3 Ways to Beat Personal Trainer Burnout

3 Ways to Beat Personal Trainer Burnout could help you stay physically and mentally balanced for your job as a personal trainer, especially if you envision it as a long-term career. Knowing your limits, finding balance, and learning when to say “no” will help keep you on the health and fitness career path!

On paper, personal training as a career appears to be a sweet gig: we (typically) wear workout clothes on the job, there is minimal time sitting at a desk, and don’t we get to workout all day long?

While that last bit is entirely false, being a personal trainer is fun, satisfying, and keeps my health in check. But that’s not all. Personal training is also physically strenuous, emotionally draining, and can be stressful at times – in regards to finances. If you’ve read this post about a day in my personal trainer shoes, it probably seems like I have it all down to a science. I start my day early, end early, and schedule a workout and lunch break in-between. But did it start out like that? Hell. No.

When I first started as a personal trainer (it even ebbs and flows now), I would go from 0 to 60 mph until I hated my job. Wanting to stick to it, I’d power through a couple more weeks, and then REALLY feel crappy about my career choice. All of the passion I had from the start quickly waned until I went on vacation (which was once per year).

3 Ways to Beat Personal Trainer Burnout - Hello to Fit

Workin’ for that pool-side time…

You Don’t Have to Change Jobs

What is a fitness professional (or ANY professional) to do? Quit and find a job that doesn’t EVER result in burnout? Not only is that unrealistic, it’s far from the end-all-be-all. There are ways to beat personal trainer burnout, and the big takeaway is learning more about how you operate and what you need to continue operating.

From what I’ve learned so far – four years into the biz – there are at least three things every personal trainer should do to beat burnout: create boundaries, find balance, and know when to say “no”.

Create Boundaries

And I’m not talkin’ physical, don’t-get-inside-my-personal-space boundaries. Creating boundaries involves those parameters that will allow you to stay sane, successful, and not-hating the world/your clients. These will be different for everyone. Would it help to read mine?

  • I don’t work weekends: there are trainers that work six or seven days each week, and I high-five those that can. After a mere ONE month of working Monday through Saturday, I started to loathe coming in to see clients (*red flag*). Solution for me? Stick to a Monday – Friday schedule, even though it may take a tad longer to bring in new business.
  • The earlier, the better: you may meet trainers who work around the clock and break when they can. There are others who work in 3-5 hour blocks (early morning chunk of time, followed by a mid afternoon and evening). Personally, I’ve grown to love starting at 6AM, having one workout and lunch break, and then finishing the day between 3 and 4 PM. Although it can make for long stretches of clients (i.e. six or seven people in a row), I operate better if I start and end early.
  • A (short) break every three months: it took me three years to figure out that my tolerance for this career is about three months. I give my all to my clients, but as we approach the end of each three-month period, I start to feel “IT”: exhausted, low-energy, crabby mood, and irritability. Because I want to do this for a looooong time – even if it’s part-time – I’ve learned to take a long weekend when those feelings begin to resurface.

Find Balance

3 Ways to Beat Personal Trainer Burnout - Hello to Fit3 Ways to Beat Personal Trainer Burnout - Hello to Fit

Yes, yes. Having proprioception and the ability to physically balance is good for personal training, but finding physical and mental balance is important for delivering quality training to your clients:

  • Do you need quiet time (or social time) when your workday is finished? I’m not a 100% extrovert. I think some qualities of being an extrovert are needed to be a personal trainer, and I draw energy from being around my clients. However, when the workday is done, I like to straight VEG. Less smiling, less small-talk, lots of downtime. Going immediately from work to a happy hour event or mass-socializing wears me out, and then my extrovert-stores are depleted for the next work day. And who wants to be around a crabby trainer?

Finding the balance that will help you perform better will be crucial to your work week. There may be times when you’re not balanced. Flashback to when I was planning our wedding, closing on the house, and keeping up with blogging. But knowing what you need to bring the scales back to the same level will be beneficial to your career!

Know When to Say “No”

All my yes-mans and yes-ladies out there, this one is T-O-U-G-H. Especially as a personal trainer who earns money soley through commission. Initially, I would advise saying “yes” more than you say “no”, even if it’s tiring. Building a business is important, and will help you establish your “base”. Getting your name out there is key, and one of the main ways that occurs is by getting in front of as many people as you can.

We all have our limits, though. There needs to be a point in your career where you learn to say “no”, practice it a bunch of times, and then know WHEN and HOW OFTEN to say it. Why? To beat personal trainer burnout!

When I first started personal training in Charlottesville, I saw as many clients as I could between 6 AM and 6 PM. Was I working for 12 straight hours? Never, but it still made for a long day. I’d have a couple hours here, a few hours there, and would even travel back for a 30-minute client. As I became more consistent with scheduling and started to build more solid relationships with my clients, I tapered back. Yes, it meant telling clients that I had “no more openings” at 5 PM. Sure, it meant that I lost a few people along the way. But because I was ready to make the jump (basically to restore my sanity), I was also ready to be patient for my schedule to fill the way I WANTED it to.

Happy Wife Personal Trainer, Happy Life

Speaking of the ol’ “happy wife, happy life” saying, can we just pause for a second and reflect on how awkward I am about calling Ray my…*husband*? After getting in line a second time – to get something for Ray – at Panera, the lady said, “Wow, you’re really trying to get more points on that rewards card!”. To which I said, “Yes…I forgot that I wanted to get a bagel to-go for…someone…elllllllse…”. Yikes.

