All over this blog, you’ll notice I say that I was a PT for nearly ten years, so you might be wondering why I quit being a personal trainer?
In this article, I will fully explain my reasons for leaving the profession after a reasonably long and successful career.
By the time you’ve finished reading, you will know some of the most common reasons pt’s quit and how you can make sure you don’t make the same mistakes.
The average personal trainer quits within the first year they qualify. The most common reasons for leaving are low income, long hours and boredom in their career. There is also an often unexpected level of competition and expensive gym rent that creates high levels of stress.
So that’s a fairly shocking stat to hear, isn’t it? But it’s true, and my goodness did I see a lot of personal trainers come and go in my time.
Being a full-time PT is no easy task, and some people just get tired of being a personal trainer because of how physically and mentally demanding the career can be.
Frequently, it has nothing to do with being a “good” personal trainer either, as I would consider myself a pretty good PT. I studied hard, knew what I was talking about, and had great clients, so why did I quit?
Well, to be totally honest, I have mentioned within this site that I had a pretty serious medical situation that meant I had to leave, but the truth is, I probably would have left anyway, and here are my reasons why.
Table of contents
- Super long hours
- Low income
- Difficult clients
- Expensive gym rent
- Too much selling
- Tons of rejection
- Feeling false
- Wasted time
- No social life
- Hard to invest/retire
Top ten reasons I quit being a personal trainer
1. Super long hours
Working as a PT is good fun don’t get me wrong, but the hours you will work are crazy!
I was working on average 20-30 hours per week, and you’re probably thinking “that sounds great, I’m working way more than that in my current job”.
Thing is, I was working 20-30 per week that I was getting paid for, I was in the gym for many more hours than that waiting for my next sessions or trying to pick up new clients.
In reality, a 20-30 hour working week may end up being more like 45-50 hours spent in the gym.
It’s not only the number of hours you’ll spend in the gym but it’s the times you will be getting in and leaving.
Most trainers have clients in the early morning, mid-day and evenings. This means you could well be getting up at 5am for your first 6am client and not leaving the gym until 9pm after your last evening session.
For a few months, this isn’t too bad, but after several years it starts to really grind you down and you might feel like you want to go back to a regular 9-5 job just so you at least get regular hours.
How to fix it!
Organise, organise organise!
Working these kinds of hours sucks! So nip it in the bud. When you are booking in clients for complimentary sessions, make sure they are booked in for times when you are available. Decide what hours you want to work and be in the gym at those times. Fill your diary up with as many sessions as possible in the hours that you want to work.
You will need to work harder than 90% of the other trainers to achieve this because it’s much harder to pick up clients in the quieter periods of the day, but I can assure you that it’s totally worth it.
If you try to do this once you already have a full client base, it’ll be really difficult and you’ll get some frustrated faces looking at you when you suggest moving your clients’ session times.
2. Low income
“But those training companies promised you would be earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a year didn’t they?” So how come every personal trainer you’ve met hasn’t got a Porche and two houses?
It’s simple, you won’t earn as much as you you have been led to believe. Sure, you can earn a crazy amount as I explain in my article:
But the reality is that if you are employed in a gym, you will only take a small cut of each session you take and if you are self-employed you will have a chunky rent to pay at the end of each month (more on that later).
So the only way most trainers can think to make more money is to train more clients. More clients, equals more time in the gym, more time spent trying to pick up clients and more exhaustion.
Not what we are after!
How to fix it
It’s very difficult telling your current clients that they need to pay more for their sessions, so it’s much easier to have all your new clients paying more.
Starting at £50 an hour in the middle of a city is pretty reasonable (again you will see why later when we start talking about rent), but if you want to succeed, you will need to charge more for your services.
Once you have a decent session base of say 15 per week, you should start to charge £60 per hour for all new clients. Say you gain another 10 sessions per week to get you to a (very) realistic 25 hours per week, you will have gained an extra £100 per week than you would have if you’d stayed at the same rate.
£1250 or £1350? I know which I’d prefer for exactly the same amount of work. And remember, for every client that you lose (and you will, but it’s cool, it happens) you can replace these with all new clients that you charge £60 an hour.
If you had 25 sessions a week at £60 an hour, you’re getting £1,500 a week and £6000 a month!
3. Difficult clients
You aren’t going to love all your clients, you just aren’t.
You might love most of your clients, but there will be some that you actually would really rather hope don’t buy from you.
See, what you won’t hear from other articles is that when you pick up a client, you may have only had forty or so minutes with them before they sign up with you, and this is not enough time to really get to know someone.
