How the PT Industry needs to change if it’s to overcome it’s challenges

Since founding Your Personal Training in 2008, Joe Oliver’s team have been shortlisted for numerous awards including employer and supplier of the year. They now work with over 400 gyms and over 700 personal trainers, making them the largest brand in their market. However, while the business may be firing on all cylinders, Joe has some major concerns about the state of the PT industry as a whole.

We met with Joe to find out where he believes the industry is going wrong, why this is so serious for all concerned and how things need to change moving forwards.

The Fitness Network:

Where do you believe the personal training industry is currently going wrong?


There has definitely been a shift in the qualification framework and process which have impacted the standard of qualified Personal Trainers coming into the industry. Around 80% of PT’s are leaving the industry within their first year. Surely something is going wrong here? The qualification and assessment framework must shift closer to where it was in the early 2000’s and start producing fitness professionals that understand the industry and how to build relationships with customers.

“Around 80% of PT’s are leaving the industry within their first year.”

The Fitness Network:

That figure is almost unbelievable. What’s causing it to be so high?


The problems are as follows:

Lack of research – the short time frame of qualification makes becoming a personal trainer an impulsive decision and consequently most do not researched it adequately. Many don’t even realise they are going to be self employed! They assume they will have a job at the end of the course and certainly aren’t aware that they could be paying a gym around £1000 a month.

Inadequate learning – six weeks is just not long enough to become an expert. The training framework is completely insufficient, particularly around business and marketing.

The massive over supply of trainers – there are gyms around the country with less than 2000 members and yet over 20 personal trainers battling to attract clients. There has to be more done to understand PT penetration and what is sustainable for the environment and the customer experience.

All or nothing approach – due to the intensive nature of the training many have to quit their existing jobs meaning they can lose absolutely everything if it doesn’t work out, which for most it is proven it won’t.

The bottom line is that the entire industry has become too driven by short term commercial gain. Neither the lives of these new personal trainers nor the experience for clients are factors.

“Six weeks is just not long enough to become an expert”

The Fitness Network:

What needs to change?


As a business we’re doing everything we can to reverse this trend among our clients, but ultimately the industry as a whole needs to shift its emphasis from acquisition of PT’s to retention. It’s not in anyone’s long term interest for the attrition rate to stay at its current level. It’s terrible for the PT’s, terrible for the clients and terrible for the gyms.

The approach needs to be one based on realistic numbers. For example, if you take a 3000 member gym, then I would argue there should be a maximum number of 5 PT’s (600 members per PT) on the basis that around 4% of members will use a PT, so that takes them to 24 hours of paid training each a week. It’s not about how many trainers you can squash in – that’s incredibly short sighted – it’s about understanding the numbers and then building the right model around them. This is by no means a one size fits all approach. I am merely suggesting more thought goes into preparing and developing the system that trainers are about to engage in.

There also needs to be far more emphasis on hands-on experience during the training process. Once our new trainers have completed their certification we then provide them with a 12 week mentoring program where we educate them in how to generate leads, deliver effective sales consultations and set targets and KPI’s. This 12 week process also arms with with:
– Discounted rates with all the major providers
– Free personal gym membership
– Full public liability insurance
– Enhanced DBS check
– Online resource centre with templates for training programs, meal templates, etc

“The industry as a whole needs to shift its emphasis from acquisition of PT’s to retention”

The Fitness Network:

Finally, what would your advice be to someone considering a career as a personal trainer?


Realise that you’ll be self employed (in the main) and research all the options. You could either end up paying £1000 a month to be in a gym with 25 other PT’s competing for 2000 members, or you could be in a gym with double the members, half the trainers, paying a third of the cost. One is an almost guaranteed level of success, and the other is an almost guaranteed fast-track to failure. Do your homework and do not rush into a decision.


Posted in Interviews, Personal Trainers, The Fitness Network.