Tricks of the Trade

Oct 01, 2007

“When do you do your own workouts, and how do you fit them in around clients?”

Finding and making time for your own workouts is any trainer’s hardest daily task. I struggled with this challenge for many years but finally sorted it out after much anguish and many missed workouts.

Like most trainers, at the beginning of my career I was not that busy and had ample time for working out. With the quick growth of a client base and the exciting cash flow that comes along with that business, my workout consistency began to suffer. The question became “Do I turn down revenue right now to do my workout or find a time to get my workout in later?" As we all know, by the end of the day, getting in a good workout is the last thing on your mind!

Change came by closely assessing my values and priorities. I had to think of what I tell my clients every day about the benefits of commitment, scheduling and priorities. I view daily physical activity as a priority for long-term health, vitality and productivity. Exercise must be scheduled first and be a “nonnegotiable” appointment to be consistent and yield results over the long term. Despite these beliefs, I hadn’t followed my own advice.

Once I made the decision to live by my own words, the results were fantastic. I’ve never been in better shape. I feel boundless energy, am more productive during my workday and have the respect of clients for living by sound principles.

So when do I exercise? Each morning, from 5:00 to 6:30 AM, I eat breakfast, do my daily planning/journaling and drive to work. I reserve 6:30-8:00 AM each day for my own workout and shower, and regularly tell clients why I can’t train them before 8:00 AM. In my opinion, it is incredibly valuable to get my workout completed at the start of the day because that sets my attitude, perspective, energy and enthusiasm for the rest of the day.

Running my own company, I must be productive and inspiring for the entire workday, which generally lasts 12–14 hours. Without taking this “me” time in the morning, I am unproductive and can’t provide the best guidance or energy to my clients and employees.

Tim Borys
Founder and President, FRESH! Fitness
Calgary, Alberta


I have been part of the fitness industry in Australia for 26 years. I initially started as a group fitness instructor, teaching classes after I finished work in my other job. Now I work full-time in the industry as an instructor and a personal trainer. I have made sure that I still teach five classes a week (indoor cycling) and then fit in my weights workouts during cancellation times or at the end of my working day. As a full-time trainer, I generally find that I get a couple of cancellations during the week. I make sure I use that time to exercise. During the weeks I don’t get any client cancellations, my classes are my saving grace.

I have also found that my classes are a great way to recruit new clients and to offer my existing clients an extra workout that I can monitor without charging for one-on-one training.

Jane Stevens
Cycle/Machine Coordinator, Aerobics Instructor and Personal Fitness Trainer
Re-creation Health Club
Melbourne, Australia


Trainers are role models, and therefore there are no excuses for not making the time to work out. Some­times that means getting in only a “20-minute special” on a busy day or doing a double session on a slow day.

The key is being a little selfish at times and, of course, being disciplined. My former boss, Marc Madison, used to book nine sessions a day, manage three gyms and supervise 18 employees, and he never missed
a workout—ever. I have gone on 10-mile training runs at 4:30 AM and at 10:00 PM.

I block out time for my workout the same way I block out time for lunch. It might mean a work project gets delayed somewhat, but on the list of priorities, my workout is near the top. My workout time varies week to week. Sunday is my only true day off, so I make sure I never miss a hard workout on Sunday mornings. In the past, I have simultaneously belonged to several gyms in different locations so that I was always within a short drive to a gym. We also built a home gym for convenience and privacy.

I try to follow the same advice I give our athletes and clients: Don’t think you can work out only at a gym. For example, although our home gym is in the garage, we have Swiss balls, foam rollers and mats tucked away neatly in the living room so I can get some exercise in while watching TV. I also like to bike to the local park and do pull-ups on the monkey bars, practice throwing a baseball against the brick wall or kick a soccer ball around.

Phillip Bazzini, CSCS
Fitness Director, Tenafly Racquet Club
Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, CourtSense Tennis School
Tenafly, New Jersey

 

I do my strength training workouts at 6:30 AM on Tuesday and Thursday and around 9:00 AM on either Saturday or Sunday, depending on how my schedule plays out.

Twenty-five years of muscle lifting, aerobics, running, martial arts and vocations that required repetitive physical labor have resulted in several ruptured disks, spinal arthritis and beat-up feet. Consequently, my cardiovascular conditioning is kept to brisk 30-minute walks with hill intervals or interval cycling several times a week, opposite the resistance work. I also practice qigong and breathing-based anabolic exercises for those days when I am just not up to more intense sessions.

Resistance training is built on core-based, primal functional movements (twisting, bending, reaching, pushing, pulling, squatting and lunging) using intervals and circuits with active rest. This pushes my cardiovascular system to the edge of the anaerobic envelope and then drops it to lower aerobic levels during the active-rest period. The inner-unit muscles are trained intensely, so the total time of each session, including maintenance flexibility exercises, is 45–60 minutes.