They might start off looking like the perfect client, but after two or three cancelled sessions or a whole bunch of complaining about every exercise your prescribe, you might start to see them a little differently.
It’s crazy, but even one or two bad sessions can really wreck your week and bring you down. You never want to be in the position where you feel relief after getting through a session with a particularly unpleasant client, the money really isn’t worth the stress.
How to fix it
Ok, so maybe you can’t sack all the clients you don’t like straight away, you do need to pay for rent and things until you are settled after all, but as soon as you are settled I would recommend you try to pass these clients onto other trainers if they want to carry on training.
There will be no shortage at all of other desperate trainers you can pass these people off to and they will certainly be grateful for the extra income. You don’t have to feel bad about this, not everyone gets on together, so if you think a trainer would work better with your client than you, everyone could be better off.
It might seem crazy to think that there would ever be a point where you are giving away clients, but once you are set up and have a good client base established, you can drastically improve your working week but just removing a few of these “problem” clients.
After you have done this, you are left with only training people you really get on with, and that’s a pretty great situation to be in.
4. Expensive gym rent
When I say expensive, I mean really expensive!
I won’t say what company I was renting the gym space from just in case, but it’s a pretty popular gym chain in the UK and I was being charged nearly £1000 a month to use the facilities.
I mean, c’mon!
Being charged £1000 to go to work sucks big time, and I know they would say that when you offset the cost of a personal training session at £50 with £1000 worth of rent, you only need to do 5 sessions a week to cover this, but still, it can be pretty demoralizing knowing that £12,000 a year of your income is being lost to renting the gym you are using.
Even if you are training a lot of people each week, say 25, then that’s still five hours of work that is all only offsetting the costs of the gym rent.
That can really hurt, and if you find yourself losing a few clients, it really doesn’t take much for that weekly rent to start really stressing you out.
If you know that you need to pick up clients just to cover the cost of the gym rent, you can start to look desperate and what could be your next potential client can smell that fear from a mile away!
How to fix it
The obvious choice is to leave that gym and look for one with either a cheaper rent or go completely freelance and start training people in their homes instead.
Would I suggest this?
No, I wouldn’t.
What I would suggest instead is giving it everything you’ve got. 20-25 sessions a week is very do-able if you really put your mind to it.
It may help to imagine that if you were a city worker, you might pay £3-4k a year on a yearly travel card, so other people do need to pay to go to work too.
Essentially, try not to think about it too much. If the gym is charging you a lot of rent, it’s probably because they have a lot of client potential because they are situated in a wealthy area or they just have tons of members.
That’s why you should be careful about moving to a cheaper gym, I’ve made that mistake before, cheaper gym=less members and members with less money. You’ll pay less each month, and you’ll also earn a lot less too.
5. Too much selling
Don’t like selling to people?
Well, you’re going to need to learn to enjoy it and get good at it pretty quick!
I’ve got a harsh reality for you, people will not come up to you in the gym and ask for training, it just doesn’t happen. I think in nearly ten years of being a personal trainer, it happened to one of my friends once, not me, one of my friends.
It’s very rare that someone comes to you for training, which you means you need to go to them. You need to interrupt their workout, you need to convince them they need your services, book them into a taster session and then go in for the sale at the end of that session hoping they will buy.
Your training provider will likely have not even mentioned just how hard it is to sell to people in a gym environment, I certainly can’t remember any part of my training where I was taught to sell. It’s probably why so many PT’s quit each year, they had no idea how to sell!
How to fix it
You need to go out onto that gym floor and get used to talking to people, get used to being rejected and get used to asking people to dedicate their time to you.
You will probably hate doing this for the first few weeks, but it really does become less and less of a problem after a while.
The way I tackled it was to see how many people I could talk to each day and made sure I spoke to at least that many people the next day and hopefully add an additional 1-2 people each day.
By doing this you are exposing yourself to rejection so often that you really start to not care about it at all, you just brush it off and move onto the next person.
I’m quite a shy, introverted guy generally, so I was surprised at just how ok I become with being rejected like this. I even made it part of the game to see how many times I got rejected in a day (although it was obviously not what I was really looking to achieve) because it really takes the sting out of it.
Never take it personally, it isn’t, because these people don’t know you, there are a ton of reasons they might not want a trainer.
There are also a couple of really good books that helped me learn how to sell personal training, I’ll put the Amazon link on one of my favourites below, it wasn’t expensive or complicated, but it replaced the missing part of the puzzle from the training courses.
