Let's face it, if you're reading this you probably at least have heard the dirty rumor that I worked at (gasp) a commercial gym. Many out there will look at you like you just insulted their bench press technique with the mention of this fact. Sometimes this is rightly so because let's face it, it takes all of a weekend to get certified to be a personal trainer. Getting a job as one isn't overwhelmingly hard if you're a decent interviewer either. The good thing is, most of the time the ones that are clueless get found out fast enough, and the good ones will get noticed when they put in the work. Matter of fact there are many good coaches out there who I borrow material from that are primarily in a commercial gym setting, and making it happen on a regular basis.
Three and a half years doesn't sound like that long to be at a particular work place, maybe it does depending on who you are. It actually is in this case when you consider an average life span of a trainer at a particular gym is probably just over a year (this is based on the study of I said so). I can count on 1 hand the number of trainers/coaches that were at this particular place for a longer span than me so you can understand where I'm coming from here. I did learn a few things about way I would or would not do things if I were calling the shots.
Team First- I learned this lesson far before this, but it does apply here. You won't learn how to be a team player at all of the big box gyms, because let's face it some of the really big fancy ones (or not so much) are very cut throat. I was fortunate enough to work at a place where each trainer was comfortable was handing over their clients to others when the time came for a vacation or an emergency. There was no threat here of one stealing the others, we knew we were just holding the place of our compatriot while they handled their business. I also learned that if the front desk likes you and knows you're good at your craft, they will give people the gentle nudge towards your schedule. How do you get on their good side? Talk to them, a couple of our old customer service reps are some of my best friends now, because we talked, imagine that. It also helps to give them a hand and do them favors when they're nice enough to ask you, caffeine can be the key to their hearts sometimes. The point here as if everyone can try to pick up the slack when they're called upon, everyone is happier, everyone works better and more clients are keen to sign up for sessions with the gym (and if you're good, that'll be with you).
Business Speak- Those that know me know I hate the business, or what I call the "money" side of this industry. Like it or not though, unless you are working as a head strength coach of a major university, it needs to be addressed. While true there is always a business side to everything I learned that I can keep my values and still be sure the bottom line gets addressed. I am loyal, sometimes to a fault, but these days loyalty and good values can pay off. When people see that you mean well and have great intentions they'll appreciate that. Put those together along some skill in your craft and a little savvy, they'll believe in the product, bottom line addressed right there. Often times the product will sell itself, if you're good enough, but it will take only a bit of convincing now and again. You can do some research on your own in this situation by reading books of the successful people that did it, in my mind, the right way. People like Howard Schultz (though Starbucks isn't my thing), Richard Branson and Simon Sinek can provide you with at least some starting tools here.
Value Clients- Clients are the life blood of anyone, and any company, working in the private sector of this industry. I learned there is a line to dance between people taking advantage of you and people that appreciate you being an human. I had habitual late cancelers, they knew the deal with it too, and they didn't hate me for it. When there was something that was an emergency though, I gave them a break, because there's no need to pile on in those situations. Another thing that clients will really appreciate is when you put your time into them, both in their sessions and outside of them. This goes a bit back to being a coach and not just a trainer, but it's still relevant here. Learn get better, apply it when appropriate, and listen to your clients. Some of them will come in and want to absolutely just vent to you because they feel they have no one else. Take it in, listen, participate when necessary. They will walk away feeling better, trusting you and more comfortable with you for the long haul.
Yeah a commercial gym isn't ideal for many aspiring coaches, but it can still make for a great learning platform. It's a bit of a lottery because sometimes the good ones turn into bad ones over night, and the other way around. There's still nothing quite like cutting your teeth at a commercial gym, those of you that avoided it, you're in the minority so thank your luck or whatever you need to thank.
I think it's fairly simple in the end; be a team player, learn a bit of business savvy, and value you your clients. Those 3 things can go a long way to surviving and thriving in this setting. That's all I got today everyone, go out there and get after it!
Jarrod Dyke, CSCS