What's it like to work in a gym?
October 10, 2007 8:09 PM   Subscribe

Should I seek an entry level job at a gym as an alternative to a short and brutish legal career? Would it be any better?

(Another laywer hates the job. Anonymous to avoid potential questions from bosses and clients.)

I've seen the scads of questions about alternatives to lawyering. I've talked to law school classmates that left the practice. I'm pretty sure I'm going to jump ship soon. Among other things, I'm considering finding a job at a gym. I'm interested in fitness and think the "fitness industry," despite its flaws, can do good things for people.

- I'm an occasional gym rat already.
- I don't like spending all day in front of a computer.
- I could use human powered transportation to get to work.
- I have decent sales skills.
- Potentially flexible schedule.

- I'm over-educated.
- Family and colleagues will give me grief (but thankfully not the wife).
- Probable pay cut (but my current job is not all that lucrative).
- I know next to nothing about the long term possibilities in the field.
- I don't have a good sense of the folks I might be working for.

I'd love to hear your stories about working at a gym. Particularly, what's the difference between working for Gold's, Bally's, 24 Hour, and local independent gyms.

What's a realistic pay scale for various jobs? Realistic promotion potential? What's the best way to land such a job? My online searches give me generic career websites or "OMG Bally's sux!"

I've heard plenty of stories about lawyers leaving the practice. If you've got a particularly relevant or choice nugget of wisdom, I'm all ears. I've got plenty of other ideas that would potentially use my legal skills, but this question I'm looking for info specific re: gyms.

throwaway email = lawyeratthegym@yahoo.com

Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
One of my very good friends has a bachelor's degree in applied exercise science, has done tons of training in addition to her degree, and has worked in several gyms. Her last position was as a trainer & instructor for a snooty, private (non-chain) health & racquet club in Boston. She made absolute crap in terms of money and basically came home worn down and stressed out constantly.

She now works for a large corporation in the health club they provide to their employees, designing health awareness programs as well as doing training & class instruction. She seems to like this situation better due to the great benefits, training opportunities, and stability of her schedule.

I do know she constantly takes courses when she finds ones of interest to her, and also takes on private clients who are in training for specific athletic goals. Those two things are what she is most enthusiastic about when talking about her job.

Hope that helps!
posted by tastybrains at 8:36 PM on October 10, 2007

Don't give up on law so quickly. Just because you hate your current job doesn't mean the whole profession sucks. Maybe you are right, and you should leave the law, but it strikes me as very rash to dump a career that you studied three years for, plus passed the bar, to go sell gym memberships. My 2 cents: you owe it to yourself to try to find a satisfying life in the legal profession.
posted by jayder at 10:00 PM on October 10, 2007

I actually went through the same scenario a year or so ago after being burnt out in the Tech industry. I was trying to decide if I should get my NASM certification and become a personal trainer. I was also thinking about massage therapy and the client base can crossover pretty easily in those two fields. I have a vast customer oriented background and thought it would be an exciting, super rewarding career. I decided to take a part time job at a big name gym at the front desk to get some exposure to the environment, since I had none previously. I loved interacting with the people and the overall atmosphere until I realized that the majority of the Personal Trainer job was sales, more specifically meeting quotas. I fully understand that it's a service you have to sell people on as it's quite expensive and not everyone is into it, however, sales is not my forte and I would not be comfortable meeting a quota. I was kind of put off because I wanted to train as a way to help improve the quality of peoples' lives, not take their money, moreover money I would get a very small percentage of... I'm sure in some specific geographical locations it's an easy sell, but I felt I was not up for that challenge. I decided it was best to go back to saving the world one server/application at a time :)

Good luck to you in whatever you decide.
posted by smart_ask at 12:02 AM on October 11, 2007

I currently work at a fitness center in a corporate setting, which has absolutely nothing to do with my degree. At this point, I hate hate hate what I majored in even though it was my life's passion up until recently. I can't change the world by adding ascenders and descenders to letters that didn't previously have them, but I can help someone get started with a healthier lifestyle.

The change in focus is so nice.

However, I find myself scrutinizing all the flyers and brochures that come through that place from one of the best design groups in the US, and it drives me mad. At heart, I am still a nit-picky art snob and I am pretty sure that I'll be moving on soon and cursing at Flash and Illustrator for a living.

So my advice for you is to try it out. Take a break, learn something new. If this is what you are meant to do, then you'll know. If it's not, you can go back to Law refreshed and clear.

You'll need to get certified for CPR/AED first, sometimes the business will pay for the training but you can always go to the Red Cross. If you are an athlete yourself, like marathons, biking, swim, hike whatever, that will help you - put that on your resume. It also helps if you learn to check blood pressure, basic first aid, and learn the lingo.

You'll probably start pretty low on the totem poll and fold towels for a while, but if you are reliable and learn quickly, they'll find more satisfying things for you to do.
posted by idiotfactory at 12:52 AM on October 11, 2007

You should try reading the livejournal gymrats community, There are a few trainers posting over there.

On the anecdote side, a good friend was a chain-gym trainer, and didn't like it. Both the uncertain income (he was on commission or paid by the trainee or something?), the "set" programs and the cold calling aspect of drumming up clients and cornering gym patrons were tough for him. He liked the flexibility and the environment though, and made a number of very close friends through training them. He got a steadier day job and trains people on the side now, which seems to make him happier.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:41 AM on October 11, 2007

I worked as a trainer for a number of years.

Small vs. large. In a large place, often you'll have a commission fee if people pick you as a private trainer, etc. Mostly it's the big box mentality; loads of crap from management.

Small places are all about the owner and if you're keeping his members happy.

Quite a bit of Personal training is about babysitting. You're asking someone to do a number of reps....and waht to do.

The industry: It's one of the scummiest industries that I know of. Lots of sexual innuendo, making your living on 'what' you look like...running into members in public and having them 'feel guilty'. The 'qualifications' are mostly bullshit.

Payscale runs from 'staff' which depending...is above minimum wage to 'one on one' training which can be over $50 session (often that you have to split with the house.) Some places have healthcare (many personal trainers are 'freelance' which means, you're on your own.)

Most of these places expect you to market your services and find your own clientelle. There's some funny liability in the industry too - what happens if you hurt someone?

Yes, I'm still annoyed at the job/profession. That being said, if you're passionate about it, you'll definitely be a gym rat; nobody will believe you have much intelligence, there are quite a bit of 'opportunities' with the opposite sex (yeah, I know,you're married.)

Go to your gym, ask one of trainers if you can pick his brain over a beer one night. Call over to a Bally's, pretend to be researching an article and do the same. (feel free to contact me if you like with more specific questions.)
posted by filmgeek at 6:44 PM on October 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

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