Trainers: Don’t Forget About Your Own Health! -
Written by Nina Wilder (@itsanina)

It seems absurd that a trainer, whose very career is getting people better health, would neglect their own, but it isn't so uncommon. Speaking with colleagues and hearing from several different communities of online fitness coaches, there are countless stories of trainers being ground down from stress and overwhelm.

Trainers talk about their schedules getting filled up with clients, administration, or self-promotion so much that they start to skip their workouts. Sleep becomes something they do only with "the time they have left" and stress starts to become so chronic, they don't even notice it anymore. What's worse, trainers describe that when they do take the time to work out or spend a day with family, they do so while feeling selfish and guilty. It likely isn't just a matter of overbooking our schedules, but that trainers are getting caught up in hustle culture.

Hustle culture refers to a mentality to ambitiously - and almost recklessly - chase your goals by doing as much as you possibly can every single day. It preaches waking up before 4 AM, creating aggressive to-do lists, and spending as much time on work as you can to "level up". It spouts messages that seem completely contradictory to good health, such as "dreams are worth more than your sleep". As a result, it's easy to see how trainers can feel pressured to work these 12-hour days, 7 days a week until the inevitable moment comes where they tap out from stress and exhaustion, or otherwise burnout.

Personal trainers are not the only ones to experience this; burnout has become a more common malaise in Canada. Earlier last year, Mental Health Research Canada released a study showing a whopping 30% of Canadians reporting feeling emotionally exhausted, pessimistic, cynical, and unmotivated. It was particularly prevalent among those working in health and patient care, where the culture was - again - work till you drop.

What's especially worrisome is that, according to the same study, it takes considerable time to fully recover from burnout. This is likely because it's a complex issue. Many factors can contribute to burnout - some individual, some global. There are many reasons we can speculate, such as the lingering uncertainties from a post-pandemic world, the self-comparison that goes on in social media and rising inflation putting severe financial stress on many households.

One thing we know for sure is that to alleviate burnout for trainers - or anyone for that matter - is to prioritize self-care. This means making ourselves a priority because if we don't take care of ourselves, we won't be able to do so for others.

It may be difficult for the busy trainer to schedule time for themselves but we can apply the same principles we teach to a client with the same problem: something is infinitely better than nothing. It can be as simple as taking 15 minutes in the morning to move your body or taking business calls outside to get nature's many mental health benefits. We can also manage our stress better by putting up healthy boundaries with clients; is it really necessary to answer their questions close to midnight?

We know the tips and tricks to create a healthier lifestyle, even when there are many barriers to doing so. Trainers only ought to remember to apply these same things to their own life. To use an age-old cliché: you can't pour from an empty cup.

BalanceBurnoutHustleHustle cultureMental healthPersonal trainerPersonal trainersSelf care

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