How to Prevent Burnout When You Own and Manage a Personal Training Studio

Running a fitness business is highly rewarding and exciting, yet it can also be challenging and take its toll on you. Getting breaks are few and far in between, especially when you have less staff and trainers due to COVID. 

This is when burnout can start to creep in. We’ve all been there. I know I have. And I learned that I needed to switch things up.

So, that’s what I did. Taking time out for myself became a huge priority. Also, this brush with burnout taught me a lot of valuable lessons. This article will share many of them and hopefully assist you in creating your own ‘burnout prevention plan’.

Ways to prevent burnout

When you have a mentally and physically demanding job and are on your feet a lot, and wearing dozens of hats, like us personal trainers — it’s necessary to manage your energy and expectations. After 20 years in this industry, I understand that burnout is real and that it can happen to any of us.

Based on my personal experience and getting through that difficult time, I want to share some tips with you.

Become a master of your schedule

Setting up a detailed schedule can help you stay centered and focused. Also, seeing a visual layout of your day can assist in optimal time management. When your day or week is mapped out, there are fewer surprises. And when there are fewer surprises, there’s less worry and stress in your day.

Furthermore, the mind likes structure and routine. It doesn’t need every second mapped out, but general structure. This takes the mind away from stressing about the unknown and instead can work from a concrete timetable.   

Moreover, carve out some time in your calendar for you! Get that ‘me time’ in. Even if you’re in startup mode, or carrying more of the weight because of COVID challenges, still find time for yourself.

The mistake I made was to push and push and push some more. But, this led to burnout. It took that experience to learn what not to do going forward. Burning out sucks and it can severely impact your business.

In short, members come to you for more than a workout. When you’re stress-free and mentally calm you can give them a positive experience and make them members for life. But, it’s all about the long-run. Pushing too hard for short term success can lead to serious burnout.

Make time for your own workouts

Whether you spend more time managing the business from the office or work with clients most of the day, it’s crucial to get your personal workouts in. Use the schedule you’ve created and find a pocket of time that works best for you. Maybe the early morning is open, or the mid-afternoon.

We all know this, but that doesn’t make it any easier to get it done. Particularly for us seasoned trainers who have some minor injuries from decades of training. The key is to find balance with your training. And it’s even more crucial to find this balance when you’re pulling off most of the sessions yourself when staffing is limited.

If you’re struggling to get your workout in, it might be easier to do it in a different place. A new atmosphere or setting away from your gym. Try to make it a priority because this is your time to relieve any accumulated stress you’ve built up.

As you know, exercise releases endorphins, which have many benefits like creating positive feelings and general happiness. You’re great at encouraging your clients with their fitness goals, so give yourself that same support and encouragement to get your workouts in.

Ask your colleagues for support

This is key! Getting support and guidance from close friends and colleagues is incredibly powerful. However, it’s not always easy to ask for it. Many of us learn from a young age that asking for help is a sign of weakness. But, it’s actually a sign of strength. It takes a lot of courage, but the reward is high.

We’re not meant to do everything alone. When we’re short on trainers or have specific business demands, having someone who’s there for us can make all the difference. So, call up a friend, find a coach or mentor, arrange a lunch meeting, or schedule a workout together and relieve some of your stress and concerns.

Something as ‘simple’ as this can help you avoid and prevent burnout. When we had to shut down due to COVID, I had multiple people in the industry help us transition to virtual and bounce ideas off of.

Prioritize your sleep

Without restful sleep, you’re not allowing your body to restore, reset, and recover. Also, lack of sleep can affect your adrenals and nervous system, which can lead to anxiousness, fatigue, and overwhelm.

So, do your best to get consistent sleep because it’s honestly one of the best medicines out there. And it won’t cost you a thing. Speaking from experience, I was part of the culture that traded hours of sleep for work. But that always backfires.

Get as much sleep as you can, so you’ll have more energy during work. You’ll be able to get more done this way and serve your clients better. In this industry, you’re interacting with people all day. Staying sharp is a necessity for your success.

