Burnout Among Personal Trainers is High – How to Evaluate & Avoid

Burnout among personal trainers is up. Are you at risk? This post shares a new study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.

I’ve written for the fitness industry for over 20 years in places like Fitness Management, IDEA Health & Fitness Professionals, and NSCA’s Strength & Conditioning Journal.

Full Time?

Today, or pre-pandemic, more trainers are employed full time. Many trainers are at risk for job-related addiction which often goes undetected and because of that is promoted. Consider it yourself, what’s the stereotypical trainer like for you?

  • Chicken and broccoli daily
  • Protein shakes
  • Lululemons
  • Always exercising and eating perfectly
  • Never misses a workout
  • Often puts clients ahead of family or friends
  • Allows clients to dictate work schedule.

Sound familiar?

Reasons for Burnout Among Personal Trainers

Work-related stressors for trainers during the pandemic included:

  • Less access to clients if they were in an in person only service delivery
  • Working 100% on commission for training sessions and or experienced layoffs
  • Need to adopt new training services and delivery options for multiple revenue streams without the education, experience, or skills to execute quickly
  • Inability or unwillingness to pivot quickly to adapt to the new and unique problems people faced during the pandemic and
  • need for new marketing strategies that reached them

Those stressors likely spilled over burnout among personal trainers personal lives. Financial burden and new home life changes affected all of us. Home became work, gym, leisure time, and school for all of us and limited our additional sources of social support.

Starting Your Own Business? Surround Yourself with Support

In times when you may or may not be able or choose to gather in person, I hope that these suggestions will help you. One thing that definitely can, in a time for you may have taken a risk and begun their own business is knowing that while many suffered losses during the pandemic, for others in fitness 2020 has seen a huge growth. It’s for those willing to remember that where there is a problem and a solution, there is always a business model.

If instead your burnout comes from work addiction, where you’re a trainer who finds herself (or himself) constantly seeking. If you’re always reading, watching, taking courses, in addition to doing your own fitness workouts, seeking the best nutritional advice, and never breaking for your personal interests beyond your career vocation. What hobbies outside of fitness did you used to love? What people have you stopped spending time with? What activities do you love and lose track of time doing?

Pre vs Post Covid Results

Within Personal Trainers, 33.0% reported personal burnout, 29.6% reported work-related burnout, and 17.4% reported client-related burnout.

Higher levels of burnout, across all scales, were observed in those who were:

  • PTs
  • women
  • unmarried
  • living alone
  • would not choose to be a fitness professional again
  • took the survey post-COVID [as compared to their respective counterparts]

Findings suggest that fitness professionals are not exempt from the stressors associated with personal and occupational burnout. Strength and conditioning coaches and PTs may reduce the risk of burnout by increasing social support, continuing education, and allowing for personal-care time with the intention of buffering these factors.

Social Support

  • Friends outside the fitness community
  • Fellow trainers and colleagues within the fitness community
  • Mastermind groups – to avoid burnout within personal trainers get support growing your business from people who have done what you want to do or are still doing it is required – no one does it alone

Continuing Education

  • Do it to completion – for many fitness pros the shiny object syndrome means purchasing courses they never finish which can actually increase feelings of burnout and overwhelm
  • Determine the value of con ed based on: 1) what it will do for your revenue and 2) what you’re most interested in and 3) how will it improve the quality of training you provide to your clients
  • Plan your con ed so you’re not forced to take multiple courses at one time, at the end of your recert period when there is pressure

Personal care/Self care

  • Do seek leisure time content beyond your work. Look, most trainers have science books on their nightstand. Find books, movies, and rekindle hobbies you’d forgotten. During the pandemic I personally took up reading “fluffy” novels again instead of heavier science-based content. I read Nicholas Sparks and similar books before bed, a complete diversion from the heavy work and political climate we’re in. Right now I’ll take a predictable happy ending any day.
  • Schedule your breaks so work tasks aren’t an option. I know a fitness owner who goes to mass at noon most days. Find a way to recharge your batteries before they’re dead. Make (even online) dates with friends to complete tasks. You don’t even have to be working on the same thing but knowing that a friend is also focused on a project and you’re touching base again in an hour, keeps you on track.
  • Rethink your workouts. During the pandemic when other areas are cranked up the tough workout you think you need may need to take a backseat to less. Before you hit the wall, consider getting exercise instead of driving yourself to illness. I know a trainer who thinks he’s fit because he runs 10 miles most days. Honestly, he’s sick more than most people I know. That’s not fitness, especially not in this climate.

Modify for the Times

I’m an 8-time Ironman. I’ve been swimming for 30 minutes a few times a week and doing a 30-minute weight training session a couple of times a week along with a lot of walking. Train for the energy you need instead of training as if you’re not in a pandemic, don’t have stress. For women especially, less is more if you want to avoid hormonal disruption that actually leads to sleep issues, and weight gain.

Burnout Among Personal Trainers

Burnout among personal trainers is up and job satisfaction is down the greater number of hours you work or perceive you work even if you’re not earning money. This is a pivotal time in history and in fitness. You have a unique and never to be experienced again opportunity. The pandemic has created additional problems that require solutions for those who are willing to go beyond just providing online classes and training via Skype and Zoom. Are you ready to create multiple sources of revenue? Be somewhere else and still be providing value and earning revenue. Click here for details.


Snarr, Ronald L.1; Beasley, Vista L.2 Personal, Work-, and Client-Related Burnout Within Strength and Conditioning Coaches and Personal Trainers, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: January 22, 2021 – Volume Publish Ahead of Print – Issue –


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