• Chris K

How To Enjoy Coaching Forever (Or A Super-Long Time)

Being a Personal Trainer can be hard at the best of times.


As a PT, you tell people to exercise forever.


You help people train for a variety of goals through a steady process of planning, application, assessment and fostering autonomy, which often takes years.


Other clients couldn't care less about that and only want to be told what to do in the gym. It can seem monotonous.


The hours are weird and gym music is terrible.


You might end up training someone for 14 years or 2 sessions, so certainty is rarely a part of a Personal Trainer's life.


In the UK, most of us are self-employed which is a tough way to make a living without the support of others, and a huge percentage of trainers don't make it through the first couple of years in the industry.


I think a large part of that percentage chose the wrong job. It's so easy to qualify as a coach that many not suited to the industry give it a go and bail out quickly and I don't want to change that.


What I want to assist with is helping those who are suited to the industry, who do make it through the first years and who do or will make a great coach to stay motivated, and keen to learn for as long as possible. It is always a shame to lose a great coach to another industry.


Below, we'll go into how to keep the fire burning decades into your coaching career.


Why listen to me?


I've been doing this a dozen years and it is a dozen years full of fantastic memories and the knowledge that I made a difference. People have been helped and, at least up until now, I have created a comfortable life for my little family from humble beginnings.


Not that I lead a hugely lavish lifestyle (unlike my spoilt cats,) but my career is in a good place, it lasted through the covid pandemic. It is at least partly down to design (coupled with a whole lot of luck.) I want to help others achieve the same and more.


Here are my go-to strategies for keeping my relationship with coaching warm and fuzzy.


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Find People Fascinating


One of the main reasons my career is fulfilling is I always assume the person in front of me can teach me a life lesson.


Knowing each interaction can make you a better coach is a fundamental way to make a session more appealing even if you have done 10,000+ sessions throughout your career.


Finding wonder and intrigue in any part of this industry can fuel your desire to keep learning, and can keep you wanting to turn up to every session.


Things I'm Intrigued About:

  1. How a client moves

  2. How a client thinks

  3. How you can unlock the door to a client reaching their goals

  4. What coaching cues work for someone

  5. How to talk to client

  6. How to give the client the best gym experience

  7. How a client feels when they are on the gym floor

  8. How a client eats

  9. How a client behaves away from the gym

  10. How a client's goals change over time

  11. Why the last season of Game of Thrones was so bad


Marvel at how diverse and interesting people are.


If you can maintain a sense of wonder and awe at how you can learn something from every session, it should help you to stay inspired forever.


Reduce Burnout


Burnout effects the best of us.


Coaches will work every hour under the sun and give every part of themselves to the cause that is their PT business.


It isn't sustainable, it doesn't facilitate a fullfilling career and doesn't make a coach happy in the long-term.


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When I started as a Personal Trainer in around 2010, I started at a new budget commercial gym. There were thousands of new members and I was determined to make it as a coach, despite having zero and I mean ZERO idea what I was doing.


I decided to spend as much time at the gym as I could. If someone thought of Xercise4less in Wakefield, I wanted them to think of me.


I'd stay at the gym all day if my first session was at 6am and my last one was at 7pm.


It worked, and it worked well.


I ended up having numerous days in a row where I could do up to 12 1-1 60 minutes sessions in a day.


This might sound like showing off, but as anyone who has done 12 sessions in a day will attest, it was insane.


I thought working more was the only way to succeed.


This lasted about 14 weeks. I arrived at the gym one day, did a session or two and saw I had another eight or nine sessions that day and suddenly I knew I couldn't handle coaching ANYONE.


I cancelled all my sessions, went to my Grandma's to sleep and cry and vowed never to let the job make me feel like that again.


From then on, I scheduled regular time off. I gave myself a day off a week, then eventually progressed to two.


I schedule regular holidays where I'm banned from working. These periods off do wonders for my mental health and I would recommend engaging in as much downtime as you can while still moving your career forwards.


I had fallen into a behavioural pattern where switching off and being away from work didn't happen.


Stick To Your Time Off


As soon as you book in people outside of your scheduled hours, you'll keep doing it.


Be strict with your time boundaries as these slippery slopes are particularly slippery.


Turn Off Your Phone/Watch/Technology Notifications

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One of my favourite burnout savers is turning notifications off on my phone.


The only ones getting through are phone calls and the random news updates I've yet to work out how to turn off.


