If you’ve been looking into management positions in the exercise industry, it’s natural you’d have wondered ‘what is a fitness manager, and how is it different from a gym manager?’.
With this article, we’ll address the myth that the two roles are interchangeable, and explain everything you need to know, including:
- What is A Fitness Manager?
- Where Do Fitness Managers Work?
- Understanding a Fitness Manager's Responsibilties
- What Experience Does a Fitness Manager Need?
- How Much Can You Earn in a Fitness Manager Role?
One way to ensure you stand out from other applicants applying for a fitness manager position is to enrol on a Level 4 personal training course. By doing so, you’ll gain specialist skills and knowledge that present you as the ideal candidate. Check out our FREE prospectus to learn more about all OriGym courses.
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What is A Fitness Manager?
When discussing the fitness manager role, the easiest way to think of the position is that it’s similar to a team leader or head of department.
When working in this position, you’ll oversee several different fitness professionals, including:
- Personal trainers
- Fitness instructors
- Yoga instructors
- Swim teachers
- Fitness class leaders
A great example of this is former David Lloyd employee Cam Bridger, who talked about how he was required to work with a wide variety of departments and staff:
When working in the role of a fitness manager, you’ll be expected to perform duties such as:
- Dispensing training to other members of staff
- Managing staff absences
- Creating rotas, and assigning staff to their appropriate areas of expertise
- Offering support to ensure internal targets are met
Such responsibilities can be seen in an example advertisement below, for a Fitness Manager position at Nuffield Health:
Whilst a large chunk of your fitness manager duties are to oversee your department, you’ll also have to report to a gym manager.
These meetings will typically consist of the fitness manager discussing the progress of their department with the gym manager. This may revolve around topics such as:
- The success and shortcomings of staff members
- Solutions to department-based issues
- Upcoming promotional work and ideas
- Future plans for department growth and development
Whilst both occupations share a similar name, the role of a gym manager involves overseeing the entire gym, rather than just managing other fitness professionals.
The gym manager role includes tackling responsibilities such as:
- Balancing budgets
- Liaising with team leaders (including Fitness Managers)
- Approving and overseeing department rotas
To summarise, a fitness manager will only act in a team leader/management role in relation to the health and fitness department, whereas gym managers act as higher management, overseeing every role within the facility.
Where Do Fitness Managers Work?
As we’ve discussed, a fitness manager role will require you to oversee a larger department, meaning this position is only available in large scale health and fitness centres.
In the UK, Nuffield Health and David Lloyd are leading employers for those interested in exploring a fitness manager role, as they often have much larger facilities, and therefore need a dedicated manager for their fitness professionals.
An example of a fitness manager job description can be found below for Nuffield Health:
For example, Nuffield Health caters to a wide variety of individuals with departments in the following areas:
- Medical - Nurses, Surgeons, etc.
- Administrative - Sales Executives, Receptionists, etc.
- Physical Fitness - Personal Trainers, Lifeguards, etc.
Where a fitness manager will oversee other fitness professionals (like personal trainers) other departments will also have their own managers, such as the medical staff’s ‘senior practitioners’.
On the other hand, smaller gyms or fitness centres will typically have no need for fitness managers.
These gyms will usually have a smaller, more fitness-focused customer base, and therefore only need one gym manager to oversee everything (including personal trainers and fitness instructors).
Here is an example from JD Gyms so you can see exactly what we mean:
Therefore, if you're interested in working within a fitness manager role, you should look at larger-scale health and fitness centres.
Understanding a Fitness Manager’s Responsibilities
Now that you know where you’ll likely work within this role, you will naturally want to know more about the various fitness manager responsibilities that you’ll be expected to perform.
#1 - You’ll Need To Create & Manage Rotas In A Fitness Manager Role
One of the main responsibilities you’ll undertake when working as a fitness manager is creating a work rota for employees in your department.
An example of this responsibility can be seen in the following fitness manager job description for Balance Health Club & Spa:
Part of this task will entail working out at what times your department will be at its busiest, and organise staff members accordingly.
