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How to Avoid Burn-out for Fitness Professionals

The Fitness Industry is notorious for high staff turn-over. Enthusiastic Personal Trainers who burn bright but then quickly extinguish.

But why? Why is this industry so punishing?

First, the warning signs. What are the red flags that perhaps burn-out is on the horizon?

Broadly speaking, there are two classes of actions we can take in business, those that move the needle forward (building, developing and advancing the business) and those that mean we’re just treading water (not actually getting anywhere, but working hard non-the-less).

The problem is, if you’re not moving forward, you’re not standing still – you’re moving backwards. Lack of progress isn’t ‘neutral’, it’s ‘negative’.

The first sign that you’re heading towards burn-out is that you find yourself (or your staff) reducing the behaviours that move you forward. You stop building and growing, and instead, spend you time doing the bare minimum – the things that keep you alive. And by doing the minimum, you start moving backwards.

The second big red flag is avoiding behaviours that are difficult today, but will reward you in the future. “Easy short term choices lead to negative long term consequences, while difficult short term choices lead to positive long term consequences”. If you’re heading towards burn-out, your focus shifts from the long term to the short term. You’d rather avoid hard work today – even if it means you”re ‘kicking the can down the road’ for ‘future you’ to deal with. People who are NOT on the path to burn-out will happily do the hard thing today to earn themselves (and their business) freedom and choice in the future.

So what can we do about burn-out?

The first thing is making sure the work you do actually gives you a feeling of purpose. To determine if your work gives you purpose, ask yourself four questions. If you can answer ‘yes’ to all of these, you have purpose. If you answer ‘no’ to any, you may have to reassess your path.

  1. Do you love what you do?
  2. Does the world need what you do?
  3. Are you great at what you do?
  4. Do you earn good money (or have the potential to earn good money) from what you do?

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to all four, we can move on to your mission, and the direction in which you’re heading.

You should have ONE overriding mission, but you should have multiple paths leading to that mission. At Range of Motion, our mission is to “Build happiness, health, fitness and performance for individuals, communities and generations”. One mission. But there are multiple paths leading to that, exercise, nutrition, educational content, corporate speaking etc. One mission gives you focus, multiple paths give you variety and novelty – important for the mind. Einstein said ‘Creativity is intelligence having fun’. Make sure there’s room for creativity.

It’s also important to have a long term plan. The strategies that give you success in the short term, and not the same ones that can build you a long term successful and fulfilling business.

The reason the Fitness Industry has such high drop off rates is that once the short term strategies have failed, Fitness Professionals lack the patience to implement (and wait out) long term strategies. So they leave the industry.

A long term plan, with long term strategies will deliver long term results. We talk about long term strategies for success in “Client Acquisition for PTs – The Inconvenient Truth“.

Of course, aside from the purpose, direction, mission and plan that your business has, there are a few things you need to consider at a more ‘individual’ level.

The first big factor is self-awareness. So many of us are completely out of tune with how our environment impacts our mind (our mood, emotions and state) and how our mind impacts our actions. Have the foresight and self-awareness that there WILL be ups and downs. There will be troughs, but that they will be followed by peaks. The issue a lot of Fitness Professionals face is that quit in the first trough. Never make a big decision on a bad day. Research in to flow states tells us that the stage preceding flow is ‘struggle’ – so not only will a tough end, but it will often be followed by the highest period of success. Unfortunately too few people ride out the waves to achieve this success.

When things are going badly, remember they will get better. Give yourself permission to have a bad hour/day/week/month. By the same token, when things are going well, expect them to get worse. If they don’t, it’s a pleasant surprise. If they do, you’ll be ready.

Be resilient. Things will go wrong. expect and be ok with that. People burn out because of short-term hardship. People succeed because they overcome short term hardship.

And of course, take the advice you’d give to your clients – walk the walk.

Exercise.

Sleep.

Eat well.

Fitness Professionals too often make the mistake of letting their health and fitness slide when they’re going in to ’empire building’, ‘hustle’ mode.

It doesn’t work. Look after your body and your mind.

The Fitness Industry may be notorious in its’ chewing up and spitting out of Fitness Professionals. But with an awareness of the warning signs, and some good strategies to overcome them, you can push through the struggle and maximise your success.

Dan Williams

Dan Williams

Founder/Director

Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology. He has worked with many thousands of individuals along the full spectrum of health, and has coached at The CrossFit Games. He regularly presents to corporate and fitness industry groups and mentors Fitness Professionals.