The world needs you. In a world that increasingly promotes unhealthy behaviors, health and fitness pros are the key to changing the future. And you get bombed every January. Here’s what you can do to get ready.
First, to be a great health and fitness coach, you need to be at your best—and that means practicing what you preach with proper sleep, nutrition and exercise. It is never easy, with more clients, more class—more, more, more—is often the driving factor in making a full-time career of fitness. With any personal service, when you suffer, your services suffer.
Many health and fitness professionals experience a slowdown in new business during December, with many clients gearing up for the holidays. Embrace it. Get a little more rest and get on top of your own workout and nutrition habits. And, perhaps most importantly, enjoy some stillness. As my fitness career has taken off, and taken me from full-time training to overly full-time training, to writing, speaking and travelling, I embrace the professional slowdown of December and really wind things down in the very last week of the month.
This can be a time to listen to what your body is telling you it needs. Sometimes it’s a little more rest rather than another killer workout. As ACE Certified pro Jessica Matthews recently wrote about, all high-intensity training all the time either means you are overtraining or you’re not truly doing high intensity. Your value to your clients and the world isn’t in how hard YOU work out, but in how well you can help your clients successfully maintain consistent effort toward their goals.
Time you planned on wasting isn’t wasted. Trust me—enjoy some stillness and lack of stimulus. No matter how much you love what you do, it’s healthy to focus on something else. Fitness is in my blood, so I had to learn this the hard way many years ago. With a family history of obesity (for more on this, see my ACE PROfiles video), I’m driven to bring people back from the brink of obesity. But I’ve learned to take my foot off of the accelerator at times to allow me to maintain the spark of energy, passion and creativity it takes to achieve my goals.
Whether you’re working with new or long-term clients, be sure to prepare them for January by getting their schedules set and letting them know that you want them to get first opportunity at your soon-to-be-filled schedule. This will be especially powerful for any clients you may have not had a session with for several months and are looking to reactivate.
Next, sit down and realistically figure out the number of new clients you can take on—keep in mind the extra mental energy the “onboarding” process takes when getting to know a new client. Once you hit that number of new clients, either refer out new one-on-one clients or create a waiting list for new clients if someone is determined to wait for you.
Announce to your existing clients any small-group training classes or boot camps you are doing—even if they have already heard the announcement before. This gives them a chance to jump in, try something new with you and have an enhanced fitness experience.
Decide—now—how many hours you can realistically devote to training and still maintain your own fitness goals, sleep habits, proper eating, time for family and friends and solitude, AND still maintain a high quality of service to all of your clients. Here’s a screen shot of my calendar from more than a decade ago, when I was apparently trying to commit suicide by training sessions and classes.
It wasn’t long after this that I realized I was running myself down and that I was not getting the most from my own workouts, nor was I giving the most to my clients in their sessions. I was simply spread too thin. I was young enough to survive it at the time, but this is never an optimal arrangement. I was surviving, but not thriving.
As mentioned previously, you must practice what you preach in this industry. Even more importantly, we need you in this industry for the long haul. We need great people to stay in the fitness industry and I’ve known too many people who have left due to burnout. I’ve connected with many trainers around the world and far too many of you are crushing yourselves to train more, teach more, do more.
When you suffer, everyone suffers. You might think, “Well, most people couldn’t handle the over-booked schedule, but I can.” You can’t. That’s your delusion talking. It’s the high that comes from working with people and seeing the daily successes they experience. You don’t really know you’re slipping, but you are in small, subtle ways. Trust me, your clients and loved ones can tell.
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Pick your hours and stick to them. And do not have “split days” like I did above—having a block of training sessions early in the morning, followed by another block in the afternoon and well into the evening. If you work at a facility that does not pay a professional wage that enables you to survive on four to six sessions a day, it’s time to find a new facility. Too many gyms pay trainers too little and they will stop only if no one stands for it.
Take care of yourself—you’re no good to anyone if you’re empty. And if the little voice in your head is saying “But…” to any of this, ignore it. I’ve been a trainer for nearly 17 years and provide leadership to the fitness industry and ACE for a reason—I’ve been there.
Set yourself and your clients up for success—not just for January, but for every month of the new year.