A few weeks ago I passed my 10th year of being a Certified Personal Trainer. Not only did it make me realize that as much as it feels that time flies by, a lot can change in 10 years. This got me to thinking and reflecting on myself, and my journey as a Personal Trainer in the fitness industry (And yes, this blogs picture is my first as a Personal Trainer… 10 years changes a lot)
I graduated from Red Deer College in 2011 with a CSEP-CPT certificate and Kinesiology Diploma, I decided to jump right in and become a Personal Trainer. At first I lived in my hometown of Whitehorse, Yukon working at a gym as a Personal Trainer/Front Desk Staff, and I’ll tell you I wasn’t doing much Training.
For about 6 months I was trying to find a way to make it a career in my small town, but I found myself primarily training a few friends and the occasional one off client. I spent most my time at the front desk folding towels, and reading body building articles online. Sure, I made a bit of money, but at the time it was just enough to pay for gas in my truck, and beer at the bar. Thankfully, I was living with my Dad at the time (rent-free) so I didn’t really have any other expenses, but I also realized very quickly that I wasn’t going to last long in the industry unless I changed things up.
In the fall of 2011, I accepted a job with a private Personal Training Studio in Red Deer, and permanently said good-bye to being a Yukon resident. In this position my job was simple; they find the people, I train them. No marketing, no sales, just train. When I arrived in Red Deer, I was already training before I even unloaded my truck.
It felt pretty instantaneous but my schedule became loaded right away working a split shift from 8am-1pm and then 4pm-8pm, totaling about 80-95 30-minute sessions per week. There was a great team of people there that helped me get my bearings in this unfamiliar full-time setting, taught me some new techniques, and answered questions when I had them. I became almost like the little brother of the group.
As time went on, and people naturally moved into new endeavors or moved into new chapters of their lives I slowly was given more responsibility to not only train clients, but to also help with new hires. This transitioned into a type of mid-management position known as a Trainer Leader, where it was my role to help each trainer increase their stats, their training ability, and help problem solve. This all occurred about a year and a half into my tenure with the company, things were moving fairly quickly.
So now, not only was I a high-performing trainer maintaining 80-85 appointments per week at a 90% retention rate, but I was also now helping to develop new trainers as they came aboard as well, all while the company was expanding at a rapid rate.
I always found both aspects of the position super rewarding. It was great to see client’s progress towards their goals of losing weight, building muscle, or in athletic performance, but I always found it was the way clients built confidence to be the most rewarding. The way clients viewed themselves, their situations in life/relationships, and just a multitude of different changes was simply amazing from my viewpoint.
The same could be said about the trainers I was able to work with. I won’t lie, I’m not going to blow anyone’s socks off when it comes to anatomy or physiology, but being able to coach clients, build relationships and help people find ways to see the results they want has always been something I’ve been good at. Being able to pass that down to new trainers, and help them develop even more in areas they were struggling with was just as rewarding. Personal training is a high turnover industry, so when people stick around for multiple years it feels pretty good to be part of that process.
As great as the role I had was, I started to feel slightly burnt out in late 2013. I was burning the candle at both edges in work and in my personal life, and felt as if I had hit a ceiling in ways. I would train clients from 8am until 1pm, workout from 1:30pm until 3pm and then I was back on the floor from 4pm until 8pm. Spending 12 hours in the same location tends to drain a person a bit, something I didn’t really think of at the time. This was about to change when in early 2014 it was announced that the company would be expanding to the Edmonton area, and I knew I had to find a way to be part of that venture.
After an interview process I was made General Manager of the new location, just 3 years into my career. It’s something I’ve always been super proud of even to this day as I was just 24 at the time we had opened the facility in October later that year.
It wasn’t an easy transition however. Giving up my clients was one of the hardest things I experienced at the time, especially since many of them had been with me since early in my run at the company 3 years prior. Knowing I’d have to say goodbye to a place that felt like home in Red Deer, with all my friends and people I’ve known since moving to Alberta was equally as difficult (despite having a girlfriend in Edmonton at the time). It was a transition that I look back at as one of the hardest times in my life, but I never truly acknowledged it at that time.