For example, busy times in gyms and fitness facilities are before work (6am - 10am), and in the evening after work (4pm - 7pm), so any rota you make should reflect that.
The initial creation process of a working rota can be somewhat difficult for inexperienced individuals, but here’s a few general guidelines to follow.
- Contract Types - You should factor in the kind of contract each employee is on, as those who are full–time will naturally have more availability than part-timers.
- Skill Level - As a fitness manager you should strive to ensure that there is always a good mix of staff members together. This way those with less experience can learn first hand from those who have been in the industry for longer periods.
- Favourable Shifts - There are always going to be shifts that staff members enjoy less than others. By providing a mix of favourable and unfavourable shifts, you can avoid accusations of favouritism.
Without a properly structured rota, you run the risk of creating tension in your team, resulting in poor performance across the entire department.
One way to ensure that your rota is efficient and balanced is to simply ask your staff members about their availability.
If someone genuinely can’t work on a given day, then this issue can be flagged, and you can put a solution in place.
#2 - Fitness Managers Must Liaise With The Gym Manager
We’ve already touched on this, but one of your primary responsibilities as a fitness manager will be to meet with the gym manager to discuss various aspects of your department.
The importance of this chain of communication has been stressed by this job advertisement for Everlast Gyms:
The frequency and topic of these meetings can vary depending on your place of employment.
For example, this communication with the gym manager could be as straightforward as just sending your department's created rota for approval.
Alternatively, you may be required to attend monthly performance meetings, where you’ll discuss your department's performance across the previous month.
Whilst these meeting with a senior member of management may seem intimidating, the process can be broken down into 5 simple steps:
- Personal Update - Small talk that can act as an icebreaker and help to build a rapport
- Discussion of Metrics - This will include figures to discuss the performance of your department e.g. client retention stats, how many new clients were signed up, and what training packages each of these clients have signed to.
- Department ‘Wins’ - Share what members of your team have done well this month, in order to ensure they gain recognition from higher management - e.g. if a specific team member has signed up a significant amount of new clients.
- Address Any Potential Issues - Both you and the gym manager can use this time to discuss any issues the department is having. This will allow you to work together in order to think of solutions.
- Address Goals For the Coming Month: Before closing out the meeting establish what your department-wide goals are for the following month. This may include figures such as how many new clients the gym manager wishes you to acquire.
All of the information discussed in these meetings should then be relayed to your department, who you can then set individualised targets for.
It’s important to provide this information to your department, as without the clear chain of communication your department will be working without clear instruction or direction.
#3 - Fitness Manager Duties Also Extend To Training Your Department
One of the primary fitness manager responsibilities that is guaranteed to always appear on job vacancies is that you’ll be expected to train other team members.
Training helps to ensure that all staff members are reflecting a company's values, culture and approach to customer service.
By understanding that they all play a key role in the wider company, your department members will feel a new sense of confidence in their role, and be able to provide a safe and efficient environment for the guests.
This approach to training typically occurs in many large scale commercial health and fitness centres, an example of which can be found below from Jumeirah:
Some examples topics that can be approached during these training sessions include:
- General Fitness Training - Ensuring employees know how to conduct workouts safely, and are up to date with the latest fitness trends.
- Health and Safety Training - This is a legal requirement and needs to be done to ensure that your department staff can conduct their role safely. May include topics such as how to evacuate the building in case of fire.
- First Aid Training - This grants employees the skills to act in case of an immediate medical emergency. For example, it can include a course on how to safely perform CPR.
- Administrative Training - Following this department members know how to conduct responsibilities such as signing up new clients to packages.
These are just 4 examples of what you may be expected to cover. Specific employers may want you to cover more or fewer topics that pertain to their business.
Failure to provide this training to your department can have negative consequences.
Without these developed skills your staff members will not only be compromising their own wellbeing, but that of paying customers too.
