Why I Quit My Career As A Personal Trainer

why i quit personal training

Somehow quitting and failing have become synonymous.

I know that I grew up thinking in very binary terms: you either a) succeeded or b) failed. That means we only have two states of being during our existence: we are either a success or a failure.

To quit something, does not mean you are a failure.

In fact, my company just won an award for Milwaukee’s Best Personal Trainers before I decided to hang it up.

When you do something, anything, just to say you did not give up, you may be holding onto something that no longer serves you or missing new opportunities that will serve you better.

I’m not going to tell you when or how to quit a job you hate. I never hated being a Personal Trainer. What I am going to do is share with you, my experience pausing, evaluating, and fixing my career path in health and fitness.

Quitting is an option.

What led me to a career as a Personal Trainer

To get a better idea as to why I quit, I’m going to have to go back.

I’ve always been an athlete. At my highest level, I played NCAA Division-1 Football in the FCS subdivision for the Valparaiso Crusaders. I was a Defensive Back, for Coach Pete’s “Hit Squad.” After winning the Pioneer Football League Championship in 2003, I found myself in financial troubles. My grades slipped just low enough that I was no longer eligible to receive grant money I depended on to pay for school.

I paused summer workouts to work full-time at Wal-Mart. I also made trips to the financial aid office looking for help almost daily. After my last plea, I was able to complete my fourth and final year of college.

I ended up with two degrees: Sports Management and History. I thought I would teach history and coach football. Maybe someday running the show as an Athletic Director.

The summer prior to graduation, I ended up losing about 20 pounds of hard-earned lean muscle. Even though I knew I wasn’t in shape to fight for a starting position, I thought I could provide some leadership from the sidelines and in practice.

It didn’t end up that way. I opted out of my fourth year, quitting football.

One of my former teammates and roommates was coaching high school football and asked if I was interested. Coach Pete was the Head Coach. He agreed and brought me on a Special Teams Coordinator and Defensive Backs coach.

It was incredible working with him in this way. A big part of me couldn’t believe he said yes because I wasn’t the most coachable athlete. I had a good start as a redshirt freshman, moving up to the travel team and starting quicker than anyone else from my class. But I ended up as a role player on special teams and backup cornerback.

Pete always said how “You need to play cocky. Not arrogant. There’s a difference.”

It was “imperative.” Everything was imperative, or vital, essential, and urgent.

Out of all his sayings, the one that resonates the most, then and today, is, “you have to play with a turtle shell.

He meant you have to let things roll off your back. Don’t get stuck. Keep moving. Things are not always going to go your way. It’s how you respond that matters.

It was sound advice that t would come in handy as I moved into adulthood, looking for a career.

I was feeling like Al Bundy

Al Bundy is a simple, shoe salesman, always regretful of the hand he was dealt. After being the star fullback on his football team, he broke his leg and found himself “married with children.” He’s left to feel sorry for what could have been if he was able to accept his scholarship and play college football.

One side of Al is s cheap, unsuccessful, unhappy, and scheming. The other side is witty, self-sacrificing and resilient in times of crisis.

At this point, I’m living my Ma’s basement with my husky, Blew.

[Note: I failed to get a job after 43 job interviews before this point in time.]

I also joined the coaching staff at my old high school as the Defensive Coordinator.

I didn’t do it to make money, I did it because I enjoyed it.

A lot of kids, like myself, grow up without sound coaching from well-intentioned adults.  For example, my high school coach knew how to get kids strong and my college coach’s understood the “x’s” and “0’s” of the game, but no one taught me how to gain lean muscle mass. I had to learn that myself.

This is why I decided to get a personal trainer certification.

It made sense. It was the best way to grow and help the people I served. Athletes need to move and eat appropriately. Even though I was coaching the game of football, I knew what would separate an athlete from the pack.

I went into my freshman year at 158 lbs but played in my last football game at 192 lbs during my junior year.

There was a HUGE piece of the equation missing – nutrition. I had to increase my daily caloric intake to well over 5,000 calories to put any significant mass on my body.  Eating a frozen pizza, a pint of ice cream or four PB&J’s every night is what worked.

From my experience and education, I knew I could give a head start that I wish I had.

“You Are Too Smart to be Just a Personal Trainer.”

I had a job, three in fact: retail, football coach, and personal trainer.

I picked up a part-time gig at LA Fitness after getting certified. I wanted to apply what I learned, and it was close to the high school.

One day, my Ma interrupts me from a nap, “Are you depressed or something?” I remember responding with a resounding “No!

Before I could situate myself, she followed up with, “…you are going to have to move out at the end of the month.

Turtle shell. Water off your back. Keep moving.

I did move out. I was already working as many hours as possible at the shoe store for $8.25 an hour, so I looked to pick up as many hours as I could at the gym so I could pay my rent.

It’s the first time I got cocky as a professional. I created my first business plan: MSB Marketing & Promotions.

