This past weekend I was in Vancouver (specifically Langley) working with my
conjoined twin internet best friend Tony Gentilcore to teach Complete Shoulder & Hip Blueprint to a sold out group of 54 trainers, fitness professionals, physical therapists and random fans from I think 8 different countries.
We were fortunate enough to have Chris Duffin and Rudy Kadlub from Kabuki Strength show up as attendees, which is awesome as it’s not often we have a couple of guys who have dozens of powerlifting world records and the ability to deadlift over a thousand pounds attend a seminar and say they agree with what we’re saying, plus they were kind enough to jump in and help coach some of the sections with us. I’d say it was a pretty valuable experience for attendees!!
During a break Chris and I were talking briefly about how he made the transition from a successful corporate career into a business in the fitness industry, and he mentioned leaving a “real job” (air quotes were his) and venturing into fitness.
The concept of fitness not being a real job is kind of perplexing as it’s something I’ve noticed from a lot of people across the industry, especially as to the general public it’s not viewed as something to take serious, or something that can be profitable.
While driving to and from the airport, I listened to Joe DeFranco’s podcast where he talked about how in the first few years he was training and not making much money but developing a name for himself, he was often asked when he would get a real job as well. I’ve even had people ask me that, so I know that it’s not just me being a special snowflake.
So the question I had comes down to why isn’t being a personal trainer working in the fitness industry not considered a “real job” by the general population? Is it because the work is not following regular 9-5 hours? Is it the fact that the pay isn’t based on a salary (for the most part) or that it’s by and large an unregulated industry with an extremely low (or even non-existent) barrier of entry? Maybe it’s because a lot of trainers only work part time while also working another job to make ends meet?
We could use each of these examples and find careers in other fields that do the exact same thing. Working hours for anyone who work shift work (including many in the health field or sciences) is pretty much the de rigeur. The vast majority of construction work isn’t done by salary, and if someone is self-employed they will likely get paid by the job and not by the hour. Their sub-constractors and assistants may be paid hourly, but it’s not the standard across the industry. Many commission-based careers don’t pay hourly wages or salary either.
The low barrier of entry? Yeah, it leads to a lot of hucksters and charlatans, but the cream tends to rise, and the people who provide value tend to stick around for a while where as those out for a quick buck tend to get Darwin’d out. There’s obviously some who have staying power while making some serious income and a solid following, but they’re in the vast minority. For working part time, I know a lot of trainers who work 8-12 hours a day, 6-7 days a week, so they’re not in the same boat as someone who works 1-2 hours a day, every third day. There’s nothing wrong with that, but again it’s not something that is a fair metric to paintbrush the entire industry.
So there’s obvious reasons, even if not very unique ones, as to why the general population may consider a career in fitness as “not a real job.” The truth of the matter is fitness can be a very rewarding job, both emotionally and financially, and also be a career that trainers can be proud of.
I’m pretty much the walking example of someone who shouldn’t have been able to make a career in fitness or make a difference on an international scale. I work in a commercial gym, which is apparently the Milhouse Van Houten of the fitness industry and something that not even other trainers takes seriously. I live in a place where it’s cold and dark for 6 months of the year, compared to all of the cool kids who live in either New York or California, meaning I don’t have access to A-list celebrities to show my training methods.
I talk about stuff like scapular upward rotation and retroverted acetabulums while not having 4% bodyfat, so getting mass appeal or being “tv ready” isn’t something that’s going to happen, and while I’m bigger than many people, I’m not exceptionally strong or setting world records for my strength.
Essentially, I’m Emmett from the Lego Movie.
That being said, I’ve managed to build a pretty solid clientele that have been working with me for in some cases over a decade, I’ve produced this little blog that’s helped shape the training habits of professionals in dozens of countries around the world, produced video products that have acted as a passive income source, and taught workshops to help influence around 3,000 fitness professionals across North America and Europe, and made an income that allows my wife and I to live comfortably.
In fact, if we consider income as the determinant of a “real job,” I’m probably doing pretty well even compared to others who have a 9-5 grind Monday to Friday.
Maybe we have to look at what makes a “real job” from a different perspective.
Do you hate your boss? Is it a grind to get up and go to work every day? Are your co-workers slowly sucking the life force from your very soul? Do you resonate with Dilbert cartoons? Is the concept of having fun or making a difference at work as uncomfortable of a thought as a sriracha enema? Do you have to consider office politics? Have you made the exact same amount of money each paycheck since you were hired? Then perhaps you have a real job.
No thanks. I’ll keep making bad puns and talking about squats and deadlifts while teaching workshops to pay for vacations. If I ever get bored of having full creative control of my life and income, I’ll maybe get a job where I have to wear business casual instead of track pants. Until then, keep on rocking in the free world.