Have you ever felt guilty about taking an afternoon off to do something fun or relaxing? Ever woken from an accidental (or deliberate) nap feeling stressed about all the time you ‘wasted’? Have you put off a massage / catch up / stroll / book / movie because you felt that taking time for such things was being selfish?
If so then you’re not alone. We live in a strange time where constantly being busy and getting stuff done apparently means you’re doing life ‘correctly’. Which means taking time to rest and recharge can make us feel like we’re being lazy, selfish, or inefficient.
Well, do we have some great news for you! Yes, being busy is important some of the time, but taking time to slow down and do things that make you feel good is just as important. Important for your health and important for your business (and clients). Let’s unpack how to protect your time and energy as a personal trainer and fitness professional.
Is self-care selfish?
The quick answer: heck no!
The word selfish means ‘being concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.’ Note that last bit. That’s the important part here.
Now, as a health and wellness coach you’ve dedicated your career to helping others better themselves. Your focus is already on the interests and welfare of others. We challenge anyone to suggest that caring for yourself as well is a selfish act! Preposterous. Not even worth your valuable time worrying about it.
Self-care is vital for everyone. Take your clients, for example. When they pay you to improve their fitness they are… investing in their own self-care!
So, you should too – guilt-free (and gleefully).
Why is self-care so important?
1. Life is meant to be enjoyed.
2. You’ll be a happier, better version of you.
2. Lack of self-care can lead to stress.
3. Too much stress can lead to burnout.
4. Burnout is unpleasant and dangerous for your health and business.
Imagine going through the rest of your precious life feeling stressed and busy, not taking the time to enjoy yourself or to simply exist. It sounds a bit grim but it’s soooooo easy to fall into that trap. Yes, absolutely do the things that are necessary to run your business and have a comfortable life. Just remember to look after yourself and feel good along the way. We can’t get our brief time on Earth back – so how are you going to best spend it?
There’s no getting around it: when the tank is empty, the engine stops. Don’t let your tank get empty. You’ll be unmotivated, inefficient, unpleasant, and unhappy. Not the ideal state of being for a health and fitness professional! By fuelling up with self-care (tips on that soon), you’ll be a happier, better version of yourself that your clients will respond to. A win for your health and a win for your business.
More on stress and burnout
Personal trainers are exposed to many stressors, just like everyone else. If not mitigated with stress-management techniques and self-care, these stressors could overwhelm you and even cause dissatisfaction with your chosen career.
Some common sources of stress for personal trainers include:
- Running your own business and working long days
- Dealing with your own injuries or mental health issues
- Attracting new clients
- Losing existing clients
- Compassion fatigue (the stress of caring for others)
- Creating bespoke training or nutrition plans for a variety of clients
- The constant demands of marketing and social media
- Navigating last-minute cancellations or challenging clients
- Sourcing training locations
Prolonged exposure to stress is unpleasant, and it can also seriously impact your mental and physical wellbeing. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stress can cause irritability, anxiety, loss of concentration, headaches, body pain, and sleep issues. Existing physical and mental health problems can be exacerbated, and the risk of substance use such as alcohol and tobacco is increased.
When workplace stress is not successfully managed it can lead to a lack of energy and motivation, feelings of isolation and negativity towards your job, and ultimately a reduction in how you perform, and even a desire to leave the profession. The technical term for this syndrome is burnout (0 out of 10 – would not recommend).
Not only is fitness industry burnout unpleasant and exhausting for you, it can also harm your business. You work closely with your clients so it’s very likely that they will notice and react to your diminished efficacy and energy.
10 ways to practise self-care (in no particular order)
There are many ways to take care of yourself and different areas of wellness and self-care to focus on. What’s more, different people have varied needs in each area. Some areas you can focus on for self-care are physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, social, and professional.
The following 10 self-care strategies for trainers will not only help you to improve your self-love game, but they will all contribute to managing stress and avoiding burnout.
#1 Strive for a work-life balance ⚖
Work-life balance refers to achieving equilibrium between your professional responsibilities and personal life. This means managing and allocating time and energy to fulfill work commitments while also attending to personal and family needs, social activities, and personal well-being (self-care!)
Look at ways to maintain or increase your income without working more by diversifying your offerings. Consider offering group training to earn more income in one timeslot. Or upskill and offer a specialization: our partner ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association) offers discounts to our coaches on their specialization courses, so that you can charge more for your sessions. Look into offering online training to minimize your travel times and gain some time back or record video sessions so that your clients can be trained while you’re taking care of other things (like yourself!)
