Make Your Personal Training Business Recession-Proof

In the November/December issue of ACSM's Health and Fitbness Journal, ACSM reveals its survey of exercise trends for 2010. Given the current economic climate, it is not surprising that group personal training has moved into the #10 spot after hovering around the #20 spot over the last couple of years.

What does this mean for personal trainers? It means we need to rethink how we are structuring our businesses. If you are working in a club, chances are that you have opportunities to teach group classes, semi-private classes, semi-private personal training sessions, as well as one-on-one training sessions. As the economy grows or contracts, you probably see clients move from one offering to another. The beauty of this setup is that the impact on you is minimal, as you have the option to offer your expertise in a variety of ways. Good for you!

What if you don't have the space to offer such an array of offerings? I have the very fortunate opportunity to train within my own home, where the stress of meeting a monthly rent is largely absent (except when the husband gets laid off). It also means, however, that there is no space for group training, semi-privates, etc.

What to do?

A couple years ago, I attended a workshop in Boston run by a woman named Barbara Winter, author of the book Making a Living Without a Job: Winning Ways for Creating Work that You Love. In her workshop, she urged us to think of our pursuits, or companies, like a mall. A mall has both anchor stores and boutiques. The anchor stores are the main event. They require a big chunk of your focus and they bring in the bulk of your profits. The boutiques are smaller endeavors. They might be seasonal. They are complementary pieces of the overall business that usually don't bring in quite as much money as the anchor stores do, yet they have an important function: they offer diversity and alternate income streams.

When I started working for myself 7 years ago, this concept was enormously helpful to me. I decided to make personal training my anchor store, as it gave me the biggest bang for my buck. All I needed to get started was my own intellect, and I could charge a pretty high sum for my services once I became certified. I focused on this one pursuit several years: I knew I had more "stores" to pursue on the horizon, but I figured I'd wait until my children were in school to figure all of that out.

Then the recession hit.

I needed to diversify, as it became clear that people were cutting back on the types of sessions that I offered. What were my boutiques? As I hold an MA in English and always wanted to publish a book, I figured there was no better time to pick up the pen or, as they might say in this digital age, the keyboard. This past summer I applied and was hired to write for an online magazine, Here I write about Health and Wellness. A revenue share site, Suite serves as a very small boutique in my overall business plan. It brings in a bit of much needed cash. I am hoping that my experience there will bring to light another boutique opportunity.

Considering your array of offerings is a valuable exercise, as it can help you diversify offerings and invigorate you with more, complimentary work. This will make your business more resilient, staying afloat despite changes in the economy. Now let's hope that the mall doesn't become completely vacant over the next year.

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