So, you love fitness and you’re thinking of becoming a fitness instructor so you can get paid to do what you love.
Is it really as good as it seems though?
I’ve been a fitness instructor for over three years throughout my fitness career, so what’s being a fitness trainer like? And more importantly, have you got what it takes to be a fitness trainer? I can give you a pretty good idea!
It’s not all plain sailing, but there are some pretty cool parts to the role, so let’s explore the good and the bad.
Working as a fitness instructor is a fun and rewarding career. It’s intensely physical and you’ll be on your feet for many hours a day. There is a lot of variety in the role, as you will be teaching classes, helping with different roles In the gym, and creating exercise programs for new members.
So what is it really like then?
I’m going to start this article off in a very positive sense by saying that I had a great time being a fitness instructor.
On both occasions that I have worked in this role, I have met a bunch of really great people, learned more than I ever had from books or courses, and grown my confidence massively.
Those should be good enough reasons to understand why I enjoyed being a fitness instructor, but there are a few negatives that we will explore in more detail.
Let’s get the disadvantages of being a fitness instructor out of the way first though so we can end on a positive note.
It’s pretty exhausting
During your shift, you will be on your feet for around 7 hours and even more if you decide to work out on your lunch break.
For your entire shift, you will be either instructing members on a 1-2-1 basis, teaching group fitness classes, or cleaning exercise equipment.
In the gyms I have worked in, even the receptions had standing desks, so I was on my feet for pretty much the entire day, which can be pretty exhausting.
As soon as you have finished one task, you will be moving straight onto another. It’s very physically demanding, but the good news is that you will pretty much never have to worry about putting on too much weight whilst being a fitness instructor, you burn too many calories in a day.
I explain why it’s crazy tough to stay out of shape whilst working as a fitness instructor in the article below. Give it a read, I think you’ll be surprised at just how much exercise you’ll be doing as a fitness instructor, it’s not all just about teaching, you’ll be doing a lot of the movements yourself too.
It’s not well paid
Fitness instructors are on the bottom rung of the fitness career ladder, it sounds harsh but it’s true.
As you are starting from an entry-level position in fitness you will not be getting paid much at all. In fact, even in central London I was being paid minimum wage, which only left me with a few hundred pounds at the end of each month after expenses.
So, if you are thinking that fitness is going to be your key to a life of riches, it might be, but not from this role.
The lack of decent pay can be pretty important, as it makes a lot of people feel pretty disheartened when you are working so hard and getting paid so little for it.
It is eventually worth it, but it’s not easy at the start psychologically or physically.
You sometimes get looked down on
It’s really important that I make it clear that this doesn’t always happen, but it does sometimes.
Certain people, look down on fitness instructors for being “beneath them”. They might try to make fun of you for having to clean the gym equipment or tidy the changing rooms.
I’ve been lucky in the gyms that I have worked in, as this has very rarely happened, but I have seen and heard of it happening to others.
It’s pretty rare though, as most people understand that you are trying to work your way up in the industry, and the people that have previously worked as a fitness instructor will fully understand what you are going through and why you are doing it.
There’s next to no downtime
Being naturally sociable really helps with the role of a fitness instructor. The problem you might have is that outside of work, you will have very little time to actually socialize with your friends and family.
You will either be so tired after your shift that you just need to go home and rest, or you will be working unsociable hours that mean you have to turn down a lot of invitations to nights out.
A lot of your friends will be working 9-5 shifts and have plenty of relaxation time once they get home in the evening.
This is something you really won’t have. The exception may be that you might get lucky enough to work an afternoon shift where you might be able to finish earlier, but there were only ever two people in my team, so there were no chances of a mid-shift for me. You might get luckier.
If you struggle with your confidence, have a read of the article below, it’ll give you some great tips on how to drastically improve your confidence as a fitness instructor.
You make some great friends
You are going to meet some really great people working in fitness. They are generally going to be around your age range, full of energy and enthusiasm and it would be very hard for you to not have a great time working with them.
You’ll be spending time with not only your fitness team but the sales team and all the personal trainers too, which gives you plenty of opportunities to make some great friends.
I’ve moved gyms a few times over my career, and I’m still friends with many of the people I’ve met from them.
