The fitness industry is unlike any other when it comes to scheduling. In what other industry is it commonplace to offer programs at 4am and 9pm? Not to mention 24/7 hour access facilities. Simply by looking at a gym’s hours of operation gives a third-party insight into the all-consuming schedule of an average personal trainer. It is no wonder that schedule management is such a struggle for those of us working in the fitness industry. There is an unsettling irony in that personal trainers are tasked with facilitating others’ fitness schedules, but only too frequently are not properly prioritizing or organizing their own.
Before I delve deeper into tips and tricks of the trade, I want to highlight the most important component of schedule management, and that is prioritizing yourself. I am going to risk sounding cliche, but you cannot help others until you help yourself. Nowhere is this lesson more important than in the fitness industry. If you do not prioritize your own health, you are setting a poor example for your clients. In addition, your clients will see through your hypocritical advice, so it is not beneficial for you or your business.
If you prioritize your own health and go into every session with an energetic, positive attitude because you got a great night's sleep, are hydrated, and worked out yourself, I guarantee you will feel better and you’ll even notice a difference in your clients’ attitude and energy.
Here are some of my best schedule management tips that I have personally reaped benefits from.
If you're stationary:
- Be a morning or a night person, not both. In the fitness industry, sessions are often starting before the sun comes up and after it goes down. If you participate in early morning and late evening programs,--even if you have the middle of the day off,--I guarantee you are not getting a full night’s sleep. At my first job in a gym, I immediately established myself as a morning person, getting to the gym early, offering to teach 5am classes, and grinding during the first half of the day. However, one of my biggest mistakes was picking up classes and programs in the evening. Choose one. You can’t be both and still give 110% to every session that you have.
- Schedule your workouts. Instead of looking at your planner the day before and figuring out when and where you can squeeze a workout in, put your own workouts into your schedule. Prioritize yourself. Make it common knowledge among your clients that, for example, between 1 and 2pm every day you are working out yourself. Not only will this allow you to prioritize your own health, but it sets a great example to your clients.
- Schedule snack, meal, and break time. Unlike a typical desk job, personal trainers don’t have the luxury of running to the restroom spontaneously, or flexible lunch hours. If you are programming for 5 hours straight every Wednesday morning, set an alarm, and write a 10-minute walking or stretching break into your schedule. Your breaks don’t need to be a full 30-minutes, but a quick 10-15-minute break to grab a quick snack and even just stop talking for a couple minutes to reset your vocal chords will help you to feel less overwhelmed by a busy schedule.
- Set up your schedule. It’s okay to end a session 5-minutes early. I know when I first started working as a personal trainer this was a really hard truth for me to come to terms with. Whether you are conducting a Zoom session or in-person, you do not have to schedule clients back-to-back. I promise that your clients will understand, and when you are always on time and giving them 110% of your effort, they will even learn to appreciate it. One of the biggest mistakes I see from newer personal trainers is scheduling clients from 5am until noon straight (which is fine), but ending each session on the hour and starting each session on the hour. Not only is this exhausting, but it is also unprofessional because you are rushing your clients in and out. If you don’t feel comfortable “ending” the session early, you can alway leave your client with some 5-minute cool down homework. Take 5-minutes, grab a sip of water and start your next session on time.
- Have a planner. Don’t just remember (because you won’t), have a planner. Physically write or type each session into your planner or phone when you schedule it with your client. This will help prevent double-booking and over-scheduling. I recommend having a physical planner, because it is less misleading. Some virtual programs are designed to make a 12-hour day look like only half of your day when in reality that is too much. Also, a quick trick of the trade, always write your breaks and workouts in pen so you can’t erase them. I learned that lesson the hard way when I kept pushing off my lunch until it was at 6:30pm.
As a virtual business owner, I frequently conduct sessions and programs while I’m on the road. This adds an entirely new level of difficulty when it comes to schedule management. Here are a few things I do to make my schedule more manageable on the road.
If you're on the road:
- Write down the time zone. If you are traveling between time zones, make sure you include the time zone in your schedule. I have a physical planner, and for each event, I write a name or place, fewer than 3 word description, the time, and the time zone.
- Book video calls together. Streaming a live video requires high speed internet for a good connection, which allows for less flexibility while traveling. My best advice when traveling and conducting live video calls is to test the connection out in advance. Don’t let your first time using a new internet connection be with your client. Try it out at least an hour before to be sure the connection is clear and private. In an ideal situation, I recommend trying it out a day in advance.
- Establish a routine. Do your best to maintain a weekly routine. Choose an activity (not necessarily work-related), and establish a day/time every single week you will complete this activity. For us in the fitness industry, one of the easiest solutions is to schedule a workout every morning between 6 and 7am.
The fitness industry is notorious for ensuing burnt-out spirals. Don’t be sucked in! Consult a professional, talk to your co-workers that have a healthy, established routine, and of course incorporate the tips and tricks above. Good luck!
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