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The Myths of Personal Training

What they don't want you to know about Personal Training, Personal Training Marketing, Personal Training Sales, Personal Training Business - I tell you in this article. The myths and misinformation are unceremoniously peeled back with a good dose of logic and plain speak.

Over a couple of decades I’ve worked with Personal Trainers who can dictate their own lifestyle and hours, and take home six figures every-year

I’ve also seen Personal Trainers who regularly struggle to make their rents, meet the bills at home and plan for the future. 

So, what gives?  Why do some Personal Trainers eat steak at fine restaurants and holiday wherever they darn well please while others, often working in the exact same club, eat 2-minute noodles and holiday at the bottom of their gardens! 

If you are thinking of getting into Personal Training make yourself very familiar with the myths that follow and DON’T fall foul of them.  What you believe causes you to act a certain way – and that in turn will give you particular results.  If you want fantastic results (financial and lifestyle) as a Personal Trainer learn to think and take action the right way and please, oh please, don’t buy in to any of the common myths that follow!


Common Myths of the Average Personal Trainer


1.  You just need to get qualified to succeed

Sorry.  Not that easy.  Does a law graduate make a great trial lawyer?  No!  Getting qualified means you can safely start working with clients but to be successful you must have a way of developing your business based on what your clients’ want and what helps them progress.

 A successful trainer is one who works on their business every week by working to get their clients great results in the most enjoyable way possible.  Your qualification will get you started; your consistent approach to improving your business will make you successful.  That’s why we recommend having a business mentor or being part of a professional group or forum.  Having others look at your business gives you a great view of what to do next to be a BIG success.


2.  You can do it all on your own

Rubbish.  This is flat out going to get you into trouble.  Read this carefully, no one is successful alone.  Being an independent thinker with drive is one thing, but not connecting with others and learning from them (and with them) is just a darn slow way to improve.  Know-it-alls go nowhere in this business.  If you’re open to learning, reviewing and improving through inter-dependence then pack your bags we’re going on a fantastic journey.

If you’re determined only to do it your way, work everything out yourself, make all the common mistakes again – then pack your toothbrush you’re going to the jail of average returns, disappointment and rapid decay (that’s what the toothbrush is for!).  Get smart, get connected and sprinkle your own learning with the experience and learning of others – it’s a lot faster and more fun.


3.  Clients will hire the most qualified Personal Trainer

Wrong.  Just plain wrong.  Clients hire people they like to spend time with, who can relate well to them, who are able to get them results and who are qualified. 

Don’t wait for clients to approach you based on your three certificates, two diplomas and a degree.  They won’t.  Approach them with your enthusiasm, interest, willingness and a solution and hey presto, you’re a Personal Trainer!

4.  Owning a PT studio saves you paying rent at a gym and gives you control

Nope.  It costs you more than rent at the moment and you need to run a facility (maintenance, safety compliance etc), market a facility (your service really but you’d be amazed how many trainers think the studio is the business!), find the right location (not as easy as you think), negotiate a lease, take on a long-term liability (the lease you sign), buy the equipment (a high capital cost), and manage all of this alongside of being isolated as you are working alone. 

There are circumstances where a studio makes sense but they are 1-2% scenarios.  Most of the time it’s just sooooo much better to go into a club, set up, get busy lead generating, and just fill your boots.  A great trainer can have a full and profitable client base in six weeks in a club – even a club with lots of trainers already.  Once you have the recipe, the cakes can be baked daily!  Make sure your Personal Training Course or your Personal Training Mentor covers that recipe and gets you to bake a few cakes BEFORE you hit the club floor!

5.  Clients will approach you

No they won’t.  If you want something in life, go get it.  Clients don’t approach trainers to buy a solution to a problem.  They’ll respond to whoever is interested enough to have that conversation with them. 

Approaching clients proves you are pro-active, interested, dedicated, open, caring, willing and you need to show all that before you have any chance of being hired.  If you want to put your qualification on the wall and wait – good luck, you’ll need a mountain of it!  If you want to get in front of people, find out what they want and how they want it, offer them a great solution and ask them to buy it or try it and then buy it – you’re on the right track. 

