The intention of this blog is to give you a little insight of what to expect when starting out as a trainer for a corporate gym. I’m not going to sugarcoat anything, or sell you a pipe dream.
Becoming a personal trainer could be summoned up with the following statement: Be ready to endure the struggle.
There’s a lot stacked up against you from the get-go. This is not to say you won’t go on to have a successful career. You very well could. I hope you do!
Let’s begin with the first section. Which should be painfully obvious.
LOOKING LIKE A PERSONAL TRAINER
Before you get a certification. Before you even start thinking about the money you’re going to make. You had better look like a personal trainer. I’m not saying you have to be built like a fitness model. However, if you’re carrying around extra weight, or look delicate to the touch, you better start getting your ass in shape! I don’t know what is going on in the heads of some people. It makes no damn sense to become a trainer when you look like you need one yourself. So before you do anything, get your body looking right!
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s go over certifications.
WHAT IS THE BEST CERTIFICATION TO GET?
You want an honest answer? Pick one. Any one of them. Seriously. As long as it’s a certification accepted by your local gym you’re pretty much good to go. NASM. NESTA. ACE. As The Rock once said, “It doesn’t matter!” I chose NASM because I was told it was the *best* certification out there. I thought it would help me get paid more. Ha! That’s a laugh. NASM took the longest to study for. I studied for six months. Failed my first test. Passed my second attempt a short time later. Only to find out my certification gave me no real advantage in the hiring process. Your original certification won’t matter nearly as much as the knowledge you accrue through your hands-on training experience. Again, as long as it’s an accredited organization that’s all the hiring manager will care about.
On to the next subject.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO CORPORATE BEFORE INDEPENDENT
You’re not likely to have clients inquiring about training the day you get certified. So I wouldn’t recommend going independent just yet. Working for 24 Hour Fitness, LA Fitness, UFC Gym, etc., will help set the wheels in motion. You’ll learn how a gym functions. Get taught how to sell. Learn how to use training techniques. For better, or worse, this will be a valuable learning experience in the long run.
If you go the corporate route, make sure to do your research on the company and location. When I began working for a corporate gym I was brand new to the area I lived in. It wasn’t until much later on I found out our gym was the absolute worst in personal training sales for the entire district. Do. Your. RESEARCH. ‘Cuz management will make it seem like their gym is the best and only place to be for personal trainers. (In all fairness it’s their job to over hype things.)
Speaking of management. Take the next two sections to heart.
CORPORATE GYMS 101
If there is anything you should know about a corporate gym is this. Trainers are expendable. They’re a small piece of the profitable pie. It doesn’t matter how long your tenure has been with the company. It doesn’t matter how many sessions you’ve conducted over the years. Corporate gyms want to pay you the least amount of money possible. That is why they prefer to have new trainers as opposed to veteran trainers. The per session rate and commission is much less for new hires. The company gets to keep more of the profits. Yet here you are busting your ass just to make 20% commission off of a $1,500 sale. (Side note. This is a part of the reason I lasted only five months at a corporate gym. I wanted the money for myself. Who wouldn’t?)
Health insurance is another thing. Corporate gyms have made it increasingly more difficult to obtain health insurance in the last decade. The last time I worked for a corporate gym I had to hit 100+ sessions a month. Then I was eligible for health insurance. You want to know the real kicker? If I hit one session short of the minimum number of sessions to qualify for health insurance, I would not have health insurance the following month. Shitty. I know.
The payment structure and health insurance are two big reasons as to why trainers quit after only a few months. Well. That, and management.
Most corporate gyms have a few different managers. There could be one of, if not, all of the following: 1) Service manager 2) Sales manager 3) Fitness manager and 4) Club manager. If you’re a trainer, you work directly with the Fitness manager.
Managers are constantly working with a fire lit under their ass. They have to make their boss happy. That person then has to make their boss happy. So on, and so forth. Management can interchange at any time. Which of course, doesn’t help with creating any stability. I remember one gym in my district had four club managers in one year. The first guy was transferred to another gym. The second guy changed careers. The third guy was demoted after it was discovered he was selling gym memberships to minors. (You have to be 18 to get a membership on your own.) The fourth guy was actually the first guy again. Except he was just the interim manager until they found someone new. Ain’t that something?
