June 1, 2021
How a Personalized Model of Fitness is the New Training Paradigm
WRITTEN BY Jesse O'Brien

Old frameworks and methodologies evolve, transmute and die through technology, innovation, and the dissemination of knowledge. One such example is personal training, which has been operating as a stagnant model for some time. With a limited scope of deliverables, the personal training prototype doesn’t prioritize the client’s best interest or provide a sustainable career for the coach.

Personal training is a period of focused time, typically an hour, where a client and coach will conduct a training session. In Austin, Texas, rates for one-on-one personal training vary from $80-175 per session.

The Problem

Limited Scope of Deliverables

Don’t get me wrong, personal training has its merit; however, when someone is training three times per week at $100 per session, they are shelling out $1200 per month, or right around $15,000 per year.

Now we know that health consists of MUCH MORE than just moving our bodies. In addition to movement, a holistic model of health takes into account:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Hydration
  3. Behavior change
  4. Human connection
  5. Sleep
  6. Stress management

Am I crazy to call into question the lopsided value of a model of fitness that speaks to a minute aspect of health? What if the conventionally accepted paradigm leveraged a multidisciplinary model of health?

Long-Term Losing Proposition for the Coach

Working twenty-five hours per week as a personal trainer is considered a full-time load. Yes, there are exceptions to this statement; however, we can use this industry-standard to better understand why personal training does not have the coaches’ best interest at heart.

If that coach is charging $100/hour, that’s $2500/week and $10,000/month. Pretty good money, right?

Subtract the 50% commission they pay to the gym they utilize and they are now making $5,000/month, which is still a liveable wage.

Now consider that they need to “walk the walk,” so they train ten hours per week. They need a constant funnel of clients for the inevitable attrition, so they spend five hours on social media marketing their services and brand. They have to constantly invest in their education, professional organization membership dues, and potential transportation fees if they work at multiple facilities, which is VERY common.

And finally, you don’t just snap your fingers to have a constant book of clients. Typically this will take the average person about three years to develop this amount of business.

Now add in the cost of health insurance, a premium for healthy foods, and vacation. Vacations can be somewhat rare for personal trainers because not only are they spending more money than they would if they stayed home, but they also have the opportunity cost of making no income, PLUS the fear of losing clients long-term with the lapse in service fulfillment.

Pricing Disincentivizes Frequency

If we are looking at what is in the client’s best interest to maximize their rate of progress, it would be to train as frequently as they are able. The issue with the personal training model is that it is a transaction that exchanges time and money. If the client wants to train another day per week, it’s going to cost them. Just adding one extra session per week will add another $5,000 per year. This disincentivizes the client to catalyze their progress and sets them up for long failure or at best, a slow-going journey toward the objectives.

[GENERALIZATION] No Long-Term Progression

I want to be transparent with my point regarding why the personal training paradigm needs to shift. This statement comes from my own personal experience, observing what I see the MAJORITY of personal trainers doing. Let me provide an example:

The coach is at the end of a busy week, dealing with lack of sleep because they work both early mornings and evenings to accommodate their clients’ availability six days per week. Life gets in the way and they lose their commitment to programming their clients’ sessions ahead of time. So what do they do? They put their client through a session that comes top-of-mind, such as their last training session.

For beginner clients, this will not be an issue, as any novel stimulus from training will provide a marked adaptation. However, there comes a point in time where the client will need a systematic approach to long-term progression as their training age matures. This will take forethought and a commitment towards programming their clients’ training ahead of time.

Now the model is working against both the coach and the client. The client stops getting a service that provides what they are looking for and the coach is run down and questioning why they are working so hard, just to spend another day, week, and year on the inevitable “hamster wheel.”

Eventually, you get a cash-strapped, sleep-deprived, caffeine-fueled, burned-out coach who rarely trains due to this broken model of serving clients. This sucks the very passion that launched them into this challenging line of work, and jades their perspective until they move into another career where they make a liveable wage, take time off and have health insurance. At some point, they take the path of least resistance and join a more predictable way of livelihood.

Although I logically understand the issue, this still deeply saddens me because personal trainers are the people on the front lines of a massive disease, obesity, and sedentarism epidemic.

The Solution

What I am proposing is a solution to each of these dilemmas that both the coach and client experience. This is a service model that:

  1. Rewards the generalist - A coach that is fluent in assessment, program design, nutrition, consulting, and building long-term relationships.
  2. Provides a liveable wage - If you are not able to afford to put braces on your child’s teeth, or even consider the prospect of having kids, you aren’t inspiring anyone.
  3. Incentivizes training frequency and program engagement - The health and fitness model of the future should reward, not punish, the client for doing the things that are going to lead them to success.
  4. Provides YEARS of value to the client - Health and fitness is not just about abs, chiseled jawlines, and gaining more confidence. Health and fitness is about living a fulfilling and inspired life, while using fitness as the vehicle towards that.

Personal training is a broken model that needs to undergo a paradigm shift. I am lucky enough to stand upon the giants that came before me, but it is time that we recreate a more aligned model of service delivery in order to fuel a grassroots movement back towards health. Our peers are sick, fighting at least one chronic illness, and out of touch with their bodies. Our society, our environment, and our world will follow suit if WE do not find sustainable, affordable ways to work with humans in an evidence-based, personalized way.

The solution is personalized fitness, which is only a quarter of the cost of personal training and provides an exponential amount of value relative to personal training. It’s time the industry calls for an evolution so that both the coach and client can move side-by-side toward long-term fulfillment.

If you are sick of spinning your wheels, feeling frustrated, and realizing that you deserve a medium that connects with what YOU want out of your health and fitness experience, consider the next evolution. Partner with a consultant versus a trainer, and schedule a free strategy session here.

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