People hire who they get to know, like and trust.  Bottom line is, get off your bottom!

6.  You don’t need to sell if you’re really good technically – clients will realise how great you are and will be queuing to train with you.

If you believe this then the richest or most successful people in the world would be the most qualified.  Ummmmm that’s a “flat world” view people. 

The most successful are the best at selling what they do.  This comes back to the ‘can you make a better burger than McDonalds’ scenario’.  The answer is usually ‘yes’!  Can you set up a business to sell more burgers than McDonalds – the answer is definitely ‘no’!

So, you must get training and support to build your skills in ALL areas of a PT business – business planning, marketing, sales, training and client support.  Any holes in your skill set and your business leaks like a sieve.  A few little holes are to be expected but a monsoon of leaks will put you out of business in a few months. 

On the bright side, get a balanced education and some support and mentoring and – hey presto – a six figure business can be yours by doing great things for nice people.  Ask a successful trainer and they will tell you it’s more than worth it!

7.  If you are struggling to get clients then just drop your price

No, no, no, no, and hell no!  Discounting or dropping prices is a death knell.  It says “my solution doesn’t work” or “I don’t believe in my solution” or “I’m the cheap one if you can’t afford the decent one” or “let me cut my teeth on you – I’m cheap coz I’m learning!” or “if you can barely afford something you hardly value – have I got the deal for you!”. 

Even more importantly it misses the point which is; if you think your price is too high, you’re not good enough or confident enough yet.  Not being good enough means you need a personal/professional development plan to get great fast.  It means you need that support and mentoring which will help you build better value for potential and existing clients.  If you’re not confident enough in your marketing, sales, training or client support it means you need to practise till ALL of those areas are automatic.  You need some managed successes (where you set yourself little goals relating to improvement in one area) – again a mentor and support is required. 

Discounting just masks all the improvements that could be made that have real long-term value for you and your business.  It’s a signal that you are not willing to get better you’d rather get cheaper.  Just do us all a favour – and leave PT altogether.  On behalf of all Personal Trainers I plead with you – get better or go.  Why?  Because the discounting of what should (and usually is) a premium service (a set of experiences that transforms the consumer – their health, attitude, relationships – giving them freedom of choice and greater aspirations) drags us all into the same gutter.  Potential clients see Personal Training as ‘the net average of all the trainers they see working in the club’ so when you deliver rubbish and discount to cope – you are killing my business as well as yours! 

This is one reason that I’ve always been keen to get rid of the poorest performing trainers in a club – because they are the one’s holding the others to ransom.  You can avoid any issue with price by getting a balanced education, support and mentoring and practising your butt off until you are exactly the trainer you dreamed of being.  Don’t be worried, no Personal Trainer was great on day one – but the great Personal Trainers will work their tails off to become fantastic trainers ASAP.  That’s why they get the big bucks baby – they earn them!

By the way, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t provide complimentary sessions to new clients – in my opinion you should (there are other techniques too but they all amount to either giving some time or money away to get back exactly the client you want) as they are a great ‘risk reversal’ (basically they take all the objections or worries about hiring you away) and create a fantastic low barrier to entry for potential clients.  I used this technique in my Personal Training and many of the trainers I’ve mentored use ‘complimentary sessions’ very effectively.

8.  “Sales” is for the devil

Go away with your madness please!  They say prostitution was the earliest form of business – not true – someone had to sell that service first! 

Selling is as old as time and it’s just the best thing to learn as you’re either good at it or poor.  That’s not to say “sales” is the ‘be all and end all’ – far from it.  But without the ability to engage with a person who needs your solution, help them understand the exact benefits, commit them to that perfect solution and ask them to buy those outcomes – you’re dead in the water. 

