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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Trainer Attrition: What's Wrong?

Brent Brookbush

Brent Brookbush


Panel Discussion: Trainer Attrition: What's Wrong?

The turn-over in the fitness industry is incredibly high, and the number of CPT's who choose to make fitness a career is extremely low. What problems are driving us away?

Moderated by Brent Brookbush DPT, PT, MS, PES, CES, CSCS, ACSM H/FS

This Panel Discussion was originally posted on my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/brent.brookbush - on February 11th, 2011

Kristina Rathod, February 26 at 2:10pm: I think it's because being a trainer is generally not perceived as prestige..:/

Brent Brookbush, February 26 at 2:16pm: What would make our jobs more prestigious? Or, what would help others to perceive our job as prestigious?

Rasul Davis, February 26 at 2:29pm: Hey Brent, what's up. My 2cents - Marketing education, credentials (credentials like you're getting as a DPT), and especially a different culture in the corporate clubs (no push sales, put the client first).

Liana Araiza, February 26 at 2:32pm: Are there liability fears?

Elizabeth Hawk, February 26 at 2:47pm: Money, honey.

Kimberly Hinds Woolery, February 26 at 2:48pm: The Clubs are making it impossible for the trainers to actually do their job and love it! Outrageous prices, Constant need to sell, sell, sell. Push products that we may not believe in. When all we want to do is train and enrich people's lives…

Jonathon S., February 26 at 2:51pm: Well, the hierarchy established long ago isn't helping PTs make any advances anytime soon. MDs are regarded as God, and since the government subsidizes most everything in that field, us trainers will always be forced to work many hours if we want to make it a career with hopes of having a decent salary. In other words, the prestige will never be granted to fitness because it doesn't make billions of dollars like our health care and pharmaceutical companies do. In my opinion, until the hierarchy is re-invented, it will continue the course we are on now. Once eating and exercise is viewed and accepted as the road to restoring, attaining, and improving our nation's health then we will have CPTs willing to stick it out. Every once in a while you find CPTs that believe in what they do and don't care about the money or prestige. Those are the people changing lives and restoring health on a daily basis. . Something that is obviously eluding our medical field.

Dawn Brent, February 26 at 3:13pm: I'm not sure I agree…I think it is like every job: some people do it because it sounds good or like the idea of it, and others (like me) do it because it is in my blood and is my passion which has turned into a most rewarding career. As importantly I think a gym trainer has a higher burn out rate than a private trainer. I think the gym trainers may get less prestige because of stereotype that comes with it. Burn out is higher from working too many hours, too much pressure to meet sales quotas, and too little pay. I had a hard time working in a gym for these reasons but now running my own training studio I could not think of a better job than teaching people how to get fit & healthy and celebrate them reaching their goals without the pressure to sell them some branded supplement or me having no work/life balance from working 10 hours in a row. One more thing- it is hard work, mentally and physically! We need to keep ourselves fit, healthy, and smart in order to be good role models and teachers and that in itself if a challenge long term for many.

Dawn Brent, February 26 at 3:16pm: Sorry it took me so long to write my comment that many of you posted before me and echoed what I said!

Shawn Fears, February 26 at 3:39pm: There is more to it than writing workouts. I fell into this trap, when I started I was gung ho I'm gonna do what I love and get paid to do it. Well..the reality is sure we get to do what we love, but we also get to do what we hate, marketing, sales, profits/losses, etc. Nobody really comes into this field realizing you need a double major, exercise science and business, but you do to be successful. If not two majors than really, really good at one or the other. We can hire business coaches if we know exercise science and we can hire trainers if we know business, but it is rare that a person is exceptional at both.

Without even a basic understanding of business and marketing there is no way to be successful. Even word of mouth is marketing. When a person realizes that they don't have strong business skills two things happen; they run or work on their weakness….most people run.

Brent Brookbush, February 26 at 4:57pm: Some great points have been made:

Does prestige come with money?

Is the current CPT business model sufficient to provide the compensation our professionals deserve?

Does prestige come with education, credentials and skill?

If a greater level of education is necessary can we complain about the current pay structure?

How many trainers would we lose if a degree and licensure is necessary?

Do we need a better understanding of business, and is this really any different the other healthcare professionals?

Even doctors must market and network to ensure patients are walking into their offices.

Shawn Fears, February 26 at 5:12pm: Some great points have been made:

Does prestige come with money?… to some..yes, society views people with more money as more successful.

