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Being A Personal Trainer: Pros and Cons

Are you interested in being a personal trainer? Pros and cons exist for every job. Here’s my take on the pros and cons of being a personal trainer after five years in the game!

being a personal trainer pros and cons (1)

Hi there – I’m Chantal. Welcome to my site!

I’m a NASM-certified personal trainer & nutrition coach.

I’ll start off by saying that I did not grow up in sports and in fact, was not a super athletic person growing up. In fact, I was never super fit – I was always at the top of the “healthy” range growing up.

No one really ever talked to me about nutrition and no one in my family played sports or had any sort of regular dedication to exercise.

But I still somehow ended up becoming a personal trainer and honestly, I think that being the underdog fueled my desire to learn and work hard in this regard.

I have chronicled my journey to becoming a personal trainer since day one, so if you’re looking for help with your test or just want some more information about how it all went down, I have plenty of resources for you.

I started this website before becoming certified, so if you look back through the archives (and all of my old, awkward posts), you will see the knowledge grow and my perspective change.

Here are just a few of the articles I wrote specifically about becoming a personal trainer:

Obviously, reading through all of those would take forever, so I’ll try to make a long story short.

Why I Became A Personal Trainer

The story of why I personally decided to get certified is sort of long, but bear with me because I think it’s important.

It has led me down a rabbit trail of learning all about fitness and nutrition science (and a deep distrust in the American food system). Lol.

Okay, so I mentioned that I didn’t grow up in sports or with any sort of super-positive influences when it comes to health.

I’ve always been a big-booty Latina – even when I was young – and have never been one of those naturally thin people.

I was mediocre at pretty much everything athletic, though stereotypically, I wasn’t too bad at soccer.

But that doesn’t mean I played it – I just never got picked last in P.E. Haha.

So anyway, I was always on the “top” end of the healthy weight range, so no one ever said anything to me about my weight.

I was a solid 140 pounds by my senior year of high school, but I didn’t play any sports, so guess what happened when I became an adult and a mom?

Yep, I totally lost it.

I had a really rough first pregnancy and gained 45 pounds.

It was easy to lose the first 20 pounds immediately after giving birth, but then I had a really bad go with postpartum depression.

The result was that I regained some weight and at my highest, I think I was 174 pounds.

That’s on a 5-foot, 3-inch frame.

Here’s an uncomfortable picture from around that time frame:

So anyway, I had REALLY bad postpartum depression. I could be fighting the urge to throw things, cry, and drive off of a cliff at any given time.

It was really, truly one of the worst times of my life.

(My first few years as a mom are such a blur.)

So I went to the doctor and got myself on some anti-depressants.

And guess what?

They sucked.

They made me sleep and eat and they made me dead emotionally.

I flatlined emotionally, and I hated the way I felt.

I tried a total of three different anti-depressants before saying no more.

My thoughts were, “There has to be a different way. There just has to.”

None of it felt right. But what did feel right was exercising.

Somewhere along the way, I had gotten myself a gym membership. (Probably out of sheer vanity since I was only 22 years old.)

I began to notice a pattern in the way that I felt on the days that I was exercising and the days I wasn’t.

Basically, I felt normal (dare I say happy?) on the days I worked out, and I was still insane on the days I didn’t.

So, I hired a personal trainer to help me learn more about how to exercise and what things I could do in the gym.

Up until that point, I had been hopping on the treadmill or elliptical for 30 minutes and maybe doing a few crunches or bicep curls at the end…I really had no clue what I was doing.

Working with a trainer felt so good and I learned so much within just a few months.

I remember the exact moment when texted my husband and told him that I wanted to become a personal trainer.

I had just shown up for my session.

The sun was shining through the windows, I had just finished chatting with some other gym-goers and was listening to Chevelle while warming up.

I felt so happy just to be there.

So, I went for it – the rest is history!

(Actually, the part where I got certified was sort of complicated, but now I’ve been certified for about 6 years. You can read more about that journey here and here.)

Let’s get to the pros and cons of being a personal trainer.

being a personal trainer pros and cons

Being A Personal Trainer: Pros and Cons

Pro #1: You’ll Learn A Lot About Exercise Science

This was one of the driving factors behind my decision to become a personal trainer.

As someone who didn’t grow up in sports or have a degree in Exercise Science, learning about all of the muscle groups, types of exercise, and the benefits of each was really helpful.

I loved learning more and more things to do in the gym and how to help potential clients be more efficient during workouts.

The knowledge that you gain while studying for your CPT exam is useful for the rest of your life. And, if you’re like me, it will leave you wanting more.

In my case, becoming a personal trainer was a starting point. I then went on to get my nutrition coaching certification and have enjoyed researching nutrition and exercise topics on my own ever since.

I’m even considering becoming a Registered Dietitian or Certified Nutrition Specialist now.

No matter what happens in the future, getting my personal training certification helped me understand more about the human body. No regrets there!

If that’s not a great benefit of being a personal trainer, I don’t know what is!

Pro #2: You’ll Build A Strong Community

Being a personal trainer certainly has pros and cons, but the community you will become a part of is definitely a plus.

There is a special camaraderie that happens when you get together with people who value the same things you do and share a common goal. (Health & fitness!)

The friendships and community that you will develop are a definite pro to becoming a personal trainer.

Not only will people in the gym come to you for help, but they will respect you as someone who has knowledge that can help them.

Moreover, something magical happens when you are training with other people. The relationships that come out of that environment can be truly magical.