Let’s focus on the fitness manager for a moment. The fitness manager’s job is to maintain high sales through personal training. As well as serving as a mentor to the personal trainers. (You would hope.) Fortunately for me, I had a really awesome fitness manager. She was extremely supportive of us and our work. Any time we had a question, she would help us as best she could. She had great methods for selling. People just enjoyed being lead by her. Some fitness managers are fantastic. Others, not so much. Regardless, the manager needs for his/her trainers to succeed because your numbers reflect their numbers. It does them no good if trainers aren’t selling. Even if you’re a new trainer.
When you begin at a corporate gym, the fitness manager will throw you a few “freebie” clients. This is so you don’t have to worry about making a cold sale on the gym floor right off the bat. Believe me when I say those “freebie” clients given to you will not last long. After that first month is over you’re on your own. Your manager’s previous calm demeanor will turn into a friggin’ thunderstorm. You will be expected to make sales. (Which obviously needs to be accomplished if you want to get paid.) However, some gyms (like mine back in the day) just don’t sell well. No matter the methods or tactics. In the end, you will be held accountable for hitting those numbers every month. If you don’t? They’ll release you. Send you on your way. Then bring in the next hopeful rookie for hire.
Side note #2.
There are plenty of situations where the club manager, and district manager are close friends. They tend to create their own inner circle within their district. This could be good, or bad. Usually the latter. These people are always aiming to hire their friends or former colleagues. They may have no experience managing gyms. However, since their buddy is one of the higher-ups he/she will get a job real quickly. It can create resentment amongst other employees who feel they deserve a chance of running things. In many cases, rightfully so. My fitness manager, for example, should have been offered a job as club manager. Not only was she a great trainer and teacher. She was well organized, personable, and creative. In the end, she left the company. (Which I had a chance to talk to her about.) Simply put, she was tired of the corporate BS and the job was draining her soul. She’s now gone on to do some awesome things on her own.
Side note #3.
I was told one of the top trainers at my former gym was let go due to some issue with paperwork. What should have been a very minor situation resulted in their dismissal. From what I understand, it shouldn’t have come down to that. The new club manager was known for being, well, a jackass. In fact he was transferred to my old gym because he had (unknown) issues at his previous location. (Remember. A lot of these guys have bosses who were friends to start with. They are given many second chances.) Honestly, it came as no surprise when I found out he let go of my old gym’s top trainer. Ridiculous.
The point I am making is you never know what type of manager you’re going to get. If they’re good, count your blessings. If they’re bad, good luck! (Lol.)
How much money should you expect to make during your rookie year? Specifically, at a corporate gym?
I’ll tell you this. Don’t expect to be making superstar personal trainer money just yet. It’s a common thing for personal trainers to be close to broke, or completely broke during their first year. Rarely does someone’s rookie year start off with a bang. If it does, you either: A) Lucked out, B) Are just that damn good, and/or C) Look so gosh darn sexay that no one gives a damn how shitty your personality is. They just want to throw money at ya!
If you’re like most of us, you’ll be putting in your dues. Things will start out rough, but you can certainly improve in your sales as time goes on. You absolutely need to learn how to talk/sell to other gym members if you want new clients. If you don’t, it’s going to be tough making more dough. Especially when you’re no longer given new clients from the fitness manager, or receiving referrals. The fitness manager *should* always be willing to help you tinker with your sales tactics. They’ll give their recommendations. Some methods will work for you. Others won’t. You have to find your style of selling. Trial and error is the name of the game. When you aren’t selling, but on the clock, you’ll get paid minimum wage. Only for so many hours, though. The gym really only wants to pay you if you’re training.
I am by no means a guru in the industry. I can only give you insight from my own experiences and what I have learned thus far. The purpose of this blog was not to dissuade you from becoming a trainer at a corporate gym. (Sort of seemed like it, huh? Lol!) My intention was to be upfront with you. The bottom line is you’re going to have to endure the struggle. I’ve seen many trainers come and go. It is a tough industry to make your mark in. Be as it may, you can make it!
Nothing almost ever starts off smoothly. You gotta work at it. If you’re diligently busting your ass to improve, you will find your way. Believe me when I say every trainer’s journey is (at least a little) different from another. It can be frustrating, disappointing, exciting, and life changing. After you’ve put in a certain amount of time with a corporate gym, it could be worthwhile going independent. That’s a blog for another day. (Which might be awhile. Lol!)