How Has Coronavirus Affected UK Personal Trainers?

With coronavirus forcing people to stay at home, personal trainers are having to adapt in terms of how they provide their services. Some personal trainers are running their business from home, while others are training clients outdoors.

But despite the ingenuity being shown by fitness professionals during this tough time, many of them are struggling – as our survey has revealed.

We quizzed more than 1,000 personal trainers to find out how the coronavirus pandemic has affected them. Let’s see how they responded…

How has their income and client base been affected?

Three quarters of personal trainers are training fewer clients now than they did prior to the lockdown being imposed on 23rd March.

Nine in 10 of the personal trainers we surveyed have seen their income decrease during lockdown. On average, their earnings have fallen by £679 a month – a drop of more than £8,000 per year pro-rata. For one in 10 respondents, the monthly drop has been even more significant, at over £3,000.

Naomi Scriven, a personal trainer based in Ruislip, London, has seen a huge drop in her income during lockdown. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Naomi was teaching 50 classes a week in studios and people’s homes. However, this number has shrunk considerably.

She said: “I knew my salary would take a hit because 70% of my income came from studio-based classes.

“I’ve moved as much of my business online as I can, but only a small proportion of my clients have felt comfortable with moving online.

“The main reason people use a personal trainer is motivation and I think loads of people have struggled for motivation during this period. It’s scared them and their financial priorities have subsequently changed. I’ve had clients who’ve either been furloughed or taken a big cut to their pay and my income has dried up as a result.”

How have they adjusted to lockdown?

Nearly three quarters (74%) of the personal trainers we surveyed have trained clients online and via live-streamed sessions during lockdown – something that they hadn’t considered previously.

Furthermore, 31% of respondents can see themselves moving more of their business online in future. One in four even said that lockdown has flipped their business model entirely, so they will now be offering more training online training than in-person.  

As well as online training, outdoor fitness classes are another trend which looks set to grow even more because of the coronavirus outbreak. Nearly half (44%) of those surveyed said they will continue running outdoor sessions even when restrictions are lifted.

In fact, outdoor fitness classes may be a popular workout choice for some time to come. More than one in three personal trainers who we surveyed (36%) claim their clients are uncomfortable with the idea of returning to a gym. This is most likely down to safety fears, but it could also hint at people’s new routines during lockdown.

Naomi Scriven: “I think people’s priorities have also changed in terms of their lifestyle. They’re cooped up indoors all day, so they want to go out and move, not stay in and move. That’s why outdoor fitness classes are growing so much in popularity and why I’ve started hosting more of my sessions in small groups outdoors.”

Whether it’s online or outdoors, training away from gyms will certainly be the norm for personal trainers for the foreseeable future. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 45% of those surveyed said their gym hasn’t been in touch about a likely date for re-opening.

What have they had to say?

At the time of writing (3rd July, 2020), gyms in the UK are rumoured to be opening ‘within the next couple of weeks’, according to Boris Johnson. However, no specific date has yet been confirmed.

Naomi Scriven: “It feels like the Government has overlooked the fitness industry. Why can pubs and restaurants open, but certain fitness facilities can’t?

It’s perfectly feasible to socially distance in a studio – the boutique studio I use is perfectly ventilated. It’s certainly safer than being in a pub or supermarket.

I appreciate that not every gym or fitness centre is the same, but it would be nice if the Government was clearer on what’s allowed and what’s not, rather than just lumping the entire fitness industry into the same category.”

Like Naomi, James Drain, a personal trainer based in the city of London, has seen a significant fall in his income during lockdown. He said: “One of the hardest aspects of lockdown has been talking to clients who are used to training in person and making them responsible for exercising at home. 

“Accountability has to be shared between personal trainer and clients. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The clients I’ve lost have found it hard to break away from the challenge of working from home. A lot of them have high-end, demanding jobs and are spending a lot of time working, so exercise is less of a priority for them. What we’re dealing with is unprecedented and we’ve just got to hope that people will start coming back as time goes on.”

How we can help

As well as training clients from home or outdoors, creating personalised meal plans are another way in which you can make sustainable income as a personal trainer.

We would recommend that you get an accredited nutrition qualification before giving nutritional advice. If you’re already qualified, or want to find out more about creating meal plans, download our free guide featuring insights from of the UK’s top nutritionists Lily Soutter.

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