How to Avoid the Personal Trainer Burnout Syndrome

How to Avoid the Personal Trainer Burnout Syndrome

Burnt out personal trainers: They’re an epidemic in the fitness industry.


For three main reasons:

1. Energy Drain 

Working with people in a one-on-one setting is exhausting. When you first start, it’s fun. It’s fun helping people get fit, and it’s fun hearing about their lives and coming up with ways to help them. 

But after a few years, it becomes less fun and more draining to the point of energy-zapping. Suddenly you’re trying to scrounge the energy to show that you give two shits and you find yourself feeling like you’re just babysitting dependent adults and monotonously counting reps, as opposed to actually coaching. Not all that fulfilling of a career for the coach.

2. Not Enough Money 

If you could work three or four hours a day on the floor, the above would be less draining. But you’re probably making $15 to $35 an hour, so in order to make a decent living, you need to be working up to and beyond 40 hours a week on the floor and you’re still not making enough money. 

On top of this, if you take off on vacation it means you’re not going to get paid. You don’t really have the extra cash anyway, so usually, it just means you go months (even years) without a true vacation. 

3. Too Much Time on the Floor

Usually being a personal trainer means a life of split shifts that makes for long days with too much on-floor coaching. 

You wake up at 5 a.m. for two to three hours of coaching the before work crowd of early morning risers. Then you eat and maybe a nap, which leaves you feeling groggy, before the afternoon and evening clients start. Many personal trainers report spending 8 to 12 hours on the floor a day in order to make enough just to get by.

Where that leaves us:

This means most personal trainers only last for a few years before leaving the industry completely because they’re burnt out and can’t make a living.

Imagine a world where health and fitness coaches could actually pursue a lifelong career in the industry as professional coaches, who earn a professional wage to match their expertise helping people live longer, fitter, healthier lives.

This is exactly what we’re doing.

How the OPEX Model Fixes the Personal Trainer Burnout Syndrome:

  1. Energy Drain

OPEX Coaches focus on creating more independent clients through individual program design. 

Clients go through a one-on-one assessment process with their coach when they first begin, but after those initial three sessions, they follow their individual program without the coach having to be present every single second. This means the coach has to do very little babysitting, like a traditional personal trainer. 

This doesn’t mean the coach doesn’t have a relationship with their client. OPEX Coaches are in touch with their clients regularly via text, the TrueCoach app, as well as in person during open gym training sessions and during their once-a-month lifestyle consults. 

OPEX Coaches explain the monthly consults allow them to actually offer coaching and guidance, rather than count reps, as they’re able to dig into other areas of the client’s life, like nutrition, sleep and stress, and formulate a plan to help them make lifestyle changes to improve their health and fitness beyond just working out with a personal trainer three days a week. 

Meanwhile, the coach is only on the floor for two (maximum three hours) a day, so he can get in there to correct and assess various clients’ movements as needed (i.e. actually coach), as opposed to being a weight changer for just one client. All of this means a heck of a lot more fulfillment for the coach. 

OPEX Coach Certificate Program (CCP) coach and gym owner Bobby Scott switched from being a personal trainer to a CCP coach and says the OPEX coach lifestyle is much more fulfilling and sustainable on his energy levels.

(Coach’s Resource: Get a free introduction to the same principles taught in CCP here.)

Of his personal training days, he said this: “Often it felt like I was almost just babysitting my clients—you know, handing them weights and counting their reps—and there wasn’t a lot of self-accountability or fulfillment for them. …And from my perspective, it got kind of boring at times.”

Today, he no longer works 10 to 12 on-floor coaching hours per day like he did as a personal trainer. Now, he spends about 18 hours a week on the floor, and when he’s there he’s full of energy.

“I enjoy my days a lot more now and I actually have time to work on the business end of things,” he said. 

2. Money

Instead of being paid by the hour like most personal trainers, OPEX Coaches are compensated on a percentage of revenue basis—in the neighborhood of 40 percent (and usually paid by the hour for their floor hours during open gym times). 

It’s not uncommon for an OPEX coach to build a book of 50 clients, where he earns 40 to 45 percent of the revenue his clients generate. Most OPEX clients pay around US$300 to $350 a month for their individual program and monthly consult.

Thus, if the coach earns 40 percent of $17,500 (50 clients at $350), that’s $7,000 a month plus what he is compensated by the hour for his floor shifts. With 60 clients, that number is $8,400 a month plus floor shifts. Hitting six figures takes work in this system, but is very possible.

Thomas Madden is a great example. He switched from owning a gym that followed a group class business model to becoming an OPEX Coach, and went from not being able to pay his bills and living for free in his friend’s dad’s basement in 2017 to having 62 of his own individual program design clients today and earning a professional wage.

“I have a relationship with 50-plus individuals and I can go to sleep at night knowing I’m getting paid to do what I love and to truly help them,” he said. “I work really hard, but I finally have a return on that work.”

Shanna Guzman, who coaches at OPEX Revival in San Rafael, California, is another. She has 50 individual program designs who pay between US$235 and $300 a month, from which she earns 50 percent of their gross revenue.

3. Time on the floor

As we have already pointed out, OPEX Coaches spend two to three on-floor coaching hours a day. The rest of their time is spent on program design, lifestyle consults, communicating with their clients, and on things like social media and business development.  All in all, most CCP coaches work full-time hours, but the energy-draining on-floor coaching hours are kept to 10 to 20 hours a week, leaving plenty of time for their other important tasks. 

And plenty of time (and now financial ability) to take a vacation and still get paid. (Generally, most OPEX Gyms have multiple coaches, who cover each other’s on-floor shifts when they head away on vacation.) 

Jim and Julie Migliaccio, OPEX Coaches in Norwalk, Connecticut, take full advantage of the freedom their job allows. 

“Honestly, I barely have to be there (at the gym). When I’m in town I spend about two days during the week on the floor and a few hours on Saturday. Before, I would have to be at the gym at 7 a.m. and would be there all day. I was chained to my business back then,” Julie said. Today, Julie and her husband spend the cold months in Florida, where they continue to work and connect with their clients via Zoom video calls, all the while enjoying the Florida sun.

And this isn’t just the case for OPEX gym owners. The coaches, too, have the money and freedom to take some well-needed downtime.

Guzman said this: “One of the biggest things is I can go on a two week vacation and I still get paid, whereas when I was coaching at a CrossFit gym, if I left for two weeks, I wasn’t getting paid because I wasn’t teaching a class or (wasn’t) on the floor with a personal training client, so no income was coming in.”

And as a result of all of the above…

Coaches staying fresh in terms of their energy levels, earning enough money and working sustainable on-floor hours means OPEX clients receive a higher level of coaching than traditional personal training clients. Learn how you can get these same results here.

“The coaches all speak the same language and it provides a high level of coaching, where clients really get a high value,” Guzman said.

CCP Coach Cody Loeffler added:

“We have taken the idea of personal training and have evolved it, or repackaged it, in a way that we can deliver all the individualized components of fitness to get the best results with the most potent formula for getting people fit fast. …And what sets it apart is that we can now deliver so much more to clients with the lifestyle and nutrition components, and we allow them to come in when it fits their schedule, so it’s a total all-inclusive full-spectrum service that I think is unmatched in the industry.”

Get an introduction to the same education that has allowed OPEX Coaches all over the world to create a life-long career coaching in The Free Coach’s Toolkit.

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