I remember the excitement of starting my personal training business.
I would train anyone who wanted to work with me, any time of day, 7 days a week.
I was making money, I was self-employed and I looked really busy and successful… at least on the outside because inside, I was stressed and craving a vacation.
I went from starting my day with a healthy breakfast and getting in a workout to downing a protein shake in the car on the way to my early appointments. Most afternoons I would fight fatigue and struggle through my own workouts. I was always sore.
I kept up this pattern for two years until I had a panic attack that put me out of commission for a few days. Those 15 minutes put years of being a workaholic into perspective. I could count on one hand the number of times I’d gotten a massage, taken a day off, gotten a manicure or truly set my own hours in the 2 years before my panic attack. I was grateful to do something I loved and make a career out of it but, at the rate I was going, I was destined for burnout.
Self-care isn’t a luxury; it’s essential to being the best and most effective fitness professional you can be to your clients who trust you to help them improve their health. 5 years later and I’m more excited to train every day because I’m in control of my hours and I know I’m giving my best to each client.
So, when was the last time you made time for you?
What Is Self-care?
“Secure your own mask first before helping others.”
Self-care is about making time to do activities that nurture you. It’s about treating yourself as kindly and compassionately as you treat others.
As health and fitness professionals, it’s something we simply cannot ignore. We spend so much of our time and sometimes devote our entire career to taking care of others and teaching them the tools they need to improve their health by reducing their stress, moving more, and nourishing their bodies. We become so invested in our clients that sometimes we can forget to care for ourselves in the same way.
When I first started training I had a high tolerance for stress… until suddenly I didn’t. Even if you’re feeling fine on the outside, prioritizing self-care can make the difference between resting because you want to and resting because you have to.
The Importance of Self-care for Fitness Professionals
Learn to turn it “off.”
Even with a day full of your most personable clients, dealing with differing personalities can take a toll on you. It’s important to be cheerful and upbeat as part of the training or coaching experience, but sometimes you’ll just need a break from it all and a chance to be quiet with your own thoughts. Being “on” for hours and talking can be exhausting.
Avoid burnout in your business.
Taking time for yourself is one of the surest ways to avoid burnout. Whether you’re a solopreneur, a contractor, employee or you have a large staff, there are a lot of moving parts to being a fitness professional. The physical nature of the job alone can lead to physical burnout – being on your feet for hours, doing several exercise demonstrations, etc.
Keep up with your own workouts.
Look the part and feel the part by keeping up with your own workouts. Our clients look up to us as physical role models, too, so if you look sleepy and overweight you could be hurting your business as well as your health. You will feel more confident giving advice when you look like you’re following that same advice.
Blocking off time to be proactive with your self-care (not just taking time off when you’re at your wits end) establishes clear boundaries with your clients. There are times during the day when I won’t train clients because I need the time to relax, walk my dog, catch a power nap and do my own workouts. There is no amount of training I could sell that would make me give up my priceless “me time.” Remember, you’re a personal trainer but you’re not every client’s personal trainer.
Establishing Your Self-care Routine
To be effective, self-care must be ongoing.
Taking care of yourself isn’t a one-time deal but sometimes we don’t think about getting that massage or taking that timeout until we’re too sore to move or too burned out to train another client. Establish a self-care routine to make taking care of yourself a consistent priority.
Here are a few helpful tips to help you establish your self-care routine:
- Take inventory of your time – Instead of taking clients at all hours of the day, I tightened up my schedule for back-to-back appointments in 4-hour time blocks. I also created group training programs that let me train more clients with less individual appointments. What is the maximum amount of time you’re comfortable training? Are there clients of the same fitness level who wouldn’t mind training together? Have you considered online coaching to free up more of your physical time in front of clients? Being busy often becomes an illusion when you actually stop to assess how you’re spending those busy hours.
- Make a list of 3-5 free things that relax you – Thinking about spending money to relax might be a turn-off. Instead, focus on free, relaxing activities you can do like taking a hot bath after work, take a mid-day power nap or read for pleasure.
- Set an alarm – If you leave your daily timeout to chance, chances are that you won’t take it. Set an alarm to remind you it’s time for “me time” and don’t hit snooze.
Ideas for self-care activities for your mind, body and spirit:
- Mind – one-sentence or gratitude journaling, hobbies that distract and challenge you, social media detox, delegate tasks if you’re a small business owner to get help in your business
- Body – chiropractor, massage, manicure, pedicure, bodywork, rest, deep breathing, stretching
- Spirit – religious studies and daily devotions, making new connections through networking is good for the soul
Making time for self-care will make you a better fitness professional and help you become more effective at coaching and helping your clients avoid burnout. I believe my panic attack had to happen so I could recognize the signs of burnout in others and help them focus more on their self-care, too.
Now, go schedule that massage and don’t forget to breathe!
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