Back in my early years as a trainer I worked at a bunch of different studios and bootcamps.
The first couple of Christmas’ and New Years came and went with me working right through. A few clients went away, some took some time off, but there was always some of them around. And if a client wanted to train, I trained them.
It’s funny how when you don’t work the usual 9-5, public holidays start losing their meaning. Hands up if you too have trained clients on a public holiday.
Then one year while working for a guy at his small PT studio my perspective changed.
He said to me, ‘I’m taking 2 weeks off so my clients are taking 2 weeks off too.’
I was astounded.
After all if my clients want to train of the holiday season I should be at their beck and call, right? My surprise and bewilderment must have been apparent on my face so he followed up with why.
‘During that time of year people are coming and going visiting family which means only half your clients are actually here at any one time. Then out of those that are left stuff comes up so they have to cancel on you last minute. It’s better just for everyone to take the time off, have a break from training and then get back into things in January.’
It took until the holiday season of the following year for that to really sink in. That year I experimented by taking a whole week off and that led to setting more boundaries in my work the following year and taking more time off.
Which leads me to…
Why taking time off is essential
When you have a boss, taking time off is fairly simple, you ask and they say yes or no.
Now as a personal trainer, you’re your own boss it’s up to you to give yourself permission which can be a little tricky.
After all you have all these to do lists that need to be done and the marketing for your new timetable and your clients aren’t going to train themselves blah blah blah… Hogswash!
Taking time off will actually make you more productive. This time of year is a great time to remember why you work for yourself: So that you can be flexible when and how you work instead of being told by someone else.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, my best ideas for my business come when I’m taking time away from my business.
That said, if you’re a mile a minute person, taking time off and slowing down can be really, really challenging. If you’re having trouble giving yourself permission, I can help:
Dear [Insert Your Name Here],
I give [Insert Your Name Here] permission to take time off this holiday season. Permission to eat the food, drink the drink, be lazy, celebrate with friends and family and do absolutely nothing related to work.
[Insert Your Name Here]
Won’t my clients leave me?
You’ve worked so hard to build up your business, one client at a time. Countless mornings woken by the alarm while it’s still dark outside. Dozens of sessions wearing twenty layers to keep out the cold.
What’s going to happen if you stop?
Your clients will leave you and find someone else, right? And all of that hard work will have been for nothing. I get it, I’ve been there too.
And I’m very happy to tell you that while that line of thought makes sense in our heads, in reality it won’t happen. Your clients don’t expect you to work 365 days a year, taking only 1 day off every 4 years on February 29th.
In fact, in modelling a healthy lifestyle to our clients we should model that’s it’s 100% OK to take some down-time. Your clients will thank you for giving them the same permission I just gave you.
How to cut back over the holidays
Hopefully by now you’re feeling a little convinced about taking time off. Now let’s talk about how you’re going to do it.
If you don’t want to completely step back from your business, you don’t have to.
Here are some options that have worked well for me and other trainers in the community:
1. Run one-off workouts/family workouts
Instead of running your usual timetable, just cut it right back to a one to three sessions per week. A great idea for these is to run them at about 9am and make them family-friendly. You’ll get kids, partners and relatives all coming along and your brain will get a nice rest by only needing to plan a few sessions a week.
2. Make a Facebook Group
Move your business online for a couple of weeks with a Facebook group. This is a great time to run some kind of challenge which will keep your clients engaged and moving and ready to get back into things in the new year.
3. Home workouts
This option can be combined with the Facebook group idea above. Just send out a video or sheet with the Workout of the Week. If you don’t want to muck around with Facebook you could just print these off and hand them out at your last session for the year.
4. Just take the damn time off
Of course, you as well just take 2 or more weeks off with a set date of when classes will resume in the new year. Your clients will be OK, they’re grown ups and you could probably do with the mental respite.
My challenge to you
There’s no right or wrong answer here. Again, that’s the point of working for yourself, you get to choose so make a choice that’s going to work for you and your circumstances.
Yes, you will be earning less money by taking time off if you charge per session, but you have to stop seeing yourself as someone who trades time for money and instead look at your income as a yearly thing.
My challenge to you this year is to plan to stop or reduce your sessions from Saturday December 23rd until Sunday January 7th.
Your brain will thank you, your body will thank you, your family will thank you and your clients will thank you too.