After working with my personal trainer for less than two months, I was surprised when she told me that she was leaving. Not just leaving my health club but leaving personal training altogether. She said that she just could not pay her bills with what she was making.
I felt for her. Early morning hours, then lulls during the day with perhaps a client or two in the evening make for an uneven paycheck and an uneven lifestyle. “Selling” herself to get new clients was something I sensed she was not comfortable with. She had a four-year degree in kinesiology, and if I recall correctly, she also had a master’s degree in a related field. The job she took allows her to use those degrees working with an insurance company’s wellness program where she now has regular hours, a regular paycheck and is not required to “sell.” And she still gets to help people become healthier. Who could blame her for leaving?
I thought of my former trainer as we developed this month’s cover story, which is about whether personal trainers are in fact leaving big box clubs for careers outside the industry or to start their own studios. The idea for this story came from Michael Scott Scudder, managing partner of The Fitness Industry Group, Taos, NM, who shared in his e-newsletter, FBC CouncilFire, that he felt trainers were leaving clubs for three reasons: more club owners are requiring productivity standards (often related to monetary quotas), many club operators have lowered trainers’ wages/commissions because of lower company revenues due to the recession, and the best trainers feel like they are not getting what they are worth.
Considering the importance of personal training in the overall revenue base of health clubs today—and how that continues to grow as small group training and larger group training have taken off at many clubs—trainers are one of your most valuable assets. And their value will only increase. For the health and wellness industry to truly make a dent in the obesity epidemic and take advantage of any opportunities that the Affordable Care Act may present with the medical community as well as employers and insurers, personal trainers will need to be well educated, specialized and certified by respected organizations.
As professionalism increases, more people will see personal training as a career—and they will expect compensation befitting a career in which they are making an impact on the health of America and helping the bottom line of club operators. Not only that, but careers typically mean a regular schedule that allows for a life outside of the fitness center.
So if you have not already looked at how to turn your personal training department from a group of part-time, short-term employees to a group of seasoned professionals who can command more for their expertise, then it is time to do so now. It is time to look at helping trainers get education in certain specialties—such as working with athletes, the disabled or senior citizens. It also is time to consider proper compensation, perhaps graduated pay based on education, specialities and experience.
Not “showing the love” for your personal trainers could leave you with a constant revolving door that will be bad for business.