REAL WORLD PT: Kate DeMayo, Self-employed PT, NSW

A snapshot of how today’s personal trainers are working, living and shaping their careers

What’s your business called?

Extra Mile PT,

How long have you been a PT?

For 14 years, since 2004.

Are you full time or part time?

I’m currently full time. As well as being a PT franchisee at a local gym, I also train outdoor clients and teach some group fitness classes.

What made you decide to become a trainer?

A few factors coincided to lead me to make a career change in my early 40s, from journalism to personal training. I was getting a little tired of working primarily in an office, and was casting around for some ideas for future careers. Although I have always been active, I was never particularly sporty or athletic, so I hadn’t really considered personal training. I decided to become a trainer when I joined a gym at around this time and found that many of the trainers I encountered were not very well attuned to women in my age group.

Do you specialise?

While my clients and class members represent a wide range of ages and abilities, I do have a particular focus on older adults, people with injuries and chronic health conditions and people with disabilities. I think that my own age (I turned 60 this year) does help me to establish rapport with middle aged and older people.

Do you have a signature style of training?

I use whatever tools are available and appropriate to the client, which can be anything – fixed machines, Swiss balls, cable machines and free weights all have their roles to play. In the gym, there is an enormous variety of equipment, but at the other end of the scale, I teach group fitness in a community hall where my equipment consists of resistance bands, dumbbells and a lot of floor space!

How many hours do you train clients for each week?

I typically spend about 30 hours a week training clients and delivering classes.

How many hours do you spend working on your business?

I spend about 4 to 5 hours a week on administration, marketing and promotion, and at least 2 to 3 hours a week on continuing education. I really try to ‘work smarter, not harder’ by using a couple of excellent online resources to manage my client database and access exercise libraries.

What hours do you work?

My hours vary day-to-day, but I work five days a week. I typically start training clients by about 7:30am, with sessions through to 1:30pm. Three days a week I train clients again in the afternoon/evening, with the other afternoons and one or two evenings devoted to admin, marketing and learning.

What do you do in any downtime?

I use non-work time for my own exercise (gym, running, bushwalking, learning to play tennis), reading for pleasure and – especially if I’ve started early – the occasional nanna nap!

What do you do in terms of your professional development?

I attend the FILEX convention most years, as well as reading widely on fitness and related issues and attending occasional workshops. I scan the major newspapers and online news sites for articles about fitness and exercise, and try to keep up with the latest research in fitness so I can give clients the best information possible. I have done some useful online courses, but when possible, I prefer face-to-face learning.

How much do you charge?

My fees vary depending on session length (I offer half-hour, 45-minute and hour-long sessions) and frequency of training (regular clients pay less than occasional ones), but the range is generally from $45 to $80.

How many clients do you have?

I have about 35 regular clients, and a handful of people who see me occasionally for program updates or just to get some new ideas and variety for their training.

How long do they stay?

It varies, but I have several clients who have been with me for 10 years, and over a dozen who have been training with me for five years.

How do you get new clients?

New clients come from a range of sources, with word of mouth and observation (people who see me at the gym) being the most common. I have also gotten clients from my group fitness classes and from casual conversations – sometimes from totally unexpected sources.

Do you vet clients before you agree to train them?

I meet every prospective client for a conversation, at which point I determine their needs and goals, explain my approach and costs, and talk about how we might work together. I am not so much accepting or rejecting them, but giving both of us a chance to make sure we feel comfortable with each other and that they understand my commitment to them and my expectations of them.

Do you ever turn clients away or refer them to other PTs?

On a few occasions, I have suggested that another PT would be a better fit and/or better qualified to work with someone. I have referred some clients with complex situations to a physio or other health professional because I consider their needs to be beyond personal training.

What differentiates you from other trainers?

I chose my business name because I genuinely do go the ‘extra mile’ in client care, whether it is weekly phone calls to a client’s dietitian or physiotherapist, helping someone choose equipment for their home gym, or organising a team for the Blackmore’s Sydney Running Festival. I know how challenging it can be for many people to adopt an active, healthy lifestyle, and will use whatever resources I have to support my clients in doing so.

What is the best thing about being a PT?

The best thing about being a PT is being a part of so many people’s lives, and having the privilege to get to know them and be trusted by them. It’s an honour – our clients are making a leap of faith to let us train them, and we need to do our best by them.

And the hardest?

The hardest is that, while training clients, we have to be 100% present; unlike a desk job, it is all face-to-face and personal, and it is about the client, not the trainer. We can’t take it out on our clients if we are tired, stressed or preoccupied.

What is the biggest misconception about working in fitness?

I think there are a couple of major misconceptions about trainers – one, that if you are fit, active and athletic, you can automatically be a good/successful trainer, and two, that all your clients will be motivated to make dramatic lifestyle changes, and successful in doing so.

Where would you like your career to take you?

I hope that more and more people come to realise the importance of exercise for people with special needs, chronic health conditions and disabilities. With the rolling out of the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme), for example, more people with disabilities will potentially be able to receive funding for personal training, and I hope to be able to serve more of them. I would also like to potentially mentor new trainers, and maybe help them learn some of the lessons that took me years to learn, a little faster.

What is your fitness philosophy?

It’s never too late to start.

What key piece of advice would you give to someone starting out as a PT?

Don’t expect quick results in building a PT business, any more than our clients should expect instant success in losing weight, building muscle or whatever their aim is: establishing trust and a good reputation takes time. Becoming a successful trainer is more like marathon running than it is sprinting!

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