Created by Jamie Spoor
12 minute read
The personal training industry is synonymous with rapid growth in more ways than one, with a 15% increase in fitness coaches in the UK since 2019 despite the restraints of the pandemic. In a lucrative market, the rewards for a successful PT are great. There are risks too, but more on that later.
Here at Train In Blocks, we love to be "on trend" and so what better way to promote our industry than by grabbing a word with those "in the know".
When a career in Sport Journalism failed to come to fruition, 25-year-old Sean Wilson, inspired by a love of fitness, embarked on his own personal journey.
What began as regular gym sessions transcended into a thriving personal training business with Berkshire-based Wilson now an esteemed industry expert in his own right.
As the UK went into lockdown in March of 2020, Sean took a personal training qualification and, as the old adage says, the rest is history.
We sat down with Sean over Zoom for a fascinating insight on all things fitness.
Let's allow the man himself to take up the story:
"I’ve been in the industry for two years now and what I’ve found is it's been incredibly rewarding, to help someone and see them change. If you do it right and you develop yourself a lot, it's an amazing career to have. You have to put in an incredible amount of hard work, but if you have a passion for it, it really is a fantastic industry to be involved in."
As with any job, with reward comes risk and the personal training industry carries a high mortality rate, as Sean explains.
70% of personal trainers don't make it past the first year.Sean Wilson
He adds: "The main reason being they look at something like a personal trainer and think, oh that’ll be nice, that will be a good career to go into but then the reality hits and they don’t understand how tough it can be in terms of how many hours you have to work."
"If you're just going off and training people without any outcome, plan or end destination, it's a tough job and you aren't going to be fulfilled. I think a lot of people don’t understand what’s involved and that’s why a lot of people leave. On the other hand, coaching is finding out what someone wants to achieve and then working towards that with them. If your clients are progressing and doing really well, it's remarkably rewarding and an amazing sense of achievement you get as a result."
It hasn't all been plain sailing for the ambitious sports fanatic though – his fledgling business took the first tentative steps towards becoming Sean Wilson Fitness from the cosy confines and the inauspicious surroundings of his garage. Two years on, and Sean has recently moved into his new state-of-the-art studio in Newbury, Berkshire as his career continues to climb from strength to strength.
His love of his job and the profession shines through as Sean has fully embraced being his own boss, controlling his own future and destiny as well as those of his clients.
He says: "I absolutely love the transformation of people over time. Many personal trainers start in gyms but I'm self-employed so I love being the master of my own destiny. The problem I had with Sport Journalism was because I was applying for jobs, my destiny was in someone else’s hands, i.e the employer. Whereas with this one, every success (or failure) is down to me and I’m 110% fully responsible. It’s an industry where you never know enough in terms of your coaching knowledge, you're constantly learning and always improving which is brilliant."
But there is also a world beyond the fitness studio — as a self-employed PT, Sean will often work up to 15 hours a day, not simply coaching his clients but keeping up to speed with the scheduling and financial aspect that comes with the territory of having your own business. Up with the lark at 5.30 am and clocking off at 8 pm, an essential part of Sean's role entails things like doing the accounts, marketing, content creation, client programming, web design and networking. Whilst all this is important, Sean describes the long days as the main pitfall of his work. By utilising Train In Blocks, Personal Trainers can manage their clients more efficiently, and have more time to spend with clients.
You have to know your limits in terms of how many sessions you do a week.Sean Wilson
"If you try and chase clients, chase money, you get to the point where your diary is crazy busy and then it’s not sustainable in my view. I do around 30 sessions a week, about six a day. People can do more but I like that number so knowing your limits is very important otherwise you can become burned out very quickly."
Breaking down the barriers by working with a PT to smash through the ceiling can be a daunting prospect for many. It's inevitable some will fall by the wayside (more on that in a moment) but Sean gave us a compelling insight into the secrets of success.
