For many outsiders, the role of a personal trainer seems to be pretty straightforward – show up to the gym, train clients, and go home. While that’s not necessarily wrong, that’s the equivalent of saying that doctors just show up and see patients. These oversimplifications not only lack nuance, but they also give a bit of a skewed visual about the depth of the profession as well as the behind-the-scenes responsibilities that really make it challenging and valuable.

For example, a doctor may spend a significant amount of the day seeing patients, but they also have to perform procedures, diagnose ailments, prescribe medications and treatments, and write copious amounts of notes about every single patient. Ultimately, it’s these lesser-known duties that get the job done.

Personal training is no different. Regardless of whether a trainer works in a large corporate gym, a small studio, or out of the back of their car, there are a host of responsibilities that must be done to make working with clients a reality. In fact, many trainers would say that performing these duties is the “real work” of being a fitness professional and being proficient in them is the key to separating oneself from the crowd.

So, what do personal trainers do when they’re not training clients? Read on to learn about the lesser-known side of personal training and the time commitment needed to thrive.


Training clients effectively requires a plan and that’s exactly why programming is one of the largest time investments that trainers make. Since the essence of personal training is creating customized workout plans, it’s not unheard of for a trainer to spend an hour programming for each client every 4-8 weeks. That means that a trainer with a full load of 20 clients might spend up to 3 full days of work making sure that great training sessions are laid out for the month.

Time commitment: 10-20 hours/month 

Marketing and Advertising

Without clients, there’s no one to train. So, trainers have to spend a considerable amount of time trying to acquire new clients and make sure that they’re developing a network of people who speak highly of their work.

With personal training being an ideal job for many, there’s a decent amount of competition and it takes a lot of work to stand out from the crowd. Between creating content for social media, building relationships with local businesses, and getting out in the community, marketing one’s self is a “round the clock” responsibility.

Time commitment: 15-20 hours/month 

Client Support

There’s a lot of coaching that happens inside a training session, but many people don’t realize that there’s also quite a bit that happens outside sessions as well. Getting lasting results or making lifestyle changes takes a long time and a lot of support and personal trainers are on the front lines.

With that in mind, it’s not uncommon for personal trainers to spend hours every week checking in, answering questions, and offering unwavering support. Sometimes it’s as simple as helping a client choose the right meal when eating out and other times it may be talking someone off the ledge of giving up. Either way, it’s part of the process and trainers need to anticipate these instances and budget time for them.

Time commitment: 8-10 hours/month


Physical fitness and performance are relatively new fields in comparison to other areas of study. The human body is incredible, and trainers need to stay up to date with research and strategies to optimize results for their clients.

It’s not just learning about exercise either. Part of being a great trainer is knowing how to coach people, and that means learning about nutrition, psychology, and behavior change. That’s a pretty wide area of study for anyone to master.

In addition to having to take various continuing education courses every year to maintain certification, most trainers will likely attend at least one seminar, take one online course, and read at least a handful of books every year to stay competitive with their peers.

Time commitment: 8-15 hours/month


Personal trainers spend a lot of time in the gym coaching clients but spend almost as much making their business run and growing their career. While most outsiders and aspiring trainers may not realize it, the responsibilities they manage in between client sessions allow them to add much more value to their clients and get them more results.