Finding Optimal Work/Life Balance as a Fitness Coach

Finding Optimal Work/Life Balance as a Fitness Coach


We've noticed recently that the coaches we speak with all seem to share one central (and major) concern: How to achieve a healthy balance between seeing to their coaching practice and living a sustainable life outside of their work.

To shed some light on the issue of striking that perfect work/life balance as a fitness coach, we decided to sit down with veteran Coaching Certificate Program (CCP) coach Sam Smith to pick his brain and see what we could learn from him on this tremendously important topic.

Read our full interview with Sam to see how he thinks about taking time off, meeting his own training needs, building sound client relationships and much more.


Q: What does work/life balance as a coach mean to you?

A: Being able to do the things I want to do. This implies knowing “what” I want to do in the first place (which is important to spend time thinking and outlining and revisiting every so often). If I start to feel I’m not able to do the things I want to do, then I know the pendulum is swinging too far away from balance and moving towards imbalance.


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Q: Describe your average day.Sam Smith Work Life Balance

5am - wake up
5:15-6am - coffee, read news, read my current book
6-8:30am - Program Design
8-9am - Breakfast
9-10am - Consults (Overseas clients)
10-11am - Programming
11-12pm - Training
12-1:30pm - Lunch
1:30-3:30pm - Consults
3:30-4pm - Comments/Emails/Messages - clear my tasks for the day before shutting down computer
4-5pm - Relaxing/Reading/Watching a video - whatever I want to do before my Wife comes home
5-6pm - Preparing/Cooking dinner with my Wife
6-7pm - Eating
7-8:30pm - Time with Wife, reading, relaxing
8:30-8:45pm - Bed


Q: How do you make time for your own fitness?

A: As I’ve grown not only in my client load but also in my responsibilities, this has been the hardest piece to manage, funny enough. There are seasons to my “training” year: January - July = busier / maintenance mode; August - December = can push / challenge my body more. This is a conscious decision on my end as it’s not the main priority in this chapter of my life but it is a daily requirement for many reasons. I’m very schedule/calendar oriented, so if it’s in the calendar I will make time to complete it.


Q: What about nutrition and lifestyle? How do you make sure you’re looking after yourself?

A: “Practice what you preach” might be one of the most important rules for any fitness coach to abide by. That principle has always resonated with me which has made nutrition and lifestyle near non-negotiable; my family can attest to this. If I can’t use myself as a representative for how to implement and maintain great nutrition and lifestyle principles in one’s life, how am I going to authentically prescribe that to a client? There are times when I’m flirting with the borders. In those instances, I fall back to 3 check points to assess if I’m getting out of balance: sleep quality, digestion, mood. If those are out of balance then I know I need to pause and give myself a self-assessment to see where things are at.


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Q: How much time do you take off annually and how do you spend your time on vacation?

Sam Smith Competent Coach QuoteA: This year will be the first time in the past 5 years I will take a vacation without doing any work (2-weeks in total). It’s our honeymoon so we will be sightseeing and enjoying each other's company. In the past when I’ve gone on “vacation” I usually visited family or visited clients, but I’m still designing programs for at least a few hours in the morning. (Side note: your client load will dictate how easily you can completely go off line. The bigger the number the harder it is. That is why I’m implementing a hard break despite a large client load.)

I’ve come to realize being able to stay competent at coaching for longer stretches of time with a full client load does require periods of disconnecting from the work. But I don’t think it’s as simple as disconnecting from work. I think each coach needs to set aside time to contemplate what they hope to attain from “vacation/time away from work” so they can come back recharged and ready for the next stretch. Being deliberate, even with your vacation, can help create context for why it is important and how it is serving you.


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Q: How do you prepare your clients for when you’re on vacation or offline?

A: I communicate it with them ahead of time. That’s the simple answer. I’m very clear from the start (the initial consult) how I communicate on a weekly basis, what my boundaries are, and how I approach vacation. Being very upfront and clear with people is EXTREMELY important for both you (the coach) and them (the client). Relationships break down from poor communication, not from poor program design.


Q: Do you believe it is possible to support a family as a fitness coach?

Sam Smith Relationships Communication
A: Short answer: yes.

Longer answer: Depends how you define a family. If you want a family, you need to spend time thinking through what that exactly looks like. For example, are you and your spouse/partner going to be working full-time? How many children do you and your spouse/partner want? What size of house/apartment/condo do you need to live comfortably with that size of family? What would the monthly costs be of living in that size of home? What would the monthly costs be for that size of family? I could list off another 15 questions that you need to ask. The reason for this is to bring clarity to mind of how much that family is going to cost to figure how much money you need to make to create the life/family you want. Breakdown your ideal scenario into bite size chunks. This applies to everything. If you know what is required in order to support the family you and your spouse/partner want, it becomes easier to make decisions that help move you towards that outcome.


Q: What is one thing you wish you knew when you started coaching?

A: Program design isn’t as important as you think. You need to understand the principles of designing, progression, structuring, etc. but that’s not what separates great coaches from mediocre coaches. You need to become world-class at being able to ask the right questions. And in order to do that you have to become world-class at listening. Those are two of the most powerful tools for a fitness coach: listening and asking the right questions.


Q: What is your favorite thing about coaching?

A: Helping people give themselves permission to change for the better.


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q: What is your least favorite thing about coaching?

A: Creating social media content. It has to be done, but it’s not the job. This quote from Charlie Munger on attracting clients will help shed light, “It’s the work on your desk…it’s the work on your desk. Do well with what you already have and more will come in.”


Q: What does success as a fitness coach mean to you?

Sam Smith on Success as a Coach

A: Helping people. If I pause for a moment to reflect on all of the people who’ve helped me in some way in my life, my knees get weak. It’s humbling. And I believe it’s my responsibility to return that gift to those around me. “To whom much is given, much will be required.” If I’m helping people, then I feel I am giving the requisite honor to those who helped me. And by doing so, I feel successful.





Sam's always a wealth of knowledge and a great resource for any coach looking to enhance their coaching practice. And while he's always happy to share his insight and experience with us—in the aims of helping fellow coaches provide better services to their clients while also taking better care of themselves—his advice is just one small step toward growing as a fitness professional.

If you're really interested in pursuing a career in fitness, and doing it right, then there's only one sure way to do it—enroll in the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program and evolve into a truly complete coach.

Sign up today and join a community of thousands of coaches who aspire to a higher purpose. We look forward to seeing you in CCP!


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