fbpx Skip to content


Stay Motivated and Avoid Career Burnout

Tips to help you separate your personal time and work time.

This column provides trainers with practical ways to approach common business obstacles using a coaching strategy called “gap analysis.” A gap analysis helps people identify where they currently are in a situation, where they ultimately would like to be and what steps they must take in order to bridge the gap. Here’s how a gap analysis can help you avoid career burnout and remain motivated in your job.

Starting Point: Burning the Candle at Both Ends

Passion, enthusiasm and drive are the hallmarks of great fitness professionals. However, these qualities can also make trainers vulnerable to overwork. Many trainers mistakenly believe that working long days and offering appointments whenever it suits their clients are the best ways to maximize income and meet client needs. These trainers put work and client obligations ahead of everything else, and they end up sacrificing their time and happiness. They lose their motivation for work and feel trapped in situations that can lead to career burnout.

Destination: A Healthy Work–Life Balance

When it comes to work, motivated, happy trainers have a number of traits in common. They recognize that work is only one aspect of a fulfilling life, and they make concerted efforts to regulate the amount of time they spend on work-related tasks. They use various strategies to maximize time spent on work activities, and they employ these strategies in other areas of life as well. Most important, these trainers understand the value of integrating personal interests and activities into their day to create a healthy ratio between work and life.

Bridging the Gap

Transforming yourself from a trainer who can’t bear the thought of going into work into one who happily goes about the workday is a two-step process. First, learn the specific methods that successful trainers use to stay motivated at work (as noted below in Areas 1 through 3). And second, formulate strategies for developing and applying your own skills in those areas.

Below are three areas in which successful trainers excel with regard to avoiding burnout and maintaining high levels of work drive. For each area, there are suggested strategies to help you improve your skills so you can bridge the gap between burnout and a healthy work–life balance.

Area 1: Limit Work Tasks to Work Time

Trainers who successfully avoid burnout understand that work must be regulated (managed and controlled) and compartmentalized. Instead of making themselves available for work-related duties at any time, they set and enforce work boundaries and schedules.

To improve your skills at setting work boundaries, think about how your current work schedule was formed. Were the days and hours you work predetermined by you, or were they shaped as a result of trying to accommodate clients? More than likely, you did not consciously create your current work schedule; it has evolved and expanded to satisfy others. If that’s the case, you should reassess your approach to scheduling work time.

A good way to begin creating work boundaries is to devise an ideal work schedule. On a blank calendar page, determine which days each week you want to have off and what hours you want to work on the remaining days. Once you have chosen your workdays and hours, schedule clients who already fit within those parameters. Then contact clients who do not fall into your new appointment times and notify them of your new schedule and availability. You’ll find that most of your clients will adjust their schedules for you. However, be sure to give them ample time to prepare for the schedule changes. Then implement the new strategy and stick to it. Otherwise, you will continue to allow others to determine how much of your time and energy you spend working.

In addition to notifying clients of your revised schedule, make them aware of your “reachability” outside of scheduled appointments. Restrict contact with clients to your official work schedule. It is neither necessary nor appropriate for you to be on-call for clients 24 hours a day. While you may think it is good customer service, in reality it robs you of valuable personal time.

Area 2: Maximize Work Time Effectiveness

When work takes up too much time, it can become demotivating and eventually lead to burnout. Many things can contribute to work usurping your time, so it’s important to recognize if you’re susceptible to spending more time at work than necessary. If work dominates your life, consider improving your skills in the following areas:

  • Prioritize. Time management experts postulate that 80% of results come from 20% of a person’s effort. Therefore, it is important to identify the areas of your work that provide the most “bang for the buck” and then focus your effort in these areas.
  • Organize. Lack of organization is a common time-waster. To prevent unnecessary work, use strategies to keep you and your schedule and workspace organized. When you’re organized, you can prioritize tasks much more easily. When you handle your work priorities in order of importance, you can stop bringing trivial issues home.
  • Delegate. Learning to successfully delegate responsibility will help you accomplish more at work so you can free up time for personal interests.
  • Assert Yourself. If you feel overwhelmed by work, it’s probably because you habitually put other people’s agendas ahead of your own. Bolstering your assertiveness skills can help you learn to say no to additional demands on your time and can empower you to ask for help when you need it.

Area 3: Make Yourself a Priority

The key to staying motivated in your job and avoiding burnout is to fit work into your life, instead of trying to squeeze life in around your work. The most important element in creating a satisfying career and a fulfilling life is you. You have to do things that make you happy. Sometimes it’s difficult to know where to begin to make yourself a priority. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

  • Identify What You Want in Your Life That You Do Not Have and What You Have in Your Life That You Do Not Want. Eliminating what you don’t want can be as beneficial as incorporating what you do want.
  • Determine When You Want to Achieve What You Want and When You Want to Get Rid of What You Don’t Want. Being specific and making a firm commitment will improve your quality of life.
  • Outline Steps You Can Take to Accomplish Your Goals. You can begin by writing down the things you can start doing today. Keep the changes small so they do not add to your overall stress levels or commitments.
  • Write the Changes Into Your Schedule. Time for activities you want to do should be included in your monthly schedule first. Work can then be scheduled around those things that are important to you.
  • Create and Maintain Work Boundaries. People will take as much of your time as you let them. You can control how much time you choose to allocate to work by developing and adhering to work boundaries.

Creating a healthy work–life balance is the key to maintaining a satisfying and successful career. Making yourself a priority enables you to generate energy, enthusiasm and passion for what you do as a professional. Love your life, and love what you do for a living.

SIDEBAR: Straight From the Top

Even the best trainers in the world have faced the common business obstacle of avoiding career burnout. Here’s how Cynthia Carrion Norton, 2009 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, co-founder of the Association of Fitness Professionals of the Philippines and personal trainer to former President Gloria Arroyo of the Philippines, successfully bridged the motivation gap:
“From a trainer’s perspective, it must not be the pay that serves as your reason for working. Spice up your life with a variety of activities to prevent fatigue and burnout from slipping in. I personally spend time away from the gym to play sports, and I make it a habit to regularly play tennis, badminton and golf. Whenever possible, I go sailing with loved ones and friends. Variety is the means to maintaining motivation.”


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.

Mary Bratcher, MA

Mary Bratcher, MA, is a certified life coach and co-owner of The BioMechanics in San Diego, California. She holds a master's degree in psychology; and for over a decade, has used principles from psychology and life coaching to help people develop better strategies for dealing with life's demands.
CEC provider for: ACE

When you buy something using the retail links in our content, we may earn a small commission. IDEA Health and Fitness Association does not accept money for editorial reviews. Read more about our Terms & Conditions and our Privacy Policy.


Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay up tp date with our latest news and products.