Running Start Chapter 9 | What to do with your time when not training clients

In this chapter, let’s talk about the things you should be doing when not having a training session with clients.

You’ve got to make your me-time count.

What to do when not training clients

Let’s get started.

While much of your time as a personal trainer is spent working with clients, there are periods when you will have some time outside of the gym environment.

And while it’s important to get a little rest and relaxation, these periods are when a personal trainer does all the behind-the-scenes work that helps make the magic happen in the gym space.

So as a new personal trainer, what is it that you should be focusing on when you are not in the gym?

Well, that’s what we are going to cover in this chapter.

We are going to get into the nuts and bolts of all the hard work a personal trainer puts in behind the scenes to help their clients change their lives.

But we also are going to cover a few things that you as a personal trainer should be focusing on to better yourself as well.

So let’s start with that.

Using your time in between client sessions to better yourself

As personal trainers, we often focus everything on our clients and tend to forget about ourselves.

That’s particularly true when you are starting out and are wanting to first make a good impression and second, build up your client roster so you can make a success of your career.

That puts plenty of pressure on yourself, often to your detriment.

So it’s important to take the time that you spend away from training clients and use it to your benefit as well.

And there are several ways that you can do this.

Keep training to stay in shape

Now we can probably argue forever as to how people perceive that a personal trainer should look.

And that’s fine because everybody will have their own opinion. 

For example, should a personal trainer look ready to enter a bodybuilding competition?

Well, that depends on the trainer and their ideas, wants, needs and goals when it comes to their fitness.

One thing I can tell you is that to be a personal trainer, I believe that you must look after your body and stay in shape.

This is something we often neglect at points during our careers.

But why must a personal trainer be in shape? Well, there are many reasons.

A personal trainer that’s in shape is credible and trustworthy

If you think about it, this just stands to reason.

Why would an overweight client want to sign up with a personal trainer that’s carrying some extra pounds themselves?

What does that say about those personal trainer programs when it comes to weight loss?

Although they might be effective, just the perception their extra weight creates will be a huge negative for someone looking to choose a personal trainer.

They are probably going to go use the services of someone else. 

As I said earlier, it’s not about having muscles bulging all over the place.

But it is about looking fit and healthy.

That’s going to make you seem credible from the moment a potential client lays eyes on you. 

That’s just the way the world operates.

First impressions last, that’s for sure. 

Your job is physically demanding

Look, as a personal trainer, you are going to spend plenty of time on your feet.

But that’s not all.

What about carrying weights, showing your clients the correct way to exercise and even helping them stretch.

This is a job that will take a lot out of you during the day.

And that’s another important reason why you should be in shape.

A personal trainer that takes time out to stay in shape can deal with those long days in the gym, where getting five minutes to sit down and have a cup of coffee is a luxury. 

Finding the time to train

Yes, I know what you are thinking.

“When can I find the time to train?”

This is something that affects all of us as personal trainers, especially as our client rosters grow.

So it’s all good and well that you need to stay in shape but you are struggling to find the time to do so.

Luckily, there are plenty of solutions if you think outside the box a little. 

Train alongside your clients

This should only be an option if THEY ask you to, it’s not something you should suggest to them. 

A client might want something like this because you can become an effective workout buddy for them and even provide some extra motivation for them to succeed.

But even if a new client asks you to train alongside them, it’s probably better to say no at that point.

That’s because with new clients, you are going to want to focus on their form and that they can do the exercises at the intensity you require.

It’s an option for more experienced clients that know the exercise and how to carry them out.

Again, I cannot stress enough that training alongside a client should only happen if they ask you to do it. 

If they do ask you, there are two ways you can handle training in this manner.

Either train the exercises as they do, or opt to do alternate sets.

If you go for the second option, it means you can still keep an eye on the client to see that they are going through each exercise properly. 

Teaching multiple clients new exercises 

For those personal trainers with plenty of clients to work through, adding new exercises to their existing plans and changing things up slightly can have a benefit.

That’s because if you are introducing exercises they haven’t done before, you are going to have to give them a demonstration as to how the exercise looks in terms of form.

Do that to several clients throughout the day and yes, you will be burning a few extra calories, that’s for sure. 

It’s not only a benefit to you, but to your clients as well.

That’s because you are keeping their workout routines fresh and interesting.

That stops them from getting bored when things get stuck in a rut. 

Think outside the box for cardiovascular exercise

Cardiovascular exercise is a must, right?

And one of the easiest ways that you can achieve some form of cardio is by thinking outside the box a little.

