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Personal Training on Rise, But Not Access to Workers Comp Benefits

personal trainerWhile many professions in the U.S. are shrinking today, personal training is one of the fastest-growing occupations. Once stereotyped as the field of bodybuilders and gym fanatics, personal training today draws both educated and uneducated; young, old and middle aged; guys and gals; recent grads and those coming out of retirement.

Between 2001 to 2011, the number of personal trainers in the U.S. rose by 44% to almost a quarter of a million; at the same time, the overall number of workers fell by 1% (see statistics at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

For this reason, many Americans are now looking to transform a personal passion for fitness into a career.

Personal training requires a number of skills characterizing the new middle-class job in American: it’s a personal service that can’t be automated or off-shored; it caters to a wealthier set of clients; and it is increasingly subsidized (by employers and insurance companies).

Yet as many have discovered, the pay is not especially impressive. Unlike the 9 to 5 middle-class jobs of the past, personal service careers have inconsistent hours, require a lot of hustling, provide little job security.

As reported in the New York Times:

“The kind of job where you come in and work 9 to 5, and where someone tells you what to do all day is becoming scarcer and scarcer,” said Erik Brynjolfsson, an economics professor at M.I.T. and co-author of “Race Against the Machine,” a book about how automation is changing the job market. “The kind of job where you have to hustle and hustle and where you’re not sure whether you will have enough clients next month, where you have less job security, is becoming much more common.”

Wage Disputes

For personal trainers, the average hourly wage is under than $15. Much of their time is eaten up looking for clients, driving from one work site to another, or managing the logistics of the business rather than traning itself. For those who work at a gym, a 50% commission on all sessions is typical, and many gyms require trainers to be on site for eight hours a day regardless of whether they have clients booked. This is because a large number of gyms use trainers as recruiters for their own clients.

Yet despite the drawbacks, personal trainers feel confident their services will not be readily outsourced. “Knowing how to keep someone motivated and how to keep a connection are skills humans have learned and evolved over hundreds of thousands of years,” Professor Brynjolfsson said. “A robot can’t figure out whether you can do one more push-up, or how to motivate you to actually do it.”

Another factor for the upsurge in personal trainers is that the barrier to entry is relatively low. The industry is fairly unregulated, with private organizations (as opposed to the government) issuing credentials. Long ago, some certification organizations required a B.A. and rigorous study; today, dozens of groups offer cheaper and easier certifications to meet the needs of the fitness boom.

The fitness industry has been growing steadily in good economies and bad, with American health clubs adding about 10 million members since the recession officially began in 2007, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.

In other good news for trainers, the U.S. has a 35% obesity rate, meaning that in theory, potential clients are plentiful.

Yet at the same time personal training – like many other personal services – is increasingly freelance. Most trainers generate their own business through personal contacts. One of the main challenges here, of course, is that trainers have to compel others to pay to do something they probably dislike: exercise.

Work Injury Law

Yet many Americans also turn to personal trainers to recover from a workplace accident or on-the-job injury. After Washington labor and industries approves a claim for workers compensation benefits or prescriptions medications, many choose to follow up with additional rehabilitative activities to speed their recovery. This may also be the case for those who experience a Third Party Injury. If you have completed an Independent Medical Examination and want to learn more about work injury law, we invite you to visit our blog for stories and updates.

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Emery Reddy