The Health-Club Survival Guide

Posted on 12. Mar, 2009 by in Personal Trainer Marketing, Personal Trainer Sales Systems

Hey, have you been on the SUPER-TRAINER forum lately?

There’s some good stuff happening over there so check it out. In particular, all of us trainers on the forum have come to a consensus on one important subject

It’s about whether you should work in a gym to gain experience when you first become a trainer, or if you can just skip this step and go straight to being independent. As you know, this blog is all about getting out of the toxic work environment of the big box-gyms. But on the forum, we came to a pretty ironic conclusion – that working at one of these gyms may serve a purpose after all. They’ll help you gain some quick experience before you make the jump to doing things privately, outside of one of these “fitness factories”.
Sure, you could get this experience “in the field” by getting and training your own private clients … but if you want more of a structured environment to practice, the gym is ok for a short time.

And add to that the fact that practically every successful trainer did start out in a big gym, at least for a little while. If you’re into that “success leaves clues” stuff, then there might be something to this.

So here’s how I feel about the subject – if you’re gonna to do the time, you might as well do it right!

This post is here to help – it’s your health-club survival guide. If you’re slaving in a gym right now or just getting started in training, this post will help you make the most out of the health-club experience so you can exit with the skills necessary to conquer your area once you’re out (and for all of you solo trainers that love to read my blog, feel free to share your own survival tips at the end).

running-pointRule #1: Lead Your Platoon
Let’s face the facts – major health-clubs are unscrupulous sales factories, and the people that choose to work here aren’t really in a good place in their lives. Yes I have met some high quality people in these gyms, but they are few and far between.

Keep that in mind when you go in – that you’re looking for experience, not a social circle. Do not believe or buy into anybody else’s negative b.s. Everyone here is convinced that you can’t make it on your own, and for good reason – that’s why they keep working there! So keep your plans of going solo to yourself, and in the meantime be the leader. Show them what being a pro is about.

Rule #2: Take The Beach-head
Training skills are very important, but the main thing you’re looking to learn here are the people skills that it takes to be a successful trainer. So you need to be aggressive in getting clients and filling up your training schedule. The good news is that if you have good ideas to get new clients, management may be willing to help you (they should be – after all, they’re stealing nearly all of your money!!!) Here are a few things that have worked extremely well for me in the health-club environment:

so-much-body-fatFree Body-Fat Promotions: Every one or two weeks, set up a help desk where you’re holding free body-fat assessments for members. Put signs up around the gym starting a few days out, and when the day comes, go ahead and man that table for a few hours. When doing your assessments, question your prospects about their routines, goals, and the effectiveness of their programs. This is a great time to uncover that “satisfaction gap” (see previous post) and how you’re the person to help them fill it (get your mind out of the gutter).

Test-Drive/Trouble-Shooting Packages: As any experienced trainer will tell you, clients stay on with their trainers as much or more for the camaraderie as the results. So you want to create a small window of time for this relationship to build. You can do this by offering small trial packages at a discounted price. You can market this as a troubleshooting package, and they would be an ideal thing to sell during your help desk consultations, or any other time you meet a “cold” prospect on the gym floor. If you deliver high-quality sessions and are a good listener, the fact is that very few clients will stop training with you after the trial, and you become 10x more likely to sign them to a high-value package afterwards.

Specialize: Now’s also a good time to choose your specialty. Having a specialty is essential for success as a trainer, so start now to pick the body of knowledge that you want to focus on and master. Let your health-club manager know about this so that he can start to direct these types of clients your way. And any time you get a client outside of your specialty, give them to one of the other trainers. Ideally, they should return the favor (but don’t hold your breath).

chow-timeRule #3: Conserve Your Rations
Even if you’re selling on all cylinders and have a packed schedule, your pay here won’t really be anything to brag about. Although you’re selling your sessions for high rates, you may be taking home as little as a quarter of that money! But during this time you’ll want to start putting away some money to fund your move. You’ll need as much as a thousand dollars to get all of your web and equipment expenses covered, and you’ll need to put away a good two months of living expenses for the period of time after you dump the gym, and are still building your private practice. So be sure to pay yourself first and get to this figure as fast as possible.

Rule #4: Plan Your Escape Route
Now, as you’re conserving money and gaining your people and training skills, it’s also a good time to start putting the pieces in place for when you go independent. Start getting your website made, look into outside training options, and pick the areas you want to reach and decide how you’ll reach them.

I would even go so far as to start doing free or low cost advertising, and making deals with businesses and establishments that are willing to help you. If you do gain some clients, you can easily train them on the side, and you’ll have more leverage for when you make your full jump to going private.

