The information for this blog post was gathered from a survey completed by 100 Personal Trainers (PTs) from the UK and USA. It was used to gather information on how a typical day in the life of a trainer looks and to provide information to future trainers on what being a PT looks like. Current trainers will be able to make comparisons and receive suggestions on methods that will help them enjoy their career to a greater extent.
“Luckily, I had a great mentor, but a lot of places sell this idea of walking into a 20K job, training as much as you like and living the dream. In reality, it's the hardest job I've ever had and it's by far the best job I've ever had too. It's every bit worth going the extra mile for clients, investing in your education and pushing through hard times (I’ve taken on a second job for the majority of my career in PT). If you're willing to put in the work, it's an awesome and rewarding career!” - Jack Curtis
What started as an idea about gaining insight into how an average personal trainer spends their day, has evolved into a great reminder of how hard trainers work, how many sacrifices they make to be at service for others and just how much love there is for this profession. However, as one of the survey entrees from Lisa Grant told us, “I don’t think people realise how tough this job is”, being a PT is incredibly hard work and people often get into this industry with unrealistic expectations about what being a trainer looks like. What it actually looks like is what we’ll look to explore in great detail in this blog.
Who Took Part in This Survey?
Part 1 - What a Day Looks Like
On average, PTs start their day at 630am and finish at 730pm. This sounds long, and to one trainer it is - “You’re working from so early in the morning then working again in the evening, so it feels like you’re at work all the time” – Lauren Chandler. One of the most significant challenges with being a PT often comes down to the fragmented nature of a normal day. This is not your typical nine to five and most PTs have a chunk of time between morning and evening sessions. This break may not feel like a break at all, in fact it can make the day feel longer and more tiring. Does it have to be this way? Not necessarily! More tips on this later.
“I have 7 hours ‘off’ sessions between 1030 and 530 most days. This sounds like a lot but as it’s a split-shift it’s a constant battle between ‘want to relax’ and ‘if I relax too much then I can’t be bothered starting again’.” – Dylan McCallion
As Dylan identifies, this broken up working day can be challenging and make your day feel much longer than it is. This was one of the things that trainers stated they would like to change about the way they currently work
On average, PT’s work 8-10 hour days, Monday through Friday, with a shorter shift on a Saturday morning. As Miriam states below, working hours go far beyond time spent with clients and include hours of work each week to build a personal brand, work outwith sessions to support clients and continued professional development.
“I underestimated how much it takes to run a PT business. Taking PT sessions is only half the work. Marketing, social media, programming, self-development, check-ins all add up to a hefty working week. I didn't appreciate how much of a back seat my training would take or how knackering the job is.” – Miriam Sunter
Back To Back Sessions
The average amount of back-to-back sessions was three to four. This could look like having a session with a client at 6,7,8am alongside a group session at 9am.
While many PTs begin their career with the belief that they can handle ten hours in sessions a day, they often underestimate how difficult it can be to work with people one to one. The emotional and mental labour it takes to do a PT session effectively can take just as much energy as physical labour. Putting your full attention onto one or a group of people takes a lot of focus and mental energy.
A common mistake that new trainers make is to take on more work than they can handle, which can lead to burnout and a dilution of session quality. It’s well worth reminding yourself that your product is your personal training sessions and if the quality of these is not there, you’re going to increase the chance of that client leaving.
“Your hours are your hours for PT but don’t just get them done. Only fill up enough hours so that you function as close to your best as possible.” – Sylvester Sweeney.
Not filling your schedule up to a point where you’re overwhelmed and struggling to keep up the quality of your sessions is something most PTs come to realise the hard way. It is well worth paying attention to this as it can drive some trainers to think they aren’t made for the profession and others to lose clients because the love and passion they once had goes out of the window.
Total Sessions Per Week
(I know who the 50+ session per week person is and no, I have no idea how he does it…)
PTs average 20-30 sessions per week, which averages out at four to six sessions per day. Although 20 hours per week sounds easy, as had been mentioned above, there is a lot more to the average personal trainers working day than just the sessions.
Online Personal Training
27% of the trainers who took part in this study do some form of online training.
Online training is an attractive addition as it allows you to work from anywhere at whatever time you please. This doesn’t mean online coaching is for everyone and it can be a lot tougher than many online coaches will tell you. We always recommend starting with a year or two of in-person PT before trying online as this will give you a foundation for understanding how to coach, programme and work with clients.