Take a break from your phone 

After a long day running your business, motivating, and training clients, you may feel the need to be on your phone. To catch up on emails, texts, social media messages, or anything else your phone requires of you.

If you own a business, do yourself a favor and get a phone strictly for business. Having the same number for personal and business matters can be difficult and cause unnecessary stress.

Also, try to make your downtime real downtime. Put your phone in another room if need be, or turn it off. Your brain needs a break. It’s not meant to be staring or working on screens often. This can affect your circadian rhythm, which then impacts your ability to get restful, deep, restorative sleep.

Final points on how to deal with burnout 

If you burnout as a business owner and don’t have a business partner to back you up, what then? Who will run your gym for you?

To prevent burnout from happening in the first place, it’s essential to take preventative and proactive measures, rather than being reactive. By implementing the tips mentioned, you’re keeping your daily health needs in check. And from that place of empowerment and vitality, burnout is less likely to occur.

    Equality in Fitness – The Three Best Articles You Might Have Missed

    In fitness, the ultimate goal is to build a healthy lifestyle for everyone who wants it. In order to do so, coaches and trainers must understand that every single person is a complete individual. No two clients are the same, and no two trainers are the same. That’s why this week I’m excited to bring you three articles by fitness industry leaders that discuss these issues. In the following articles, you’ll hear from experts about: 

    1. How gender roles contribute to industry success
    2. How “a calorie is a calorie” differs in men and women
    3. …and how dieting is a privilege. 

    I hope you enjoy these articles as much as I did!

    “Do We Have Gender Equity in Fitness?”  by Amanda Vogel

    Amanda Vogel brings a question that’s ringing across the corporate world to our doorstep. In the fitness industry, the majority of personal trainers and fitness instructors are women, but how does that transfer to leadership? Vogel highlights the issues with stereotypes, illuminating their roles in gender disparity in fitness. We’d like to think our industry is different. After all, we’re in the business of helping people achieve their goals, regardless of background. Read her article to find out why the fitness industry might have further to go than you think.

    “I’m really sorry about your calories” by Jason Leenaarts

    If you’ve been following my page, you know that weight loss is a simple equation of calories in vs. calories out. Jason Leenaarts wants to apologize, to both genders (but especially women), about the tiny portions they have to eat. Read his article to learn why men have an advantage when it comes to losing weight, and what women (and those who coach them) can do about it.

    “Privilege and Intuitive Eating: A Few Thoughts”   by Lore McSpadden

    Lore McSpadden loves intuitive eating, and so do I. The concept of rejecting the diet mentality rings true throughout what we do at Results. What McSpadden highlights in this article, however, is the privilege that comes with it. They dive into how gender dysphoria and eating disorders relate to one’s relationship with food. They even demand that body liberation include “eradicating social inequity, food insecurity, and poverty”. Read their article to learn how, for some populations, intuitive eating might not be as simple as we think.

    Questions to ask the coaching staff when starting a high school strength program

    High school strength coaches play a massive role in long-term athlete development. Teenagers are in their formative years, many embarking on a college playing career or a lifetime of fitness. Plus, coaches are among some of the most influential mentors and figures in our lives. That’s why it’s so important to get on the same page with a united message.

    We all have a former coach who inspired us to grow, challenged us in new ways, or provided a listening ear during tough times. Until recently, however, that was only the role of the sport coach. Strength and conditioning coaches were limited to select high school football programs. Often, the head coach and strength coach were one in the same. As high school athletic departments come around to the idea, more and more strength coaches are joining the staff. It’s important to understand, however, that high school sports are a different game. These athletes stay constantly busy despite still developing. Programs operate along tight schedules, and coaches foster individual styles of play. 

    In order to pull the best out of each athlete, the head coach and S&C coach need open communication. Here are a few questions to get answered before you start. 

    Question #1: How much time can your team devote to strength training?

