  7. I just left a job recently because I was badgered constantly to bring in more fitness sales packages. To many box gyms want to turn you into a sleazy sales person more than helping people achieve fitness goals. I was bringing in money but got criticized for not calling more people for fit start! The problem is, the more sales means fitting in more clients. There is down time between 1-4:00pm. Then you do split shifts. You end up not having a life. We are treated or respected in the industry. In fact, they like turnover.

    1. I totally get that and that’s why I was never interested in working in a box gym like that. I had the privilege of being able to start slowly and build clients because of my husband’s income, but I understand that not everyone has that luxury. It’s a tough spot!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.