Anyway. Would you agree that a happier personal trainers leads a happier life? If you’re not a personal trainer, substitute whatever job title you have into the statement! In order to have proper work-life balance, it’s imperative that we learn how to keep our “tank” full. Understanding the boundaries that need to be set, how to manage said balance, and learning how to say “no” are all ways we can beat burnout.


Let’s chat!

  • How do you beat burnout in your profession?
  • Do you have a tip to add? Tell me about it!
  • Was it weird to get used to calling your spouse “husband” or “wife”?

By Jess

Jess is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and yoga teacher. She enjoys sharing her passion and enthusiasm for health and fitness with friends, family, clients, and readers.

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19 comments

  • CARLA

    June 22, 2016 at 5:56 am

    Ahhh I preach this so often BUT BUT BUT people only encourage you to do so…..to say NO … when it isnt to them 🙂
    Yesterday I had to say a NO to a workfriend.
    It was HARD but I knew a YES Id have resented and that would be bad for us both.

    1. Jess

      June 22, 2016 at 7:01 am

      Hahah ain’t that the truth!! Hope your week is going well, Carla 🙂 xoxo

  • Susie @ SuzLyfe

    June 22, 2016 at 6:43 am

    I totally agree with you, and these are great tips for me to know that I’m not alone in some of the feelings that I am having –I’m nearing my 4 month of being back in the PT game full time, and definitely can be a struggle to balance emotions, work, and schedule.
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…Tips for Safe Running in Hot WeatherMy Profile

    1. Jess

      June 22, 2016 at 7:02 am

      Oh, my friend, you are so right: you are not alone!! Take time for yourself to re-charge and stay strong. Did I mentio my side-job is being available for fellow PT venting? hehehe

  • Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    June 22, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Learning to say NO is a big one for me! I’m not a trainer, but fairly certain it still applies. 🙂
    Julie @ Running in a Skirt recently posted…Chocolate Covered Strawberry Protein Popsicles {Giveaway!}My Profile

    1. Jess

      June 30, 2016 at 7:17 pm

      Haha yes, I agree with you – I think it applies to most things!

  • Sara @ Oats & Rows

    June 22, 2016 at 9:23 am

    I love your fitness industry posts, just like this one! Being mindful of what type of schedule works for you and learning to say no are key. Before immediately saying YES to a new client, I try and assess how my schedule and day-to-day routine will change, down my energy level, which helps me stay fresh and not burnt out.
    Sara @ Oats & Rows recently posted…Brew Dash 6K Recap + Brew Stash BashMy Profile

    1. Jess

      June 30, 2016 at 7:12 pm

      Hey, Sara! Aw, thanks so much. YES, you totally have it down!!

  • Erin @ Erin’s Inside Job

    June 22, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Love this. I was all over the place when I started and made sure to get all the clients I could. Now that my schedule is fuller, I am starting to limit my travel radius so that I don’t have a lot of wasted time going back and forth. Oh, and I always had the no weekend rule right from the start. I can’t handle that life.
    Erin @ Erin’s Inside Job recently posted…5 Days In Isla MujeresMy Profile

    1. Jess

      June 30, 2016 at 7:05 pm

      YESSSS so glad you are starting to taper your schedule. Hahahaha SAME. I wonder how people do?! It amazes me.

  • Fiona @ Get Fit Fiona

    June 22, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    I’m currently in school doing a personal trainer diploma is this is such great advice for me.
    Fiona @ Get Fit Fiona recently posted…Full Body WorkoutMy Profile

    1. Jess

      June 30, 2016 at 7:04 pm

      Glad I could offer some perspective 🙂 good luck!! Feel free to e-mail me with questions, ANYTIME.

  • Farrah

    June 23, 2016 at 2:02 am

    Great tips! Learning to say no is definitelyyyy a huge one for me! I’m also constantly striving to find a balance so I don’t burn out! (Yay for giving myself a chance to still pursue my hobbies and interests too! 😛 )

    1. Jess

      June 30, 2016 at 7:04 pm

      Thanks, Farrah! As a doctor, I can TOTALLY see how finding balance is important!!

  • Kristy from Southern In Law

    June 23, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    These tips are SO important – especially learning to say no! That is something I always struggled with until I realised I was totally wearing myself thin and whilst I thought by saying yes I was being nice/helpful/whatever, I actually wasn’t doing things at my best because I was so exhausted and run down!
    Kristy from Southern In Law recently posted…Recent Things: Bookworming, Favourite Eats and Happy MailMy Profile

    1. Jess

      June 30, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      Same here!! It’s funny how long that took us, huh? 🙂 guess we’re too …nice? hehehe

  • jill conyers

    June 24, 2016 at 9:44 am

    As a relatively new PT who also has a full time job the key I learned quickly was to say no. I would love love to take advantage of all opportunities but I know I can’t. Now. Can you tell me how you balance PT with teaching yoga? Are you currently teaching at a studio?

    So much passion. So little time.
    jill conyers recently posted…5 Quotes by Strong Women That Inspire Self ConfidenceMy Profile

    1. Jess

      June 30, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      YES, you go, Jill!! So right now, I train full time and only teach one yoga class per week at a different studio. I think I could handle one or two more classes….not much more, though! Starting with one has been awesome, because I still get my yoga fix. Hope that helps!

  • ACKTIVE LIFE

    July 19, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Learning to say “NO” is so so so important in the PT industry and in life in general! I used to say “YES” to everything and that was the quickest way to burnout. Once I realized that it was okay to say “NO” things totally changed for me both personally and professionally. Great post Jess! XOXO
    ACKTIVE LIFE recently posted…GIRLS WeekendMy Profile

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