‘Sales’ is for you!  It’s for me!  It’s for anyone who wants to help anyone else do anything because at its core is a commitment to serve.  Now, if you are a person with no integrity, who wants to sell anything to anyone at anytime despite knowing the real value of that thing that you are selling to that person doesn’t stand up – then shame on you! 

Just as a discounting trainer is bad mojo for us all so is the trainer that sells a solution they can’t deliver.  If you are going to be one of those trainers who sell without substance – then do us all a favour and please head to the coast and start swimming – find the sharks you belong with!

9.  Advertising doesn’t work

Ummmmm girlfriend you don’t know!  Advertising or marketing (some differentiate) works brilliantly.  You just have to be smart about at it and set up a system to learn what works (or buy a system that works). 

Marketing is simply the first step in helping people get to know, like and trust you whilst at the same time pre-qualifying and pre-interesting them in your product or service.  It’s amazingly simple once you get the fundamentals under your belt and that takes some good solid education, a little time and testing and measuring (I’ve been at it for a while and I can get some real results easily now – and I mean real crazy results!). 

If you want fast results, get good advice and a ‘done-for-you’ system and then follow it very closely.  If it’s good, you’ll learn whilst earning which is better than what I had to do for a while – nearly sent me bankrupt but that’s another story. 

BONUS TIP:  If you want to know what the number one challenge is in the ‘average’ Personal Trainer’s marketing (and there are a number) – it’s that they don’t advertise what they sell and they don’t sell what they deliver.  I’m gonna say that again:

  1. They don’t advertise what they sell
  2. They don’t sell what they deliver
  3. Some even make the final mistake of not delivering exactly what the client wants!


If you want to market well then make sure there’s an exact match between what you say in your marketing and the solution you will sell that type of potential client.  That simple. 

If you want to test this – go to a gym / fitness club and pick up any piece of Personal Training marketing material and ask yourself this question: 

□   If I contacted this person what would they sell me / what could I specifically buy from them?


As a quick example; if you specialise in delivering weight loss results (about 10kg or 25lbs) including rapid tummy, butt and arm toning solutions to young professional women between 24 and 34 who work in the city and have money to spend but struggle with their weight because they have ‘sit down’ jobs and drive to work and they tend to buy lunch and have a sweet tooth at snack time.  And, you know they prefer some one to one attention as well as small (6-10) group circuits (coz weights in the big room are for jocks), and they love a social natter, and you understand they like music in their workouts (you even know the most downloaded tracks from ITunes for that age group of females), and you provide them with a solution that includes an ‘at-work’ tasty and nutritious snack plan – then you would be selling; the result, the connections with like women, the music, the fun, the food, the timeline, the ‘how will you feel when’. 

Now, for marketing you’ll want a headline that bangs the key pain (what are they experiencing now that they don’t like – find that big red button) and helps them get to know you and your USPs (unique selling points) and gets them to read more and get your free information pack.  So, ‘young professional women lose 10kg in 60 days and make friends’ could be your headline.  Or, ‘got control of your young career but the weight is piling on!?’ Or, ‘dance the weight away – young city based women strip off the kilograms together every week!’ 

Whatever way you execute this the fundamentals are the same; market what you sell, sell what you deliver, deliver something people want (I didn’t write that before because I’m assuming you’ll take the time to get to know who you are best at training and why, then identify them as one of your target markets). 

Here’s how your average Personal Trainer falls over –


Rodger Smithers Personal Training Jedi – BSC, SCS, ZZA, blah blah blah

Over 10 years fitness experience as a top triathlete

Specialising in Weight Loss, Strength,

Endurance Training, Womens’ Health and Massage

New clients get my start-up pack - book 3 sessions and get two free!

Just $35 a session.

Ask yourself – what is he advertising, what solution will he sell me when (if) I ever meet him?  What should I expect will be delivered?  Even if Rodger does or could deliver amazing solutions to young professional females who have started work and put on the pounds he’ll never get a chance to chat to any of them directly from this ad.  It’s a dog.  I like dogs, they are fun at the beach, but dog marketing will put you in the financial dog box really quickly. 

