Name: Clare Holman
Job: Personal Trainer
Clare Holman is a personal trainer, working freelance for her own business, as well as another personal training business and a gym. Clare studied economics at university but quickly discovered that she wanted to work in sports. She went on to gain a personal training diploma and started out working for a freelance personal training company. Amongst other things, Clare now trains private clients, offers nutrition advice, teaches group and gym classes including BodyCombat, and teaches PE classes in a secondary school.
Hi Clare. What do you do?
I’m a personal trainer. I work for myself, and other personal training companies. I train people in their homes, in parks, in gyms, and I teach school classes. I also design training programmes, and give some nutrition advice.
How did you end up here?
I did a degree in economics but I spent the full three years rowing quite competitively with the uni team. I then had a gap year during which time I realised that sport was far more intersting to me than anything else. I looked up what was on offer on that front and realised you could do personal training courses. I thought that was more sensible than a three year degree in sports science, considering that fact that I’d already done a degree. I did a Premier diploma in Personal Training and Sports Massage. At the end of the course they had a careers fair where all the gyms came and talked about their offers, at which point I realised freelance personal training was where the money was. I got in touch with some people who did freelance in my area to see if they needed any more people, so I started out with a couple of clients through them, and did a couple of gym classes locally to improve my personal skills. I then tried to build my own business through the gym.
I now work for a gym, for a personal training company and for myself. The gym I’m at, I do gym instructing shifts as well as personal training. I also train for various groups, and I teach combat classes for myself through another gym.
Do you need qualifications?
You couldn’t be a personal trainer without a qualification.
They’re being more stringent now with qualifications. When I first started they didn’t really care, but now you are expected to be a member of the Register of Exercise Professionals. You have to do recognised courses through them to be a registered as a personal trainer. I wish I’d done a degree in Sports Science initially, but having done a degree I didn’t see the need to do another one when I could train in three months and get enough knowledge to start out. I don’t think I’m any worse a personal trainer for not having done a sports science degree.
What takes up your days?
I do spend quite a lot of time exercising. If I do a class I’ll take part, if it’s a one to one session I won’t, I’ll just stand and talk them through the technique. I like to plan and write classes up in advance, to keep track, and also because I don’t like repeating myself. A lot of my clients like doing something different every time so I need to know in advance what we’ve already done together.
I teach bodycombat, I lead training in the park four times a week, and I teach circuits. I teach bodycombat because before I qualified I used to go to the class and thought it was great fun, so when I qualified and needed more points as part of my training, I thought it was worth doing. I also teach bodycombat classes with a school as part of their PE classes. Some of girls drive me a little bit nuts sometimes but it’s a lot of fun. I remember being at school and we never got that sort of option, I would have loved that. I teach the A-level year and they find it really stress relieving.
It’s a lot of work emailing people at the beginning especially, trying to get noticed, especially if you work freelance because you don’t have a gym to back you. When I was looking for classes I had to persuade them I was good. I have to put in a lot of face time with people in the gyms I’m at generally chatting so if they decide to do personal training down the line they will think of me.
What takes up most of your time?
To begin with it was gym stuff and now it’s more one to one personal training. Classes always tend to come second.
Do you get to spend much time with colleagues?
I don’t get all that much interaction with other trainers on a regular basis. Some of the companies I work for try and encourage training meetings once a month so we can just chat over new techniques or new exercises ourselves. If I’m in the gym and I see any other trainers I do chat with them but mostly my time is spent on one to one clients and keeping them entertained.
What’s your biggest obstacle?
Getting known as a freelance personal trainer. It would be easier when you’re starting out to go into a gym and be a personal trainer there but the money’s not great and if you want to leave and go freelance later it’s an even bigger jump. But when I started out I was on just about six hours a week of personal training. It’s just about having faith and building it up to the point where you’re doing 25 hours a week at a busy time.
What are the job prospects like in the industry?
You can do management within gyms, they’re always lookng for studio co-ordinators. I’ve picked one of the harder areas (practical fitness) to make your way in. If you don’t go through gyms there’s no guarantee of the money. It’s a lot less structured a career path than studio management, or becoming the manager of a gym and doing it that way. I like the practical side though.
I know a lot of people who have a day job and teach classes in the evenings and weekends because they love fitness.
You don’t need any other qualifications apart from the teaching of the class you want to teach. You could go and get a bodycombat qualification and teach bodycombat.
What are your plans in the near future?
I will probably always stay in fitness somehow, I just don’t know where it will lead me just yet. I am thinking of potentially going into PE teaching, but I don’t feel ready to commit to that yet.
What hours do you work?
At the moment, I work very early in the morning and until late, with breaks throughout the day. So I guess I’m up between 5 and 6am, then I work til 10am, I work again 12-2pm, then 5-9pm, on a bad day! Term times I sometimes teach afternoon PE sessions in schools, and I do work weekend mornings although I have always tried to keep my weekends to my self just because I don’t want to work them. When it’s quiet I’ll take what work there is.
I’ll work more anti-social hours when I need to.
Apart from you, who would be good at your job?
Someone who is really good with people. You have to have an interest in fitness and exercise. I’d say most people are probably quite young at heart in this industry. You also need to be quite organised and sensible because you don’t want to to burn yourself out by doing too much or working too many hours in the day. And you can’t be afraid of bad weather!
Work life balance?
I still don’t think I’m quite there yet. It’s difficult because I tend to be free at the times when other people are at work, so I can’t socialise as much. but because I’ve been doing it so long now I m happy to set aside time to say ‘I won’t work on Friday and Saturday nights’, so I can plan to see people. I won’t take a really early morning or late night client on indefinitely without stating in advance this won’t necessarily be able to last. Sometimes you do just have to sacrifice the potential work and turn clients down for the sake of your sanity and health.
Power napping is vital, and you do get opportunities to make the most of this!
Any good advice?
You have to work really hard, and be willing to take whatever you can get to start off with, then as you’re getting busier you can start to control it a bit more. Try and think slightly wider than just your immediate desire for clients. If you’re teaching classes, if people like you, they can become your clients personally aswell. Make sure you always feel like you can get something more out of what you’re doing. And learn to snack well to keep your energy levels going!
Is there anything you’d change about your job?
I’d like to be able to control the British weather! Otherwise, I don’t think so. Doing private clients, outdoor training and gym training, I’m always getting variety and coming across different people.
My week is never routine. Occasionally that drives me nuts but overall I like being flexible.
Being paid to exercise. I love exercise and I find it amazing that people will pay for me to do that with them.
When you exercise you get a rush of adrenaline and endorphins at the end. Even if I’ve not done the session, seeing people get that is really great, and I know then that it’s been a good session.
Probably the fluctuations between being busy and quiet, which is mostly so unpredictable. Despite what you might expect, personal trainers are never busy in the New Year. Everyone joins the gym in the New Year, and it takes them until Spring to realise they need a bit more help!