For many trainers, a hybrid business approach that mixes in-person and online can work well and can be a great way to grow their business as it means less in-person time. This could look like the client coming in to see you in the gym once per month and the rest of your support coming through online in the form of Skype, phone calls, Whatsapp and email.
Continued Professional Development
This graph highlights the importance of continual growth and improvement is in this industry. This industry moves fast and it’s imperative to keep up by setting time aside to invest in your knowledge. Although 43% didn't spend any time doing professional development on this particular day, the amount of responses we had to one of our last questions about changes they would like to make involved trying to find more time to spend improving.
Having worked with 1000’s of trainers over the last few years, this professional development would be to do with watching webinars, doing online courses or reading books on topics like programming, coaching, behaviour change, sales, marketing, business, leadership, communication, nutrition etc.
If you're stuck for what to work on, take some time to consider what your strengths and weaknesses are. You don't need to be an "expert" in everything, but you should work on bringing your knowledge and range of skill sets - like what is listed above - up to a "good enough" level.
Part 2 - Maintaining Their Own Training
“Doing your own training after four hours of PT back to back is incredibly difficult as you are tired and unmotivated. I find on days where I do four plus hours of PT, other tasks like admin or personal development take a hit.” – Laura Dubler
Clients have days, weeks and even months where they feel like they're on top. They're motivated and productive and they also experience periods of time when they're tired, distracted and frustrated with their progress. The same phases exist amongst PTs.
It’s not as easy as you might think to keep up with your own training.
When you’re in a gym for hours on end keeping your energy high, talking about weight training, reps, sets and technique, and lifting dumbbells, weight plates and bars all over the place, it can be difficult to then motivate yourself to go do your own exercise.
If you love to exercise but are struggling with your training as a PT, don’t forget you’re not alone and that getting another trainer to take control of this element is not a failure, in fact it’s not much different than what your clients do when they hire you (An under-appreciated benefit of this is the amount you can learn by seeing things from the perspective of a client). It’s really no different to employing an accountant to handle your taxes and accounts.
As Barry Donohoe says below, it’s important you don’t allow your own training disappear from your calendar.
“Having a little time put away for your own training is, in my view, crucial to mentally stay sharp during the day.”
Maybe it reduces from five times per week to three and the length of your sessions become shorter, but it’s an essential part of staying mentally and physically healthy. Prioritise it.
Part 3 - Maintaining Work-Life Balance
“I take Sunday, Monday and Wednesday off so I don’t burn out!” – Nora Matthew
Not everyone has the luxury of taking three days off per week like Nora, but there are other ways you may be able to set boundaries that allow you to find a work life balance.
If you don’t work on Sundays for example, you already have some boundaries in place. The trick is identifying other pockets of time to dedicate to your own wellbeing. Redefining how you think about rest and time-off is an important step towards this and I would encourage you to think about it the same way you think about not training legs every single day. It's a necessary step to come back recovered and ready to go.
One of the great things about being a PT is the ability to control your own schedule. An example may be that if you hate working evenings, work towards reducing the amount of hours you work at night. As you build your client base, you may find that you can shape your schedule to better fit your needs and preferences.
There was a big mixture of what each trainers self-care looked like. A few examples are:
- Spending time with family and friends
- Computer games
- Listening to podcasts
- Reading books
- Walking in nature
- Playing with their kids
- Walking dogs
- Going for a coffee
- Watching a movie or Netflix
Self-care is an area that is underrated in terms of importance for being able to maintain your quality of work and your sanity as a human. There are going to be days where very little time for yourself is managed but over the course of a week or month, there should be hours and days where time is dedicated to activities that help you replenish.
On average personal trainers spend one and a half hours on social media per day, with some admitting it was easily two hours +. This is self-reported data, and we all know how it easy it is to be sucked into spending 20 minutes mindlessly on Facebook or Instagram, so there’s potential for that number to be even higher.
I hear you saying, “personal trainers NEED to be on social media”.
Sure. But how long does it actually take to log in, check groups, put a post up, scroll for five minutes and log out?
When we consider the responses for what trainers would like to change about their day, about 50% told us they want “less time on social media, more reading, more self-care.” Social media can be a powerful tool for marketing and growth but it can also be a great method for procrastination and making you feel like you're doing less than every other person out there. Creating boundaries on usage (like a couple of 10-15 minute slots throughout your day) and understanding what role it plays in your career and life may help better direct your usage.
(Clearly, Netflix is just too irresistible for some. Fair play to the lucky 8+ hour people!)