Is the current CPT business model sufficient to provide the compensation our professionals deserve?

depends on the professional, entry trainers yes, degree seeking or holding trainers looking to advance themselves in the fitness industry..no

Does prestige come with education, credentials and skill?

No, all though it helps

If a greater level …of education is necessary can we complain about the current pay structure?

Sure but nobody will listen

How many trainers would we lose if a degree and licensure is necessary?

not me…that’s all that matters, lol, I welcome it

Do we need a better understanding of business, and is this really any different the other healthcare professionals?

Yes we do need a better understanding of business anybody in the industry who is successful will confirm that, as for other healthcare professionals I don't know how they market, I don't see how its relevant to keeping the fitness industry turnover lower.

Brent Brookbush, February 26 at 5:17pm: To your last point… I think we could do a better job in the department of "truth in advertising". Being a CPT often looks great on paper, and is sold as an easy way to make good money, but there are parts of the job that should be truthfully discussed before one seeks a profession in this industry.

Jonathon S., February 26 at 5:26pm: No prestige doesn't always come with money. I believe society tends to view people with more money in a position of educational "superior" as more prestigious. Prestige most certainly does stem from education, credentials, and skill. I also think prestige should come with sincerity and passion. I was talking in general for a population, as to what most view as prestige. There is money to be made in PT'n, but gyms for profit most definitely can kill a trainer's motivation, especially if that is the first "job". As far as job market, I guess it depends on what you personally want to see as far as the field of personal training should consists of. Although, marketing and business play a HUGE role, word of mouth by clients will always keep a prestigious trainer employed. That doesn't require anything other than a passion and knowledge of personal fitness and the ability to implement effective plans to help them reach a specific fitness goal.

Brent- If you are working with a client complaining of shoulder pain and the first words are, "I'm going to the orthopedic surgeon soon. He worked on my other shoulder a few years back." Then, asked if he has ever considered physical therapy, or consulting a DPT, he responds, "No. Why would I do that?"

I guess that's the type of scenario I think the hierarchy is not beneficial. Obviously it's an option to see an orthopedic surgeon first, but why would you not see a DPT first and foremost? I don't know about you, but I would try a host of options to improve my shoulder prior to cutting into it.

Jonathon S., February 26 at 5:35pm: education, skill, passion, and sincerity…not credentials!

Brent Brookbush, February 26 at 6:39pm:

Hey Jonathan,

I am not sure what your point regarding a client's shoulder pain, an orthopedic surgeon, and your recommendation has to do with credentialing and licensure in the personal training industry. Please explain?

The one problem I have with the anti-credentialing statement you made in your previous post is the lack of regulation and the amount of misinformation in our industry. Obviously I am on the evidence-based (research based) band wagon, but most educators and sources of information in our industry are not. The amount of false information that is promoted in our industry is staggering. The only solution I currently see for this is the growth of evidence-based organizations (NASM, NCSA, ACSM, B2C Fitness (Sorry, I know that is a shameless plug)) and the formalization of our education via B.S., M.S., and Doctoral programs.

Jonathon S., February 26 at 7:23pm: I just meant, most times I see clients seeking help from a surgeon and then going to a DPT. I would like to see the opposite, and see what would happen. It was more in reference to a hierarchy or prestige like mentioned above. Which I think could deter people away from sticking with personal training. Kind of a round-about way to answer your original question in the post, but I think it all influences the career of our field. Of course these are just my opinions, but what's one without the other ;) Just like I like to use CEx before I refer out to an MD or DPT. If shoulder pain is mostly directed towards MDs, when we have read all about shoulder pain being related to habits physical therapy can help correct, then there's something sketchy? As a trainer, I would like to see people seek physical therapy for physical issues such as shoulder pain. I'd also like people to seek personal trainers for weight and fitness issues. Plenty of reading to support exercise will help with overall health. So, why are trainers running away? Maybe sometimes it feels like fitness and personal training industry is overshadowed with the more credentialed, revenue generating, and "prestige" careers. Again, I just think it contributes to the turn-over rates associated with personal training.