#2 Your time is precious – protect and manage it ⌚
Be conscious of how you schedule in your appointments so that you’re not in constant demand from dawn to dusk. Yes, you need to be flexible for your clients, but you also need to manage their expectations of when you’re available. When booking a haircut or a doctor’s appointment they need to take whatever timeslots are available, so why should your services be any different? Set boundaries and stick to them.
#3 Do things solely for pleasure or relaxation 🎨
This is a tough one for many people. But once you shake off that ‘selfish’ and ‘wasting time’ attitude you’ll find it easier and easier to do. This is the fun part, the stuff that sparks joy and recharges your flat batteries.
You officially have permission to do something you love DAILY with zero guilt. How about:
- riding your bike
- seeing a movie or bingeing a TV series
- reading or journaling
- soaking in a bath
- socializing with friends
- treating yourself to a massage
- getting your hands dirty in the garden
- playing videogames
- crafting or doing a puzzle
- walking (or cuddling) your dog/cat/hamster/donkey
- playing with your kids, grandkids, any kids! (Mini humans know how to live in the moment.)
#4 Be in the moment 👀
There are simple, quick, and free ways to lower your stress levels throughout the day. Mindfulness is all about being in the moment and taking notice of what’s happening around you. The key to mindfulness for fitness professionals is avoiding distractions and clearing a cluttered mind. How can you focus on your client’s form if you’re thinking about the next session and how messy the house is, listening for the ding of notifications on your phone, and worrying about a cancellation?
Give each of those issues and distractions their own timeslot and ensure that you keep your full attention on what you’re doing.
For more information on being mindful, check out this post by the National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF): What Happened to Living In the Moment? 5 Tips to Remaster “Mindfulness”
#5 Breathe deep 💨
This is an absurdly simple way to instantly lower anxiety and stress levels, yet it’s so easy to forget even though we’re constantly breathing! Deep breathing can be done anytime, anywhere, and it evokes a relaxation response in your body. In the car, waiting in the supermarket line, while watching a client do reps; it’s a discreet way to calm and center yourself. When you have privacy, it’s recommended that you sit or lie down and use breathwork to achieve a state of profound rest known as the Relaxation Response.
You could incorporate meditation, yoga or progressive muscle relaxation, but even just the breathing itself is highly beneficial. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “when you breathe deeply, the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, and the lower belly rises”.
For further instructions on deep breathing access the Harvard Health Publishing article: Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response
#6 Treat your sleep life with respect 😴
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a third of US adults report that they usually get less than the recommended amount of sleep. Importantly the CDC states that, “getting enough sleep is not a luxury—it is something people need for good health.”
Just like chronic stress, sleep deprivation can cause mood instability, lack of concentration and can lead to errors and injuries. So getting at least 8 hours of quality sleep each night is vital for your health and the health and safety of your business.
To achieve a better sleep try to create healthy sleep hygiene habits such as:
- always going to bed and waking up at the same time (including weekends)
- avoiding screens, caffeine, sugar before bed
- create a quiet, dark and inviting sleep space with a comfortable temperature
For more on why self-care is important for fitness check out this post from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) Why is Self-Care Important for Fitness? And How to Apply it
#7 Practise what you teach 🥑
As a health and wellness coach you already know the proven benefits of eating a balanced diet and regularly exercising. However, as a busy person who is always focused on the health of others, we know how easy it can be to forget to prioritize healthy habits for yourself. But you’ll be happy that you did. So please do it.
#8 Find the support you need 🤝
There is so much knowledge and experience in the fitness industry that you don’t need to handle everything alone. You may be trying to compete for clients, but that doesn’t mean you can’t seek guidance and mentoring from those you admire and aspire to emulate. Our industry is full of supportive and passionate individuals and organizations that share in your vision for a healthier future and many are willing to help.
#9 Unplug to recharge 📵
As crucial to your business and social life as technology is, it’ll do you the world of good to disengage from it weekly, even if just for an hour (but longer is better).
Taking a break from your phone and other devices, and staying off the internet and social media, for a bit can help you to focus on being in the moment, but also lets your brain rest. It’s all so stimulating (in positive and negative ways) that disconnecting for a while can improve the mental and emotional health of personal trainers.
#10 Prioritize self-care 💛
You need to make self-care a permanent to-do item. Make it a non-negotiable part of your day and you’ll feel and bebetter for it.
We have even MORE self-care tips for personal trainers. Register for our upcoming webinar on wellness and burnout prevention for fitness coaches here.
Good luck with cultivating a more relaxed, fulfilled, and happy you in 2024!
Article by TrueCoach
First published: February 05 2024
Last updated: January 23 2024