A Personal Trainer's Guide to Surviving a Pandemic

Apr 10, 2020

By Tim Saye

It would be easy and all too understandable to see the COVID-19 pandemic as a disaster for personal trainers. 

With gyms closed, and most of our clients furloughed at home, you could be forgiven for thinking that your business had been stopped. Particularly with celebrity trainers providing free workouts on YouTube or Instagram every day. You may feel that your personal training business has been taken away from you by unforeseeable circumstances beyond your control. 

But before you give in to the lure of Netflix, let's take a look at what we can do today to strengthen your fitness business and allow you to thrive. Let's have a plan in place for the long term, once the quarantine period is over and for when life will get back to normality.


The one thing most of us have now is more time than usual. If you're a parent with children at home, that sentence might feel like a joke. But we're not leaving the house to go to the gym at least, so we all have that time.

This could be a brilliant opportunity to improve your coaching skills for when the gyms re-open. Taking some high-quality courses, such as those at the PT Distinction University, the lessons and resources at the Institute of Personal Trainers or Lift The Bar, could give you a chance to come back to the gym armed with a new set of skills for your clients. You can also finish off some of the long-overdue qualifications you didn't have time to do. It can also allow you to study something that you haven't experienced before.

Or spending time each day reading, for which we often don't make time. You probably have books on your shelves which have been gathering dust. If you're looking to get into reading for the first time in a while, you might consider Kindle Unlimited - a subscription service to digital e-books which are instantly delivered to your device. If you don't have a Kindle, you can use this service on a laptop, phone or tablet with their free app.

If reading isn't your thing, but you'd still like to learn, or be told stories - Audible could be a great alternative. Using this service, you listen to audiobooks, which means you can "read" while doing other things - like exercising, cleaning or walking. 


Being on lockdown can also be a great time to get organised about content creation on your website and your social media. This content will keep you "top of mind" for your prospects, some of whom have more time than ever at the moment to sit and scroll - consuming content on social media. 

You might want to consider posting to a schedule, where you identify the topics that your target audience cares about showing up on your social media channel every day to tackle each of these topics. If you're unsure what sort of subjects your audience is interested in, use this time to get to know them better. Interact with them - social media is designed to be social!

All the content you create at this time can be used in your marketing. Even if you produce a lot now, and don't use it all - it will come in useful in the future. You don't have to "be everywhere" - pick one or two platforms that you like and that your target audience uses. You can focus on getting good at them after you've mastered being consistent at them.

Caring for Others

Our job as personal trainers and coaches is to consistently show up for our clients, bringing positive energy into their day. That hasn't changed, only the way we deliver it. 

In an ideal world, you will continue to be serving your clients' needs through online training. Staying healthy and accountable will be important at the moment for clients, especially those who use training as an outlet for stress. Delivering this support need not be time-consuming or complicated and as a rule, clients will adapt quite well to being led into online training as the solution for gym closures. Tell them this is how you're delivering your service and to leave everything to you.

Put aside time every day to message your clients at the very least. Text messages, video notes, phone calls, and emails are all appreciated. If you want to put a bit more time and effort into it, arranging group Zoom meetings are a fun way to catch up - and you can get creative with these. 

At the moment, people need to socialise as much as they need exercise, so don't be afraid to offer both. Your clients will appreciate it.

Caring for Yourself

We can sometimes neglect to look after ourselves, even when the gyms are open as usual. Looking after your own health can sometimes be an afterthought as we are so busy taking care of other people.

Trying to maintain some routine will be useful for most people's mental health. That doesn't have to be the typical "up at "5 am type routine you'd usually have, but taking time to design a new normal for yourself will give you a sense of control over your day.

While we're permitted to exercise outdoors, take the time to go for a walk every day. Put it in your calendar and enjoy it with the people you live with - especially if you live somewhere pretty. Take photographs and make memories together. These circumstances can't be changed, but we can try to make the best of them.

Continue to work and serve your clients. If you haven't already transitioned online, providing your in-person clients with excellent quality online training during this time will support both you and them. Some clients may even prefer this way of training for their lifestyle and may choose to keep online, or a hybrid version of training after gyms re-open. 

Maintaining a sleep schedule, as far as you can, will help to stabilise your energy levels throughout the day. Sleep in a dark, cold room and go to bed at a similar time each night. This takes some discipline, particularly when you don't "have to be up" in the morning.

While these suggestions are intended as a best-case scenario, it's worth remembering that your circumstances have changed dramatically, too, not just your clients' circumstances. You may need to take some time to process what's going on, and maybe you'll even speak to people about the adjustments you have to make. Remember that it's normal to have fluctuations in your mood - particularly at a time like this. It may be that we all have to manage our expectations of ourselves at the moment and be kind to ourselves.