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How To Overcome 5 Common Personal Trainer Challenges

by James Anderson
Posted: May 17, 2016

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Turn up, train client, and get paid. Sounds pretty good, right? But as simple as it sounds, I promise you the reality is a little different. Not bad, just different, writes Personal Trainer, James Anderson.

When I first started out I thought it would be a pretty simple equation of designing a program, counting reps, recording measurements, and assessing progress - all while earning myself a decent living in the process. And for the most part, I was right.
However, there is a little more to personal training than what you may think and this can either lead you up a steep learning curve to success or guide you down the slippery slope to failure. It all comes down to you.
I’ve spoken in previous articles about how awesome this industry can be for those who have a passion for what they do and who truly care about helping others. These trainers are laying the foundation for an incredible career whilst earning a fantastic living for themselves, too.  
But, just like anything – there can’t be good without a little bad. So here’s a list of a few of the more common personal trainer challenges in the industry as well as some advice on how to mitigate some of them.  

1.     Hours

Personal trainer challenges - pros and cons of being a personal trainer

"Long", "early", "late", and "split" - are all great words to describe the hours of a personal trainer. Now, if you’re working for yourself especially when you’re first starting out you’ll find you have big gaps in your day as you begin to build your business. The best way to avoid these is to fill them with time prospecting people at the gym. I know, I know, you’re not getting paid for these - but guess what, you’re also not getting paid for waiting around drinking coffee between clients either.
The faster you can build your business, the faster you’ll begin to enjoy the hours considering more of them will be income producing. And if you’re working for someone else, chances are you’ll be doing set tasks between clients to fill your required hours (i.e. sales calls, cleaning the gym floor, administration).

2.     Business skills

Life as a personal trainer - business skills

This can be a big risk to many self-employed trainers first starting out. Insurances, legal issues, accountancy, as well as the many forms and systems that you need to put in place to run a successful business, are of paramount importance.
These should be taken seriously as they can quickly come back and bite you in the butt if you’re not careful. So you either need to get a crash-course education in each of these areas or my best advice would be to actually find people who already have this knowledge that can act in your best interest.
I personally work closely with an accountant, solicitor and even have a business mentor to help support, guide and educate me to better business skills and decisions. It’s a cost that I believe is a valuable business investment. 
Get a team of people with the skills you lack and do it right from the beginning. On the flip side, working for someone else in this instance does have an advantage due to the fact that many of these things are the responsibility of the employer.

3.     Burnout

Personal trainer burnout - how to overcome challenges

Personal training can be a tough job as you’re “client facing” all the time. This often means that you’ll take on people’s energy and emotional states, which can be incredibly draining. This will eventually take its toll if you’re not careful – potentially leading to burning out.
It’s hugely important to set boundaries for yourself to ensure that your health isn’t sacrificed in the process of improving other people's lives. This means setting and sticking to cancellation policies, limits on back-to-back sessions, and having days/times off to reset and recharge. Not to mention making sure that you’re eating, training and sleeping adequately to maintain your own energy levels.
It’s very easy to get caught up in helping others whilst hurting yourself. Be aware of your own motivation levels. When they drop, something is wrong.

4.     Competition

personal trainer competition - tug of war

This industry is fiercely competitive and is often full of people who will try to pull you down, which can often lead you to second-guess yourself. Don’t.
Instead, focus on these two things and I promise you that you’ll be successful in this industry.
1.    Continually upskill and educate yourself. Aim to be the best in whatever area you want to specialise in.

2.    Focus on helping as many people as you can with that knowledge.
Because if you’re doing these two things well, then you’ve got no time to worry about what others are doing or saying as you’re too busy changing people’s lives for the better.

5.     Clients

Personal trainer challenges - difficult clients

You would probably think that after a decade as a trainer I would’ve heard every excuse in the book - but you’d be wrong. They’ll also whinge, moan, cry, cancel, no-show and be late with payments. You’ll also catch them lying about what they eat, how much they exercise and how much sleep they’re getting.
Yep, they can be so annoyingly frustrating at times, but what you need to remind yourself is that they’re human – just like you. When you can understand this, then you have the power to help them. This means being human enough to empathise with someone, but also having clear boundaries to call B.S when enough is enough. 
As long as you’re trying to find ways in which to help them, then your head is in the right frame of mind. It’s when you start resenting your clients that problems will begin in your business. Because whether you like it or not, your business is entirely based on your ability to help people. 

Good Luck!

Looking for more fitness industry advice? Get more training secrets and tips on how to get into the professional fitness industry from 18 of Australia’s top fitness experts here


James Anderson

James is the owner of a women’s only tribe based at Bondi Beach that focuses on strength and conditioning team training for optimal outcomes and long-lasting solutions.

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