10 Ways to avoid burnout as a coach or gym owner

A client walks into the gym.

You can’t even stop yourself. You feel your mood slide, as you think to yourself, ‘Oh God, I have to deal with this mother fucker again?’

You have packed on 20 lb. in recent months. Your fitness has slid, as has your motivation to eat well and train five days a week. You’re a fraction of the upbeat, energized stallion you were when you opened your doors five years ago. 

Stressed out, irritable, tired, unmotivated, and certainly not making enough money, you wonder how long you’re going to be able to keep doing this. Suddenly that 9 to 5 job you left to own a gym doesn’t look as bad as it once did. 

Sound familiar? 

We know it does, as we have been working with gym owners for years, who describe their lives just like this when they come to us. 

Thankfully, we have also found ways to help gym owners and coaches dig themselves out of this hole they found themselves in after five years of coaching six group classes a day, ad nauseum. 

10 tips to pull yourself out of your burnt out state

10. Lean out your group class schedule

How many group classes do you offer a day? 10? 12? Are you coaching classes with only two or three attendees? 

We’re not sure where this idea of more group classes is better came from. Ask yourself what you want to be: The cheap group class facility that offers more classes than any other gym in the city, or a professional coaching service?

Akin to this, many times gym owners get bullied by a squeaky wheel client who has been asking for a 9 a.m. class for three years. So you add one and only two people start attending regularly. Don’t let your clients bully you into making bad decisions. Unless your 8 a.m. class is regularly full, don’t add a 9 a.m. class. 

Remember this: It’s a lot easier to add classes when you are at capacity than remove classes and listen to everyone whine. 

A second rule: If people are regularly attending the classes you do offer, then the schedule works.

9. Two classes a day

Coaching the same workout four, five, six times in one day is a recipe for burnout, not to mention boredom.

At MadLab gyms, we have a two group classes per day per coach maximum, ensuring each coach is fresh when he’s on the floor with a group.

8. Morning and evening teams

Establish early morning to mid-morning and afternoon-evening teams of coaches. Nobody should be coaching at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. You can do this for a year when you first open your doors, but then it’s imperative you’re not at the gym before the sun comes up and again when the sun goes down.

7. Pay your coaches on a percentage of revenue

You can read more in this blog, but paying your coaches by the hour or via salary cripples their earning potential, and unless you can afford to pay them $60 an hour, chances are they will burn out from coaching 40 to 50 hours a week in order to just pay the bills.

In the MadLab system, coaches work 20 to 30 (maximum) on-floor hours a week and have the ability make a professional wage (upwards of $70,000) under a percentage of revenue compensation system. Our top MadLab coaches earn more than $100,000 a year.

6. Implement a coach Co-Op

Paying coaches a percentage of revenue allows you to put in place a Coach Co-op system, where coaches take on many of the roles the owner normally would, such as scheduling, sales, billing, social media, organizing events etc. Under this system, your coaches act as entrepreneurs in your facility, meaning the owner isn’t stuck mirco-managing and putting out fires all the time Gone are the days where a coach texts you at 5 a.m. telling you he’s sick and can’t coach the 6 a.m. class, and you peel yourself out of bed bitterly. Under this system, it’s the coaches’ job to find their own coverage among the other coaches. Read more here about the Coach Co-op system.

5. Properly prepare your clients with personal training

There’s nothing more energy draining than having to manage poor movement among inexperienced athletes in group classes, people who still don’t know how to find a 35 lb. bar, let alone how much weight he/she should be deadlifting. Your hour gets taken up by the newbie—who requires way more energy than providing higher level coaching to experienced clients does. The solution: Only let self-sufficient, experienced clients into class. To get most people up to speed to truly be prepared for a group class usually involves putting them through 15 to 25 personal training sessions, depending on their training history etc. And then when you coach a group class, it runs so smoothly the hour breezes by and your energy levels remain high (not to mention the clients have a way better experience, too).

4. Charge people more money

If you’re still offering free weeks or free bring-a-friend days, it’s time to abort that mission. Though you’re not in the business for the money per se, it comes down to an exchange of energy: If someone is paying you $100 an hour, the energy and service you provide them will be significantly higher than running a bring-a-friend day on Saturday and killing your soul in the process. 

On the flip side, offering cheap services won’t help your clients see the value in having a professional coach. Once you charge what you’re worth, the type of client you attract will change. And you’ll finally be able to become a professional coach, instead of a group class instructor that exhausts himself coaching 30 group classes a week.

3. Specialize in what you do best

Put people in roles they’re good at: Why is the guy who can’t write a proper sentence, and sits at night until midnight starting blankly at his computer, writing a blog? Get the writers writing, the social media lovers social media-ing. 

The same goes for yourself. If you’re terrible at something, or inefficient, or just dislike it so much you put it off every week, consider outsourcing the task.

2. Non-negotiable day off

If you’re at the gym 7 days a week, you’re not going to be loving your life in five years. Commit to a non-negotiable stay away from the gym day.

1. Hire a business coach or gym consulting firm

We work with gym owners all the time who approach us and reveal they’re currently working 70 hours a week and are ready to throw in the towel, and we bring them to a place where they’re enjoying their business again, working a manageable schedule, and making more money in the process.

No matter what, gymmin ain’t easy, but you might as well make it as enjoyable and profitable as you can.

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