    Each sport operates off of their own schedule. Some teams have ten players, others have 60+. Although a lot can be accomplished in a little amount of time, it’s important to block off a specific section for S&C. 

    We know it’s easier to align ten people’s schedules than thirty. Can you split the team into groups, with some training in the morning, some before practice, and some on the weekends? If the coach can commit two hours total, would one longer session be best, or could they donate 30 minutes of practice across four days? 

    Under tight schedules, no one wants to give up their time. Therefore, it’s important to align with the strength coach on the benefits of strength training. Show that you can take away 15 minutes of their regular warm up by working with players in the gym before. Or explain how targeted strength and conditioning helps athletes recover faster and prevents injury. 

    Whatever you come up with – be realistic. It doesn’t do any good to write a five-day, multi-hour strength program when you get two hours a week with the athletes. 

    Question #2 – What’s your practice and game schedule like?

    Programs should be designed around performance. It’s hard to sell an athletic department on strength training if it impedes their win/loss record. Therefore, you want to avoid placing your hardest sessions the day before a game. It might be common sense, but if you don’t have that conversation, how will you know?

    Does their sport play once per week, such as football? Or do they have multiple game nights, like basketball? Do they have to travel far and wide for competition and practice, cutting into strength training time? Do they have the luxury of an off-day after a game, or is it always a quick turn-around? Asking these questions not only helps you program effectively, but it shows that you’re invested in the team-first, not your bottom line. 

    Finally, figure out when to peak the program. When’s their championship season, and when’s the off-season? Are there weeks where there’s an “easier” match-up, or more important ones featuring the hometown rival? Know these details intimately. On easier weeks, maybe you run them a bit harder. On rival week, maybe you up the competition in the weight room. Little intricacies like these make more difference than a blanket, one-size-fits-all program. 

    Question #3 – What’s your style of play?

    Coaches love to outsmart opponents. To do so, each team adopts a certain style of play. Whether it’s structure, pace, or physicality, the chess match of coaching warrants attention. You might have the perfect program to challenge aerobic fitness. You get ready to present it to the coach, only to find they win most games on brute strength alone. That’s not to say a slightly fitter team can’t help, but you don’t want to take away from their style of play. 

    Before beginning any high school strength program, talk to the coach about how they want their team to look. Watch old film with them, if you can. Talk about areas he or she focuses on, and areas they’d like to improve. Have they always been a physical team, but graduated their biggest players last year? Can you help their freshmen get stronger? Do they beat teams in transition, but struggle in half-court play? How can your program assure they dominate the defensive boards and win the race down court?

    Work with the coach, not against them, to enhance their strengths and improve their weaknesses. 

    Question #4: How many players are preparing for college?

    How many are in their first year of the sport? And how many players fall somewhere in between? Experience levels not only influence on-field or on-court play. Seniors headed to college in a few months need to prepare for their upcoming challenges. They’ll definitely be in the gym multiple times per week in college. As a high school strength coach, connect with their collegiate S&C coach for a smooth transition. Will they be training barbell squats? Power snatches? While your 14-year-old freshman is learning to jump correctly, you can add the advanced movements for college prep athletes. Align movement patterns and progressions to limit injury and enhance performance. 

    On the flip side, newer athletes might need regressions. Push ups instead of bench, inverted rows vs pull-ups… you get the idea. They might even benefit from an entirely separate introduction week. If possible, spend extra time with them going over basic safety, especially if you’re one coach for every 60 athletes. Rather than face a surprise on day 1, meet with the coach and identify the needs of individual athletes. 

    Question #5 – What’s the team culture?

    Whether you like it or not, you’re going to be the new person. A new face, new coaching style, in possibly a completely new environment. They’re teenagers, and all that comes with it. They’re likely a mix of good friends. Maybe some have bad blood. Many might be wary of change. Before you step foot in that weight room, learn about the team culture. It doesn’t matter if your strength plan took Team USA to the Olympics if your high school team doesn’t buy-in. They won’t get much out of it. 