I think it has something to do with getting out of your comfort zone, being sweaty and vulnerable, and getting those feel-good endorphins while exercising.

For me personally, the gym is a place to fight my inner battles alongside others who are fighting their own demons.

Emotions can run high, and relationships are forged over a common goal of working through personal issues in a healthy way.

It may sound cheesy to you, but trust me when I say that the community you will have will make you want to get up and go to work.

Pro #3: It’s Rewarding to Help People

I mentioned this a little bit already, but having a job that involves helping people (especially with their health) can be incredibly rewarding.

It’s my opinion that you don’t have much if you don’t have health.

You could have a great spouse, great house, great job, great everything – but none of it really matters if you’re sick and uncomfortable.

Everything you’ve ever worked for in life is at risk when you aren’t healthy.

For me personally, this was (is) especially true in that I am mentally ill when I’m not exercising regularly. Laugh if you will, but it is the truth.

I have a long history of depression and anxiety, and it is the absolute worst when I’m not sweating it out at least three days per week.

There are actually numerous studies suggesting that exercise can be as effective (or more) as SSRIs, or antidepressant medications.

(Here is just one of many studies that support that claim.)

Isn’t that wild?

I think it’s absolutely amazing.

In fact, I got into personal training so that I could tell people these types of things.

So many people think that gym rats and avid exercisers are vain and shallow, but it’s so much more than that!

We could all benefit from more exercise and one of the biggest pros of being a personal trainer is that you can help people learn how to do that.

Con #1: The Pay Can Be Really Inconsistent

Okay – onto the cons of being a personal trainer.

I will say that though trainers are paid a decent hourly wage, the pay is typically based on your ability to book clients (and retain them).

When you’re a new trainer, you might only have a few clients per week.

If you’re lucky, you might sign on with a gym that has a full clientele ready for you, but in most cases, you’ll sign on as a contractor who needs to build your own client base.

This can mean that your income fluctuates a lot from month to month, and it’s a struggle for a lot of people.

Another important note to make regarding the pros and cons of being a personal trainer is that it can suck to rely on a few hours of the day for your income.

Traditional trainers who work exclusively in-person will max out their income trading time for dollars.

HOWEVER.

These days, more and more trainers are working online. This allows them to increase the number of clients they have without adding too many hours to their week.

I wrote an article about how to make money online as a personal trainer, so definitely read that if money is of concern.

In short, there are a million ways to supplement your income as a personal trainer. If you’re dead-set on becoming one, I wouldn’t worry about growing your income over time!

Con #2: Your Schedule Might Suck

Here is another argument for running your business at least partly online.

When you become an in-person trainer, you will most likely be working terrible hours.

Unless you are in a super-affluent area with a lot of retired people or stay-at-home moms, you will be working when other people aren’t.

In other words, people want to meet with personal trainers before work and after work.

This means you could be working a split shift in the wee hours of the morning – let’s say from 5 to 9 AM, then again from 5-9 PM.

This is something that I didn’t really take into account when I became a personal trainer, and it has exactly zero appeal to me.

With kids and a husband at home, it is actually impossible for me to work this kind of schedule.

If it works for you, great.

However, it might be that you need to limit your hours to 7-11 AM and then find something else to supplement your income.

Either way, the schedule of a personal trainer is not always ideal.

You should definitely know about this major drawback of being a personal trainer before you become one.

Again, there is good news – if you want to run your training business online, it can really help your schedule.

When I was taking clients online (currently taking a break), the client did most of their work independently.

I was available for help via Instagram or email any time during the week, but we only actually checked in at a dedicated time on Thursdays or Fridays.

After the initial onboarding meeting, I met with clients via Zoom or Google Meet for about 15 minutes each week. That’s IT.

If you do something like this, it means more time freedom and the ability to take on more clients. šŸ™‚

Con #3: The Pressure to Perform (And Look Great)

One of the biggest drawbacks to being a personal trainer is the immense pressure there is to look good and be an elite athlete.

I’d be lying if this didn’t hurt me sometimes.

A lot of people will judge you and choose their personal trainer based on look or how fit they are.

I get it – there is some validity to that.

However, since becoming a mom, I have learned that we all go through seasons when it comes to health and fitness.

When you’re a new mom or are having some sort of health issue, you may not be in peak physical condition.

But that pressure to be perfect will exist – and it can be exhausting.

However, how you look doesn’t change the knowledge that you have or what you can offer many people.

Don’t get me wrong – a personal trainer should be in great physical shape. But honestly, looks just aren’t everything.

This career runs the risk of making you vain and obsessive.

It doesn’t give you a lot of room to be human (especially if you’re female).

However, it is my opinion that in some cases, gaining a little bit of weight or losing weight after a period of health problems actually vets you in some way.

In fact, I find that a lot of women can really relate to the struggle of health after motherhood – it makes you relatable.

I know from experience that new gym-goers and clients actually trust you more and are more likely to hire you if you have something in common with them.

Being perfect isn’t everything!

However, if you want to know about one of the cons of being a personal trainer, this is a big one.

There is always going to be pressure to set an example of health and prime fitness.

On the one hand, it can help you with accountability. On the other hand, it can be damaging to your mental health and self-esteem if you’re not careful.

I tell you this just as an FYI. šŸ™‚

That’s it!

Now you know all about being a personal trainer, pros and cons included!

Of course, this is just what I’ve experienced and it’s just one person’s opinion.

I would always encourage you to keep learning new things and keep doing your research if you still have questions. šŸ™‚

Until next time,

Chantal

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