• Chloe Reynolds

Is a fitness career right for me? Pros and cons of the industry

The fitness industry is growing all the time, with 50,000 new people entering the industry between 2011 and 2019. As more fitness facilities open up there will be more work for you as a fitness professional, whether you are a group fitness instructor, PT, physio or health club manager. Like every industry, there are many pros and cons about working in fitness. Certain course providers will try and sell you the dream – “train with us and have unlimited earning potential,” “be earning £50k in 6 months!” and various other taglines to make you buy from them. I would rather give an honest and balanced representation of what your life will look like as a fitness pro and let you make the decision whether it is right for you.

Pros


The biggest draw towards the fitness industry for many, myself included, is the flexibility it provides. You can choose to be in the industry full time or part time, a luxury that isn’t as present in banking or tech industries. As a qualified group fitness instructor, PT or therapist you can choose exactly how many clients or classes you take on and at what times. If you want to earn a bit more money you can simply pick up some more work and fit it around your current lifestyle.


The second major pro of working in the fitness industry is the ability to build your own schedule. I couldn’t think of anything worse than working in an office 9-5 for five days a week. The constantly changing routine from day to day keeps the work exciting and the hours tend to fly by. Each day is different for me and even though I repeat the same routine pretty much every week, the day to day change keeps my brain stimulated, stops things becoming static and allows me to choose work that I want to do. If something is no longer serving me, I can remove it from my schedule.



My third plus point and a big reason why people are drawn to the fitness industry is the ability to do the work you love. If you enjoy training or teaching, how amazing is it to be able to do it all day, every day? Working in an industry that you are passionate about will help motivate you, motivate you to work harder and the passion will keep you going when things get tough.


My fourth pro of working in the fitness industry is the ability to make a difference to people’s lives in a really direct way. Speaking from a personal perspective, I love nothing more than seeing a member of one of my classes or a client achieve their goals, grow in confidence or change their routine and their lifestyle. Someone can be having a really terrible day or in a lot of pain from an injury and you as a fitness professional can actively improve their life. This gives me a real sense of purpose and meaning in my work - the same is difficult to say for some more traditional career options.


My final pro for working in fitness is the massively diverse range of career options available. You can be a personal trainer, teach group fitness classes, teach swimming or athletics, manage a health club, work as a massage therapist or physiotherapist, nutrition coach and many things in between. You also don’t have to pigeon hole yourself into one career option. You can have several different roles in the industry to build your ideal schedule and income. This is harder to do in a full time office job, where you are generally given one department and one set of tasks to complete. The diversity in career choices also allows you to switch your balance of work around if your situation changes.




Cons


On the flip side, a career in the fitness industry will often require long and unsociable hours. Many gyms are open from 6am – 10pm during the week and from 7/8am on weekends. The fitness industry is a 7 day a week industry meaning if you are a PT or group fitness instructor there is the ability to be working every day. You may have clients and classes ranging through all of these hours, depending on where you work. When you are just starting out it will be harder to say no to an opportunity so you may find yourself out of the house from 5:30am until 10pm. As a leisure industry you will generally be at work when everyone else isn’t at work!


Another downside of a fitness career is the physical demands placed on the body. As a group fitness instructor you are expected to join in with a majority or your classes which can take a real toll on the body. As a personal trainer you may be standing up for long periods at a time and lifting weights for clients. We are also expected to speak a lot which can put strain on your voice if you are overusing it. Without proper rest and recovery these physical demands can lead to injury, exhaustion or burnout.



My third downside of working in the fitness industry is the unreliable income stream. Unless you are a full time health club manager, it is likely you will work a different number of hours every month at different rates of pay. This can make it difficult to cash flow, save money and even apply for mortgages. You are reliant on clients booking your services or your classes staying on a timetable. You could have a month where all of your clients go on holiday or lose three classes. If you are the sole breadwinner in your house and have a big mortgage and three kids to feed, the fluidity of the fitness industry might not suit you.


Linked to this is industry pay. At the entry levels, fitness industry pay is fairly low, usually minimum wage for a gym floor employee. Rates for PT and group fitness are much higher per hour, but wages have been fairly stagnant for many years. Whilst many industries will see a percentage increase in wages each year, group fitness instructor pay has been floating around the £25 per session mark for at least 10 years. Whilst the headline rate sounds phenomenal, working 40 hours per week as a group fitness instructor would be near impossible. There is a big movement in the industry at the minute fighting for higher pay for group fitness instructors.



My final downside of a fitness career is self-employment admin! If you have been an employee for your whole working life, you may never have had to submit or prepare a tax return or keep track of your income and expenditure. If you want a bit more info on this subject then keep your eyes peeled for my series about self-employed taxes, pensions and insurance coming soon. Many people don’t realise all the extra legalities you have to go through as a self-employed person. If you are working in fitness alongside a regular 9-5 job then you may need to check with an accountant or financial planner that your additional fitness income won’t take you into a new tax bracket where you end up losing most of the money you have worked hard to earn.


A career in the fitness industry is incredibly rewarding but obviously is not the right choice for everyone. I hope that the honesty of this post gives you a more realistic view about whether the move could be right for you. If this has encouraged you toward a career in fitness, check out the range of courses that we offer to start you on your new career!



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