"What I try to do with clients when they start with me is to try and find out why do they really want it? It’s not just a bit of weight loss, it’s not just a bit of fat loss or a bit of muscle body. Why is this really important to you? Whether that be being a role model for your kids or looking great for a wedding or finally meeting a partner, you’ve got to link the body shape goal to what’s their real value in life and what’s the real problem for them. Make it deep and upsetting almost as for a lot of people, it's a very emotional journey."
As with any journey, there have been some bumps in the road en route to the end destination. Not all have made it to the final furlong. Sean is empathetic to those struggling in the gym or with nutrition, after all, that's what he's there for, but fail to follow what he describes as the "basics" and difficult decisions invariably follow. There are some entry-level ground rules to stick to: turn up on time, check in and pay on time and communicate regularly. Do all those things (Sean says they're essential) and he'll do the rest when it comes to the coaching. Some clients have sadly had to be let go having simply failed to get to grips with what's expected.
Sean's burning passion for his craft, his enthusiasm and dedication and his desire to succeed is clearly evident throughout our interview.
When it comes to offering advice to his PT peers, some key 'nuggets' really shone through:
It's advice that goes for clients too:
What I’ve found fascinating in coaching is every client is different psychologically, bio-mechanically, their behaviours are different.Sean Wilson
"It’s not a one-size-fits-all thing. Working with a coach is one of the best things you can do. A coach takes the guesswork out of the equation and makes the adjustment over time you wouldn’t realise you can do. I would describe it as a life-changing experience. You’re not only changing your body shape but your lifestyle, your habits. You’re eating better, you’re sleeping better, you just feel like a different person."
In a fascinating discussion, the most insightful part of our chat came when Sean explained how a coach differs from a trainer. You might be under the impression the two were actually one and the same, but there's actually a very pertinent difference.
Sean says: "A coach is still taking people through a workout but the difference between a trainer and a coach — apart from taking them to an outcome — is the interaction outside of the session.
"So for example, if you see someone three times a week, what a trainer will do is take you through a workout and say thanks, see you on Wednesday and nothing in between then. What a coach will do, if they see you struggling with something, they will send you an article via WhatsApp or they’ll constantly be asking you during the sessions, how’s your sleep going, how's your diet, how are you feeling etc. It’s good sleep, it’s low-stress levels, being more active during the day, having a more positive outlook."
A coach works with someone on psychology and lifestyle whereas a trainer just takes someone through a workout.Sean Wilson
As he's touched upon, the transformative effect his work has on others is the best aspect of the job for Sean. During his two years in the industry, his clients' lives have changed beyond all recognition under his tutelage, and it's this which Sean loves so much.
"Absolutely you’re changing people’s lives. The most rewarding part of the job without a doubt is when you see a client grow, change, and develop over the weeks and months. It beats any other thing like how much money you earn or anything and gives you confidence as a coach. I take people to life-changing outcomes, that’s inspiring and that’s why every day I wake up inspired and excited to go to work because you know you’re going to have a positive impact on people’s lives."
Sean has the nuances down to a tee with the willingness to charge more for your services over time an important facet of a PT's development.
To sum up:
So what next for Sean, his business and the industry as a whole? Fuelled by the lingering legacy of the pandemic, online coaching has become big business, but Sean says the future is bright:
I think the standard of the industry is going to improve.Sean Wilson
"Sometimes I think personal training gets a bit of a bad rep. People might look at them in gyms and think they’re know-it-all fitness freaks and things like that. There’s a big shift in the industry in the number of coaches becoming online coaches rather than PTs. But at the same time, I think there’s going to be a divide between people who go firmly down the online coaching route and people who become firmly personal trainers."
"I really believe the standard of the industry is getting higher because of mentors in the industry who are instilling excellence within coaches. Personal training is a bit of a luxury, it can be cushty, but it’s a life-changing investment if you can make it."
Train In Blocks would like to thank Sean for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us, for his insight, his permission for us to use images and for his willingness to allow us the use of his website and social media channels.
Keep an eye out for our exclusive content from Sean coming soon across all platforms and be sure to share, like, retweet, comment, and send it to your friends.
Sean and his business have been nominated for the Berkshire Retail Business Awards 2022 with the regional winner going on to the Grand Final. Congratulations to him!
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