For example, does the gym that you work in have some stairs?

Well, you can use them to train in the downtime while you wait for your clients.

You could even incorporate them into a client’s training regime and also workout with them at the same time (as we covered above). 

Stairs are also a brilliant idea for interval training.

And with that, you can push yourself hard in a short space of time. 

Exclusive PTP CPT Offers

Gold Standard Cert
Save 25%
Most Popular Cert
3 Certs for 1
Best Study Materials
See MVP discount
A Good Option
50% off
A Good Option
50% off
Best CPT for you?
Get Free Trial

But it’s not only at the gym where you can get your cardio in.

If you live within running distance, why don’t you opt to run to and from the gym in the mornings and evenings when your shift is over. 

If running is not your thing, perhaps you can consider biking to the gym instead.

Both of these are excellent ways to keep your fitness levels up, especially if you are prepared to push yourself hard. 

Change up where you train

There is a common problem that personal trainers find when they train in the gym that they work in.

And that’s on their own training time they are still seen by members as gym staff on duty.

As a personal trainer, you will become one of the most recognizable faces in the gym.

ou are there pretty much every day and even when clients don’t make use of your services, they know who you are.

That means, from time to time, they may ask for advice, or your help with a certain exercise, even on your own training time.

And while most of us don’t mind helping out, that distraction can mess with your momentum as you train.

There is another scenario at play here as well though.

For many of us, training in the same gym that we work in is not something that we enjoy.

And it’s completely understandable as to the reason why.

That’s because if you spend most of your day there, why would you also want to train there?

So changing where you train not only stops the interruptions but it’s also good to keep you fresh and motivated.

If you are training at your gym where you work and find it a problem, it’s certainly worth your while trying to get your daily workouts somewhere else. 

Taking the time to better yourself

So after we’ve covered the need to look after your body from a fitness point of view, there is also the need to continually better yourself.

That’s especially true if one day in your future, you are looking to specialize in a certain area of the personal training field, for example, as a strength and conditioning coach or a group exercise specialist. 

You are also going to have to take the time to focus on your continuing education.

And while I have mentioned it before, let’s just refresh on that a bit because it forms part of what to do with your time when not training clients.

Continuing education

The thing is, no matter what certification organization you become an accredited trainer through, they will have continuing education (CECs) requirements in place that you will have to fulfill.

This is usually in two to three-year cycles. 

And it’s certainly something you need to take note of and plan for.

That’s because you will have to earn a certain number of points during these cycles.

You earn these by attending various workshops, seminars and other meetings that are run by the certification organization or other bodies. 

Why I say you need to plan this carefully is that you  don’t leave too little time to earn them in.

That’s why it’s better to plan well ahead, identify the workshops or seminars you can attend and gain the correct number of points so that your certification remains valid for another cycle. 

But there is another reason while I think CECs are important.

It’s the exposure they give to a range of other areas in the world of fitness.

In fact, in this way, they could help you choose what area you would like to specialize in.

So in a nutshell, by continually looking to better yourself as a personal trainer, you will not only take care of your CEC requirements but more importantly, it’s your clients who will benefit the most.

That’s because you continue to improve yourself as a trainer, a win-win for everyone. 

In the chapter resources, I’ve included a huge list of continuing education providers that are some of the best for you to explore when looking to gain CECs or further certifications.

The downloadable document is called the Comprehensive Continuing Education Providers List.

Upskilling your fitness knowledge

If there’s one bit of advice that I can give you after my years in the fitness industry, it’s that you should always be trying to better yourself.

And when I say that, I am talking about expanding your knowledge base.

Believe me, after taking a certification exam following six months of study, you just about know the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fitness.

There is just so much more to learn.

I know that certifications are expensive but if you are just starting out and money is a little tight as you try to build your career, there are still many ways to increase your knowledge and carry on learning.

Thankfully, there are many resources on the web that you can make use of.

It’s one of the reasons why I started my web portal, PT Pioneer.

So take some time to find websites, social media feeds and other resources that you can go through and learn from.

And keep returning to them, there is a wealth of information to be found, that’s for sure. 

Another option is to make use of your local library and find reference books to work through.

This is an inexpensive way to learn.

If you have some spare cash, you could also subscribe to one or two fitness magazines.

They are usually packed with useful content and often contain the latest techniques and fitness ideas that are rising in popularity in gyms across the world.

These are all good and well, but at some point, you need to start looking at the bigger picture.

If you don’t upskill yourself, you are going to be left behind.

As a personal trainer, you should always be looking to continue your overall development.

