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9 Tips On How To Avoid Personal Trainer Burnout

Tips On How To Avoid Personal Trainer Burnout

Personal trainer burnout can be detrimental to your health and career. It’s important to spot the warning signs and understand what you can do to avoid it completely.

This guide will be in two parts, covering:

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What Can Cause Personal Training Burnout?

personal trainer burnout

Burnout is a state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. Personal trainer burnout is likely to occur when you’ve been spending most of your time running sessions or wondering how to get clients as a personal trainer and leaving little time for anything else.

Causes of personal trainer burnout include:

  • Taking on too many clients 
  • Training too hard with minimal breaks
  • Leaving yourself no free time
  • Poor self care
  • Lack of sleep

Differences Between Stress & Personal Trainer Burnout

personal trainer burnout

Although they appear similar, stress and burnout aren’t the same. Stress is a mental or emotional state often experienced as a result of adverse conditions. It usually reduces when the situation or event is resolved or changed. 

Burnout is a condition that occurs as a result of long-term exposure to stress and its mental and emotional effects are often more intense.

For example, stress may occur from a client being unhappy after a session because they still haven’t reached their SMART fitness goals. This could play on your mind as you consider where you could be going wrong as their PT, even if it’s not your fault.

personal trainer burnout

Personal trainer burnout is likely to occur if this is happening to every client over a longer period of time. If the majority of your clients are unsatisfied with your service but you aren’t sure where you’re going wrong, it’s likely this will bring a lot of stress and have wider effects.

Early warning signs of PT burnout include:

  • Feeling tired or drained
  • Having a negative outlook
  • Self-doubt
  • Feeling helpless or defeated
  • Taking longer to get things done

While most people experience periods of stress, it’s important to understand when it could lead to burnout. If you can’t place it on one issue, it’s likely something more than short-term stress.

 

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Avoiding Personal Trainer Burnout: 9 Key Tips

#1 - Be Strict With Your Time As A Personal Trainer

personal trainer burnout

It's important to remember that you’re allowed to be selfish with your time when you become a personal trainer

Although you have to be flexible when scheduling personal training sessions, you shouldn’t continually sacrifice time you’ve set aside for yourself.

When you first start out as a PT, it’s likely you’ll want to take on as much work as possible and do everything you can to please clients. However, this is the most important time to be firm about when exactly you’re available.

Being strict with your time by telling clients when you’re available rather than asking them when they’re free shows them you’re serious. It means they’ll be less likely to push you to book their sessions during times that are inconvenient for you.

personal trainer burnout

Sessions you’ve felt pressured into providing or had to cancel plans for are likely to impact negatively on how you train a particular client.

You may become frustrated more easily and not train them as effectively because you’d originally planned to be elsewhere.

Simply provide them with set days you work. This could be weekdays from early morning until lunch, or the other way around. Whatever your preference, be firm with telling clients when you’re choosing to train them, not the other way around.

#2 - Have Defined Working Hours To Avoid PT Burnout

personal training burnout

When many personal trainers start out, they may adopt the lifestyle of splitting up their working day. Doing so means they can fit in more clients and maintain energy levels coaching those in the morning and late in the evenings.

This routine may look something like this:

  • Coach clients in the early morning
  • Go home
  • Return to the gym in the evening
  • Coach afterwork clients until late

However, this type of routine may lead to personal trainer burnout if you don’t treat it like a full work day. We suggest creating some kind of structure for your day by using the time between sessions to do general business administration such as plan workouts or market your business.

personal training burnout

Using this time effectively keeps your brain in ‘work mode’ and establishes a work day routine, even if you’re not in the gym the whole time.

This means you could spend weekdays training clients in the mornings, complete admin responsibilities in the afternoons, and then train clients in the evenings. This means you won’t have to find extra time to complete these tasks and can have the weekends free for yourself.

Many people work from home so can be more flexible with their working hours, meaning you can book mid-morning or early afternoon sessions and work admin duties around these times if it suits you better. You could even offer discounts to incentivise clients to book off-hour sessions.

#3 - Develop Strong Relationships With PT Clients

personal training burnout

Another way to avoid personal trainer burnout is to build relationships with clients rather than have them see you as nothing more than someone who trains them. 

If they see you like this, it becomes a lot easier to replace you. This means you’ll have to continue finding new clients which can be really time consuming and could lead to trainer burnout. 

Getting to know clients is what makes a good personal trainer, meaning you can build a strong relationship with them and they’ll be more likely to stay. 

