Updated: Mar 4
The BLAST (business, Leadership and Sales Training) beginning of Feb 2018 was where my personal training career began officially. I had qualified, been accepted to a top London gym and now this 2-day course that cost me a steep £499.99 was going to set me up with tools to be the best at my job. As attendance was compulsory, I was going to soak it up, we had mentoring from experienced professionals, workouts, handouts, it was like being at school but now I was learning that I would spend the next few months hustling for clients. It felt very do or die.
The multitude of rejection I was told I was about to face to succeed was going to be substantial and on my first day one of the managers appointed to me Dougie asked me almost instantly “How many people have you spoke to so far? Have you got any taster’s yet?” He was pleasant enough, but I got the impression that money was the big drive at this gym within seconds. All these “free taster sessions” are of course great for experience as a new personal trainer but mainly we are fulfilling the promise of a “free personal training session” that the gym has made to each new member.
Photo above: buzz on the gym floor around 6pm, Gymbox, Stratford 2018
I didn’t want to be micromanaged by Dougie but the only way to get him of my back was to do really well so he’d back off, his energy was stressing me out and I suspect this was his tactic for getting the most for his memberships. All new personal trainers had to clock into meetings with him a couple times a week. I wasn’t the only one who wanted to avoid him, it was actually quite a good conversation starter with the other personal trainers.
If it wasn’t awkward enough being the new personal trainer, we had to wear a bright red t-shirt with illuminous yellow writing reading “Coach Hours” This was part of the contract to reduce the rent I had to pay to the gym for working in their space from a whopping £1300 a month. Each month the amount of the reduction was reduced incrementally until you were off coach hours, four times a week you worked a two hour shift tidying the gym which was always a mess. I took this relief of the finance seriously as I presumed the other PT’s, though I got a few backs up taking pride in doing the job properly as the deal was to start tidying 20 minutes before the end of the shift. I wasn’t going to compromise good work ethic for the lazy approach especially as it’s unfair on the members at the gym who pay top dollar to train there; it wasn’t the image I wanted to give to clients who wanted to work with me. My standard of tidying became the standard to achieve.
After two months I opted to start paying the rent in full, ahead of schedule. My husband was riding me up on the motorcycle at ridiculous hours to do coach hours and I didn’t want to ask him to do this any longer; it also meant that I could get Dougie off of my back.
Photo above: PT Ray and I check out what going on in the cage, Gymbox, Stratford 2018
It didn’t take me long to make friends, find clients and build my business which I named Becks A.C.E. Fitness. A.C.E. stands for Active, Controlled and Effective. This is what I believe each workout should encompass to be successful. I was always confident and persistent in approaching leads or offering taster sessions, as a female personal trainer I was one of a minority and there were
Photo above: My standard of tidy, how to leave a good impression
Photo on the right: PT Ray and I check out what going on in the cage, Gymbox, Stratford 2018
many females who felt intimidated by the muscly men using machines. My selling point was that I was friendly and approachable, and I knew the machines inside out, so men and women wanted to train with me to learn and gain some confidence. I was loving personal training and I was busy, and soon found myself training clients back to back.
It was really hard to find clients, the girls at reception would flirt or train with the male PT’s and I would quietly observe as they then recommended only those PT’s to new members of the gym. If PT’s moved on, many would sell on their client’s packages to their buddies, it all sounded completely impersonal and transactional and once a week the email addresses of any new members would be released to more than 20 personal trainers, it was like a frenzied
shark attack if you were quick you might get a couple leads but if you were training a client or more commonly the internet crashed because everyone logged on to get the leads, eventually it wasn’t even worth bothering it guaranteed nothing.
I did enjoy talking to the personal trainers I would watch to see who was great, Aaron who had been at Gymbox a while put everyone at ease, he was confident and charismatic and had a lovely warm smile I could see why he was popular. There were others who were successful because they were ruthless or undercutting the other PT’s by charging less money per hours. The competition for personal trainers was particularly high at Gymbox Stratford as everyone was good looking, physically fit and from what I could see knowledgeable. However, there are always little indications that some cared less, one personal trainer walked in front of my client as she was clearly swinging a kettlebell, another got hit in the balls as he was too busy looking at himself in the mirror while my client was doing glute kickbacks, the latter being quite amusing things that did bug me was when trainers would use Instagram’s behind their clients backs, or doing sleazy assisted stretches on a client. At the end of the day I was learning what sort of trainer I wanted to become.
Photo above: Training my client Lavi, Gymbox, Stratford 2018
Photo to the right and photo below: Training with my friend Sabrina at Gymbox, Old Street 2018
To me Gymbox wasn’t feeling like the place for me. I wanted to be closer to my friend Sabrina who had recommended Gymbox to me and so I decided to make a deal with Dougie, he gave me a good deal this meant paying £1,600 in rent a month which was more than before but I hoped this gamble would increase my client leads and profit. Splitting my time between two gyms, Old Street and Stratford, was exhausting. After the first week I decided to throw in the towel and give my notice to Gymbox. I had done 5 months and suddenly it occurred to me that I would be happier training outdoors, like at the Army Drill evenings I’d attended for a year a couple of year prior. I started making my plan to leave quietly I finished all client packages, it was hard as many wanted to re-sign and I had made friends with members, personal trainers and had an incredible client base but I needed to move on and it is against Gymbox’s T&C’s to take clients with you.
Outdoor training was a revelation and it was freeing, I was calling all the shots and I had a unique product in mind. I would take everything I had done in Gymbox and teach it outside with all the benefits that come with outdoor exercise. I didn’t have the base for scouting new clients, money for marketing or equipment for training, but I had great reviews, experience and confidence. I started with some dumbbells and a mat now I have a thriving business where professionalism, honesty and respect is paramount. I have the equivalent in outdoor training equipment to any small gym, more than anyone needs for one on one sessions. I have the job of my dreams. I think Dougie’s mounting pressure has been great for me long term, as a personal trainer you need to fight each day as the competition is extensive and ruthless and I thank Gymbox for showing me the way isn’t easy and for being a great first and last gym.