The best way to do that is through self-improvement. 

And it stands to reason, right?

If you don’t upskill yourself, eventually, you are giving clients a service that becomes outdated.

Why would they want to train with a personal trainer who received a single certification 20 years ago and hasn’t moved on since then?

But let’s take a look at a few more reasons why you should always look to upskill during your career as a personal trainer. 

It helps to always provide the best for your clients.

By studying further, you are improving what you know about health and fitness as well as the industry as a whole.

While that benefits you, there is a group of important people that it will benefit even more – your clients. 

Not only will you be able to provide them with the latest in cutting edge workouts that will help them achieve their goals and expectations but it gives you the edge on your competitors as well.

Those that aren’t advancing their knowledge are going to simply fall behind.

It keeps you relevant

Thanks to the fast pace that the fitness industry continues to evolve at both you as a personal trainer and the skills that you possess must stay relevant.

And that’s what studying further will do for you as well. 

The fitness industry is in a constant state of change.

And it’s not only new fitness techniques and skills you have to worry about.

Technology is playing an ever-increasing role too.

Things like fitness apps, wearables and online training are all taking the fitness world by storm.

You simply don’t want to be left behind. 

As an example, let’s take a look at different exercises as well as new equipment that personal trainers can build into their clients’ exercise programs.

If you can continually learn new exercises, how to incorporate modern equipment and ultimately, build up and have a huge exercise library at your fingertips, your clients benefit greatly. 

Knowledge of a huge library of exercises also means that you always have a backup plan, for example, when the equipment you want to use for a client is not available or occupied.

That also means you can change things up by taking a training session outside of the gym and down to the local park, for example.

These are the things that make for a great personal trainer.

If you are looking for the ultimate resource for exercise libraries online, download the chapter resource called The Best Online Exercise Libraries.

It aids client safety

One of the key things that’s paramount when training clients is their safety.

Exclusive PTP CPT Offers

Gold Standard Cert
Save 25%
Most Popular Cert
3 Certs for 1
Best Study Materials
See MVP discount
A Good Option
50% off
A Good Option
50% off
Best CPT for you?
Get Free Trial

That safety is partly guaranteed by your overall knowledge when it comes to exercise as well as any medical conditions that a client may be suffering from. 

By upskilling yourself through studying further, you are helping to keep your clients safe.

And if an injury or situation does occur, you will also then have the knowledge to deal with it. 

It helps you keep things fresh

Upskilling yourself certainly helps you to learn new techniques that can keep your exercise programs fresh.

You don’t want to be a personal trainer 10 years down the line still devising the same programs over and over again, right? 

That’s going to lead to one thing and one thing only – bored clients, especially those who have some training savvy.

And what will they do then?

Well, they will simply look elsewhere for their training needs. 

When you are constantly improving yourself, it’s the client that benefits the most and ultimately, that will benefit you in the long run.  

You can offer more

One of the big plusses when it comes to upskilling yourself is in the fact that you can offer your clients more. 

And here I am talking about adding extra certifications to your knowledge base.

For example, as a personal trainer, you might want to take a massage therapy certification and offer that as an added service to your clients.

Or you could choose the route of a specializing, helping clients who want to lose weight.

For that reason, a nutrition certification will come in handy.  

Adding more services to what you already know increases your income streams as well because it will lead to a larger client base in the long run. 

You can earn more

Another massive plus point when it comes to upskilling yourself is that you can charge clients more.

Think about it, in the medical field, a specialist charges more than a regular doctor because he is an expert in his chosen field, for example, sports injuries.  

It’s the same when it comes to personal training.

If you specialize in a certain area, you can certainly charge your clients more than you would as a regular personal trainer.

Specialization is the easiest way to improve your income before you even branch out into other income streams, for example, online training. 

It is something that I cover in my marketing, business and sales course too if you would like to explore that a little further.

Because let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to earn a little bit more money? 

Using your time in between client sessions to be better organized

So now that we’ve covered how to better yourself as a personal trainer during the downtime between training sessions, there’s something else that I want to discuss.

As a personal trainer, you need to be pretty organized.

That’s because if you have a pretty big client roster, things can get a little hairy at times when you are not.

Ultimately, if you aren’t properly organized, then clients will suffer.

Continue to do it, and you will suffer as they look elsewhere for a trainer that is.

There’s nothing worse for a client who turns up on time to a training session, only to find their trainer dashing around to find the correct workout routine for them.

It’s certainly not a good look and thoroughly unprofessional. 

So let’s take a look at a few things that will help you become more organized as a personal trainer.