Plus, having your clients see that you as a person rather than just somebody who provides a service can make them a lot more respectful of any boundaries you set, such as training times.

personal training burnout

Some topics you can discuss to learn more about them include:

  • Families
  • Hobbies
  • Shared Interests 
  • Partners

Building relationships with clients will help you to feel more comfortable bringing up issues with them, especially if you’re feeling stressed or need to discuss problems with them. 

While this doesn’t mean you should start unloading all of your problems on a client, it gives you more of an option to be honest, more than you might be with a client you barely know.

Being able to retain clients and establish relationships means you’re less likely to avoid personal trainer burnout. If you need to reschedule sessions or reduce them due to stress, someone you know well is likely to react with more sensitivity than someone you barely know.

#4 - Increase Your Personal Training Prices

pt burnout

One thing that can help you to manage or avoid PT burnout is increasing your prices. Although some personal trainers worry that raising session prices could put clients off, it can certainly help you in the long-term.

Getting paid more for one session rather than two or three means you’re getting more money for less work overall, as you won’t have to put as many hours in. 

You’re essentially being paid more for doing the same amount of work as you won’t have to take on dozens of clients and include extra sessions to receive more money. This means you’re less likely to experience personal trainer burnout. 

If you provide a great service and have loyal clients you’ve developed good relationships with, it’s unlikely they will drop you for slightly raising your prices. If this is something you’re worried about, you should give them enough notice beforehand.

You could also have a look at what other personal trainers in your area are charging and adjust your prices to reflect this. 

 

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#5 - Prioritise Sleep To Maintain Energy Levels

pt burnout

According to the NHS, adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep to function properly. It’s crucial you aim to get this amount of sleep a night so you have enough energy during the day to avoid personal trainer burnout.

If you’re stressed, it’s unlikely you’ll have much control over how your body responds to it. However, there are things you can do to help reduce distractions before sleeping.

Ways to improve your sleep schedule include:

  • Going to bed at the same time every night
  • Creating a restful environment
  • Avoiding caffeine, nicotine, alcohol before bed
  • Limiting daytime napping
  • Eliminating screen time just before sleeping

Although having a set ‘bedtime’ is usually associated with children, it’s something everyone should aim for. Sticking to a sleep schedule makes it part of your routine, meaning you’re less likely to break it.

pt burnout

A lack of sleep can negatively impact your work and can lead to health problems such as:

  • Weakened Immunity 
  • Memory Issues 
  • Weight Gain
  • Heart Attack

Not sleeping enough means you will need other ways to improve energy levels to keep yourself alert and motivated throughout the day. This brings us onto our next point.

- - - -

Looking for ways to avoid personal trainer burnout and switch off? Take a look at these articles:

#6 - Reduce Your Caffeine Intake 

pt burnout

While there are health benefits of black coffee, if you’re someone who constantly has one in your hand, you should consider cutting back. The reason for this is because it’s unlikely you realise the effect caffeine is having on your body.

These negative effects of caffeine include:

  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia 
  • Faster heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches

A high intake of caffeine can lead to dependency, meaning you need more of it to feel its effects. This can be harmful as it will increase withdrawal symptoms and continue the cycle of having more coffee or energy drinks to reduce these negative effects.

Relying on caffeine can lead to personal trainer burnout as you may find it hard to focus or feel stressed if you haven’t had any. This can lead you to feel more irritable when dealing with clients and can negatively affect sessions, bringing more stress.

trainer burnout

If you feel you may have an addiction to caffeine, see how you feel without it for a day. If you experience negative effects, it’s likely you are dependent on it. 

Reduce your caffeine intake by alternating between regular coffee and decaf. Gradually increase your intake of decaf over a couple of weeks or switch to other beverages like peppermint tea

This will change your habit until you no longer experience withdrawal symptoms.

You don’t have to completely cut out caffeine but by limiting it to a cup in the morning, this can help avoid personal trainer burnout.

#7 - Take At Least One Day Off A Week

trainer burnout

Even if you are passionate about your work, you should schedule at least one day off a week to avoid fitness trainer burnout. Just as you would avoid working out everyday to avoid the signs of overtraining, you need to give yourself a mental and physical break from clients.

You may choose to have Sunday as your day off, giving you enough time to restore your energy for the week ahead. 

Not giving yourself a day off to clear your head and relax means it’s more likely you will experience PT burnout. 

The importance of rest days shouldn’t be ignored. 24 hours relaxing or engaging in other hobbies or interests can be great for keeping you motivated!

trainer burnout

By not having a day away from the gym or clients, you can’t switch off and your mind isn’t having a break from any stresses you may be experiencing.

