1. You’ll get less healthy

The majority of people who want to become personal trainers are either fitness enthusiasts or former teenage sports players who now want to make a career helping others get in shape.

They begin their working life as an instructor in a gym, which means they do eight-hour shifts and use the facilities to their heart’s content (literally and figuratively).

It’s a honeymoon period that almost ends in divorce once they graduate on to be personal trainers. PTs are generally self-employed and at the behest of their many clients, which means we’re incredibly busy in the mornings and reluctant to ever turn a job down.

Then, in the afternoons, there will be more sessions, programs to write, meals plans to send and websites to update. For me, it all adds up to a 15-hour work day.

The result? Rushing around, sleeping less, training less, and eating poorly. Suddenly, you’re a personal trainer who needs a personal trainer.

It took me over a year to work out how I could maintain my own health while working to improve others’. It helps that you build a client base over time, so your income becomes more predictable, but I also had to make tough calls like not going out in the evening and hitting the hay early so I could be up at the crack of dawn to start work.

Goodbye social life, it was nice knowing you

2. You’ll drink WAY too much coffee

However early I wake up (4:45am most days), it’s still not early enough. My solution? I used to drink coffee like it’s Powerade. Here’s how my daily intake measured up:

4:45: Wake up. Filter coffee in the car
6am: First session. Black coffee as the coffee shops open
8am: Two sessions in. Time for an espresso.
11am: Mid morning Americano
1pm: Cappuccino with lunch
3pm : Afternoon espresso
7pm: Last coffee of the day to make it through the evening sessions
Too much, isn’t it? You’d be surprised how common this intake is among PTs. (Lack of sleep and coffee addiction is one of the reasons I moved much of my business online recently and went caffeine free – I was on a way one ticket to adrenal fatigue.)

3. You’ll only be successful once you focus on the client, not the money

When you first become a PT, it can be easy to chase the kind of money that can be made by stacking sessions back to back all day. As a result, the temptation is to become a salesman, stalking your prey on the gym floor with military precision and persuading them into buying ever increasing amounts of your time.

The problem with this is that fitness is a people business – we get paid for delivering health – and your client will soon lose trust in you if you don’t deliver. Integrity is key here.

If you know someone can afford to buy sessions every day but their body can only take two a week, don’t for the love of God oversell your product. You’ll make more money from them in the long run – and have a better relationship, which means better marketing when they speak to their friends – if you’re honest and tell them what’s going to get results.

As housing estate agents almost never say: it’s all about reputation, reputation, reputation.

4. Social situations will never be the same again 

You know how you always end up asking your friend who’s a doctor about small things that are bothering you, even when you’re down at the pub and you know they’ve had a long day of work and the last thing they want to talk about is your persistent cough/ingrowing toenail/bowel movements? Well, it works the same with personal trainers.

The moment you become a PT, you’ll be asked for fitness advice as small talk everywhere you turn.

Get ready to answer questions like “should I be doing weights or cardio?”, to which there are 100 viable answers, knowing that the person asking probably won’t heed your advice.

5. Your presence makes others feel guilty

“Oh, Scott, look, I’m eating a cinnamon bun with an inch of icing. I bet you wouldn’t do that. I’m such a fattie”.

If they don’t say it, you can bet they’re thinking it. It’s one of the stranger effects of being a PT. Even though you would never dream of commenting on what someone else is eating (unless they’re paying you good money to do so), everyone suddenly becomes conscious of their diet when you’re around.

Annoying – for all involved.

6. You’ll do a lot of laundry

Ten training sessions every day + plus your own training = a lot of sweaty gym clothes sitting in dank gym bags.

My washing machine probably sees more action than any other domestic appliance in my house.

7. You’ll develop a superhuman perception of time 

Sessions often involve you counting a lot of timed reps and circuits. After a while, you don’t bother looking at the stopwatch: counting time in your head becomes second nature. You’ll be surprised how accurate you can get.

As a busy trainer you’ll also have your schedule so tightly packed that you’ll instinctively calculate how long it takes to go get a coffee, how many minutes per day you’ll have to eat, and whether you’ve got enough time to sneak in a toilet before your client has finished changing. I’m not kidding!

8. You’ll never look at holidays the same way again 

Remember that thing about being self-employed? Well, it means that when you take a holiday, the money tap gets turned off.

Consequently, before you go away, you work doubly hard (which makes you doubly tired). Then, when you get back, you work doubly hard again to get everyone motivated and training.

That being said, it’s important not to fall into the trap of thinking holidays are more trouble than they are worth. I did this for a couple of years and it can lead to burn out.

9. You’ll develop a unique friendship with your clients 

As the weeks roll on, you get to know more about your client than their squat thrust record or their 500m row PB.

Between the burpees and bench presses, many clients open up in ways they seldom do to anyone else – probably because we are unrelated to anyone else in their lives, so there can be no comeback from what they say.

There is a lot more to being a personal trainer than giving out fitness advice. The time will come when you’ll be called upon to deliver sage council, inspire courage or simply be a shoulder to cry.

By Scott Laidler