Every day I’d walked 6 miles to work. On those walks, I saw so much potential. While the streets were cluttered with trash and broken glass, I saw tons of businesses with little to no branding. Nothing they projected said, “Come in here and spend your money with us.”

I wrote a 14-page business plan, for the shoe store. I wanted to create and launch an e-commerce website for my employer.

For context, in 2007 online shopping, while trending up, wasn’t familiar with most people. The market of urban shoppers was untapped.

My manager took my plan, and after two weeks of following up, she basically said the owners never will look at it, and I quit my job.

 


 

I got lucky. The guy who was mentoring me was deciding to leave his job as a personal trainer. I was able to pick up most of his clients. My schedule was jam packed. After I realized coaching youth football was a just hobby for most coaches (another story for another post), I couldn’t do it anymore and I quit coaching football.

I put my attention on getting people stronger through fitness.

One day, my client said, “You are too smart to be just a personal trainer.” I thought he was trying to get a rest between sets of squats. But he was serious. He was asking me what I was going to with my life.

At that point, I realized I was getting comfortable again. I had more learning and growing to do if I wanted to maximize my potential.

He wasn’t telling me to quit or give up. He was letting me know there was more opportunity if I wanted to take it.

Sometimes We Have To Create Something That Doesn’t Exist Yet

My client, a developer, had connections with local franchise gym owners. He made the introduction and I took it from there.

For the next five years, I hustled harder than I ever knew was possible. I had only one goal: to be the best personal trainer.

I graduated from the big box gym to working with local franchise gym owners. I was the cocky kid who went to all the Snap and Anytime Fitness gyms in the area and convinced the owners to let me run their Personal Training departments. It worked.

Until it didn’t. And I quit that too. It was good while it lasted.

Eventually, I got tired of the hustle and bustle of working with clients one-on-one and realized my client’s spending habits were changing along with the economy. Personal training was expensive.

So I started offering “small personalized group coaching” programs, a.k.a. boot camps.

To backtrack for a moment, my Ma was right – I was depressed. I just didn’t know it. And my client was right too – I wasn’t living up to my potential. I wasn’t aware of it. In both situations, I was too comfortable. It was time to quit so I could continue to grow.

The first month out on my own, with no money to pay next month’s rent on the first, and before I left the big box gym, I mind mapped my vision and came up with three words: mind, spirit, and body. I then took those three words to create a new word “MISPIBO.” Lastly, I tacked “fitness’ on the end of it to give people some context.

Sometimes you have to create something that doesn’t exist yet.

That’s what I did in 2006. By 2008, I was ready to make it official when I set up my business, MISPIBO Fitness, LLC.

That vision is still pulling me forward until today.

Which leads back to the point of this article.

On Quitting Personal Training

It was horrible. You should never quit the way I did. Lesson learned.

Even though my company, along with a 6 others on my staff at the time, won that award, I knew it was bullshit. I was very well connected, knew a little bit about marketing, and pushed the hell out of that campaign to win.

I already felt like I achieved the status of “best” years prior. I could walk practically anywhere in my city and be met by a client’s  smiling face, someone from one of the many gyms I serviced, or a random person who recognized me from Facebook.

I unlocked the riddle of how to make money doing it back in winter of 2008 when I started my company, generating six figure revenues in less than one year. Not to brag, but to say, it put in in an elite bracket of fitness business owners, not just locally, but nationally and internationally.

Even still, I was different: I did it all without ever owning/leasing my own gym space. I did it my way.

Up until that point in the spring of 2013, I had my head down and worked hard for seven years on an idea that not only served thousands of client, but it served me. I must say, at its beginning and end, personal training was for me.

I had some skills. I gained some knowledge. Most of all,  I practiced my face off. I also messed up a lot. Learned. Screwed up again. And I kept going. Eventually, my “good” got better, and I became a version of best self.

Regardless of what anyone else says, I know I gave my 100%. There was nothing left to prove or do.

At the time, though, I didn’t know it. As soon as the contest was over, all hell broke loose.

  • I broke up with my business partner first and sooner their after my life partner and I broke up. She was also my best female trainer so you can imagine the problems that caused.
  • Two of my other trainers got opportunities to move on that they couldn’t pass up (and wouldn’t have let them if they wanted to).
  • And my youngest coach, mentee, wanted to start his own thing. I gave him my blessing.

Despite all of this – I was arrogant.

Everyone left, and I kept my personal assistant. I moved downtown, got a few high-paying clients ($150/session). One of which happened to be a developer. After a few meetings, I had a potential gym space. The key word is “potential.”

I got comfortable. Again. This time the universe shook me up. It wasn’t my Ma kicking me out, or a client giving me a compliment. It was life. I lost everything. All the money I saved, and a loan from my parents, my assistant and eventually, the gym space too.

“Okay!” I thought I hear you loud and clear. It was time for me to move on.