    Ask the head coach who the team leaders are. Maybe it’s the captains, maybe it’s the seniors, or maybe it’s the quiet guy always doing extras. Each team has someone who generates a following. If you can get buy-in from those athletes, the rest will follow. 

    Equally as important are the clowns – those players who are always down to goof off. Talk to the coach about how they manage these athletes. Are they hard-workers who just need a little reminder to focus? What motivates them to compete? What tactics or techniques does the head coach use to get them on the same page?

    Finally, it’s just cool to be a part of the team culture. Get to know the athletes you’re coaching. Show them respect and investment, and they’ll return the favor. Imagine showing up day one and your coach is playing your season theme song in the weight room. It changes the entire vibe of the session. Start off on the right foot so you can carry that momentum forward.


    The most important part of joining a high school coaching staff is constant communication. You might come from a different background as the head coach, so ask questions. The better understanding you have, the better prepared you’ll be. Keep the door open as well – it’s not just one meeting and done. Foster constant back and forth as the season progresses. What’s working? What can we do better? Is the team tired or hungry for more? Stay in touch, stay engaged, and you and the team will grow together. 


    Detric Smith, NSCA CSCS, ACSM EP-C, Pn-1 is the owner of Results Performance Training ( in Williamsburg, VA. He has a BS in Kinesiology from Virginia Commonwealth University and specializes in Sports Performance Training and Fat Loss Transformations. For over 15 years he has gained experience at various sports performance centers and personal training studios, as well as coaching and teaching physical education from elementary school to high school. 

    Don’t Play their Game – How small group personal training studios are losing by copying franchises

    Under the money-making lure of franchises, we have a tendency to get away from what got us here. The enchantment of expanding into a corporation makes us greedy and we go after too many things at once.

    Rather than playing the franchise game, make your strengths stronger. Focus on what makes you different. Make sure everyone knows your expertise within your specific niche, and own that. A few things you might actually do BETTER than the big franchises:

    • Smaller group sizes
    • Safety
    • Individual attention
    • Sport, age, or niche-specific training

    Offer higher-end services that allow you to provide more personal attention. You don’t want to become the McDonald’s of the fitness industry serving up everyone fast food. You’re the Michelin-starred chef, so act like it. You might not be able to beat these franchises on presentation from the start. As long as you keep up with the times, cover up any glaring weaknesses you may have, and focus on your strengths as you grow, you’ll be better off.

    Staff up, but just enough to stay small

    As a sole business owner, you’ll eventually grow to the point where you need help. Create a team around you that can lift you up, take some weight off of your shoulders, and allow you to focus on continuing to grow.

    When hiring a small, close knit team, here are my top five recommendations:

    1. Hire for your weaknesses first. Pick someone who compliments you to run a business. That’s why I recommend the first hire be an admin.
    2. Don’t let them leave the nest too soon, and don’t fill up your nest with too many birds. Sure, they’ll eventually learn to fly on their own, but time and dedication from you (and room for growth and personal attention) helps them flourish. In other words, don’t move too fast in hiring so you really help your team grow.
    3. Be diverse! Yes, you want them to have a common value system, but diversity helps us all connect to each other on a deeper level and see different perspectives.
    4. Set up systems for each aspect of your business – group training, personal training, and all of the work that goes on behind the scenes
    5. Delegate a leader. At some point, your team may get large enough that you can’t do it all. By then, you should have already developed and identified a leader you trust to carry the weight. Like a captain of a great team, they should be the liaison between you and the rest of the players.

    When you get to a point where running the day-to-day takes away from the personal touch, hire someone. Not a trainer. Your first hire should be an administrative assistant. Let them do what they’re good at – bookkeeping, new member sign-ins, funneling the flood of emails. That frees up to do what you do best – coach.

    You will have to continue to grow and build a team within your budget. Building a team requires a gradual transition away from the training floor, if any at all. Set up systems for your team of trainers to align them with your core values. After all, it’s your company, your brand. Hire for your brand and build a team you can trust.