It wasn’t just moving, however, it was a new set of responsibilities, new tasks to do, and a feeling that it was all riding on me to do. I had to learn sales (which I did a bit of in Red Deer), I had to learn to market and network, I had to hire and train staff, I had to call prospective clients, and I had to solve issues on a day-to-day basis that would arise. None of which was what I was accustomed to, and being a stubborn person I never asked for the help that I probably desperately needed at the time.
Hindsight is always 20/20 and there is a lot I wish I could have done differently during that time not only for the business but for myself as well. The business didn’t launch to the success we had hoped for initially and it felt like we were always chasing to make up for that initial launch. It felt like it was always one-step forward two-steps back throughout my time as a manager. It was frustrating in my different ways.
There were big highs and big lows with the position. I learned a lot in a number of different areas during my time as a manager there and I’m thankful for the time I spent in the position. One of the highs I personally had, was becoming a share-holder within the company. Not only did I now manage the place, now I was part of the ownership team as well, I felt like I had hit the highest point in my career at that time.
While in the position I was exclusively in a management role, and I tried to delegate as much of the training duties to the staff as possible. When needed I could always jump on the floor and help out, but for the most part it was just to fill in. Over time though, I ended up taking on a few clients who had bounced around through several trainers and just wanted consistency.
Being back on the floor and working with clients who I knew were going to be mine full-time was a nice reprieve from all the day-to-day tasks I had. It kept me engaged being able to utilize my knowledge base, helped lead by example of the team, but it was just fun and rewarding to see these clients grow and succeed. Plus on a personal side, it felt good to know I still knew what I was talking about. Both clients I had worked with saw such amazing results and I couldn’t have been more proud to work with them and help them get to the point they are today. Again, retrospectively, I wish I had maintained 2-3 clients throughout the time I was managing.
There were some amazing people I was able to work with during that time, and some massive successes not only in seeing results with clients but being able to help give back to the community. I was fortunate to be involved with a number of charitable events including raising over $18,000 for the Little Warriors Foundation in 2020, during a worldwide pandemic, between lock-downs and closures.
Unfortunately I found myself lost a bit after about a year of being a part-owner, and going through the motions. I had hit the ceiling of what I could do with my career, and while I was still trying to help others succeed, I didn’t know where the next big challenge for me was going to come from. After the second gym closure in December of 2020 began, I decided to take the down time to reassess and reestablish what it was I wanted, and where I wanted to go. I had big plans I wanted to shoot for with the company including opening a new location, and new personal challenges for me to diversify my abilities outside of just the fitness realm. I was more motivated, engaged, and ready to push forward as we got back into the gym.
Unfortunately, none of this would come to pass, and early in 2021 I was fired from my role as General Manager, and released from the company I had been with for almost 10 years. After a 10 minute conversation it felt as if my whole world crumbled around me. All my goals, aspirations, and dreams had included my role within the company, and now that was gone. I could speculate why this happened, make excuses, and play the victim here, but in the end the company didn’t see the value in keeping me around, and that’s on me.
It was a surreal event that I never expected happen in a million years, especially so unexpectedly. While options galore ran through my head to see what was next, how I was going to move forward, and how I was going to do it all, I was afraid of what was next. I had never experienced such uncertainty in my life.
After about a month of weighing my options, taking on numerous interviews, and being “single” in the job market again, I finally realized I needed to do what I had been scared of doing for a long time; go off on my own. So in April of 2021, I launched RK Athletics. It started off with a bang, with a number of people reaching out for training sessions and to get back into the gym, however anyone familiar with Edmonton and Alberta can tell you, the timing wasn’t exactly perfect…
Early May, the Alberta government announced yet another closure of gym facilities putting the business on hold temporarily. So that’s where we are now, waiting for gyms to reopen, and the business to get back in gear.
It’s been a wild ride these last 10 years, I never would have predicted that this is where I would have been when I first started in this industry. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, I’ve learned a lot of lessons, and there’s definitely situations I wish I could do a different way but everything I’ve done has gotten me to the point I’m at today. It’s all built the person I am, and I’m proud of that, and excited for the future!
So there you have it, my 10 years in the Fitness Industry summed up in about 1800 words. There is still so much to learn, so much to do, and so much this industry has to offer, so I cannot wait for the next 10 years.
RK Athletics, here to help you live your lift to the fullest
CSEP – Certified Personal Trainer
RK Athletics – https://linktr.ee/RK_Athletics