It’s not just the staff, remember, you will be interreacting with potentially hundreds of people a day and you will get to be on first-name terms with a lot of these people. After not long at all, you will find yourself having great conversations with these people and looking forward to seeing them each day.
The speed of your learning is crazy!
When you are surrounded by fitness enthusiasts all day long, you really have no other option than to learn a crazy amount about the fitness industry.
You have a wealth of knowledge all around you at all times. Every single question that pops into your head will be able to be answered by someone that you see working that day, either a personal trainer or one of your managers.
Reading books and going on courses is fantastic, but actually being in the environment that you are trying to learn about will make things stick in your mind so much better.
Another great thing that happens all the time is you get asked tons of questions from members that you will have no idea how to answer. Sounds bad, but it’s anything but.
Being asked questions that you don’t know how to answer means you are constantly going to be needing to go and research to find the answers. The answers are more likely to stick around in your memory because you had a reason to remember them rather than just reading them in a book without a context to put them to.
You’ll have more downtime outside of work
I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, “Chris, you literally just said that there is no downtime”, but I didn’t really. What I said was that being sociable is really difficult because of the hours you’ll be working.
When I worked an early shift, I was awake and out of the door by 4am. That sounds truly awful to me now, but it also meant that my shift was over by 1pm each day, so by the time I got home, I had about seven hours of time to do whatever I wanted.
If I was on the closing shift, I didn’t have to be in the gym until 2pm, so as long as I woke up early enough, I again had hours and hours at my disposal. Admittedly, not many of your friends will be able to hang out with you at 10am on a Tuesday, but if you use the time properly you can actually get a hell of a lot achieved.
It’s intensely satisfying
I have mentioned in a few other articles that I used to love teaching gym floor classes. One of the major reasons that I enjoyed them so much is that I felt so confident in teaching them, and this was amplified by the class members coming up to me and telling me how much they loved the classes.
If you work hard, your confidence can soar from becoming famous for teaching excellent classes and giving first-rate exercise programs.
If you don’t put the effort in, you will get little out of the job, but if helping people and seeing them sweating like crazy but loving every second of what you are teaching makes you feel good, you will really love being a fitness instructor.
There’s also the satisfaction of seeing gym members that you have advised making great progress on their goals. Seeing how happy they are with their new body as a direct result of what you have taught them is quite a feeling.
Remember, this is a teaching role, and you always hear teachers feeling really satisfied with their job when they see their students passing exams and graduating.
Fitness instruction is no different.
Is it hard to be a fitness instructor?
Do I think it’s hard being a fitness instructor?
No, not really.
For some, it would be, the early wake-ups, late nights, exhausting schedule, constantly needing to be full of energy when you’ve been on your feet for hours, most of these would make you think that being a fitness instructor is hard, but if you’re full of energy and enthusiasm for your role, it’s really not tough at all.
I’ve always had a ton of energy, and for me, it was actually a relief to find a job where I could actually use some of it for a change. I’ve always considered myself to be a bit like a Border Collie dog, if I get left on my own for too long with nothing to do, I’ll go crazy and start chewing the wallpaper off the walls.
Don’t get me wrong, there were tough times, like when there was only me and one other member of staff and there was a massive queue at reception we had to clear, a class that needed to be finished and a woman who was crying her eyes out because she couldn’t get into her locker and she had a meeting in twenty minutes.
There’s very rarely anything that I would say makes this job difficult, you might be given some KPIs by your manager, but it’s not as if you are going to have to go away and prepare statistics to show the board members how successful your business is.
You just need to be energetic, enthusiastic, and willing to put up with being a little tired some of the time. You also won’t be being paid much, but again, as long as you go into the role knowing that it is just the beginning of your path into the fitness industry, it shouldn’t bother you too much.
So there you go, this was just a snapshot of what it’s like to be a fitness instructor, but the main take-home of the article should be this.
You won’t get paid much in the beginning, but don’t worry about that, you will love being a fitness instructor. It’s tiring, it’s not paid well, but it’s so much fun you will be able to ignore all that really easily.
I really enjoyed the role each time I’ve done it, and I really don’t think you will be any different. If you have a passion for fitness, enjoy helping people, and are personable, you will thrive in this role.
I totally recommend it as a job, so why not give it a try?
If you’d like to know a few more specifics on what fitness instructors do on a day-to-day basis, check out this article below.
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