There are many benefits to this from not being able to see if a client has messaged as you are about to sleep to being able to tell your client they can message you at any time without them having to worry about being a burden.


They can do this because without notifications, the only time messages are seen is when you want to see them.


I sleep much better now notifications don't bother me.


Reduce Decision Fatigue


Decision fatigue is the process of making gradually poorer decisions due to having to make lots of decisions over a period of time.


When you reach high decision fatigue too often, you rarely feel you are giving your client value for money as you can't trust your decisions.


Decision fatigue results in poorer exercise selection, poorer load selection and diminishes your ability to effectively coach.


How I reduce decision fatigue

  1. I only do up to 4 PT sessions in a row.

  2. I never do more than 8 sessions in a day

  3. I try to never multitask in a session

  4. Promote automatic time-based habits removing the need for decisions

  5. I have set working hours

  6. Where possible, a client gets a regular session time they can rely on each week

  7. I plan each session beforehand unless the client has made it clear they want to decide what to train on a given day

  8. I carry a notebook and to-do list with me at all times so I'm not worried about forgetting things

  9. I schedule regular catch-ups with clients to reduce having to decide to make contact

  10. I stop doing anything work related close to and during training

  11. For every hour of deep work I do, I take 7 minutes off before engaging in another task.

  12. If I often struggle with choosing between 2 things, and the choice doesn't matter, i'll flip a coin to make the choice for me


Have a think about how you could reduce the amount of decisions you have to make on a given day of coaching.


See how applying those changes makes you feel.


See what impact it has on your business.

I bet you'll be less stressed, more motivated, and more present in every interaction.


Craft Your Routine To Work For You


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Scheduling your days in a manner appropriate to you may be exactly what you need to attain a sense of fulfillment in your career.


Some people like to schedule every minute of every day.


Some people like to go with the flow.


Which is best?


I think the answer lies between the two.


Scheduling every minute of the day can work well for a short time, but life doesn't allow that for long.


I'd schedule days where your schedule is loose or non-existent, where there is some grey-area for you to be playful, and to occasionally throw the schedule out of the window because your favourite band are playing your hometown and you shouldn't miss out because tonight is your favourite Thursday night admin smash.


You have to practice being off the clock as diligently as being on it.


Culture Trumps All


If you want to enjoy your career forever, the culture of your work environment matters.


Back in 2018, I worked in a gym I won't name.


At this gym, the work environment was toxic.


The atmosphere was hostile.


The gym was struggling financially so the owners would take it out on the staff.


Managers refused to remove members who were violent and it was hard to keep turning up for my clients.


I began to HATE coaching. Or at least I thought I did.


In hindsight, we know it was the workplace culture I despised.


It took a mere couple of months to strip the enjoyment from the job.


Rewind or fast forward 18 months and the positive gym cultures I was engrossed in helped foster my love for coaching.


Signs Of A Great Gym Culture


  • Teamwork

  • Mutual respect

  • Competence across the board

  • A variety of experience levels

  • Mentee/Mentorship is encouraged

  • Staff and members love the facility

  • Autonomy is encouraged

  • Aggression isn't tolerated

  • Wins are celebrated

  • Communication is clear

  • Staff turnover is low

  • A growth mindset is encouraged


The list isn't exhaustive but if you can find a facility which provides all or most of the above, you have a wonderful place to work.


If the current place you work lacks any of the above and it is destroying your love for helping people then something needs to change.


A poor gym culture has destroyed many PT careers, don't let one destroy yours.


Cut Down On Multitasking


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When you multitask you lower your productivity and reduce the quality of everything you do.


Try to catch yourself each time you are multitasking and remove it from your life where you can.


If you've been in the habit of multitasking it will be hard to break the cycle.


I have a notebook to write any thoughts pre-occupying me and preventing me from being present in whatever I am doing.


I spend as much time away from my phone as I can.


I have my notifications turned off so I'm not distracted.


I separate tasks to prevent task overlap wherever possible.


I've stopped listening to anything new when driving. It made me a worse driver and the information never went in anyway.


When I catch myself multitasking, I forgive myself and move on.


It has made a huge difference to my mental health and I'm far more productive when I'm not multitasking.


James Clear, the writer of the legendary book, Atomic Habits suggests selecting one anchor task per day as your one and only priority task that is non-negoitiable. Everything else should be separated from that task so it can be mastered with high quality.


Continued Education


The quality of your coaching ebbs and flows over the years.