Most important of all, start to gather testimonials from ALL of your clients. Take before and after pictures of them, and when possible, take some of video of them saying why you’re the best. This will be hugely important part of your marketing later.

get-the-f-outta-dodgeRule #5: Get The Hell Outta There Soldier!
Time to hand in your notice! By now you should have a few things cooking – you should have your site up and running, have explored a lot of the options out there for you to situate yourself, and ideally have a hand-full of clients. Once you’ve fully dumped the gym, you’ll be surprised how many more ideas and opportunities you see in front of you. Be sure to take advantage of them – actively seek referrals from you existing clients, and never stop looking for new ones. Now that you’re your own boss, and technically a business owner, make the most of it. And every now and then, take a minute to enjoy what you’ve accomplished – you’ve earned it!


Special thanks to all of the men and women in the armed forces. We may draw the analogy to illustrate a point, but war is hell and we appreciate everything you do for us.

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12. Mar, 2009

Great stuff Kaiser. Yes most of us did do the time but I was luck only to do 2 months and then get into an amazing Personal Training Company and then go Independant.
One great way I used to pick up clients was hang around the “ab” stations and take them away from mindless guided movements and 1000’s of “crunches” and basically take them to the mat and put them through a punishing 5 min ab routine that was completely different and that most of the movements required ME to be there and assist them.
I train all of my clients and educate them enough so that they can have an amazing workout on their own but for that mind-boggling session, for 130% results…they need YOU.

John Izzo

12. Mar, 2009

Good post Kaiser. I think the bottom line is getting good at your craft. In an environment with fellow trainers (like a gym, studio) you at least have a “scale” to see how good you are. New trainers that go DIRECTLY into independent training, have nothing to compare their skills to, therefore, have no “scale”. If you follow this path without any knowledge of what is good, bad, or mediocre…you lose touch with advancing yourself and REALLY becoming successful. It is no surprise that all the ‘greats’ have started in the gym setting–they realized what they didn’t know, realized what they did better, and improved upon them.

Doug Groce

12. Mar, 2009

I enjoyed the post – Yes, I’d agree I’m 1000% more confident training, having done it in a community center (I’m fortunate I didn’t have to go through one of the big-box gym type atmospheres).

I like the way you kind of organized the thought process of what you have to do from start to finish – from getting your foot in the door training to actually dumping the gym. That ability to be able to grind it out and realize that your position as an employee is not permanent is crucial.

And what you said about not buying into other peoples’ bs is right on. Reading the right forums, blog, books, and educational materials has helped me a ton in staying positive and reminding myself that I deserve and can have better, it I really want it.

I’m making my big jump in a couple weeks and I ain’t looking back – no more gym. Thanks for all the help along the way!


12. Mar, 2009

Haha – yeah Gaby – that’s a given – just hang around the abs machines and you’ll find a lot of helpless people –

Yeah exactly John – that’s what we kind of realized on the forum – that being in the gym does have it place – it made me look back and realize it did have value for me, and can for others too when they’re starting out –

Right on Doug – dumping the gym huh? – haha! I got another one ….

Michael Duivis

13. Mar, 2009

Great post man. From what I found, the only way to really succeed at the big gyms is to spend YOUR LIFE there. At least that’s what I did. I had as plan to stay there forever until I came across Super-Trainer.

So for all the Trainers still working at big gyms…start doing your research online. It’s amazing how much info is handed out for free these days.

And if I look back…my experience at my big gym just made me wanted to succeed as an independent THAT MUCH MORE.

Kaiser, still see your kickin the same ol tire! But i like it. Dr House here.. If your working in a f–k–g Gym your pissing your money away.
Get a clue do home trraining and triple your salary. So easy to do! And besides you increase the accountability factor of your clients. Worse case scerario, they don’t answer the door bell you kick in the front door, then kick some ass!


13. Mar, 2009

Haha! Welcome back doc!

Yeah I’m back to what I know best – had to stop ridin’ those coattails, you know –

Yup, Rivak’s harsh words are the TLT mind-set – stop letting the gym screw you and provide your superior product to what you’ll find is a very, very hungry public!

Most in-gym trainers do not see how needed trainers are in the outside world, because they’re stuck in the gym all of the time – do a little research and get some clarity and you’ll really understand –

And Michael yeah, you really are the poster boy for this stuff and I think I’ve got to feature you in a blog post real soon! btw have fun over at Sam’s today –

bill moore

13. Mar, 2009

Kaiser has some good points, but, PAY YOUR DUES !!! work hard, make contacts, spend the time in the gym, network, etc. this is all needed to make the break !!!


11. Dec, 2014

Taking notes, thanks for these great articles!

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