Interestingly, 20% of trainers went for a 10-30 minute nap on this day. Naps can be lifesavers when you're going on less than optimal amounts of sleep.
Part 4 - Moving forward
As a follow up to the above question we asked the trainers who ticked "yes" what they would like to change. Here are some of their responses:
It’s normal to want to change aspects of the way your day currently functions and having an awareness of what parts you're not enjoying is a step towards finding a more ideal working day and week. The next step is to start to put things into action that help you sort these. Like any job, there are certain aspects of being a trainer that you're just not going to love doing, but if there is something that is bothering you and you would like to fix it over the coming months or years, here are some finishing tips based on the responses we received in this section:
1. Create Work Boundaries
When are you going to stop working? Are there phases of your day where you are going to spend it doing activities you enjoy and feel good doing?
Create some form of separation between your work and your home relaxation time. Your family will thank you, and you’ll find you’re more productive and focused when you get back to your work.
2. Work Towards a More Ideal Working Week/ Day
What part of your day or week don’t you currently enjoy?
Is your schedule too inconsistent? Perhaps you should consider working less total sessions and be a bit stricter about what times you are working with clients.
A great exercise to try: take two to three minutes to reflect on how you felt during your day. What did you enjoy? What did you not enjoy? Were you productive? What aspects would you like to change? Write down these answers over the course of a week or two. Go back to these answers and identify trends to determine the best place to start to make changes.
3. Try Planning Your Week
Take 20-30 minutes on a Sunday to plan your week. Laura Vanderkam suggests listing daily activities under three categories in her book Off The Clock: self, career and relationships. This allows allows you to take a look at where your week may be off balance and correct accordingly.
Consider when you’ll do your own training and what you’ve learnt in the past about how your own motivation levels vary and do the same thing for professional development. Are you better suited to training at 530am than at 8pm? Do you find doing professional development in slots of 30 minutes throughout your week easier than in one large chunk?
4. Write it Down
The research is conclusive on how powerful writing can be for making sense of problems. If you’ve never done this, try writing out what you would like your working day or week to look like. Compare against what you are currently working and start setting some realistic goals to move towards this.
The goal of this blog is to give new PTs an idea of what a day in the life of a trainer can look like. It is also to show the more established PTs that you share similar challenges and that solutions exist. They work hours that are, at times, frustrating because of the need to work times that are outside of other peoples schedules and there are elements that, like any job, they would like to change. On average, they love what they do but find the working hours and getting some form of balance in their life challenging.
You can work towards designing your version of what an ideal day and week might look like for you. With the power of technology, you can start an online personal training business and target your adverts towards people who are free at specific times. Maya Angelou said that “success is liking yourself, liking what you do and how you do it”, If you’re unhappy with how your career is mixing with your life, try out some of the suggested changes and put some things in place that means you’re moving towards a more enjoyable version of your day.
Angi Pilika said it best: “I don’t think anybody comes into this job expecting a normal day-to-day, I think most of us who come into this line of work are willing to do the unordinary. We are relentlessly addicted to serving others and sometimes that means we push our work/life balance boundaries. There’s nothing like waking up and thinking ‘I can’t wait to tell and remind people how awesome they are today!’"
Thinking About Becoming a Personal Trainer?
If you’re thinking about becoming a personal trainer who doesn’t become part of the statistic of not lasting longer than 18 months in the industry and you want to give yourself the best learning platform for becoming a trainer, our course is for you.
The Lift The Bar Training qualification is the industries first personal training course that merges both online and offline learning while also having an extended Applied phase that supports you in the early stages of your new career. Rather than just receiving your qualification and throwing you out into the world (like Sarah experienced above), we guide you so that you get a fantastic platform to build from in one the most challenging stages of your career.
Having worked with 1000’s of personal trainers, the education team at LTB Training have created a 12-month long industry leading personal training course that includes a foundation level 2 and entry level 3 qualification, which allows you to become a fully certified personal trainer. This has been created with practical application at the core and with cutting edge research in mind so that you’re left with no stone unturned for starting off your career as a personal trainer. You’ll then complete our qualification by going through a 6-month applied phase, which teaches you the essentials of how to work with personal training clients and arm you with the knowledge on how to build a business that lasts and helps as many people as possible.
Our next course launches on the 4th of February 2019. You can find out more about what it includes by clicking on the "certification" tab at the top of this page.
The fitness industry is full of myths, misconceptions and bad information. When starting out in your career it’s hard to know what is right, what is wrong and how to tell the difference.