This is a huge question, but let’s make it simple and boil it down to two things–paycheck and passion.
Our CEO Jim Crowell breaks down the financials of pursuing fitness as a full-time career in this blog post. You can read about the average paycheck for a fitness trainer, personal trainer, group fitness instructor, personalized fitness coach, online fitness coach, offering online training templates, teaching online group classes like Peloton or a strength and conditioning specialist to athletes.
Jim instructs the business portion of the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP) and has got the paycheck portion covered. He also breaks down 15 key factors to deciding whether being a fitness trainer is a good career in this blog, including flexibility, benefits, job security, and vacation here.
That just leaves passion, i.e., the day-to-day job fulfillment of being a fitness professional. As you can see from the long list above, there are a wide range of careers to be had in fitness. For the sake of this blog post, we’ll narrow it down to examining a day in the life of a personalized fitness coach, i.e., an OPEX Coach, so you can decide whether or not you could find fulfillment in this role.
Why is passion such an important part of determining whether it’s worth it to be a personal trainer or fitness coach?
A huge percentage of fitness trainers decide to start coaching because they love fitness and want to help people. It is a career that requires you to truly believe in the service that you are offering so that you can inspire your clients to make health and fitness a priority in their lives.
A huge part of training people is the coach-client relationship, and no one can fake passion in the long-term. A trainer who isn’t passionate about what they’re doing will not be able to make it a sustainable career–clients will smell inauthenticity and you will end up resenting your job.
A professional coach, the kind that we are proud to produce, finds daily fulfillment by always making time in their day to Teach, Learn, Move and Create. Every job, even if you’re passionate about it, will have its share of frustrations and bad days. It’s finding this daily balance that keeps the fire burning and keeps you connected to your “why.”
Teach: One of the many roles a coach embodies is that of a teacher. If you aren’t a mentor to others you will lose fulfillment or enjoyment in your role.
Learn: Are you consistently seeking out new knowledge from which to hone your craft? The best coaches never remain complacent in their understanding of fitness.
Move: Do you practice what you preach? Live your fitness life in accordance with what you believe and your clients will respect you.
Create: As a coach, you can live this principle through designing your client’s individual training, lifestyle, and nutrition programs.
Here’s how Teach, Learn, Move and Create plays out in the average day of an OPEX coach.
Rising at a consistent time and with the sun honors natural circadian rhythm, creating great daily energy patterns.
6:30am: Morning Workout (Move)
An important part of teaching others the value of fitness is leading by example.
Eaten while honoring food hygiene practices, including no-distractions and thorough chewing. An OPEX Coach prioritizes foods that are well-digested and support mental acuity.
8:30-10am: TrueCoach Programming (Create)
This is a coach’s chance for creative expression, applying program design principles with individual flair. This time is spent fleshing out weekly individual programs based on last week’s results, that are designed with a long-term plan and client priorities in mind. The client receives the program and will train on the floor at a time that suits them.
10-10:15am: TrueCoach Feedback (Teach)
One of many touchpoints the coach has with their clients that extends beyond the time they’re in the gym. This time is spent replying to messages, reviewing workout videos and notes and offering feedback
11am-12pm: Team meeting (Teach + Learn)
Weekly team meetings are an opportunity for OPEX Coaches to present client case studies to show how they are programming and receive feedback from their peers.
12-1pm: Lunch + Walk (Move)
One hour in the gym isn’t where movement stops for OPEX coaches and their clients, so a post-lunch 15 min walk is part of their daily routine to support blood flow and recovery.
1-1:30pm: Consultation (Teach)
Monthly client consultations are a crucial component of the coach-client relationship. This one-on-one conversation is an opportunity for the coach to develop trust as a mentor, and reflect on progress, discuss lifestyle in detail and create an action plan for the next month.
2:30-3:30pm: Education (Learn)
OPEX Coaches are students for a lifetime, participating in regular webinars, mentor calls, forum discussion, and continued education through the OPEX Fitness membership site.
3-4pm: Movement Assessment (Teach + Learn)
New client onboarding always begins with a thorough assessment, including a movement assessment that looks at movement patterns, asymmetries, postural endurance, bodyweight strength, and relative strength. The coach has the opportunity to educate the client on technique and refine their craft as they encounter different movement challenges.
4-7pm Floor Coaching (Teach + Learn)
On the floor, the coach is responsible for helping each client understand and execute their individually-designed workout. They work with all the members of the gym that are training at that time, not just their own clients. An OPEX Coach operates in a small-group personal training setting, moving from client to client to offer individual assistance, while keeping a watchful eye across the gym floor. Every session coached is the opportunity to learn more about movement.
