If you’re an affiliate or gym owner that only employs part-time trainers and coaches, I have some advice for you, Go fuck yourself! Yeah, you heard me right, these owners that refuse to employ coaches full-time (more than 1 or 2 hours a day) are killing the industry and making it all but impossible for coaches in CrossFit to make a living. Do you want to know the number one reason why it’s hard to find a professional experienced coach at a CrossFit affiliate, because you can’t make a living teaching 2 group classes a day for 20 bucks a session, 2-3 times a week. Worse yet are the owners that exchange free membership for coaching classes. Think about that for a moment the next time you go to a CrossFit class, your coach may not even receive pay for coaching you. That’s what the owner thinks his product, CrossFit, and his trainers time is worth: nothing.
Now I can’t place the blame squarely on the owners heads. If trainers and coaches possessed a little bit more self-respect and refused to accept this crap it wouldn’t be so widespread. How widespread is it? well out of 26 local affiliates here in the greater Chicago area only 7 employ a cadre of full-time trainers. Only 12 actually pay their trainers at all. The rest have adopted the model mentioned above, coaching in exchange for free workouts. Think about that. It’s like going to see your doctor when you’re sick and finding out he’s only there a few hours a week in exchange for free prescription drugs. Doesn’t sound very professional does it? Professionals don’t work for free.
I’ve always despised hobby trainers, those people who enjoy working out but are only coaching until they start their “real” job or finish school. I have some advice for them as well, shit or get off the pot. Either commit to this profession all the way, or get the hell out of the gym. This industry needs committed professionals not amateurs waiting to figure things out. Clients need professionals, not sightseeing dreamers chasing their passion. I took my career as a trainer very seriously. I still do even though I’ve transitioned away from in person coaching. I still think my clients and even followers deserve a committed professional doling out advice, not someone that’s going to be out of the field in a few months or years once “something better” opens up.
Before I call down the thunder of the whiners let me address some realities about making a living as a trainer and fitness coach. First, it’s never as easy as a lot of people imagine when they first got into it. There’s so much more to it than just standing there with a clipboard counting reps. If you’re not prepared to build relationships and put your clients needs and wants above your own you’re already in trouble. Second you better take it upon yourself to study some psychology my friends. If you can’t get inside people’s heads to understand and influence their motives you’re fighting an uphill battle. Third, this is a service industry, your job exists to provide a solution to your clients problems and health issues. Your clients do not exist so you can get paid to work out and be fit and I’m talking to about 75% of all new trainers right there. Your motives for starting this career are twisted and you wonder why you’re struggling.
You will never make much money teaching group classes in affiliates and boxes, boxes don’t even make money if all they offer are group classes. The key to success as a trainer is personal training clients, and if you think they’re just going to walk up to you and ask you to take their money young trainers, you need to wake up. The difference between a successful trainer and a part-time amateur is work ethic and hustle. My training career paid for 2 cars and a condo, along with a fully stocked home gym. I had to earn it. No one gave it to me, no one gave me a job, I went out and got it. I went out and got clients. Sometimes I would coach group classes for free just to be exposed to potential personal training clients. If that’s what you’re doing then great but it’s pointless if you’re not converting those free sessions into paying clients, you’re just wasting time.
Affiliates that aren’t pushing personal training are just counting the days until they close and owners that aren’t demanding their group fitness trainers take on personal training clients are screwing themselves as well as their trainers. You cannot make a living part-time, and if you’re not making a living doing it, it’s no longer a profession it’s a hobby. If the health community is ever going to start taking trainers and coaches seriously as health professionals then the model of paying and employing these trainers and coaches has got to change. There is no one closer to the front-lines of the war on obesity and chronic preventable disease than fitness trainers and coaches. Yet we treat these people like the kids working the drive through at McDonalds. That has to change and it needs to start with the facility owners themselves.
Every 2 weeks, CrossFit graduates another 1000 level-1 instructors from its courses across the world, what are these instructors going to do with this new-found knowledge. Some will try to find work as assistant coaches at any one of the 13,000 affiliates worldwide. Most will fail. Affiliates are notorious for hiring only from within their own membership leading to a somewhat incestuous culture of coaching and programming. Unless you’re willing to shell out money for a monthly membership for a few months, most affiliates won’t even consider hiring you. Myself I was never interested in paying for the privilege to be considered for employment. Some new CF-L1 holders will open their own affiliates. The reality is that for many CF trainers and coaches the only avenue open to them to make a potential living as trainers is to open their own affiliates or gyms. They have little choice otherwise.
Starting a career as a trainer is an exercise in entrepreneurship. Even if you’re coaching classes for an owner, the fact is you’re an independent contractor in business for your self. As much as I may rant about owners and their crappy pay structure it ultimately falls on you as a trainer and coach to secure your own success and income. This is going to involve selling your services, not being afraid to ask for money, and being willing to work 16 hour days for a while to make things work. One of the issues with the fitness training industry is that it’s not all that hard to get into, which means it’s ridiculously crowded at the lower levels, but sparsely populated at the top where the real money is. Most new trainers simply do not survive long enough to make it past the lean times to become like their Instagram idols that motivated them into the business in the first place.
Do yourself and your clients a favor trainers, decide once and for all if this is what you want your career to be. If so then get after and stop riding the fence with one foot in your old job and another in training. I know its scary to take that leap, but you will never see the results in your bank account you want if you don’t. If the owner of the gym where you work refuses to employ full-time trainers then leave. At the least you should have the option of pursuing personal training clients as well as coaching groups. Owners, your clients and customers deserve the very best coaching you can provide from professionals. That may mean that you have to coach all your own classes for a while instead of bringing in trainers. If no one told you this before, allow me. Long hours and exhausting work was what you signed up for when you decided to open your own place so get over it and get to work.