By Ellen McGran
Emily Simpson leaves her house every day at 5:30 a.m. and returns home at 9:00 p.m. During that time, she’s at the gym, changing people’s lives.
For the last year and a half, Simpson has been a personal trainer at Goodlife Fitness.
“I train a lot of women, and there’s a moment when they start to feel empowered, and I live for that moment.” Simpson says. “Sometimes it’s as small as a mom saying that carrying her baby up the stairs is easier, or a girl deadlifting her body weight.”
After completing the Fitness and Health Promotion program at Conestoga College, Simpson, 21, planned to take a year off before returning to school for kinesiology. “It was only supposed to be a temporary thing. I ended up falling in love with personal training,” she recalls.
For a personal trainer like Simpson, her days are always changing. “Typically, I have a block of clients in the morning and a block in the evening,” she explains. “As a personal trainer, you’re usually the busiest when other people are not.”
The long days take their toll on trainers like Simpson. “I don’t have a family, but if I did, you’re up before they are, and home after they’re asleep. It wouldn’t be sustainable.”
In addition to training her clients, Simpson creates individual workout programs for her clients, based on their goals. She also helps with guiding them on nutrition and helping them read nutrition labels on their food.
One of the perks of working for Goodlife is that the company will pay for their trainers to continue their learning. If trainers want to attend lectures and workshops on topics in the fitness world, from nutrition to strength training, Goodlife will pay them to attend. “Attending these workshops counts towards my progression and possible promotions. Goodlife recognizes that these types of lectures make us better trainers and will reward us for that,” Simpson explains.
To work as a personal trainer at Goodlife, a CPR certificate and Canadian Fitness Professional Certification is needed. Simpson has gone above and beyond those requirements and holds numerous certifications such as Ontario Fitness Council, Older Adult Training and Resistance Training. Simpson is also qualified to teach numerous group fitness classes. “I am very qualified for a Goodlife trainer,” Simpson jokes.
At Goodlife, the more qualified trainers are, the more they are eligible to earn. All salary increases depend on the level of trainer a person was hired at. Wage depends on a number of factors, including level of training and number of clients. The lowest level trainer will make $21,000 a year when working full time, but can make extra money by selling training packages and making commission off those packages.
Organization is a great skill for a trainer to have, as being a personal trainer is like running your own business. Simpson manages more than 15 clients, who see her anywhere from two to four times a week. Each person has a different schedule, so Simpson needs to stay organized with each client’s program. “That’s why I have set times for each person to come in. I used to run my business differently, asking people what time they wanted to come in. That was awful. If I still did that, I probably wouldn’t be a trainer anymore,” Simpson says.
Listening is the most important skill a personal trainer needs to have, according to Simpson. “Let’s say I specialize in rehab, and a person with an injured ankle comes in with a goal of losing 50 pounds, and I say: ‘Okay, okay but let’s fix that ankle,’” Simpson begins to explain. “That person isn’t going to be motivated to come see you, because you’re not listening to their goal.” She says it’s hard to balance the trainer’s wants with the client’s needs.
Shelby Oke, a client of Simpson’s says her life was changed because of her guidance. “Emily was supportive from the start. She was able to tease out specifically what I wanted to get out of our training, and came up with a program just for me,” Oke explains. “She always tries to push me to reach my goals, both inside and outside the gym. She’s more than just a trainer, she becomes your friend.”
Simpson says watching people reach their goals is the best part of her job. “I put just as much time and effort in as they do at the gym, and your journey becomes my journey.”
“At the end of the day, people need to know that you care about their goals. They come to you in their most vulnerable state, and tell you their most vulnerable things, and if you don’t know how to appropriately handle those feelings, you’re going to really hurt them.”