7:30pm Dinner, Unwind and to Sleep
After a busy day, it’s time for a home-cooked meal, perhaps an episode of a new Netflix series, some reading for pleasure and a good night’s rest.
From our experience working with thousands of fitness coaches, the answer is yes, so long as Teach, Learn, Move and Create are practiced on a daily basis.
The day in the life of an OPEX Coach described above provides that balance, keeping coaches connected to their passion even on long days and when working with more difficult clients.
This career offers variety, daily education and growth, a balance of physical time with clients and mental programming work behind the computer, and the flexibility to take vacation and work from home.
In short, personalized fitness coaches can have a career they are passionate about and make a sustainable income while doing it. Learn how they do it here.
It’s a somewhat different story for fitness coaches in a more traditional personal training model. A typical personal trainer schedule looks more like the following:
5am-12pm: Back-to-back Personal Training clients
12-4pm Downtime: client emails, workout, eat, nap
4pm-8:30pm: Back-to-back Personal Training clients
Most personal trainers are only paid for the time they physically spend coaching clients, so they end up with a schedule of early mornings and late nights because that’s when clients want to train. Their ability to help their clients is limited to this in-person time, and most clients can’t afford to train one-on-one for more than a couple of sessions per week. Few personal trainers design long-term programs and most have no touchpoints with their clients to focus on lifestyle and nutrition outside of the gym.
Consequently, client results and retention are an industry-wide problem, and personal trainers end up burned out and disillusioned by the system. It’s the reason why 80% of personal trainers quit the industry within two years–the initial passion for fitness and helping others inevitably wears off.
We’re here to tell you that this doesn’t have to be the case. There is a way to create a fitness career that provides a sustainable paycheck and daily fulfillment. It’s why we’re on a mission to disrupt the traditional personal trainer model with personalized fitness coaching.
Being a personalized fitness coach is worth it.
Read the stories of these personalized fitness coaches and think about whether their careers would light a fire in you…
Vaghayenegar transitioned his clients away from personal training three days a week to individual programs. He noticed a difference right away, he said.
“The biggest thing is how they have become more consistent with their workouts. Before, they trained twice, maybe three times a week tops, and now lots of them are in here five or six days a week,” said Vaghayenegar of his 39 clients, who pay anywhere between CA$299 and $379 a month.
Running a personalized online coaching business is certainly not what Heavey or Latimer expected they’d be doing with their lives, he admitted. Heavey, 38, has his Master’s degree in electrical engineering and worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for almost 10 years, while Latimer has her doctorate degree in pharmacology and completed a postgraduate residency in primary care medicine.
Latimer added her lifestyle today is much more enjoyable than it was as a pharmacist: “I train in the middle of the day. I take my dog for a walk in the afternoon. We also travel a lot because we can work from anywhere. …t’s pretty amazing to have that flexibility to live the life you want while also making an impact on others’ lives,” she said.
O’Brien “burned down” his old gym, so to speak, moved locations, rebranded and “started from the ground up,” he said, abandoning the group class method for an individual program design model instead. Today, his clients pay $369 a month for a personal coach to help them with their fitness, health, nutrition, sleep, stress and anything else relevant to improving their wellness, he explained.
This system allows O’Brien to develop more “in-depth relationships,” with his clients, he explained. And his clients are more committed and value his coaching service more, he added.
On his end, O’Brien no longer lives in a constant state of fatigue, where his own fitness suffers, and where he has to pick up a second job in order to pay the bills.
Today, he coaches just six hours on the floor, spends another chunk of time programming for clients, and the rest of the time on business development. This leaves him time to train four days a week and pursue his bouldering hobby.
Having these systems in place today means Filly spends just a few hours a week coaching. On top of this, he said he spends about 20 percent of his time on programming for his 20 clients, and the rest of the time—50 to 60 percent of his time, he said—working on business development.
As a result, he also has more time to spend mentoring and developing his four on-site coaches to help them grow their book of clients and have successful careers in the fitness industry. This is the key to growing a successful business, he said.
“I think for people who want to be successful business owners, they need a model or a system that works in the long term for the business, the client, and the coaches, and this model has the best chance of being successful.”
OPEX Fitness is the leader in personalized coaching education. Get an introduction to our system of coaching by signing up for the Free Coach’s Toolkit. Sign up today and take the next step in your coaching course.