Countless personal fitness trainers have felt like they are burning the candle at both ends. This situation has several parts and I’ve broken them down here. Personal trainer burnout is not uncommon and here’s both the problem and solution.
Early Mornings and Late Nights
We, as fitness trainers, ten to train people outside of their usual 9-5 schedules.
This puts us at work before 9:00AM, after 5:00PM, and everything in between.
I’ve fallen into this trap where I’ve volunteered to be at the gym working crazy hours and, honestly, once you’re there, you tend to get stuck. It is usually a money motivation.
Money is good, but any job you get needs to be sustainable. If you’re working for a gym and they want you to take over a night or morning shift that stretches you, then you can say okay, BUT add a time limit on it. Say you’ll do it for a month or three months and then things will go back to normal.
I’ve found that having these sorts of time limits makes you a team player while not diving too deep into self torture. And speaking of self torture…
Trainers Are Already Hard on Themselves
It is part of our nature to push others and, in order to be a good role model, we have to push ourselves much harder. This can easily spill into our work and we, dumbly, think that working longer hours will solve things.
It won’t. You’ll just mentally burn out over the course of months.
Don’t forget who you are. You’re a rare individual that can push your body and mind to the limits on a regular basis. It is quite illogical to your average person who’s watching us. Part of what makes you a great trainer is that you aren’t normal. You are willing to do things that most people aren’t.
But here I am telling you that it is okay to have a normal person’s hours. Or, rather, it is okay not to push yourself to the limit in this specific way. Find some other way to push yourself during your time off.
This was my problem. I never saw any limits.
Don’t get me wrong, nothing really bad ever happened because of it. I just experimented with more sleep deprivation and overtraining than I should have. Double workouts while getting less than 6 hours of sleep isn’t healthy. I was fit, but I wasn’t healthy.
Sleep and Meal Schedules
Part of the “burnout” is due to lack of sleep. I’ve found that if you’re well slept, then you can handle all sorts of things.
If you’re eating healthy meals on a regular schedule, then you’re even better.
Sometimes we forget to eat after being on the floor for so long. I used to just forget to schedule a meal. I’d start at 5:00AM and go straight until 12:00PM without a moment to myself. It’s my fault.
There were plenty of trainers around who could have helped me. I just didn’t ask for help.
A Tendency To Help Others, Not Ourselves
We fitness instructors have trained ourselves to help others. Above all, service to others is generally what we are about. This doesn’t mean we’re slaves, but we have an ability to put our needs to the side and assist someone who is in front of us.
We can’t come to work with an obvious bad attitude. No one would want to work us. So, we drill ourselves into putting our stuff to the side. It is important to make sure that your clients see you as a stable person. It’s their time to whine, not yours.
All of this adds up to us not rarely asking for help.
It can become a problem if you let it become a problem.
If you need a couple of days off, ask for it. Support the other trainers in your area by offering to take over their clients when you know you have a light load. Create the support group you wish you had.
Once it is there, use it. It is okay to be completely generous with your help. Just be aware of your tendency not to ask for it and work on it. Ask for a little help now and then. You’ll find that people are more than willing to help someone like you.
Hours and Hours Standing on a Hard Floor
Here is a simple reason for trainer burnout: hard floors.
No matter what job you have – whether it is a security guard, fast food worker, teacher or fitness trainer – if you’re on your feet most of the day, you’re going to be tired.
Now, due to our heightened level of fitness, we don’t tire easily, but we will eventually tire. I’ve pulled many, many 14+ hour days on my feet from before sunrise until after sunset. We can survive longer than most because we know about things like foam rollers and stretches to alleviate the pain.
But after a while, you’re just in pain. And if you’re slightly in pain, then you’re slightly irritable. Add a little lack of sleep and a missed meal in there and you’re just flat out cranky.
Any fitness trainer should be able to smile, even under the worst of circumstances. Sometimes that smile comes easy because we like our clients and our jobs, other times it feels like work.
So, change the number of hours you work, change your shoes, hit the foam roller, or do whatever you need to do to get yourself right. Being in pain is not going to make this a sustainable job.
Try Dumping a Few Clients
When I look back on my career, the worst points were when I was surrounded by the worst people.
There are a specific few individuals that are just out to make your day bad. Don’t take it personally, they usually do it to everyone they meet. Your ability to spot them and separate yourself from them will mean the difference between a happy life and an upset one.
If you’re upset, then the reason all of your good clients come to you is gone. They don’t come for an upset trainer. They come for you.
Find out who’s causing this and get rid of that client. There are various methods of breaking up with your clients. Ask several experienced fitness trainers how they have dealt with similar scenarios. Find a method that seems like it will work and don’t hesitate to get them out of your life.
You are literally putting your whole job at stake by keeping them.
Your Own Exercise
Yup, you’ve got to get your own. And it usually has to be when no one is there.
If you’re good and you’re in great communication with everyone in the gym (as you should be), then members will come up and bother you during your workouts.
You’ve got to find a time when nobody is around. The middle of the day worked best for me. This is what kept me fit. And it is what kept me loving my job.
I love fitness and I enjoy practicing it. Don’t let your desire to help others kill that. If your love of fitness and exercise goes, then you should just throw in the towel.
Not having a strong desire to exercise yourself is like working in an animal shelter when you hate animals. You just shouldn’t even be there. There are easier ways to make money.
Continuing Education Units and Vacation Time
This is the best hack that I learned throughout the years.
We need continuing education units. We would like to have vacation time. Just combine the two.
Find the furthest away place to visit and just go. Make a complete decision that the trip has to happen and everything else will work itself out.
Then give yourself a few extra days. Or a week. Do something you never thought you would do.
Or do something very physical (like climbing a mountain), take film and photos and use it to gain everyone’s interest. Put it up on social media to as promotion to current and future clients.
When you come back, you’ll want to incorporate the new things you learned and your regular clients will be happy to have benefited from the new things you learned.
It is much easier to tell your clients that you’re going to learn more about being a fitness trainer than, “I’m just taking some time for myself.”
You’ve got to always exude that undying flow of energy that they strive to have. Don’t tell them you need a break, tell them that you’re ready to learn more.
As a fitness trainer, there are tons of corners you can get yourself backed into.
At 5:30AM when you’re slightly dizzy staring at someone doing squats, you may feel a little personal trainer burnout.
Remember that there are solutions to your problems. Key word: problems.
It is a problem with many sides to it. My goal is to help you split it up and identify which area is causing you to feel burnt out. Maybe you’ve got some toxic clients or you’re having trouble with the long hours.
I can say for certain that most of you don’t eat or sleep on a regular schedule.
Hard truth: Sometimes trainers need trainers.