6. Tons of rejection
If you read the previous point, you will see that I said you need to get used to being rejected as part of the sales process, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, that’s why it needs a point to itself.
You will get rejected on the gym floor whilst you are trying to approach people, you will be rejected when you try to go in for the sale at the end of the taster session and you will get rejected when you ask your client if they would like to continue training with you.
It happens all the time and it can easily get you down (another reason I think a lot of PT’s quit in their first year.
Some people are naturally great at being rejected and shaking it off (Taylor Swift style), but I know that at the start of my career, it really hit me hard, I questioned everything I was doing, the way I was approaching people, the things I was saying and how I was holding myself.
What I learned is that none of this really mattered as much as I thought it did.
How to fix it
Start looking at these people as if it were you being approached by a PT. Would you automatically be thrilled and start begging them for training sessions? Pretty unlikely isn’t it?
Put yourself in their shoes and you will see that all they are trying to do is have a workout and they are being interrupted by someone trying to sell them something.
See it from their position and you will no longer become hurt when you get rejected because you know that it’s probably exactly what you would do too. Can you honestly say that you have stopped and talked to every person in the street that “Just wanted a minute of your time”?
Didn’t think so.
The next thing to do is understand that a lot of these people don’t realise they need help. As far as they are aware they could be thinking they are having a great workout but might be confused as to why after six months of coming to the gym three times a week, they look and feel exactly the same.
These are the people that need help, and really all you need to do is educate them and teach how they could be more productive in their workouts. This way, yes, they are paying for sessions, but you are saving them months of training that will have no effect. That’s a pretty good selling point!
7. Feeling false
If you could only train people that you 100% knew were in desperate need of your training, then everything would be so much easier.
In reality, you will need to get good at convincing people that might not necessarily need your help that much, that they in fact do need it.
This can sometimes make you feel like you are taking money from people that might not have that much to spare, to be able to pay your gym rent.
I know this didn’t sit well with me at all when I first started, I felt as if I was almost robbing someone (just really really really politely).
Knowing that you are walking up to someone to correct their posture on a lat pulldown so that you can book them into a taster session, and not so you can genuinely help them get more out of their workout can weigh heavily on some people.
How to fix it
This ones actually pretty easy.
There you go, problem fixed.
And it’s true too, it’s incredibly rare that someone would have a better workout on their own than if they had a partner to help them train. Look around in the gyms, personal trainers are working out together all the time.
If they could have a workout that was as effective without help, why would they be teaming up? It’s because they know having a training partner helps them push themselves harder, lift heavier, motivates them and gets them results way more efficiently than if they were on their own.
This is all you are doing with with your clients, it’s just that they need to pay for your time to help them achieve their goals faster.
So there you go, you never need to feel guilty about offering your services again.
8. Wasted time
Get used to waiting, and waiting plenty!
I can say with 100% confidence that you will spend a lot of your time waiting around in gyms.
You’ll be waiting for clients to arrive, waiting around for the next client if you get a cancellation (and you’ll get plenty of cancellations) and waiting for the quiet periods to end so you can go out and teach a class or scout for clients.
It might seem fun to not have to do much in these periods, but remember, you work for yourself so you aren’t getting paid for this time. If you aren’t doing something, this time is literally being wasted and it’s costing you!
If you’ve been to a gym that employs personal trainers, I can pretty much guarantee you have seen one of them sitting slumped in a chair scrolling through their phone. This is by no means an uncommon sight.
How to fix it
There should be no such thing as wasted time!
If you are going to be in a gym, you might as well be doing something in there, and scrolling through your social media profiles for the tenth time that hour doesn’t count.
Remember you are paying to be in that place, so you might as well get your monies worth.
If you have a free hour slot between clients, work out, go for a walk, scout for new clients or be planning a strategy to pick up new clients so that you don’t have these free times.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with having an hour here and there free, in fact, I would encourage it so you have some downtime where you can eat, exercise and just relax a little.
However, if you are having three or four-hour breaks between clients, you need to change that. Either you need to re-arrange your clients so they are blocked closer together, or you need to pick up more clients.
If you have wasted time because you have no clients, then you obviously need more of them, but if you have lots of cancellations, you either need to talk to your clients about why they are cancelling so much or use the time productively to create a more lucrative business for yourself.
9. No social life
Yeah this one’s hard.
During your training course, I bet you heard the words “You can decide the hours you work” at least at some point, or maybe it was in their marketing material.
The concept of being able to decide what hours you work is a huge selling point for most training providers, but in reality, it’s rarely true.
