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“How do you stay motivated as a personal trainer?”

About 6 years into my career, I suffered from trainer burnout. I lost all enthusiasm and passion for training, and going to work became a huge chore. Instead of focusing on my clients, I was watching the clock, recycling everyone’s exercise programs and finding every excuse to cancel my clients’ sessions. Crazily enough I still had a great clientele, and I was making good money. The worst part about it was that I was comfortable. It’s a horrible position to be in.

As we become comfortable in our situations, we become less motivated to grow and be challenged. Repetition dominates, and passion dwindles. I had to make a decision, and I decided it was time for a change.

The last thing I wanted to do was switch careers. I had spent so much time, money and education on my career that I couldn’t fathom starting all over again. Instead, I decided to hit the reset button and try to put myself back in the shoes of that eager 23-year-old just entering the industry with a will to change the world. Here’s what I did:

I went back to the books. I attended every seminar, fitness conference and workshop I could find. There is nothing more powerful to get you fired up than putting yourself in a room for a few days with like-minded individuals.

I changed my environment. I was overworking myself with 10-hour days, and I was uninspired with my clientele.

The gym itself was run down and missing a lot of equipment I enjoyed using. I quit and found a new gym where I was inspired by everyone around me. I also fell in love with the gym’s business model.

I found mentors. Surrounding myself with people who are much smarter than I am challenges me to be my best every day. With challenge comes growth and mastery—essential components to keeping my motivation high.

Derrick Price, MS
Personal Trainer, Function First
San Diego

To keep myself motivated after 17 years of teaching group fitness and 6 years as a personal trainer, I address the situation on several levels.

Personal level. I take good care of myself. I live what I teach to my clients: “Eat healthfully without castigating yourself; do a lot of balanced sports; and don’t complicate things.” Trying new exercises, trends and training programs with colleagues keeps me excited about what I do. I believe in these exercises and programs because I tried them myself. This way my motivation becomes the clients’ motivation. It makes being a personal trainer not just my job, but my lifestyle.

Environmental level. It’s important that I work in a harmonious environment. I need to love the gym and the people who work there, and I need the gym to have the right equipment. It’s also crucial for the client and me to have the right chemistry. If I continuously feel that the workouts are just not “working out,” I’d rather let the client go (or refer him or her to someone else) than have both of us become frustrated and demotivated. Finally, my work hours have to fit into the life I lead. Fortunately, I’m able to bundle client sessions into several continuous blocks during the week. This way, I stay concentrated and motivated in each session block, and I can go to every session with a smile. If I make sure that the circumstances are fun and enjoyable, the sessions are good for me and my clients.

Improvement level. I go to conventions, read articles and books, watch instructional videos, try new equipment and keep myself updated on trends and exercises. Doing tests and assessments for improvement—even with longtime clients—makes the sessions interesting for both sides. We both have goals and challenges, and we’re always looking forward to the next workout!

Beate Lemm
ACE-Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor,
KOMBS Personal Training Lounge

I have been a trainer for more than 11 years. How I stay motivated can be described in four important words: “It’s not about me.” When I first started in this profession, a very wise mentor said this to me, and I live by these words every time I meet with and train a client. “It’s not about me” fuels the passion I already have for fitness and living a healthy lifestyle.

What do those four words mean? They mean that I must listen to my clients. Sure, I know what must be done for them to lose weight and get fit, but there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. I know that every person and situation is unique and that what works for one person may not work for another. So I must listen to my clients’ concerns and physical limitations and develop my program based on these and on what I know as an educated fitness professional. Listening to my clients is one of the best ways I stay motivated because it allows me to really get to know them as individuals. Since everyone is different, every training session is different.

Another way I incorporate the “It’s not about me” attitude into my job is not to judge my clients. Accept clients just exactly the way they are. Be their cheerleader when they are working hard, and be their coach when they are struggling. Do not develop a superior attitude; remind them, if you can, that you were once in their shoes. Like many who have become personal trainers, I have literally been in many of my clients’ shoes. This is what fueled my passion for fitness in the first place.

The “It’s not about me” attitude does not apply just to the way you treat your clients. It also applies to your coworkers. It’s easy to become competitive with colleagues, and some gyms encourage this (they are often the gyms with high turnover), but I do not. I’ve found that it’s better to work in an environment where people share knowledge and where all clients work with the trainer who is the best fit for their personality and situation. This keeps the workout facility a happy place for people to exercise. When the energy is positive, it’s motivating— not just for trainers but for the clients as well. We all know that happy clients are clients who continue to want to work with us.

Last, enjoy your clients and colleagues. Enjoy their stories. Show compassion for their struggles. Answer their questions with honesty and integrity, and ask questions when necessary. People are what this job is all about. If you treat your clients and colleagues well, not only will you keep your clients but you’ll enjoy what you do and look forward to going to work each day.

Mary Miriani
ACSM Health/Fitness Specialist, Transfirmations, A Health and Wellness Institute
Naperville, Illinois

I love to help people! Much like the vast majority of fitness pros, that is my number-one motivator. I realize that training is a give-and-take situation. The more I help others, the more I grow as a trainer and as a person.

For me, the ever-evolving growth in the fitness industry is very motivational. I’ve enjoyed many learning opportunities throughout my career. Opportunities such as industry conventions, mentorships and other educational experiences keep me learning and growing and keep my sessions alive. I also think it’s important to seek mentors. Look for people who will help you excel and challenge your thought processes.

Putting my clients first, getting to know them and using the tools I’ve learned have to be the biggest motivators ever! Seeing a client’s success and knowing that I was a small part of that picture is truly the most blessed feeling. I’ve thought from time to time about quitting, but what would I do? There is nothing more motivating than that special smile from a client.

Wendy Cole
Personal Trainer and CEO, Action
Potential Fitness and Holistic Health
Palm Desert, California

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