Your Personal Training education should cover this so that you can be successful at meeting, selling to and training the right type of client for you. 

10.  You can train anyone

If you look at Rodgers example above, he’s really saying he can train almost anyone.  Actually at times it’s even worse because he uses technical features like ‘strength and endurance’. It means he’s not super special at training any particular group.  He’s a ‘general nothing’ rather than a ‘specific something’. 

Human nature when looking at this type material is to understand the ‘implicit’ message rather than the ‘explicit’ statement.  What this means is when I read that piece I can’t place Rodger in a context and therefore I can’t join him there and therefore I can’t get emotional about the opportunity to train in that context and pay for that pleasure. 

The implicit message for Rodger’s marketing piece is ‘Rodger doesn’t know what he’s good at’ and your brain then reasons ‘because he’s either no good at anything or average at everything or still learning what he’s about’.  Notice your brain doesn’t go ‘he’s obviously telling the truth and he’s simply the best at all that stuff – a true multi-disciplined specialist’.  Nope, your brain and mine is much smarter than that.

If you had cancer you’d see an oncologist.  Eye problems, an optometrist.  Hearing, an audiologist.  You don’t go to a General Practitioner with an axe hanging out of your head – when you have a problem; you want the best solution specific to that problem. 

General advice is cheap and easy – people will give it to you all the time for free – your mum and dad gave it to you as you grew up, your mates gave it to you while you were at school, your work mates are full of it – it’s free and for good reason.  It’s general! It’s not specific and therefore not saleable.  So don’t be a generalist, be a specialist and let people know you’re clear on your value so they can be too.

Rodger’s promotion strategy is also saying ‘I’m interested in all of you equally because I have no idea what I’m good at doing’.  That doesn’t help me trust him because I don’t trust people with important things if they appear confused.  You don’t give a drunk the keys to your car – you wouldn’t give Rodger the opportunity to deal with your most important health and wellness desires.  He appears confused because of his marketing approach.

11.  Anyone with a pulse and a wallet is a potential client

Nope.  Contrary to the ‘all market’ approach, anyone with a pulse and a wallet is not a good client.  They can be a problem. 

They might not like what you deliver and then tell anyone and everyone that your Personal Training is no good.  Will they pay you – yes, probably for a little while.  Will they stay and help you build a long-term sustainable income stream and profits – no.

Targeting your marketing so you get the best clients possible, those who will most likely become huge advocates for your business, stay with you as long as you are in town, and buy more and more of the products you offer, is simply the most effective (financially and professionally rewarding) way to go. 

Again, if you want to be a great Personal Trainer with a powerful profit generating business that can pay your mortgage, buy the new car, put the kids through school, pay for the overseas trip, give you spare time and a great lifestyle – you need to get an education that delivers this foundation of understanding.  On that foundation you can build anything!  So don’t go cheap and cheerful or cheesy and quick – you’re not making macaroni – your building a dream lifestyle, income and a business to be proud of.

12.  You shouldn’t give away ‘free’ sessions

I’ve briefly touched on this ‘complimentary’ sessions approach before but here I go again!

If you want to lower the barrier to clients trying your Personal Training services and you want the opportunity to demonstrate the value of your Personal Training and you want to show you’re willing to invest your time in finding out about a person’s needs so you can provide them with exactly the right training solution – then comps are okay. 

There are three ‘assets’ we all have in life. Knowledge and skills (capability), time and money.  We all have it in different amounts at varying times.  True wealth comes from having the knowledge and skills to create time and money.  But, until you have that Jedi level understanding of personal asset development and leverage (this is way deep, the sort of insight business life will gift you if you work hard and think) you’ll need to use either money or time (or a mix) to learn more and develop your Personal Training business. 

If you use money to gain clients you tend to spend more on marketing, spend more qualifying clients through various ‘qualifying’ systems, and spend more on getting potential clients over the contact ‘hump’. 

Alternatively you can lower the barriers and give your time by meeting with potential clients and chatting to them about their needs and taking that opportunity to practise your personal marketing and sales skills. 