To help with this, fitness managers will be required to undertake professional development sessions which can often include courses on:
- Corporate memberships
- Payroll management
- Team Working skills
- Health and safety
- Customer care
- Employment law
- Business planning
- IT skills
As this fitness industry is ever-evolving these vocational training sessions will become a frequent occurrence.
As a result, you will become a highly skilled fitness manager capable of offering a variety of training sessions to your department's staff.
EXPERT ADVICE ON BOOSTING YOUR PT INCOME
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#4 - Fitness Managers Must Keep Detailed Financial Records
When questioning ‘what is a fitness manager’s main responsibilities?’, keeping detailed financial records is absolutely essential for securing the success and development of your department.
In fact, Sports Direct specifically mentioned this in their fitness manager job description:
As part of your financial-based fitness manager duties, you will be expected to record the following stats:
- Total revenue
- Weekly recurring revenue
- New signups
- What kind of memberships are sold
- Retention rates
These financial records will be compiled into monthly reports that will be distributed to higher management.
The information gathered within these reports will indicate to higher management how your team is performing. This will indicate areas in which your department excels and areas which may need improvement.
For example, if your reports are indicating that clients are dropping off after a certain amount of months, then higher management may intervene and put retention strategies into place.
Similarly, it can also provide insight into the spending habits of your customers, highlighting aspects such as:
- Popular fitness classes
- Frequently bought personal training packages
- Times at which the health and fitness facilities are at its busiest
Keeping tabs of this information may seem like a daunting process, but most large scale health and fitness centres will have their own fitness accounting software in place to help with this process.
In addition, as a department leader you will likely receive financial training upon being hired. This will cover your employer’s specific methods of tracking and reporting financial information.
#5 - You Must Create and Promote Activities To Meet Customer Demand In A Fitness Manager Role
As a fitness manager you will be expected to create and promote specific activities which meet your customers demands.
This essentially translates to supply and demand. For example, if a class proves to be popular, you will want to increase the frequency of said class, or create similar activities to appeal to the same clientele.
This responsibility is highlighted fitness manager job descriptions such as the example below provided for Bluecoat Sports Health and Fitness Club:
One way you could approach this responsibility is to analyse what fitness classes draw the most member attendance.
With this information, you can begin to increase the frequency at which these classes are run. Clients who already attend these sessions frequently will get more of what they enjoy, whilst those who have yet to attend will get more chances to do so.
For example, when looking at a David Lloyd’s schedule, we can see that the Blaze HIIT class is clearly popular among members, as it occurs 3 times within the space of 4 hours:
As a direct result of this popularity, David Lloyd are not only increasing the frequency of these classes, but they have also incorporated several marketing strategies to attract new customers to the venue.
An example of this can be found below from one of their Facebook promotions:
By following this responsibility you will be directly supplying a product that meets your customers demand. In doing so you will increase the likelihood of generating a higher stream of income for your employers.
In a similar vein, you can also produce a questionnaire which can be distributed among customers in order to highlight areas of the fitness centre which need improvement.
Once this information has been collected you will be able to work with higher management in order to ensure that a suitable solution is found.
Now that you have a better understanding of the duties and responsibilities associated with a fitness manager job description, you may be more interested in pursuing this job role.
But this isn’t a career that you can just jump into - you’ll first need to gain some experience within the fitness industry.
If you find our exploration of the question ‘what is a fitness instructor?’ to be of interest, then you may also enjoy these other OriGym articles:
- 13 Helpful Tips for Gym Managers
- Gym Manager: Job Description
- 7 Career Progression Options for Personal Trainers
What Experience Does a Fitness Manager Need?
If you’re looking to pursue a career as a fitness manager, you will need to gain both academic and vocational experience.
What Academic Experience Do You Need to Fulfil Fitness Manager Duties?
Many assume that you’ll also need a degree in management or leadership, but for that vast majority of fitness manager positions, that’s not the case.
This is evident from the Bannatyne Fitness job advertisement displayed below:
If you don’t have either of these qualifications, you can gain both through completing a Personal Training Diploma.