More experience on the job doesn't necessarily make you a better coach. An experienced PT might of been making the same mistakes for years.


You should embrace a growth mindset and thirst for learning everything there is to know about fitness, health and exercise throughout your career.


Courses are expensive. To get around that, once you are a qualified PT I recommend getting on board with Lift The Bar, an online education platform brimming with courses and great content.


You can find their wonderful site HERE.


It's monthly cost is roughly that of a gym membership.


I started using them after 12 years as a coach. It has made me a better coach, the resources are great and the community is wonderful.


Courses can add new flavour to your training, the courses can make feel more confident and accomplished and can keep your motivation higher.


Help Other Coaches


One of my favourite parts of my job is helping other coaches.


Later, I will talk about coaching for a higher purpose and setting a good example to other coaches is one of the most motivating things I can think of.


You can help other PT's by doing an incredible job with your clients or you can work directly with other coaches who may have made some similar mistakes to you.


I'm a big fan of allowing other PT's to shadow my sessions or to ask me questions or bounce ideas off me.


It's extremely fulfilling, especially when other coaches talk about how much you've helped them, or when they don't need to tell you, as it is self-evident.


Helping other PT's may make you more motivated to keep one step ahead of the coaches you are helping while trying to facilitate them jumping you by several steps. If everyone does this, we take the entire industry to a higher standard.


Celebrate Wins, Learn From Losses


Celebrating your wins is a great way to show how many people you have helped and generate leads. It's also great for the ego.


Learning from your losses and reflecting on your mistakes gives you the opportunity to be a better, more fulfilled coach.


You might celebrate the length of time you've worked with someone, you might marvel at your client who now trains alone in a busy gym with ease after previously being too scared to do so.


The list of wins you can foster is endless. Enjoy them. It's why we do this.


Losses may come from poor exercise selection to poor communication but any attempt at listing all potential loses or mistakes is doomed to failure.


My friend and legendary coach Tony Gentilcore is an excellent example of someone who can publicly admit to fucking up and come out on the otherside of a blog post a better coach. It's truly inspiring and I feel we have a duty to follow his example.


Here is one of many quotes from Tony where he fully admits messing up:

In my younger years I used to gravitate towards telling people that they have to get strong, they have to squat, and that they have to avoid body part splits at all costs.
While I still feel that’s the case much of the time, I also know that I turned off a lot of clients back in the day for being so pigheaded.

Tony is great at recognising the opportunities minor mistakes afford us. He owns it, learns from it and grows as a coach.


Wins make us feel good instantly.


Losses or mistakes which become wins create an ongoing sense of fulfillment as your gratification might be delayed by years, but when you get there, it is incredible.


FOR GOD SAKE HAVE FUN


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If you are lucky enough to work in a gym or training facility, you are working in a giant playground where there are endless opportunities to have fun.


If you have fun at work without it compromising your professionalism, you'll look forward to work.


Many people take training and coaching so seriously, and in a sense, it is serious.


Lifting is a habit designed to keep you healthier and more vital until the day you die, which is a deep, dark and profound reason to have looming over you.


As a PT, you are helping someone create a lifetime habit. The habit should be fun to all those involved.


I think many coaches think being serious all the time is the best and most professional way to coach, I don't agree.


My coaching errs heavily on the side of play and I thoroughly believe this is one of the reasons I am still madly in love with my coaching job after more than 12 years.


Coach For A Higher Purpose


I'm about the staunchiest atheist you can be, so I am not going to make it about God, but if your coaching is fuelled by a belief in a God and the world is a better place because of you, great.


The higher power I speak of is coaching for something bigger than yourself.


I coach to try and be the best PT in the world so I can set a good example to my family, my clients, and other PTs.


I coach to make a positive mark in the field of fitness and strength.


When you coach for something bigger than yourself, where you feel as if you are making a real difference in the world because of your actions, your productivity fire will burn brighter.


This is where building a community can be so important to your career longevity.


The community might be your gym members, it might involve people across the world like the wonderful Facebook group Eat Train Progress which is run by my friend and podcast guest Patrick Umphrey.


Eat Train Progress Facebook Group

Podcast with Patrick


My particular community interact via various social media platforms, various social occasions and on the gym floor.


It involves up to 100 people, but your community could be any size as long as it provides you with the higher purpose you need to keep improving as a coach.


And that's it. Easy, right? Now you can enjoy a fulfilling career forever!


By Chris Kershaw

The Heavy Metal Strength Coach


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