Will Hansen and two colleagues spread out in a tiny conference room, wire up their laptops to a flat-screen TV, and get to work.
Spreadsheets pop up with deadlines, contacts, and sales numbers. There are flashes of event logistics software. Discussion ensues about social media strategy and “synergy” with product partners. A color-coded calendar streaks past the screen, so chaotic with appointments that it looks like modern art.
There’s little to give away what the three actually do for a living, other than their taut physiques, their head-to-toe fitness ensembles, and the kale salad Hansen downs to fuel him through a day that began with a client at 6:45 a.m. and is scheduled to run through 7:30 p.m., when he will meet with three new prospectives.
Hansen and his colleagues are high-end personal trainers at Golden Home Fitness in Boston, and they are part of an industry that thrives on a carefully cultivated image of effortlessness and self-assurance, poise, and patience.
“Show me a successful personal trainer and I’ll show you somebody that’s abusing caffeine.”
But the reality is far different: Trainers earn, on average, $19.15 an hour, or $39,820 a year, according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) reports that 54% of trainers work part time, and even some trainers who are in the business full time hold down second jobs to make ends meet. “So many people have side hustles,” says Hansen, who is 24 and has been certified as a personal trainer since four days shy of his 19th birthday. He also works as an operations manager for the gym. One of his colleagues is a bartender when she isn’t working with clients or training for bodybuilding competitions.
Personal trainers know you think that all they do all day is work out. Geralyn Coopersmith, former senior director of the Equinox Fitness Training Institute, laughs so hard at this it takes her a moment to respond. “That’s not what happens,” Coopersmith says.