I remember growing up as a kid, my father NEVER smiled. I think I was about 12 years old before I ever heard him laugh. But right around the time, he hit his mid-50’s, that all changed. I remember it was right around the time he left his job as a middle school principle to go back into the classroom to teach.  You couldn’t stop him from laughing. And truth be told, he was the master of horrible jokes…and forgetting punch lines. As we both grew older and I became more insightful, I referenced this change to him and asked him what caused the shift? He said, “because I went back to doing what I love.”  Instead of being on the administrative side and feeling like he was more of a disciplinarian, he was able to go back to what he got into teaching for in the first place…to mentor and mold the minds of his students each and every day.

What does this have to do with fitness?


I, like many of the personal trainers out there, got into this industry for two reasons: a passion for fitness and a desire to help others. And as with anything that is driven by passion, I poured everything I could into it. The deeper I got, the more I wanted to be the absolute BEST at it.

At the time, I was an independent trainer that was consistently booked solid. I remember setting a goal of 32 hours of appointments a week but found myself steadily doing 42. Why? I loved it. I was happy. At an average of $60 per session and just about zero overhead, I was making some pretty good dough, too. But my passion kept driving me to want to do more. And this led me to invest a whole lot of money into online business courses that were specifically targeted towards personal trainers. A LOT OF MONEY! I had the passion, I was eager, I wanted to thrive, I wanted more, and I was like a sponge that couldn’t learn enough!

There was definitely a common theme among many of these Personal Trainer-targeted business courses. It seemed like each and every one of them was telling me the same two things:

  • One-on-one personal training is dying, do small group and boot camps instead
  • One hour sessions are dying, do half hours

And they all sold their products by saying the same thing…make more money doing what you love, stop working so many hours and have more free time, make more by doing less, etc.  All attractive sounding statements…no?

So I slowly started to make the shift.

And I slowly found myself just like my father…smiling less, laughing less, and a whole lot less satisfied in my day to day work life.

boot campInstead of doing one hour sessions, I was doing a lot of half hours. I don’t care what anyone says, you can’t bond as much with a person in half the time. If someone says you can? I say that whatever they could do in that 30 minutes, you could do TWICE as much in an hour.  Yes, half hours made it more affordable to the consumer. And yes, in the long run, I could make more per hour. But, for me, it just didn’t feel the same. Heck! I don’t even like to train just for 30 minutes. Why would I feel good about passing that along to my clients?!?!?

I also started doing a lot more small group training. Again, I don’t care what someone says, when you are in a group, there is a certain amount of intimacy that will go out the window. It didn’t feel the same. Its like the difference between going to a party with someone you’re dating or having an intimate candle-lit dinner with them. Sure, the party can be fun. But the real special moments are when you’re alone. That’s how I felt about being with small groups. Fun? Certainly, at times. But for me, it lacked that something special when I compared it to my one-on-one sessions. Everything about this model was taking the “personal” out of personal training. And if I was feeling it, I can only assume that some clients may be feeling it, too.

I know longer was enjoyed what I was doing. All of a sudden, it actually FELT like “work.” What had happened?

I had forgotten why I started in the first place. My passion got me greedy for more money and more free time. But that isn’t where my passion lied. I was never DRIVEN by the money aspect. Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE making money. But it was secondary. And I never felt like I wanted more free time when I was doing what I loved. My passion was in working with people, one-on-one, every day, and changing their lives through fitness.

This epiphany is when I found myself at a crossroads. I used to live by the motto of “if you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life.” I needed to get back to that. So I dropped all half hour sessions and most of my small group training…and instantly, I started to enjoy my days again.

And…I make a damn good living doing it.

Am I knocking half hour sessions or small group training? NO! Not at all. I think they can be VERY productive and beneficial. If these are your things, by all means…have at it! What I AM knocking is doing something for the wrong reasons.

If you are going to be successful and at the top of the game, you better damn well be passionate about it. So in your career path, no matter what you choose, I want you to follow your passion…and remember why you got into this field in the first place.

PS: It’s been about 15 years since I started reading that One-on-One Personal Training is a dying model…and I seem to keep reading it, every single year. I’m here to say…IT ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE!

James Cipriani

Jim Cipriani is a 20 year veteran in the fitness industry with over 30,000 personal training sessions under my belt. His background in collegiate sports and competitive powerlifting led him towards his career path in personal training. With a love for Pumping Iron, Jim competed in bodybuilding for over a decade and in the 90’s and early 2000’s was one of the best drug-free bodybuilders in the country. Once called a "Rising Star" by the National Fitness Hall of Fame, in 2009 he was awarded the honor of being named one of the "Best Trainers in the America." He now has a thriving business in Nashville (Cutting Edge Personal Training) built on the motto of "Better Programs...More Personal Attention...and Guaranteed Results!" For more information, go to http://www.jimcipriani.com/

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