One day, regretfully without much thought or coaching, as I wrapped up a morning group session, I told my clients I was taking a “break.”

If you’ve even been in relationships where you have been dumped or dumped someone, it was like both of those multiplied by 30.

More than half of my clients banded together and immediately went to one of my competitors. Another small group asked for my recommendation, which I gladly gave, and another group heard me out and stayed with me until the holiday season came.

At this point, I knew I wasn’t a just a personal trainer anymore.

Why I Quit Being A Personal Trainer

Let me go deeper hear before I conclude this post.

I never set out to be a Personal Trainer.

I definitely wasn’t set on being just a Personal Trainer. It all started out from a gut feeling I had to help young men become the strongest version of themselves.

It was not cool to be a business owner in 2006. I didn’t even know what an entrepreneur was back then. When I got started personal training, people thought I was wasting my time. They thought I should go to law school (and I almost did). Along with other careers like military or law enforcement.

After working in the weight room as a Strength and Conditioning Coach a local high school for four years, a lot of my athletes got scholarships for academics, sports, and other activities. The thing I had set out to accomplish happened. I was content.

My agenda was not matching with others.

One of my mentors tried to explain to me that all good partnerships start off at 50/50. I couldn’t understand that.

As funny as it is to say now, I thought gym owners created some arbitrary split (usually 60/40 going either way) for working with personal trainers. I didn’t realize I was creating my own split, just as random (as good as 90/10 with 90% going to me). I wasn’t being the partner I needed to be to make the relationship with gym owners work in their favor.

Today, everyone wants to be their own boss. I never wanted to be my own boss.

As a business owner, responsible for the livelihood of a team, I didn’t see how I could grow a business predicated on a team. It was evident newer trainers wanted to take what I taught and did their own thing.

I understand it. I don’t blame anyone for it. It’s the way it is, and I couldn’t continue to grow that way.

People can be mean and vain.

I didn’t take a picture with my shirt off until the winter of 2010. That’s four years into the game. Now, everyone is showing their transformation from day 1 to get support, accountability, but mostly attention.

It’s always been about health for life and fitness for performance.

So as soon as I realized some of my clients were “mean girls” and using my system for vanity only, I knew something was going to have to change.

Ultimately, it’s not why I quit, but it made it easier. I don’t want to serve people who aren’t getting “fit” for a purpose. Fitness is both emotional and social.

I’ve always tried to use my platform to bring people together. I think feeling good in your body and being confident is important, but somehow I missed the part about what being a real human is during the development of new members as my business grew.

 


 

I wasn’t happy, and I knew I could do better. Looking back, that seems to be a trend in my life. It’s a slap in the face, kick in the ass, a paradigm shift that comes around and goes around.

 

  • In high school, I tore my quad, and my vision of playing football came to a halt.
  • After college, I thought I was going to live the American Dream until I found myself unemployed.
  • In 2013, what I was doing was no longer serving me and I needed to find my purpose.

 

I was at the top of my field and for the first time, I didn’t enjoy punching the clock at 5 am to help people reach their goals. It was hard to get understand this and felt impossible to explain.  I would be processing what happened for about 2 years.

Call Me “Coach”

Have you ever heard that famous interview where Steve Jobs says you have to have passion and love what you do?

I disagree.

I never had a passion for personal training. I didn’t love personal training. It started off as an idea, and quickly turned into my job, a business and eventually a tool.

Don’t get me wrong: I loved every minute of it. I have the best clients in the world. A lot of them I see as friends and even family.

Coaching has always been what I did.

It was exercise early on. And later on, nutrition. For the past three years, it’s been about mindset. It’s always been right there in the name, MISPIBO. It all starts in mind.

I’ve been a mindfulness practitioner now for three years. I teach schools (students, teachers, administration, and community members) targeted breathing exercises to manage and control stress.

As I continue to get ideas, learn, and work, I’ve come to a place where I now know what I do. I coach.

I coach.

I have a few areas I work in, three of which I’m pretty good at are exercise, nutrition, and mindset. But the main tool to build stronger mind, bodies, and spirits is coaching.

If you’ve made it this far, I really appreciate you. The main reason I quit:

I Believe Everyone Deserves A Good Coach

Now, as a coach, working mostly online, I’m able to help more adults than before and work with children in a way I once thought would be my career. My calling, as a coach, has been right there the whole time. I just had to experience life before I recognized it to be true.

If you’re thinking about quitting, I think Steve Jobs was onto something with this quote:

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

What about you?

If today was your last day, would you want to do keep living how you are living?

I can’t help you change professions unless you want to become a Personal Trainer, but it’s my mission to help as many people get healthy and fit.

If you’re struggling to eat appropriately for your goals, or you’re stressed out, join my free, private facebook group Fit for Purpose.

Every month, I’m hosting a 100% free exercise, nutrition, or mindset challenge.

Click here to join the Fit for Purpose group and take the challenge.

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