If you chose a career as a personal trainer, few moments are as exciting as the day you receive your official “I’m a Certified Personal Trainer” certificate in the mail. You are licensed and legit; it’s time to get to work!

You enthusiastically begin the initial steps associated with starting a business and searching for career opportunities. Steadily you carve out a niche and brand your services, which ultimately leads to a consistent increase in client demand. All of a sudden your schedule is full with clients nearly every hour throughout the week…and you’re exhausted…mentally, physically, intellectually.

Why Trainer Burnout Happens

Sound like a familiar story? It happens to the best of us. New trainers are eager, excited, and ready for a challenge. As a result, they often become overwhelmed and find their once burning passion for the trade begin to waver.

Having a full schedule sounds like a “good problem” to have and it is; however when it occurs at a break-neck pace, the resulting stress can erode a new trainer’s excitement and commitment. The good news is – although it has happened to many of us in our first couple of years, there are strategies we’ve learned to help the newcomers avoid and/or minimize the burnout.


Strategies to Adopt 

    • Smart Scheduling. Theoretically, yes, in an eight-hour day a trainer could schedule eight training sessions. But scheduling is not a question of “could” but “should”. Realistically, if you’re just starting out (and this rule can apply to seasoned trainers as well), remember to schedule “transition time” in between clients.

      This transition period allows for you to finish SOAP notes, recharge, and prepare for the next session. Whether it is 15 minutes or 20 minutes, you choose but give yourself time to breathe in between each session. Rushing to the next session with your hair on fire is not an effective way to build confidence. This is something I did not do when I started out, but you can bet I do it now!

    • “You Time”. This goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway – schedule your own time to work out. If you’re a morning person, rise and grind, if you would rather get some movement in during the mid-day, do it. The point is – do not sacrifice your own activity for the sake of a full schedule.
    • Take Vacations. Clients will take vacations and so should you. This doesn’t have to be a three-week hiatus, but a week here and there will do wonders for your mental sanity. Create a “while I’m away” contingency plan for clients. Perhaps this takes shape as a collection of “on your own workouts” while you’re gone or you ask a colleague to “sub” for you.


    • Ask for Help. You will be challenged by your clients and you will not know the answer to every question. This is ok. Use your referral network and capitalize on the collegiality of your workplace.

      There’s no need to belabor over a question or hurdle you feel unprepared to navigate – simply ask for help (but remember to respect and honor client confidentiality).

    • Find a Mentor. Most seasoned trainers like to mentor the newcomers and the establishment you work for may even have a mentor program (if not, you be the one to start it). Seek out advice and guidance from those with more experience. Once you’ve been mentored, become one to someone else.
    • Forgive Yourself. I always joke with my students that if I were paid based on the number of mistakes I’ve made throughout my career, I could buy my own island…and develop it. It’s true – as a new trainer, you will make dozens of mistakes.

      As an experienced trainer, you will continue to make mistakes – just not the same ones you did in the beginning. Forgive yourself. The path to success is not a straight line. It resembles more of a confusing connect the dot picture with many U-turns and eraser marks. Just keep moving forward; apologize when necessary, and remind yourself you’re human.

A lifelong career as a personal trainer and fitness professional is tremendously rewarding. Adopting and practicing techniques such as these will ensure longevity in the field and allow you to continue to share your passion for years to come.

What other ideas do you have for avoiding the trainer burnout syndrome?

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Erin Nitschke

Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother, and passionate fitness professional. She has over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and college instruction. Erin believes in the power of a holistic approach to healthy living. She loves encouraging her clients and students to develop body harmony by teaching focused skill development and lifestyle balance. Erin is also the Director of Educational Partnerships & Programs for the NFPT. Erin is an editorial author for ACE, IDEA, The Sheridan Press, and the Casper Star Tribune. Visit her personal blog at belivestaywell.com