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THE UNSPOKEN HURDLE TO BECOMING A PROFESSIONAL COACH.

“Are you going to open your own gym?”

“When are you going to open your own gym?”

“Why don’t you open your own gym?”

If you’re a personal training or fitness coach, you will get asked those questions at some point, the assumption being gym ownership should be the goal of the coach.

Factor in the reality that, in a dollars-per-hour (or even salaried) compensation model, coaches don’t have much of a chance to earn a professional wage, let alone have the chance to take paid vacations, and the assumption is fair: In order to stay in the fitness industry long-term, I must own a gym.

This thinking has led to hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands, of coaches branching off and opening their own small gym down the street, because staying at a gym as a coach, not owner, doesn’t seem to be prestigious enough, nor is it financially viable in the long-term. 

Alas, professionalizing the fitness coach is something we have been actively doing for the last 15 years, and after a decade-and-half, we have proven that it’s possible, even sought after, to be a full-time career coach, who can earn a professional wage as an employee or contractor within a Madlab facility. 

Why is this important?

It’s important for the sake of the coach, the client and the business. If coaches stick around: 

The client gets what they need most: A consistent coach, who knows them well—their training history, injury history, priorities and goals—and who sticks around for years to help them navigate their fitness journey for life.

The coach gets what they want and need: The opportunity to help their clients reach their goals, all the while working in an environment that lets them earn a professional wage without working an insane number of hours (and getting four weeks paid vacation a year and the ability to save for retirement).

The business gets what they want and need: Committed clients and coaches who are retained for the long-haul (aka less stress and more profit for the owner).

The Madlab model proof is in the pudding: At Madlab School of Fitness in Vancouver, B.C., we have five full-time coaches who have been with us for between 9 and 16 years and consistently earn a professional wage year after year (in Vancouver, we consider this to be $75,000-plus on the low end), another full-time coach who is coming up on three years, and a part-time coach of 12 years. 

They have all been asked the question, “Are you going to open your own gym one day,” to which the answer generally involves some laughter.

“Why would I open my own gym? I can make more money here, live a lifestyle that affords me enough downtime, and not have all the headaches involved with being a business owner,” is how Emily Beers, a 12-year coach, put it.

“If I was paid by the hour, I would have been gone long ago,” added Trevor Lindwall, a veteran coach of 16 years. 

The overarching point, however, is that the message that being a coach at a gym is ENOUGH is largely missing from the fitness industry, and it has led to a saturation of gyms and a lack of high-quality coaches across the board. 

And the reality is, the message will only gain momentum once more coaches start earning a good living without being a gym owner. It starts there, and that’s exactly what we teach gym owners to do. 

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