How Personal Trainers are Being Overworked and Underpaid by Fitness Chains

Lots of pain, but very little gain—is this what you’re feeling like a personal trainer (PT) working at a fitness chain?

You probably got into the field because you’re passionate about fitness and you want to help people find their best “self.”

But PT jobs at large gyms have largely turned into sales positions. “I walked into Bally with zero certification and got a job,” says Elizabeth, a personal trainer who worked for Bally. There was no emphasis whatsoever on skill—the more clients you brought in, the more money you brought in. It’s a hustle.” As with Elizabeth, we consistently hear from trainers that they feel more like salespeople or gym assistants than fitness professionals.

In addition to selling sessions, there’s a lot of other non-training work involved with being a PT, like talking up promos to members, customizing workouts for clients, restocking weights, and cleaning up (“prep work”). Sometimes you’re even required to come in early or stay late for these chores or to put on your mandatory training gear.

At the end of the day, most of these tasks just benefit the gym – not you. Many fitness centers—like the ones listed below—charge at least $65 per training session but the trainer only receives $25:

  • Planet Fitness
  • Gold’s Gym
  • LA Fitness
  • 24 Hour Fitness
  • Bally Total Fitness
  • Equinox
  • Orange Theory
  • Chuze
  • CrossFit

So, while fitness centers are part of a multi-billion dollar industry, many contracted PT’s in California are being paid less than half of what the client pays for each session, and do not receive any compensation for prep work.

When you break down what you’re actually taking home per hour, most PT’s make around minimum wage. The true rate may be even lower when you add in things like certifications, creating playlists for classes, and teaching the classes themselves – things you’re expected to do on your own time, but that really just benefit the gym. All of these duties eat into the time you could be spending with a client, but you aren’t getting paid for them, and may also even be shelling out your own money to advance your credentials.

Do you spend half of your time making sales pitches to members or cleaning up at the gym, restocking dumbbells, and putting bozu balls back on the racks?

Chances are, you didn’t sign up to be a salesperson. If you got your certification to become a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), your goal was to help people get into shape! Now you’re fighting for hours and training assignments with trainers in the same boat as you; some of them aren’t even certified.

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