From the Desk of Kyle Cavnar

Disclaimer: this article may result in hurt feelings, crushed dreams, and a shift in expectations and perspective. It may also be exactly what you need if you’re considering a career as a personal trainer.

Personal training sounds like a great idea for your next career, doesn’t it? You get to wear workout clothes all day. You can set your own schedule. The gym is your job!

It sounds too good to be true – and for some people, it is.

The hard truth is that becoming a personal trainer is a unique and challenging experience that can be a blessing for some and an absolute disaster for others. But the world needs great trainers – a lot of them – right now. The good news is that if you have the right mindset and motivation, you could find yourself working in a growing field with a nearly unlimited pool of clients. I’ve been working in gyms for 16 years. I learned a lot during that journey, and I want to share my experiences with you, so that you can make an informed decision and know what to do (and just as importantly, what NOT to do).

“So who the f*ck is Kyle Cavnar and what does he know about personal training?”

That’s a great question. I can’t expect you to take my advice if you don’t know my qualifications.

At 32 years old, I’ve been training nearly half my life now. I’m not an old man yet (at least that’s what I’m telling myself) but I’ve logged more hours in the gym than most 20-somethings have logged on twitter, and that’s no small feat. I’ve built an extensive list loyal and dependable clients in Dallas and its northern suburbs, one of the fastest-growing communities in the country.

I wanted to lead by example and help as many people as I could. I was a stubborn young guy, and when I set that goal for myself I didn’t let anyone tell me I couldn’t achieve it. After years of grinding I finally found success and stability – 7 years, 8 gyms, 3 cities, and plenty of mishaps later. On August 25th, 2010, I had a chat with …destination Dallas founder Greg McCoy, and that one conversation changed the course of my life. The rest is history. If you’re looking at following in my footsteps and entering the world of personal training, here are a few questions you need to ask yourself, as well as some insight I’ve picked up over the years.

Is this the right job for you?

Let’s address the elephant in the room first: is personal training even close to the right career path for you? This may be a bit blunt, but not everyone is cut out for this job – and that’s okay. Too many trainers and fitness celebrities preach that anyone can do what they do.

That’s bullshit.

Anyone can get in great shape, but it takes something extra to be a trainer. Save yourself some frustration and honestly answer the following:

Do you like the idea of training because it sounds like an easy career?

If you said yes, stop reading now. This isn’t the business for you. If you said “Hell no!” then you’re in the right place – but you still have a long road ahead. 

Are you a former competitor or Instagram celebrity that wants to use their fame to build a client base?

Yes? Get over yourself. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have, this business isn’t about your ego. It’s about helping people grow to be the best they can possibly be. No? That’s great! But caring about your clients and understanding their struggles won’t be enough to help you turn this into a career. Keep reading.

Have you ever been totally reliant on your own skills to make a living?

Yes? FANTASTIC. You’re a step ahead already because you understand the hustle of building a network, making a name for yourself, and staying ahead of the game. If not, you better on top of things quickly. If you can’t stay on top of leads and turn prospects into clients, you’ll fail in this business. You’re not just a trainer – you’re a salesman, too.

Do you want to get rich as a personal trainer?

It’s not a trick question. Wanting to make a lot of money isn’t a bad thing as far as motivation goes, but it comes with an important warning label: NEVER put profit ahead of your clients. Integrity is key, and if you don’t walk into every training session with the goal of making your client better, you’re what’s wrong with this business. If you’re not in it for the money, that’s great too – but remember that this is your career, and money does matter. Be prepared to spend time networking and growing your client base, and your hard work will turn into success.

Are you here to meet hot girls (or guys)?

If you said yes, then get the hell out of here. Go back to college, download a dating app, just stay out of the gym. When you work as a personal trainer, there’s no room for those kinds of distractions – you’re there to help people be the best possible version of themselves, not to creep. Of course, there’s always the chance that you could meet someone special – the gym is actually a good place for that – but it should never be your reason for being there.

In summary, you need to be hungry, professional, and truly invested in your clients and your integrity to be a personal trainer. If money, sex, and your own ego are your priorities, then you can find another job; I can’t help you.

Don’t Make These Mistakes

I f*cked up a lot when I was trying to build up my business. Emphasis on A LOT.  Learn from my mistakes and save yourself years of frustration.

There’s no grey area. Understand that you’re all in or all out.

You’re not part-time or full-time. There’s no such thing as overtime. In order to be the best and live comfortably, you need to prepare to work 12-14 hours a day, nearly every day. You need to be mentally present 24/7, even when clients quit or don’t show up. If you want to turn this into a job that takes care of your financial future, there aren’t many days off.

Don’t mistake this career for a get-rich-quick scheme.

There’s great money in this field, and there are plenty of trainers that make six figures annually. However. it will take a few years to build a steady flow of loyal clients who will consistently train with you. Even then, life happens, and clients may have completely legitimate reasons for not sticking around. Never become complacent, and don’t expect the good money to last if you don’t spend 20% of your time seeking new business.

Keep track of your income and document everything.

Protect yourself! Fitness is a high-risk business, and even in the safest environments a single screw-up can ruin you. Make sure all of your certifications are up to date and flawlessly documented. If you’re an independent trainer, familiarize yourself with QuickBooks or a similar software to track your business. Find a great accountant who specializes in small business and self-employment – if possible, one that works with other trainers in your area! Lastly, make sure you fully read and agree to the terms in your contract with a gym. NEVER put your signature on a form if you don’t know every detail of what it says.

Tips and Insights

Never be complacent.

Even if you get your workflow in order, with money coming in and a healthy client base, never stop working. This is the ideal time to grow even more and build your network! Personal training is an incredible launch platform to provide other services or products. Get creative. What else can a trainer offer? Write training eBooks, produce video content, be active on social media, hold seminars with or without guest speakers, host challenges and webinars with live Q and A, or hold small group training sessions throughout the week that are open to anyone. You can also continue your education and specialize in certain fields like weight loss or bodybuilding. There are unlimited options, so never let yourself stop moving.

Find the right gym.

I’ve experienced the pressure of poor management. The nerves of having to close a deal just to meet a monthly quota. The letdown of clients bailing after one session. The cancellations, the no shows, the people who doubt your experience and question your instruction. The frustration of setting realistic goals for clients and managers that have unrealistic expectations. At times, personal training can be one of the most frustrating careers out there. Fortunately, finding a great gym with a healthy culture can solve a lot of these problems.

If your plan is to be an independent trainer, don’t start at a big fitness center with plans of eventually going independent and taking all your clients. Find the smaller, niche gym you’d like to train at and start working there. You might not start training immediately – you could work customer service or man the front desk. Get face time with members and other trainers and build those relationships as soon as possible. Learn from the trainers who are already where you want to be.

Understand you might have to start from ground zero. You may need to offer free training sessions before you get a few people to sign up. You’ll need to check your ego at the door and accept that it takes a while to build a client base. ALWAYS stay positive, no matter what. If business is slow or people are cancelling on you, don’t complain about it to your clients; they don’t want to hear it. They’re paying you to kick their ass, not to hear you complain.

Don’t tolerate drama.

Don’t be a drama queen, and don’t work with one either. Asshole owners, diva trainers and flaky clients are all common obstacles to your success. Refuse to let them stand in your way. Find a great gym and put in the work. By focusing on your own health and motivations, you’ll attract like-minded people. With enough hard work and a true trainer’s philosophy, success will come in time.

I sincerely hope that you’ve learned something from this piece. If you made it all the way to the end and still think personal training is the right career path for you, then by all means reach out to the community here at …destination. There’s no better time to start then now.