Start with a schedule

As your client base grows, the first thing you should be looking to implement to help keep track of training is a schedule.

This is probably the most important aspect of your organization policy.

Get the schedule wrong and miss a training session that you were meant to be at and you are going to have an unhappy client. 

Now each of us has our way of keeping track of things, but there are a few important rules that you need to follow, no matter how you choose to do it. 

The first step to any good schedule is to keep track of everything by recording it.

It could be a diary in which you write down appointments. If you love technology, you could use a spreadsheet to draw up a schedule.

Or you could even use the calendar on your tablet or smartphone.

Just find the right system that will work for you.  

And that’s why I recommend finding a personal training software option that works for you, your clients and that fits your budget.

It’s an invaluable way of tracking so many different variables that you need to keep a close look at.

In terms of managing client appointments, it is difficult to beat.

It’s probably best to keep track of your schedule on a week by week basis (for example, write out your schedule for the upcoming week on a Sunday).

Once you have recorded it for the upcoming week, the second step is calling to remind clients of their appointments as well as calling clients to book appointments in any open slots you have available during the week. 

Once your schedule is up and running for the week ahead, you simply have no excuse when it comes to client appointments.

That’s not only making sure you are there for them on time, but also that you are prepared for each client.  

A good way to make sure you don’t miss an appointment is to set reminders on your smartphone.

For example, an hour before you are due to see a client, set a reminder about their appointment.  

Keep proper records

If you have three clients or 33 clients, you owe it to them to keep proper records. 

From the start, clients will generate plenty of paperwork.

Things like the questionnaires they fill in before you do the initial assessment.

Then there is your assessment itself, followed by the various training programs that you might draw up for them.

And what about the notes you take while they are busy training.

All of this will need to be kept in a suitable manner where it can be easily accessed.

Perhaps the best way of doing this is using an alphabetized filing system with each client ordered according to their surname.

Again, personal training software can be a godsend in this regard.

No need for any files or papers that can easily get lost, as now all client records are kept digitally.

And they are available and ready at your fingertips whenever you need them. 

But that’s not the only way to do it.

Perhaps you could order clients in terms of the package that they have purchased from you, for example keeping all those who have purchased a year-long contract together.

Or you could organize your clients on their preferred time of appointment, for example, keeping all your clients that exercise in the morning in a batch together.

There is no right way here, it’s just the best way that works for you.

Of course, you are going to need somewhere to store all this information.

If you have an office at the gym where you work, a simple filing cabinet might do the trick.

Just find a place where it will be safe and behind lock and key as well.

After all, client information is confidential and should always be respected in that regard. 

Deal with the day-to-day

When you work as a personal trainer, training clients is always at the forefront of your mind.

And it should be because that’s what you do.

There are other day-to-day activities that, while not as important, shouldn’t be pushed aside, however.

It’s for that reason that every day, it’s important to set time aside to keep on top of things.

But what exactly am I talking about?

Well, for one, you could contact clients to confirm their appointments the next day, especially if they are prone to be late or sometimes don’t just show up.

That’s being proactive.

And it’s a good thing. 

But why stop there?

You can also look to fill up your schedule a week at a time.

That gives you peace of mind and means that over the weekend, you won’t be chasing clients to book for the week to follow.

This period is also perfect for other important aspects of running your business as a personal trainer.

Things like checking your emails or getting back to anyone who may have called while you were busy with another client. 

There are plenty of other things that you will need to keep your hand on as well.

These might not be day-to-day activities, but something you shouldn’t overlook.

For example, keeping up with paying any bills, following up on continuing education workshops or sending motivational messages to your clients. 

I’ve included a range of motivational messages in a downloadable resource for this chapter called Motivational Messages.

Draw up and re-evaluate client training programs

When it comes to your clients, things are always changing.

That’s because as they train with you, they will improve their fitness. 

That means that the exercise program you started them should be continually evolving.

So it’s important that when you are not in the gym, you set aside some time to look into each client’s program and change them up when you need to do so.

This can take a lot of time, especially as your client base grows but it’s an essential task that you simply cannot ignore.

Of course, for every new client you gain, you will also need to take the time to draw up a unique training program for them.

Track potential clients

In the last point, I mentioned that part of your day-to-day activities should include following up leads for potential clients.

And it’s something that’s of extreme importance if you are looking to grow your business.

So you are going to have to set time aside to do this.

As a personal trainer, not everyone is going to sign up with you straight away.

People will come to chat about your services and what you can do for them and might go away without signing up.