Because I have found my optimal fuel mix to be plenty of nutrient-dense calories, staying lean (21% body fat at 51 years of age) is easy without hours of catabolic, high-density cardio training. I believe our bodies are meant to work at a moderate pace all day long, with bursts of speed or power as needed. My clients and I train in this manner. It keeps us healthy and happy, our workouts condensed and our bodies conditioned to undertake any activity that doesn’t require specialized athletic abilities.

Ensuring that my own workouts are a priority is crucial to my values as a lifestyle coach and a fitness trainer. Leading by example is the most powerful motivational and marketing tool.

Nancy L. Jerominski
IDEA Elite Personal Fitness Trainer
Owner, NLJ Fitness and Wellness Consulting
Seattle, Washington


I do my workouts either early in the morning or at night (10:00 or 11:00 PM). Now ask me how frequently I exercise each week, and I’ll laugh because, really, the problem for me is fitting workouts in around my children’s schedules. I am lucky to get in about four workouts per week at this stage in my life, but it is working for me (I work out smartly!). I have three children, and the youngest just turned one. Unfortunately, the littlest one is still a bit unpredictable in his nighttime schedule. That has knocked me off my exercise regimen more than once, needless to say. I also love recovery (read “sleep”) time for myself. Sigh.

I can handle only five or six training appointments each week because I am the primary caretaker for my children. At some point, I’ll be back in the game at a fuller capacity. I train my clients from my home, which allows me to keep an eye on my kids, who are typically occupied while I work with clients. I try to schedule my client appointments at times when some or all of the children will be napping, occupied by a video or playing outside in full view of the studio windows. (If the youngest is awake, he plays quite nicely in the studio playpen!)

Liz Guscott
Certified Personal Trainer
Liz Guscott Personal Training LLC
Lakewood, Ohio


If you are just getting started as a personal trainer, you may be tempted to take whatever sessions you can get, but this will eventually lead to adrenal fatigue and a serious case of “no life at all.” Having been a trainer for 10 years, I have fallen victim to these hazards numerous times. Now my health always comes first. By practicing what I preach, I give my clients a trainer who has ample energy for their sessions. I have set clearly defined hours for training clients: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM weekdays, 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM Saturdays; I take off Sundays. I do make occasional exceptions. For example, I don’t mind starting at 7:00 AM in the summertime, because both the sun and I are up earlier.

I also limit my maximum number of sessions in a day to eight and my maximum for the week to 25. While I used to do as many as 38 in a week—and I know trainers who do even more—I personally think the ideal range is 25–35. In a nutshell, listen to your body. It is always speaking to you. If you are constantly drowning out its cries for rest with caffeine and sugar, you probably need to rethink your workload.

Once you are getting enough sleep and me-time, all you need to do is start sweating. My mind used to be so rigid about what a workout was—intense weights in the gym! I now listen to my body more than my stubborn mind. Today a workout can be a yoga class, running, cycling, swimming, Pilates, meditative-zone exercises, functional training, corrective exercise and sometimes some good old heavy weight training. Varying my workouts keeps me from being held hostage by time, location, attire and changing energy levels.

Jamie Dreyer
Founder, Further Fitness
New York, New York


People often assume that because you are a personal trainer, you can work out all day long.
Trainers know that this just isn’t the case! Occasionally I will go for a run with one of my clients, but this is the exception rather than the rule. My clients are paying for my undivided attention. They are not paying me to work out.

For my own exercise, I do exactly what I tell my clients to do. I schedule my workouts and plan ahead for them. On days when I spend 8 hours with clients at the gym, the last thing I feel like doing is working out. Yet I know I will feel better if I exercise. So, when I am making my schedule, if it looks like I will be in the gym all day, I plan ahead and pack my running clothes and my iPod. As soon as my last client finishes, I march myself into the locker room and, before I can talk myself out of it, I change and head out the door for a run.

Some days if I have a few clients in a row and then a little break before my next one, I will write “WORKOUT” in my organizer. On those days, I fit in a little exercise, like core training or upper-body work, but I won’t do exercises that will make me sweat and have to take a shower again!

Other days, I have time in the morning, and I plan ahead by bringing my shower bag. I start my day with a good workout, shower at the gym (like so many other early-morning exercisers) and then, instead of heading off to an office job, I head out onto the gym floor to start my day.

For me, I like the variety. I try to make sure that I fit something in almost every day. Whether it’s an early-morning or evening cycling or yoga class, a run at the start or end of the day, a workout on the gym floor or a hike on the weekend, I try never to let more than 2 days go by without doing something active. It’s good for the body, the mind and the soul.

Dayle Webber, MS, CPT
AFAA Certification Specialist
Personal Trainer and Fitness Consultant
Solana Beach, California

IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 4, Issue 9

© 2007 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.