As a personal trainer, you’re expected to have your ducks in order when it comes to your exercise and eating habits.
You’re the person whom people turn to for help getting into exercise, creating good habits and general lifestyle improvement.
So, when suddenly you, the trainer, start struggling to fit your own training in and you find that you’re often swapping a workout for sleep, more work or Netflix, it can be something that starts to make you question your entire worth as a PT.
“How can I possibly help people if I can’t even motivate myself to exercise?”
“What kind of personal trainer struggles to exercise?!”
Firstly, I’m writing this to tell you that going through phases as a personal trainer where you just can’t be bothered with your own workouts is super normal. Consider for one second the thing your clients pay you for? To help them commit to regular exercise because they struggle themselves? Oh yeah, the same thing you’re struggling with.
You’re still a human who struggles with the same things your clients do.
Being the trainer who is or has struggled with staying consistent with their training can be used when coaching clients. There is room for building greater levels of empathy with the clients who cancel, don’t turn up or tell you they just can’t be bothered at the moment. One of the ways we can help clients overcome that resistance is to have someone who can relate and who helps them create a plan so that this doesn’t affect them negatively – you are no different.
But, I know lots of trainers who never struggle with this – what about them?
They will go through phases. Nobody likes something like exercise all the time.
Having periods where you just can’t be bothered with training is as normal as hamstring DOMS the day after doing stiff leg deadlifts.
You’re a human and most humans struggle with exercise consistency, procrastination, having broccoli instead of ice-cream, self-doubt, wasting time on social media and a whole host of other normal human-y things.
OK, so, now you know it’s normal and that many personal trainers have times where they find exercise a chore, let’s move on to some suggestions for how we can combat this.
1) Get a Coach
I’ve done this with three different coaches since starting as a trainer 7 years ago. Each coach has helped me get out of a rut and back into some form of regularity with my own training. Each one has also given me a priceless perspective on what it’s like being coached.
It’s funny to think what we’re asking our clients to buy into but we won’t buy ourselves.
Getting a coach can help in many ways including accountability, a different style/ type of training and someone to talk through your challenges with your current exercise regime.
Consider asking someone you trust, doing some research or asking in a group like Lift The Bar (only accessible if you are a member). There are lots of fantastic ones out there.
2) Change Your Training Environment
Most trainers train in the environment they work in. Although this may sound like it would make sense, one of the challenges that come from this is that your training easily becomes your work. You end up chatting to members or finding that your want to train drops drastically as your training environment becomes the place you associate with your work.
Try signing up for a gym membership at another facility or if you work in a private gym, try signing up to a commercial gym or a gym that isn’t anything like yours.
3) Set a New Goal
Sometimes, our training, just like our career, gets stale because we have nothing to work towards. Having no goal can be ok, but even setting something simple like a faster 5K time, a number of bodyweight of pullups/pushups, a weight or rep target on a big movement or something like a handstand can give you the impetus to get back to your training.
Try giving yourself something new and exciting to work towards.
4) Change Your Training Modality
I’ve gone through phases of focusing on weights, gymnastics, boxing, running, jujitsu and obstacle course racing. Each one has given me something new to try and get better at.
Try changing up how you get your exercise in. You never know, you might find a form that you didn’t even know you enjoyed that becomes a new love.
5) Plan It In
Do you know how you never miss the personal training sessions you’ve got booked in with your clients? I think you can learn off of this by doing the same thing with your training sessions.
Book them in and make them non-negotiable.
This won’t be perfect and you’ll have to figure out when you’re most likely to stick to it. I know that if I put my training in after 5pm there’s a very good chance I just won’t do it. Before 12 pm seems to be ideal for me.
6) Park And Bus Bench Workouts
In his book Intervention, Dan John says that you have two types of workouts: park and bus bench.
Bus bench workouts are where you’re going somewhere. You’ve got a goal in mind, a place to work towards, a focus.
Park bench workouts are where you aren’t going anywhere in particular. You’re taking time to get some perspective. You’re doing what feels good to you when you exercise without any real plan. Maybe you’re trying one or two new things.
Dan applies this to workouts, but I think we can also apply it to phases of training. Phases where you aren’t going anywhere in particular and where you’ve not got a focus or a place to go, your training just is what it is.
You can go on the bus bench whenever you want but there are going to be times in life where you simply will not have as much time or energy to invest in your exercise regime. Considering spending more time on the park bench during these times may help take some of the pressure off.
Some of the most enjoyable phases of consistent exercise have come when I’ve been in a sports team or trained consistently with a friend.
There is something about having other people who are there to pick you up when you’re down, remind you not to take life too seriously and to provide that extra bit of motivation that we sometimes need.
Some suggestions for finding a community are:
– Join another gym that has a community
– Join a running or walking group
– Take part in classes
– Try a new sport like rock-climbing, a martial art or obstacle course racing
– Ask a friend or colleague if they want to start doing a few sessions a week together
8) Just Do Something
I’ve no doubt you’ve heard that starting is the hardest part. Heck, you’ve probably said that to your client’s hundreds of times, but it is true. Often, we create this picture in our heads of how miserable it’s going to be do something and then we get started and it really isn’t that bad.
Don’t feel like you have to do a perfect workout – just show up and move.
Maybe you do 3 sets of curls in a superset with pushdowns, get a pump on and then leave.
Maybe you do 20mins of spin or a 15-minute circuit and decide that’s enough.
Or you only do your favourite exercises for a few sessions.
Or you tell yourself you can watch an episode of your favourite Netflix show but only if you’re on a bike.
That might be enough to tick the exercise box, get some endorphins flowing and keep exercise from becoming something that never happens to something you still have some form of consistency with.
Trainers all too often beat themselves up when one of the things that got them into the industry starts to become a real challenge to do. Most PTs go through phases of disliking exercise and there are things you can do to pull yourself out and recalibrate. Going easy on yourself, setting a new goal, getting a coach and being strict with your time management are all strategies that will help. Next time you get caught in thinking you’re a failure when you’re struggling to stay consistent with your training, try to remember it’s a common challenge that many trainers face and that there are ways out.
Learn More About LTB
Are you struggling with your own training? Joining a community of like-minded personal trainers who are in a similar situation may help you get some motivation back! You can sign up for our 2-week free trial here.