Personal trainers, especially at the start of their career, are at a high risk of burning out because they have so many things to juggle at the same time. Seasoned trainers can also experience burnout during periods of higher stress, significant life change like becoming a parent or relocating, or a global crisis like the recent pandemic.
The medical community recognises burnout as not only an emotional reaction to stress but a health risk that can cause severe symptoms for sufferers affecting their cognition, nervous system and can even increase the risk of CVD.
Recognising early on or doing everything you can to prevent it is the best way to avoid hitting the wall. So, let's see how you can make sure you look after your fitness and health as a personal trainer.
#1. Set SMART Business Goals
One of the best ways to create short, mid and long-term goals for your business is to think about what you want your life as a fitness professional to look like in 5 years.
Then write a list of all the milestone goals you need to achieve. Do you need a website? Do you need to complete specific courses? Do you need to invest in software like PT Distinction? Do you need to hire an assistant? You can then work backwards and create weekly, monthly, or even yearly targets.
#2. Work Smart, Not Hard
All personal trainers have experienced what it's like to work split shifts and long days. When you're in the gym at 6 am, train your morning clients, go home to rest or get on with other tasks during the day, and train afternoon and evening clients from after 4 pm till you can last.
That's a sure way to hit the wall, and it doesn't take long if you do it every day. Instead, before starting to take on clients, figure out for yourself what your ideal schedule would look like. If you're not an early bird, ditch the morning shift and start working later. If you like to go to bed early, then do the opposite. Or set out a few days a week where you take a morning or evening off.
#3. Learn to Say No
This advice links to the previous one. You'll have to practice and be comfortable with saying no. Whether it's a new client asking for something you don't do or an old client trying to reschedule to a time that doesn't work for you.
Learn to set and respect your boundaries, say no to requests and potential clients if they don't fit your schedule or experience and focus on those that do.
#4. Connect with Other Trainers
The personal trainer profession can feel lonely, especially if you meet your clients outdoors or have your own studio. Not to mention, most people who aren't self-employed won't understand the challenges. Actively seeking connections with other trainers and experts who might be able to provide you with some support or even ideas is a great way not to feel as lonely.
You can attend conferences, seminars or even networking events and find other trainers you can connect with on a personal level. You might practice your profession in a different niche, but you might find good connections if your approach and values match.
#5. Socialise Outside Your Fitness Bubble
Sometimes every personal trainer needs to feel like they're not someone constantly available for fitness advice or talking about macronutrients, repetitions or exercises. Some days you want to have a good laugh, remember old stories with a friend or have a meal without thinking about its calorie content.
Nurture your friendships and family connections by checking in with your people and organising events where fitness isn't the focus. You will feel the benefits afterwards and be ready to jump back into your work with a newfound enthusiasm.
#6. Find a Hobby That's Got Nothing to Do with Work
Many personal trainers found fitness as a hobby before becoming a trainer, time away from work, family, and other life commitments. It went so well that it eventually became a profession and a career choice.
Once your whole life revolves around the gym, exercises, gym gear, food and more, you need some time away doing other stuff. Doing something completely different from time to time will help you refocus your energies when you return to your clients. You can learn to play a musical instrument, get into crafts, gardening or whatever is close to your interests.
#7. Eat a Balanced Diet
This shouldn't be a point, but it is for an important reason. Many trainers run on hectic schedules, train at odd times, push the limits of their bodies and minds, often eat at random times, rush, and drink too much coffee.
Sometimes you need to evaluate what works and what doesn't and focus on a few fundamental principles of nutrition:
- Eat mostly wholefood
- Include your vegetables and fruits
- Prioritise protein intake
- Keep it varied for gut health
Most trainers know this anyway but sometimes a reminder is useful!
#8. Don't Neglect Your Need for Recovery
As long as you're smart with your schedule and can say no, your recovery shouldn't be affected, but everybody has busier months when there's no time to get everything done.
When you notice you're getting more and more tired, try to find a way to spend some time resting. This might mean swapping one heavy training session for yoga, skipping a fitness event, watching a movie, walking in nature, or just relaxing at home.
#9. Practice Mindfulness
You've probably heard about mindfulness as it's been mentioned everywhere in the past few years, and with good reason. More and more evidence suggest that practising mindfulness-based stress reduction benefits stress levels, anxiety and depression.
Now, you don't have to spend much money on apps or books. YouTube is your friend. There are plenty of videos to help you with that. However, if you understand the principle that mindfulness is about being in the present and noticing how your body and mind are reacting to the present, you can practice it anywhere, anytime.
#10. Hire a Therapist
I don't know about you, but many of my clients downloaded their day or week on me while going through their sessions when I was a personal trainer. It's one of the aspects of working with people 1-on-1 and building a bond. They will share their personal life with you to varying degrees. Sometimes this might mean you carry that person's worries forward.
Add that to your own worries and stress, and it can amplify your feelings of overwhelm and angst. It's only natural that you might want to download your concerns onto someone, but to do it to your clients will remove one of the main reasons they come to see you in the first place. To feel special and the session being about them. Your significant other might only be able to take on so much, so it makes sense to talk to someone whose profession is to help their patients download constructively.