But that doesn’t mean that your chances are done and dusted.

For the most part, you should try to get contact records for every potential client you talk to.

And then you follow-up on their interest – because they certainly showed interest – at a later date. 

You can do this using a simple spreadsheet.

Keep the client’s details, how you sourced their details (for example a referral), the last time you contacted them as well as the number of contact attempts.

There is nothing wrong with contacting them on multiple occasions, especially if they don’t say “don’t contact me again” but rather “let me think about it a little more”.

Tracking potential clients is something you simply cannot ignore as a personal trainer.

That’s especially true if you are not working in a large commercial gym but as a freelance trainer.

If you want to grow your business, you need to master it.

As far as tracking potential clients go, it’s something that I cover in my marketing, sales, and business course in detail.


Once you have systems in place that help you to remain organized, it’s not a time to sit back on your laurels.

That’s because, no matter how well you have planned these systems, nothing is ever perfect.

That’s why, from time to time, you should set aside a period of evaluation.

This can be applied to everything you do. But for now, I want to focus more on the organizational side of things. 

What you need to do is look through how your systems are operating. For example:

  • Is your schedule working as it should be?
  • Do you arrive prepared for every client you see (for example, do you have their information readily available?
  • Are you getting to the day-to-day tasks such as following up leads, answering email, handling marketing and more?
  • Are you leaving yourself enough opportunities to train and keep in shape?

These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself.

They will help you to find pitfalls in your planning that you can then focus on correcting.

Believe me, you will always be streamlining your system to improve it.

Take some time out

Listen, even a personal trainer needs some downtime.

It’s important that now and again, you step away just to give yourself a much-needed break. 

At times, especially as your business grows, that might seem like an impossibility.

But it’s necessary.

That’s because you are going to be no use to your clients if you burnout.

My advice is this.

Once a week, find time in your schedule to step away for a little.

I’m not even talking about going to the gym here and training.

You want to get away from that entirely.

So go watch a movie, take time to go read a book, see some site in your city, have coffee with friends, the list is endless.

As long as it takes you out of the training game for a little while.

Your clients will thank you for it, that’s because when you are back your focus will be renewed. 


Being a personal trainer is not all about training clients, that’s for sure.

You have to use the time when you aren’t training them to your advantage as well. 

And that’s what we covered in this chapter.

From training yourself, continuing education and how to properly organize your business, we looked at range of crucial factors a personal trainer must consider when not on the gym floor with their clients.

Whether you train in a gym or online, all of these points are relative.

I cover other specifics that pertain to those trainers who take their careers online in my online personal training course.

Don’t forget to take the chapter takeaway quiz to make sure you have a good grasp of everything covered here.


Course Resources – Chapter 9 – Best Online Exercise Libraries

Course Resources – Chapter 9 – Comprehensive Continuing Education Providers List

Course Resources – Chapter 9 – Motivational Messages

Chapter 9 Takeaway Quiz

Running Start Chap 9

1 / 8

True or false? A trainer that’s out of shape will still be seen as credible by most clients. It’s the head knowledge that counts.

2 / 8

Another reason for you to stay in shape as a personal trainer is the fact that _______?

3 / 8

True or false? It’s not necessary to follow your own training program in your downtime.

4 / 8

Which of these should be your first priority when it comes to bettering yourself as a personal trainer?

5 / 8

One of the best ways to continually improve as a fitness trainer is to ____?

6 / 8

True or false? Upskilling your fitness knowledge doesn’t help in keeping clients safe during training

7 / 8

When keeping client records, which of these is one of the best ways to do so?

8 / 8

When not dealing with clients, you should constantly re-evaluate and draw up new exercise programs as the need arises. True or false?

Your score is


Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

PTPioneer Editorial Integrity

All content published on PTPioneer is checked and reviewed extensively by our staff of experienced personal trainers, nutrition coaches, and other Fitness Experts. This is to make sure that the content you are reading is fact-checked for accuracy, contains up-to-date information, and is relevant. We only add trustworthy citations that you can find at the bottom of each article. You can read more about our editorial integrity here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Find the best Cert for you

Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ISSA Exam


Before you spend your money on the wrong personal trainer, nutrition, or other fitness certification. 

Which Certification Is Best For You?


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The CSCS Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ACSM Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ISSA Nutritionist Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NCSF CPT Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NASM CNC Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NASM PES Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NASM CES Exam


Get the top 5 Tips for Passing the ACE CPT


Get the top 5 Tips for Passing the NASM CPT


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NSCA CPT Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ACE Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NASM Exam

Scroll to Top