    Create a Community by finding the gaps in the market

    Every franchise targets women in the 25-40 range. These gyms target people who a) are independent and old enough to make their own decisions and b) have been inundated with social media ideas of the perfect body. Does every single person in the world fit into that category? Absolutely not.

    What about kids? Youth training is a great niche. Or the senior population. Maybe it’s male powerlifters or people who like to climb or divorcees wanting to work out with their pets. Humans are incredibly diverse and there are always gaps in the market. A few tips on creating a community:

    When they come to you, make them want to come back.

    Most are coming to you because of a bad experience. Even if they don’t find you as their first gym, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that when they arrive, they stay.

    Set your systems for consultations, questions, assessments, and the entire intake process. Make them feel at home, like they finally found “their” gym. Most undernourished markets value educates trainers, smaller group sizes, more personal attention, and an enjoyable atmosphere.

    Don’t be afraid to turn people away

    Not everyone is a good fit for your community. If you start taking on everyone who walks into the door, people will leave just as quickly as they arrived. Even your loyal members will notice a shift in the community atmosphere. Again, don’t play the franchise game of grabbing everyone. Stick to what you’re good at and provide value to those people.

    Play the long game

    Don’t worry if the first, fourth, or even fiftieth interaction you have with a customer doesn’t turn in to profit. You’re interested in keeping members for the long-term in your community.

    Use education to your advantage

    Small businesses competing against franchises can position themselves as experts in the industry. Providing valuable content for free may seem like a bad idea to the ill-advised. But trust me, if they’re not getting it from you, they’re getting it from the thousands of others handing out information. Use blogs, Social Media Posts, free e-books, and more to show your potential clientele that you know what you’re doing. Let them test it out on themselves first at their franchise gym, and when eventually disillusioned, they will come to you as the expert.

    Get an email. Always.

    If you’re going to offer something for free, send it to their inbox. That way, you have their email for future use. Use the follow-up period to offer some value. Whether it’s a free book, consult, or assessment, just do something memorable. You’re opening up a window for years, even after they have tried other places. You might not notice it right away, but emails with a free dining out guide might turn in to a member down the road.

    But please, please. Don’t just spam people. Every follow-up has to be different to add value. Space them out over time. Saying, “Hey do you want to meet with me?!” 80 times is only going to annoy them.

    Focus on retention

    You can’t speak to everyone. If you’re attracting the wrong person, then it’s not good for you or your current members (see above)> When you DO get valued members, treat them as such. Do the basics incredibly well. Check on them when they miss a class or haven’t been around the gym in a while. Know about their family. Learn their passions outside of training. Treat them as family members, and they’ll stick around.

    Get Creative with Marketing Strategies

    You won’t have the same awareness off the bat as a franchise, but that can work to your advantage. Rather than beat your head in to a wall trying to copy the big box gyms, get creative with these tricks.

    Know your numbers

    You’ve created a community. You’re killing it by educating others about your expertise. Now where to focus your attention?

    You won’t need as many members as a franchise to make a profit. On top of their overhead, paying out all their employees, and opening up multiple locations, they’re bleeding money left and right. A small business can shrink or swell with comfort as long as you know your numbers. If accounting and admin isn’t your strength, go back to step one and hire an expert. Get to know what exactly is coming in and out, and you can make informed decisions about what to do next.

    Hit Singles every time rather than going for a home run

    Advertising on TV, radio, or expensive websites might look like they’re putting points on the board. But if you get one home run out of 50 at-bats, is that a successful strategy? It’s not bad to shoot for the moon, but make sure you’re actually getting a return on them.

    Instead, get out in to your local community. Systemize ways to build your network with joint venture and supporting local causes. Make your in-house methods of getting referrals solid. Basically, utilize guerilla marketing to your advantage.

    Don’t Completely Ignore the Franchise

    What? This entire time you’ve been telling us to not play their game, and now I’m supposed to pay attention.

