Are we no longer living the dream? We’ve all heard about, or witnessed, the high attrition rate among personal trainers and fitness instructors. We know the many reasons people study for certifications and look eagerly to the day that they can announce to friends and family that they are now Personal Trainers! Maybe one of these reasons sounds familiar: helping people reach their goals, inspiring people to make healthy lifestyle changes, following a passion and getting paid for it.

I’ve heard all of those as main reasons to pursue a career in fitness, and they all sound solid. So then what happens? Why do personal trainers and fitness instructors quit the industry? Just like with any question of this sort, the reasons are plentiful. However, there are a few reasons that come up time and time again to establish a pattern. Having a grip on these will help improve your sustainability in a profession that can be as lucrative as it is personally rewarding…tackle these:

Low Compensation

Check out NFPT Personal Trainer Salary Information for even more detail on CPT salary projections…you’ll learn that the average compensation right now for personal trainers in the US is about $18.66/hr., and compensation ranges from just below $10/hr. to nearly $49/hr. High-end of the pay scale aside, the average sounds nice, too, right? The problem is that in order to make it nice in reality, the trainer would have to work a traditional 8-hour day, 5 days a week. That workweek will be a hard find at first. Likewise, instructing group fitness classes at $25/hr. sounds good, but ultimately, for some, can add up to disappointment if only instructing 2-3 classes per week. Add in the cost of gas, the time spent preparing music lists, designing workouts, and the commute itself from home to gym/gyms, and suddenly the quest for a career becomes expensive. Budgeting and savings methods should be thought through and used. Bank of America lists 8 Simple Ways to Save that can help:

  1. Record your expenses.
  2. Make a budget
  3. Plan on saving money
  4. Set savings goals
  5. Decide on your priorities
  6. Different savings and investment strategies for different goals
  7. Make saving money easier with automatic transfers
  8. Watch your savings grow

Misunderstanding Marketing Techniques        

Uncertainty on methods of marketing is the root of another oft-cited reason for abandoning a fitness career: not enough clients. Everyone knows how to go about finding a certification program, but, beyond credentials, many leap into the field without the necessary sales skills to pull clients. Freelancers suffer especially at the beginning if they haven’t started out in a gym and given themselves time to understand the sales process and build a loyal following that would warrant them going out on their own. Starting part-time at a gym as a personal trainer while still working a bill-paying job could be one way to go. No matter what, grabbing a course, or at least a book, on sales and marketing is a good idea.

Clients with Unrealistic Expectations

Unmotivated, whining clients who expect great miracles in a short time is another cited reason for throwing in the towel. I know one trainer who will actually refused a client for too much whining (I understand her completely. The endless cajoling can be more tiresome than any workout you’ll ever design). A roster of clients who misunderstand the fitness journey can have unrealistic expectations for their results such as dropping 50 pounds in a month for the big reunion. No one wants to be the killer of dreams, and it can be disillusioning for a trainer to realize their clients are more focused on a single event than on the lifestyle changes the trainer is so wanting to inspire. This type of reality check tarnishes the shine that a lot of trainers expect their new venture to effortlessly display. Approach clients head-on with the news that weight loss and physical fitness takes time. Remind them that they didn’t get to their current state of fitness overnight and the ‘correction’ won’t be overnight either.

Too Much Competition

There is a lot of competition in the fitness industry. Certifications are accessible, the high turnover rate at gym chains makes the task of finding a job relatively easy, and now trainers must contend with the virtual competition coming from You Tube and the like. Without understanding how to come up with a USP (unique selling point) a new trainer becomes lost in the crowd and dangerously interchangeable with all other recent graduates. To stave off the sting of too much competition, get ‘personal’ with your personal training…get to know people in face to face environments. Use your interpersonal skills to establish growing and lasting relationships. Afterall, word of mouth is still the number one source of new clients, so get out there and make more than Facebook friends!

Personal Trainers with…Unrealistic Expectations

Sometimes personal trainers themselves admit to having had unrealistic expectations on the process of building a business.

Be realistic. Do these things to turn your ambition to successful growth:

  1. Save up money before going strictly freelance
  2. Understand that a successful business will take time to grow, and
  3. Carve out a niche and work towards being a respected authority in your profession

Have you have ever considered leaving the fitness industry? Tell us why in the comments section. Together we can encourage and learn from each other. We can stay the course. Is staying the course your goal?

Tanisha Rule

Tanisha Rule has a BA in English and is a former Mad Dogg-certified Spinning instructor. She taught indoor cycle and boot camp and has now combined her passions as a full-time writer for the health and fitness industries, check out her site at If she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found happily training for an endurance event, likely after having said, “This is my last one for a while,” because there is no finish line; there is only progress.