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Hit the Road

Use the following tips to plan for your much-needed vacation.

As a fitness professional and manager, you know that your students, clients and staff members rely on you. Your role as a leader in a service industry demands that you nurture and support others and exemplify a healthy lifestyle. You are most likely in the fitness industry because many of these personality traits come naturally to you. To be effective in your role of supporting others, you also need to take time to focus on you and on ways to recharge your batteries.

Whatever else you do—you might set a personal goal of training for a half-marathon or take a cake-decorating class to focus on your creative side—there are a few simple ways to recharge your energy. Leave your laptop at the office this weekend. Turn your phone off for 2 hours each evening. Experience the difference when you focus on life outside work.

These tips will help recharge you on a weekly basis, but just as important is taking an annual vacation to reconnect with family or friends and to truly decompress from your daily work routine—however much you love what you do. The following strategy outlines a practical method to help you (and your staff) plan and prepare for time away.

Take a Stand—Set the Date

With your demanding role in the fitness industry, it can be difficult to take time off work and leave your classes, clients and management in the hands of others for longer than a day or two. However, go ahead and select your vacation dates, let everyone know well in advance and stick to your plan.

Evaluate the nature of your business and the best time of year to take a vacation, planning around conferences and your busy season. Once you’ve determined dates (and destination), inform your staff and clients of your plans. Give advance notice 6 months ahead, followed by reminders 3 months and again 4-6 weeks prior to departure. Commit to your vacation plans by booking your hotel, purchasing your plane tickets and ensuring that nothing will derail your holiday.

Now that your vacation plans are set, how can you hit the road with confidence that on your return your professional life will be as you left it? According to Nicki Anderson, 2008 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and president of Reality Fitness Inc. in Naperville, Illinois, “Initial staff training is essential.”

5 Steps to Rest and Relaxation

Once you’ve committed to taking a break from managing, follow these five steps and you’ll be on the road to some much-needed R&R. You can also add these ideas to your existing standard operating procedures so that other staff members can benefit from your example.

1. Outline. List your responsibilities for each week, ranging from classes to staff meetings, and determine what kind of coverage you’ll need. If in addition to managing you also teach specialty classes, ensure that your substitute has appropriate and current certifications. Invite your sub to participate in two to four classes per month to get a feel for your teaching style. Introduce her at the beginning of each class so that participants get to know who will be covering for you during your upcoming vacation. This will reinforce the fact that you care about your students’ well-being even when you cannot be physically present.

Also, determine who would be a good fit to fill your void during staff meetings. This depends on your position and the meeting, but there may be someone who can contribute on your behalf or simply take notes for you.

2. Delegate. Hire one or more qualified individuals whom you trust to work with your clients (if you still train on the floor) and handle most of your responsibilities while you are away.

Your clients will not appreciate being bounced around from one trainer to another in your absence. It is essential that clients be well supported in working toward their goals, so be sure to place each client in qualified hands. Identify which trainer will be working with which clients while you are away, and let clients know they won’t have any downtime from their normal exercise routines. Ask if they are comfortable with their assigned trainer shadowing a few sessions prior to your departure. Request that the trainer sit in on three to six sessions, take notes and prepare to meet the client’s needs as fully as possible. If a trainer is unwilling to preview at least one session, look for someone else. The trainer(s) you delegate will need to follow your client tracking requirements in order to get paid appropriately and also to avert discrepancies regarding the number of sessions remaining in a package.

3. Schedule. If you will be away for more than 2 weeks, arrange a weekly meeting in advance, so you can check in with staff.

Take advantage of VoIP services, such as Skype, to call from your computer and save on long-distance charges. A weekly phone call can help you address any issues your staff may need your input on. Connect on a specific day each week. This will let you confirm that the business is running smoothly and help your staff feel supported in your absence. If a phone meeting is not an option, a weekly e-mail update is another great way to stay connected. Before you leave, inform your team members of the day you will log onto your e-mail so that they can submit their updates and questions in time for your review and response. This will allow you to enjoy your vacation without worrying about checking in on a daily basis. After a couple of hours of focused work, you’ll be able to truly enjoy the remainder of your vacation.

4. Back Up.Have a plan in the event that something goes wrong. Know who is in charge in your absence, and who will be making decisions. What if your server crashes or your phone gets disconnected? Delegate a trusted team member to decide whether to contact your IT department, issue payment to your phone company and resolve other issues in your absence. Don’t hope for the best. Plan for the worst.

5. Relax. Regardless of the length of your trip, with good planning there will be very few critical issues that cannot wait until your return. So . . . relax!

Instead of looking at vacation as a potential loss in revenue with a huge price tag associated with it, look at the positive results—increased motivation, renewed energy and decreased stress, resulting in fewer sick days and lower healthcare costs. Taking a vacation is not a luxury; it is a necessity. And just like your personal goals and your business goals, vacation won’t happen unless you plan for it.

“I have a list of responsibilities for everyone when I’m gone so they all feel they contribute in some way to keeping the business afloat,” says Anderson. “Because I have trained them as a team, they work together to keep the boat afloat while the captain is away. I never worry when I’m gone.”

Disconnect Yourself

Bathing suit? Check.
Hat? Check.
Sunscreen? Check.
Laptop? Check.

Portable technology is wonderful for busy, on-the-go professionals. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that staying connected on your vacation will enable you to return to your job feeling rested, refreshed and ready to tackle new projects. Plan to “disconnect” for at least 6 days out of 7 or you run the risk of returning from your pseudovacation feeling overwhelmed.


Concerned about your place in the new fitness industry? We have 40 years of experience supporting pros just like you! Let’s create a new wellness paradigm together—IDEAfit+ is the extra edge you need. Once you team up with IDEA, be sure to take full advantage of all the benefits of membership.

Kristen Horler, MS

Kristen Horler is the CEO and founder of Baby Boot Camp, a fitness franchise for moms. Learn more at babybootcamp.com.

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