    Well, yes. Anyone can see that they’re obviously doing some things right by getting thousands of members in their doors.

    Rather than try and copycat their strategy, learn from their business side. Those in the industry know that franchises (or anything that can put up a new place each week) is not going to beat you on “real coaching”. But they exist for a reason – they do a very good job of speaking to a particular person and making it easy for that person to find their services.

    Get out in to your specific community and do the same. Find that particular person in your niche who is begging for tailored coaching. Make it easy for them to find you. Put your information and education in the places they’re looking, such as local clubs, small business partners, or their own inbox.

    Long-Term Business Development: How to take Your Business from a Job to a Career

    If you’re here reading this article, we know you’re invested in continuing education and are ready to grow to the next level. Nice work, and your clients probably thank you for your diligence. However, even the most intelligent trainers make these five common mistakes when going from a sole business owner to developing a thriving business. When turning your job in fitness to a career, here’s a checklist for step-by-step guidance along the way.

    1. Make your strengths stronger
    2. Get a mentor
    3. Add value with every follow-up
    4. Survive the punches in round-one
    5. Stay humble

    Make Your Strengths Stronger

    There are some places you will never beat on certain things. You’re not going to beat any other facility by playing to their strengths, and that’s fine. Know what your target market needs and become the best at that.

    For example, our goal at Results isn’t to tell people to jump as high as possible in minute one of session one. It’s not to train until you fall down. Those gyms around the corner said that, and that’s why they came to us. Our strength is our ability to change lives long-term.

    Get excited about the fact that you’re different, and you have the ability to change a life. Don’t try to be like those guys.

    Get a Mentor

    No one gets to the top by being arrogant and going it alone. There are people in this industry who have done what you’re doing tenfold, and who are happy to share their advice and wisdom. Listen to them.

    If having guidance didn’t help, why would the best athletes in the world need coaches? LeBron James clearly knows how to dribble and shoot a basketball. Yet having outside feedback helps us think objectively about our actions, goals, plans, and mistakes. An experienced mentor is an invaluable tool to any career fitness professional, as they’ve paved a path you can follow.

    Add Value with Every Follow-up

    Use the follow-up period to offer some value. Whether it’s a free book, consult, or assessment, just do something memorable. You’re opening up a window for years, even after they have tried other places. You might not notice it right away, but emails with a free dining out guide might turn in to a member down the road.

    But please, please. Don’t just spam people. Every follow-up has to be different to add value. Space them out over time. Saying, “Hey do you want to meet with me?!” 80 times is only going to annoy them.

    Each person will respond to a certain emotional trigger – fear of missing out, fear of loss, fear of pain. These usually trigger a reaction that, over time, turns into a profitable business.

    Survive the Punches in Round One

    It’s going to be hard at the beginning. Building a business isn’t easy. But if you’re in it for the long haul, you don’t necessarily have to win the first round. You just have to get to the second and third while learning from mistakes.

    How many people lose 30 pounds in a month and actually keep it off? Not many. How many franchises are still around from the year 2000? Exactly.

    This “I want it now” mindset is going to ruin your long-term business development. Stick around long enough and adjust your game so you get better every time. But just for fun, here are my quick tips to get you past the first round.

    • Smile and have fun
    • Learn to shake hands
    • Laugh
    • Read books for professional development
    • Say your client’s name when they walk in
    • Ask them questions and truly care about your members
    • Have good posture
    • Make eye contact

    These seem simple, but you’d be surprised how far they can take you.

    Stay Humble

    Kendrick Lamar knew what he was talking about. There’s a reason that song was a hit.

    Once you’ve seen some success, don’t stop working. When you think you’ve “made it” is when you’re most vulnerable. After putting in years of hard work, you shouldn’t be scraping to get by. That’s why you put in good systems to manage the day-to-day, so you can be free to live a balanced life and explore new avenues.

    The best coaches and businesses stay curious, humble, and eager to learn. For long-term business success, that may just be the best piece of advice you can get.