Having even a day away from work can be great for keeping you interested in what you’re doing. If you’re constantly tired and fed up with training clients, it’s unlikely you’ll be giving them the best version of yourself. 

#8 - Focus On Client Retention To Avoid PT Burnout

fitness trainer burnout

It requires surprisingly less energy to train someone you’re familiar with, so having a good client retention rate can help to avoid burnout. 

A client who knows your training style and how their body works is easier to train physically and emotionally than someone who is brand new or isn’t familiar with exercise. 

Putting effort into your client retention strategy also means you won’t have to continually look for new ones to train.

Constantly being on the lookout for new clients will bring a lot of stress as you'll be using much more emotional and physical energy to get to know them, create their programmes, and train them - all of which may lead to personal trainer burnout.

fitness trainer burnout

One way to improve client retention is by avoiding running short-term fitness challenges, such as 30 day muscle gains plans or long distance running events. It’s likely you’ll be met with people who aren’t committed to long-term training, which will result in a high turnover of clients.

Having people who actually have long-term goals and need lots of sessions will reduce personal trainer burnout as you can put your energy into training them rather than use it to constantly search for new clients.

 

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#9 - Let Personal Training Clients Go

fitness trainer burnout

While this may seem contradictory to the point discussed above, letting go of clients is also something that you can do to avoid experiencing burnout.

When starting out as a personal trainer, you may underestimate how challenging it can be to train multiple clients successfully. 

It isn’t just about having the time to do it but also ensuring you can help each one achieve their goals within your timeframe.

As a personal trainer, your client's goals become your goals. This can become stressful, especially if they aren’t progressing as much as you thought they would. Having multiple clients is likely to bring more stress and could lead to personal trainer burnout.

If you feel you’re always in the gym and constantly in contact with clients outside of sessions, it may be time to consider whether you’ve taken on too much work. Dropping clients isn’t easy but if it’s leading to PT burnout and affecting your health, it’s something to consider.

fitness trainer burnout

While it can make for an uncomfortable situation, you should never burn your bridges with them completely.

To make the situation easier you should:

  • Be honest - simply tell them you’re currently training multiple clients and no longer have enough time to effectively train more people. While it can be difficult, it’s better to tell them the truth.
  • Be polite - as the situation will already be uncomfortable for both of you, it’s important to be polite and keep the conversation calm.
  • Give them enough notice - when you decide to let go of a client, let them know your intentions sooner rather than later. If you’re in the middle of a contract, tell them you won’t be continuing it once it’s finished.
  • Refer them to a new trainer - in this situation, it’s appropriate to refer them to a trainer you know is looking for new clients. This helps soften the blow and shows you still care about them achieving their goals.

A situation like this should be a lesson for you to consider more carefully how many clients you can realistically train. This means you can avoid issues such as this in the future by knowing how much work you can handle.

Bonus tip: Hire Other Trainers To Share The Workload

fitness trainer burnout

Instead of letting go of clients when your client base gets too large, you can hire other personal trainers on contracts to share the workload.

By taking on somebody to train some of your clients for you, you can still make money from the client without having to actually train them yourself.

For example, if you contract a personal trainer and pay them £15 to train your clients for a £40 session, you'll still receive £25 from this. Although you're not training the clients yourself, you're still earning money and have saved an hour which you can dedicate to other tasks.

Doing this means you can avoid PT burnout but don't have to reduce the number of clients you train or lose out on the money completely.

This means you can grow and develop your business without having to work every possible hour to ensure all clients are being dealt with.


Before You Go!

Now you understand what causes personal trainer burnout and how to avoid it, you can refer back to our tips whenever you spot the early warning signs.

Our range of personal training courses are just the thing to keep you interested and passionate about your work. With Level 4 Personal Trainer Courses in Diabetes Management and Sports Nutrition, you can continue expanding your skills and knowledge in the industry.

Find out more by downloading our course prospectus or simply enter your details below.

Written by James Brady

Fitness Writer & Enthusiast

James graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. His desire to find a place where he could combine his passion for writing and love of fitness is what brought him to OriGym. He believes his passion for daily exercise, especially running, is imperative in keeping him motivated and productive. As a result, he has a particular interest in the psychology of health and fitness and the relationship between physical and mental health. Outside of work, James enjoys reading, swimming, writing short stories, watching classic movies and has a keen interest in journalism and filmmaking.

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