By pursuing this qualification, you’ll gain vital knowledge and develop key skills, which you’ll then transfer to a working environment within the fitness industry.
For example, once enrolled you will cover module topics such as:
Principles of Health and Wellbeing for Exercise, Fitness and Health
This includes the principles of writing a comprehensive physical activity programme, the importance of healthy eating as part of this, and how to cater these ideas to include all populations.
Delivering Exercise Programmes for Personal Training Sessions
With this diploma, you will become fluent in the latest and most advanced training methods. This will include everything stretching, resistance training and how to adapt programmes for all types of clients. Communication will be key here, and you’ll learn how to perform consultations and effectively work with your clients.
Applying Nutritional Principles to Personal Training
In this course, you will understand how to apply both basic and advanced nutrition plans in accordance with fitness objectives. Topics will include comprehending nutrient groups and understanding micro and macro nutrients. Additionally, you will be able to consult, communicate and set nutrition goals for your clients.
If you’re looking to work as a fitness manager this experience will be vital for working with both customers and colleagues alike.
In terms of your department members, the experience these qualifications provide will allow you to guarantee that everyone is trained to the current industry standard.
Similarly, when working with paying customers, you can pull from your academic background in order to ensure they receive the best possible training.
This application process can differ from one employer to another, just be sure to treat the process individually to determine whether specific applications are appropriate for you.
Practical Experience Needed to Become a Fitness Manager
Due to the fact that this is a managerial position, many employers will typically prioritise applicants who have previous experience working in a similar environment.
For example, in their advertisement listed below Places For People stress that they are looking for a candidate who has experience in both a Fitness Instructor and/or Personal Training position.
Without this experience you will not be considered eligible for the position, as you will lack knowledge pertaining to working within a fitness related environment.
We’ve already touched on how you’ll need to complete a Personal Training Diploma to get the right qualifications, and once you’ve done that you’ll be able to seek employment as a PT or fitness instructor.
An example for similar roles can be seen below for Virgin Active:
Use roles such as the example given above to build up your experience within the fitness industry. Don’t look at this time as a stop gap, instead make the most of it by honing and developing your skill set.
You can also use your time working in other roles to learn about the management position.
Widen your network of contacts and regularly meet with the fitness manager at your place of employment, offer to assist them with their responsibilities, or even shadow as they work.
Ultimately, these roles will also show potential employers that you not only have the experience required to be a fitness manager, but that you’re capable of the duties that position requires.
How Much Can You Earn in a Fitness Manager Role?
As with any employment advertisement, a fitness manager job description will often feature a proposed salary. But just how much can you earn when working in this role?
According to statistics provided by Indeed, the estimated salary of a fitness manager is:
Keep in mind that this figure is not set in stone, and has been generated as an average salary created from data inputted by Indeed users.
Some salaries will be reflective of the figure presented above, such as the previously used example from Places for People:
Other employers may offer you a negotiable salary depending upon how much previous experience you have in the job role. This can be seen in Nuffield Health who offer more experienced staff members a greater salary:
So, whilst the salary of a fitness manager is not set in stone, you can still expect to earn a decent wage when working in the role.
One key thing to remember is that experience is key, if you’re new to a managerial position then you can expect to earn less than other colleagues who may have been in the role for a longer period of time.
In contrast, if you have prior experience conducting fitness manager duties, then you could potentially earn the higher salary presented in the Nuffield ad.
EXPERT ADVICE ON BOOSTING YOUR PT INCOME
12 Ways You Can Boost Your PT Income!
Before You Go!
Following this article you should be able to comfortably answer the question ‘what is a fitness manager’.
To pursue this management role, you’ll need to first gain vital experience within the industry, working as a personal trainer or fitness instructor to secure your role.
OriGym’s Level 4 personal trainer courses can also help you when pursuing this potential career option. With the experience gained from this qualification, you will be better equipped to deal with the daily challenges of a fitness manager. Download our free prospectus to view every course we have to offer.
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