A PT can have lots of education, passion, skill, and sincerity and still not be viewed as prestige because of his lack of credentials. However, I completely agree with what you’re saying, too. I don't think education or degrees are worthless, but they aren't always a must have to provide good services. Without the credentialing and licensure processes we would definitely have it worse off. A CPT can have a NASM cert and nothing more, but still be a very good trainer. I'm not saying it's not a credential, because it's definitely a good one. I just meant some might not look at a personal trainer and think, "Wow, look at those credentials." No offense to any trainers, as that's what I am myself :)

Rene Pere, February 26 at 8:02pm: Wow. Great points made all around. I'm an OT as well as CPT, worked and still work in physical rehab with adults in the world of insurance and reimbursement for 15 years. Don't get me wrong--there are a lot of pros to being in the field, and still enjoy my job. But the grass isn't always greener---much like trainers are having to sell products they may not believe in, and push for getting more clients to train, therapists generate revenue, and are, more often than not, always making money for someone else. And that means (in too many work situations today) constantly having to do more with less, and to generate units of productivity, as well as being micromanaged by someone who may not know as much as you yourself. (many therapists have been driven out of their respective fields as well) Thankfully I DON’T have that situation now, but I have lived through those days and will do my best NOT to repeat. My point to this---I think that as a personal trainer, the profession is aiming in the right direction. Overall big picture, it will ALWAYS be easier and cheaper to teach people to stay healthy rather than to try to fix an existing problem or condition. Most therapists I know, as well as MDs, learn a ton about sickness and pathology, and very little if anything of what a healthy body and mind should look like at any given age. The current healthcare system is very problem based. Teaching people to be less dependent on this system, ie: taking better care of themselves, will be the only way to change the system to one that values/reimburses for prevention and wellness as much as physical rehab.

Brent Brookbush, February 26 at 8:10pm: Thanks for explaining your point Jon and thanks for giving us a PT/OT's perspective Rene. Much Appreciated :-)

Matthew Bleistein, February 26 at 9:08pm: science overcoming "gym science"

Brent Brookbush, February 26 at 9:10pm: Precisely Matt… Good to see you involved in the discussions again

Matthew Bleistein, February 26 at 9:13pm: it’s been a rough year. I’m just glad there are more people like you penetrating the cloud of BS. Seems like you’ve built a following.

Brent Brookbush, February 26 at 9:19pm: I will always do what I can to help. My website is nearing completion (B2CFitness.com). Once that happens we will be able to host discussions and save them. I will summarize each discussion and make them available for new viewers. As the following grows and time passes we can return to some of our discussions. Eventually we should build quite a resource. The website will also include articles, videos, exercise routines, corrective exercise solution tables, etc…. It will be awesome.

Larry Husted, February 26 at 9:29pm: So many great points made so far, here's my 2 cents;

I think the turnover is high primarily because people misunderstand how to build and enrich relationships. With the external chaos we are all exposed to (Social Networking, FB, twitter, text messaging, etc.), the human element of our industry is becoming increasingly numb. Add in the fact that most employers train and develop CPTs to affect bottom line numbers only and you have a pretty good recipe for disconnect and a lack of value. Now, imagine starting a career with high hopes, being sold on the prestige and earning potential the proposed career will bring you and then never being taught the basic fundamentals which the career is built on. The dream job becomes disappointing the first month, delusional the second month and irrational the third. So you quit and try to find work at Starbucks, Home Depot or UPS…

Brent Brookbush, February 26 at 9:34pm: Hey Larry,

With all of your experience as both an NASM Instructor and Owner of Anytime Fitness…. What solutions have you implemented in your training and hiring, and what has had the biggest impact?

Scott Pullen, February 27 at 1:03pm: Late to the party, sorry. Several factors are at work I believe:

1. The " I like to work out/look good so I would be a good trainer". An offshoot is the " I make my clients sore/throw up so Im a good trainer". This portion helps contribute to the lowly view of trainers

2. Lack of training and guidance for new employees- no one falls out of the box an expert, experienced trainer. It is a constant learning process. I believe it is on all of our shoulders to be mentors and teachers when possible. Someone inspired and taught us when we were new to this, so keep the cycle going. Many of the big "sales" gyms do have their purpose…they offer lots of education and skills building essential for long term success

3. Lack of education and the internal drive and understanding to NEED it- I cannot recall how many times young, inexperienced, part-time trainers have complained about coming to a workshop I give because they thought they knew it all already. And while I'm at it, just because you have a degree in nutrition or Ex Science doesn't make you a skilled trainer. These are a foundation with which to make it mean something with experience. This also contributes to the poor view many have of trainers.

4. You have to WORK and understand how to convert opportunities into clients. In essence- salesmanship helps. The people that get uppity at learning salesmanship? They are the ones that leave the biz. You CANNOT be a good salesman without being a good listener. To me, salesmanship means ensuring that someone with a problem gets the appropriate, best solution. We deal with people that are scared, downtrodden, embarrassed, etc. Skillful communication will enable you to get past the barriers to effectively help someone.