I’m not saying – you must use comps. I’m just saying you will be investing some of your personal assets in getting clients so be aware if it’s not ‘time’ it’ll be ‘money’ anyway.  You should really focus on giving what you are most comfortable with giving (have the most of at the time) in order to get enough information from potential clients so you can offer a compelling (read – absolutely irresistible) solution to them.

13.  Client’s just want Personal Training

Honk. Toot. Tweet.  Newsflash – clients want the results Personal Training promises and they want to be addicted to the experience and they want to feel good about spending money on it.  They don’t just want ‘chaperoned exercise sessions’. 

They want to connect, feel special, be looked after, escape their days or be educated or be entertained or be sexy by association.  They want to feel righteous for having done what they had planned and committed to – a deposit in the old self-esteem bank.  They want information and as much feedback as possible that will allow them feel proud and in control.   They want information they can share so all their hard earned successes can be celebrated by those close to them – they want to attract even more positive praise. 

They want to feel progress, see it in their performance, and see it reflected back at them in the mirror as much as possible.  They want to gain control, be able to trust themselves and believe themselves when they secretly tell themselves that they can do this, they can fix this, they can change.  They are buying the opportunity to prove to themselves that life can be different with a little professional support. 

Your Personal Training business will be much more successful when you understand the depth of what is happening when you take on the health and fitness objectives of another person and commit entirely to them.  The power is in understanding that Personal Training is a lot more than just the physical because you can’t get a body without the mind.  You can’t affect a result with a client without affecting that client.  The name says it all; Personal (first), Training (second).

I hope this short look at some of the major myths in Personal Training puts you well in the picture.  By not buying into the myths, getting a specific PT education and, by committing to support and mentoring when you start your business the PT world is your oyster. 

The difference between $30,000 turnover and $100,000+ turnover is a lot less than you’d think.  It’s just a few smart decisions along the way (the right education, the right support and the right club for you) and the commitment to stick with your passion for helping people through exercise.

I wish you every success in the brightest, most dynamic, most important, most rewarding and most rapidly growing industry around.  Have fun, do everything as best you can and improve/learn every day – the rest takes care of itself – or is that a myth too…..


Yours in fitness:

Steven Gourley

Founder and CEO

PT Direct, New Zealand Institute of Health and Fitness


louis says:
Jul 14, 2014 12:49 AM

This post is the most helpful out of all the posts I have previously looked at. I will be sure to use this information every time I feel lost or stuck in the industry. it answered all of my questions, thank you.

Marc says:
Jun 28, 2017 06:50 AM

Excellent post,makes so much sense

Angel says:
Jan 24, 2015 09:53 AM

This Post was helpful. I did believed some of these myth until I read this post. Thank you.

Benard says:
Mar 18, 2015 05:35 PM

This is such an awesome post! So great, so informative, so genuine! Thanks a lot Steven.

Nigel says:
Jul 01, 2015 03:07 PM

Best article I've ever read about PT! Thanks

Chris says:
Aug 29, 2015 09:51 AM

Incredible post! Excellent tips and I know for a fact that these are true of the personal training industry. Great job!

Michele Cuke
Michele Cuke says:
Oct 06, 2015 06:46 AM

I love this guy and really appreciate his advise,I want to make it in my own studio however.

Fiona says:
Oct 17, 2015 10:56 AM

I did a weekend of 'personal training business course' with you when I was studying a BPhEd back in 2004. I wish you'd taught me (us) all of this in detail back then!! Super helpful! Luckily I haven't actually been trying to work as a PT the past 11 years... ;-)

praveen says:
Mar 10, 2016 12:24 AM

Great post. It's quite helpful for growing fitness pros and everything we need to know about PT is available here.

eleanor says:
Mar 15, 2019 07:14 PM

Awesome. thank you for sharing this info.

Michelle Cromwell
Michelle Cromwell says:
May 18, 2021 03:17 PM

Love all the insights here on PTD.

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