Your clients’ availability will likely dictate what hours you work, and in the early stages of your career, before you have the confidence to start asking your clients to move around their session times to accommodate a better working life for yourself, you may well have to work some seriously unsociable hours.
Working late into the evening and getting up super early doesn’t leave much room for being sociable, and it can be tough on relationships too. I made sure that I worked in the city so that I at least didn’t have to work on the weekends, but still, from Monday to Friday, I just wasn’t available to see my friends.
This can be seriously tough on people who are sociable, and by definition, most personal trainers are, after all, being a “people person” is an essential skill to be successful in the role.
How to fix it
The good news is, this is usually more of a problem in the early days of your career.
When I first started, I was in that gym from open to close Monday to Friday to pick up clients, but after a year or so, I had a well-established client base that I had enough rapport built up with that I could ask them to move their sessions around to make my life easier (I of courses didn’t say this was the reason why I needed to move their sessions).
I decided that I didn’t mind being completely booked out nearly all day from Monday to Thursday each day, but I wanted my entire Fridays off. Not a single client would be trained by me on a Friday and I wouldn’t even step foot in a gym on a Friday, these were the terms I made to myself.
And I did it, I moved all my guys so that I had a completely free Friday each week, and it was AWESOME!
I could enjoy each long weekend completely guilt-free, as I knew I had worked my butt off the rest of the week. Yes, you could say that I was wasting a day that I was paying for in the gym, but on these Fridays, I would usually be working on side hustles, so it gave me time to make money in other ways. I considered it a fair trade-off.
So my recommendation would be to do the same. Accept that in the beginning, things will be tough but eventually you will be able to arrange your sessions better and get some free time for yourself.
If you can, I would advise working in a city to prevent needing to work weekends (most of the larger gyms in cities will be closed at the weekends), but if that’s not possible, then just be straight with people, show them what times you have available and explain they are the only times you have free.
This not only allows you to decide on the hours you work, but it also shows you are not desperate for clients, which will actually make it a lot easier to sell sessions.
10. Hard to invest/retire
Working in a standard 9-5 job lets you sort out your pension pretty easily, which makes planning for your retirement even easier.
In the UK your employer will match what you contribute to your pension each month, so by the time you leave, you should be able to live a fairly comfortable life.
Working as a freelance personal trainer gives you no such luxury, as you will have no one but yourself to organise your finances to make sure you have something to fall back on should something negative occur, or for when you decide it’s time to retire.
If you are employed as a personal trainer, then you may still have the same benefits but do check this because if you are working on a zero-hours contract you may not be entitled to anything, so watch out!
I myself also like to invest in the stock market as a backup to my retirement plan, this is another story in itself, but it pays me monthly amounts in dividends which I re-invest so that I can hopefully retire at an earlier age and with more to play with.
Retirement plans and investing are usually pushed to the back of many personal trainers minds, at their own expense.
How to fix it
Firstly, you will need to get those clients in your books and paying you some decent cash, that’s your bread and butter and you need that income, so work on filling up your diary and then slowly increasing your hourly rate.
Then, seek the advice of a financial advisor. You are not the first self-employed person to wonder about what their options are in terms of retirement, so they will definitely be able to give you some good advice.
Things you can start to do right away would be to take a small percentage out of every payment you take, and either investing it wisely in the stock market (seek advice about this, don’t just invest and hope for the best) or set up a savings account that is solely for the purpose of your retirement.
You should of course be doing something similar so that you can pay your tax each year anyway, so another account would just be in addition to this. Only take out what you can currently afford, don’t live off noodles just so you can put away 30% of your money into your plans, start with 5% or 10% of each payment or whatever your advisor…….advises.
The main thing is to make sure you are putting something away, most trainers (especially ones in their 20’s) forget to do this. Start early, get into the habit and make it part of your business. You are on your own when you are self-employed, so you need to remember to look after yourself not just for now, but for the future too.
So there you go, these are the top ten reasons that if I didn’t have to quit personal training because of my health, I probably would have anyway.
The cool thing is, all of these issues are fixable, if you can, try to start your career by using the methods above, but if you are already six months (or longer) into your career, don’t worry, there is still time to make these changes.
You might be wondering why I didn’t use the techniques described above whilst I was working as a trainer? And the answer is….. retrospect.
Sometimes it’s only after you leave a situation that you truly understand what was occurring, now that I have left the industry, I can totally see how I could have easily fixed these issues.
So learn from my mistakes and don’t make the same ones yourself!
Go get ’em!
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