Brent Brookbush, February 27 at 2:55pm: Great points Scott,

There is definitely an overtone in your post that relates to attitudes. Attitudes on both ends of the equation, personal trainers and employers, need an update. The skills and abilities required to be an elite practitioner, also require a significant amount of education… of course, if you allow your ego to trump the pursuit of education this is not going to happen. The fault of the employer has been an inability to realize that the bottom line will grow when the employee is enabled and growth is promoted. This is a far cry from dictating and authoritarian leadership. Further, the bottom line must be viewed as the result of enabling employees to be fulfilled and pursue the skills associated with best practice and their own motivations. Lots to consider in this equation.

Jonathon S., February 27 at 4:17pm: What do you think is the main thing, Brent?

Christopher Szefler, February 27 at 7:43pm: Looks like a great discussion going on and im sorry i didn't read all of the posts but i wanted to ask a question:

What is the point of getting an advanced degree in the fitness industry? And how does that equate to more money? What degree should i get that will help me make more money in the fitness industry?

I graduated with a degree in Chemistry and moved to fitness because I feel that's where my passion lies. I had to start from scratch when it came to functional training because all I knew of fitness was contained in Arnold's Encyclopedia. I've come a long way since then and wanted to take a step farther and get some kind of advanced degree but I have no idea which direction to go, and quite honestly I'm beginning to think it’s not worth the money i spend because the payout afterward doesn't change.

I started looking into schools like the Univ. of Pitt with an MS in Health and Wellness, the PHD exerc phys program, and I kept coming out with the same question: where does this get me once I leave school? PHD programs seem to lead toward only two endings: research or teaching. The MS programs seem like bullshit because you don’t get any professional credentials, and no certifications, except for the letters MS next to your name. Then when you get out of school, what do you do? You go right back to the gym working as a trainer for the same pay. Nothing's changed. So wasting all of that money to go to school in the first place doesn't make sense.

What are your options as a trainer to make more money? 1. you stay at the gym you are working, try to pick up more clients and work longer hours 2. you open a gym for yourself or train privately/semi-privately which will hopefully lead to more income. 3. you change occupations and get a salary job.

SO then, what is the point of an advanced degree? everything that we need in fitness industry is all ready out there- go to perform better summits, read about what the top authorities in fitness say to do and you can be a competent trainer (hopefully). It doesn't take a degree to be a good trainer, and it certainly doesn't take a good trainer to make money.

Rick Richey, February 27 at 8:42pm: I would like to post based on a discussion that my class had in an undergrad psych course. Motivation was driven by 1 (or more) of 3 characteristics. 1. Money 2. Power 3. Prestige. It is possible to have Money without the other two. For instance, Plumbers can make pretty good money, but it is not considered a prestigious job or powerful. Power (and money) can come in the form of a mob boss, but again - no prestige. A college professor may come with prestige, but limited in money and/or power. So how does this relate to PERSONAL TRAINING? I have no idea…

But, does our industry come across as a powerful, prestigious, or financially viable option. Obviously not to everyone. I have noticed that individuals that make money in this industry tend to stay in it. I have noticed that educators in this industry tend to stay in it, regardless of making the big bucks. I have noticed that people that have had power via successful sporting, lifting, body building accomplishments of the past often hold on to training - not always with the money or prestige they may have had in the past.

I also believe that trainers think that once they get certified or get a job they will immediately have work. As the folks on this discussion know - that is not the case. It takes work. Sales, Marketing, Social Skills, Quality Work, Networking, Follow Up, Progress, Expectation Management, Client Development, etc. Many of these things are done by successful trainers, often without them even thinking about it.

Finally, education. Very few people have a formal education, hence leading to a casual employment by those in the field.

Mikal Payne, February 28 at 6:00am: ‎"I saw this exercise on TV" compete with that… or the people who think just walking in to a gym and the weight should fall off, well you didn't get this way over night it's gonna take some work. “Work”… OMG 4 letter word, it's descrying to say the least.

Matthew Bleistein, February 28 at 11:26am: One of the biggest things I emphasize with clients is to first try drinking at least a gallon of water a day to not only stay hydrated and optimize performance but also to trigger the release of water stores in the body, and that if they're going to buy any fitness equipment, all they need is a heart rate monitor and I follow up by educating them on the stages of energy expenditure and how only a few bpm can change how your body burns fuel aka calories. I'm sure Brent has a much more sophisticated way of putting this though but there is my .019 cents

© 2014 Brent Brookbush

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