Last week Future Fit won ‘Innovative Training Programme of the Year’ at the ukactive Active Training Awards, an accolade we are immensely proud of. After posing for photographs and splashing our achievement across social media, it got me thinking about the ways our industry defines success.

Whilst it’s fantastic to receive recognition for what you do, clearly as a training provider we don’t exist with the sole aim of winning awards and trophies – if anything these are reward for success. There’s a parallel with music business awards such as the BRITs – I can’t imagine many world-famous bands are fixated on winning the ‘best album’ title and give that more significance than playing to 50,000 people in stadiums and arenas. 

So what about personal trainers? How do we measure success? This is a question I often ask fitness professionals and the answers are both varied and insightful. On the face if it, it may seem like an easy question; but it will very much depend on your own perception of what success is, and that in turn is closely tied to your personal goals.

Let’s have a look at some common markers – which would you focus on?:

Number of sessions

Being fully booked may be your aim. ‘25 sessions a week’ seems to be a common target for a lot of gym-based trainers, although many do far more. The classic model for most one-to-one trainers is to have perhaps 15-20 clients at any one time who have 1-3 sessions per week. However I once worked with a trainer who had around 60 clients and saw each once a month. Either option can deliver the same level of income but the point is that enough people value your services to keep you busy, which indicates you are doing something right.

Digging a little deeper, we could ask how you become fully booked in the first place. Is a successful personal trainer one who is exceptional at marketing and sales? Undoubtedly this is an important set of skills to have – it’s the entrepreneur mindset that’s necessary for self-employed trainers to build their business, but is this enough?

Income

I know of a trainer who was ‘fully booked’ within 3 months of starting at his gym. He gave up PT 3 months later as he wasn’t making any money. Why not? He’d started with a ‘2 for 1’ offer which proved very popular, to the point where he felt he had to continue it to retain his clients. So whilst he was doing 30 sessions a week, he was only earning £12.50 a session, something that wasn’t sustainable financially. So the number of appointments you have may not be the key statistic when it comes to being successful. With higher fees you can do far fewer sessions and still make good money. There are top PTs in the UK charging the equivalent of £200 a session and more. So if you’re making a small (or large) fortune from your PT business, does that mean success?

Loyalty

Many trainers will tell stories of clients that have worked with them for 10 years or more. Having loyal clients clearly demonstrates some level of success in terms of repeat business and suggests clients believe your product is valuable and beneficial. Whether or not this defines you as a successful personal trainer though, could be dependant on what your target market and product is. There are some schools of thought that say your role as a trainer is to enable clients to become self-motivated to achieve their goals and the faster you can do that the better. Having someone being dependent on you for their health and fitness is not the aim. Think of it this way: whilst there will certainly be some exceptions (many clients simply enjoy exercising with a trainer), if you work with a weight loss client who hasn’t achieved their goal in 10 years, some questions should be asked by one of you!

Results

Ultimately then, there needs to be substance behind good marketing, packed diaries and a healthy bank account. Ask a client what makes a successful personal trainer and their answer should be ‘results’. We are paid to help people achieve long-lasting change in their lifestyles in order to transform bodies and minds. Surely success should be measured by our ability to empower clients to reach their goals? A long list of testimonials showing the positive improvements and achievements they’ve made says far more about you than how busy you are or what car you drive. What if you could genuinely state that 100% of your clients achieved the goals you had agreed with them? Would that make you successful?

As always we'd love to hear your thoughts on this blog, what do you think defines success? So please do comment or get in touch via Facebook and Twitter pages. 

About the Author

Paul Swainson is Head of the Future Fit School of Personal Training, a role to which he brings over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. Having run his own personal training business and worked as a PT manager and tutor for some of the UK’s leading brands, his aim with the School of PT is to provide the next generation of fitness professionals with all the support and resources they need for a successful career.