Group Fitness Instructor versus OPEX Coach: Job Fulfillment

The economics of a group class instructor vs the opex model

The client, the coach, and the business: If you’re in the fitness industry, the hope is that all three can be successful.

For this to happen, the client needs a solution to his/her problem—to get and stay fit and healthy. The coach needs job fulfillment and an opportunity to make a professional wage so he can have a long-term career in fitness. And the business needs clients and coaches to stick around in order to be profitable.

None of this is possible if your gym is run by part-time group fitness instructors who are getting paid $20 an hour to run a class. This is only possible if coaches become professional fitness coaches.

In the third article of this six-part series, we’re looking at the difference in job fulfillment between a group fitness instructor and an OPEX coach.

Other Articles in this series:

#1: The Economics: Group Fitness Instructor vs. OPEX Coach

#2: Client Perspective: Group Fitness Instructor vs. OPEX Coach

Group Fitness Instructor versus OPEX Coach: Job Fulfillment

When you ask pretty much any fitness coach why we started coaching, our answers are usually fairly similar:

“I want to make a difference in people’s lives through fitness.”

We know how much fitness has impacted us—sometimes it has helped to completely transform our own lives—so the idea of paying this gift forward has a heartwarming appeal.

In other words, most of us get into coaching because we’re following the “Do what you love advice” my generation was brought up to believe you’re supposed to do when it comes to your career.

Along the way on our fitness coaching journey, many of us become group fitness instructors—be it CrossFit, boot camp, spin classes, etc.

It’s fun for a while. We get to spend all this time in the gym with motivated people who want to get fit.

But after a couple of years coaching group classes, the same thing happens to all of us: We realize we can’t really make a difference in our clients’ lives if all we do is administer a group class workout.

Sean McCullagh, the owner of OPEX Baltimore experienced exactly this.

“I was an athlete in high school and college and had really great coaches that were really formative for me,” he said. McCullagh wanted to “have that type of impact on people’s lives,” he said, which is why he got into coaching fitness.  

He soon realized, however, this wasn’t possible as a group fitness instructor.

“I didn’t feel like I was making a difference in people’s lives. I just felt like I was selling a product,” he said.  

The bottom line is, if we don’t get to know our clients’ real problems and struggles—be it chronic pain they experience, food disorders they suffer from, childhood trauma that still affects them today, or sleep or work stresses—the workouts we’re administering in the group setting sort of become all for naught.

While working out is useful, people need help with the other aspects of their lives in order to reap the full benefits of gaining physical fitness.

Thus, we eventually realize life as a group fitness instructor will never provide us with the job fulfillment we hoped for when we got into the fitness industry.

This was especially true for Georgia Smith, an OPEX CCP Coach from Australia. She used to coach group classes and said she never felt like she could put her skills to use in this environment.

“I eventually reached a point in the group environment where I had all these tools, but wasn’t able to use them because I was stretched so thin coaching a group of 20 people. How could I dig into their sleep, lifestyle, and nutrition? There just wasn’t the time or the resources to do that in a group,” she said.

Smith added: “It was frustrating because I knew I could do so much more to serve these people, but didn’t have the time in the group model.”

This is the impetus behind the OPEX model—a model that provides individualized fitness plans and monthly lifestyle consults, where the coach can actually dig into the clients’ problems that are holding them back, and then work on creating real, long-term habit changes to improve all areas of their lives. love this!

It has made all the difference for OPEX CCP Coach and gym owner Michael Pilhofer.

“It’s true one-on-one coaching. It’s really getting to know this person and then building this relationship with them to help them with their health and fitness. You just can’t do that in a group setting,” he said. “It’s so much more fulfilling for me, and I think it is for the client, too.”

McCullagh agrees.

“Fulfillment is much higher (now),” he said. “It feels like this is a career now, a professional career.”

Smith added:

“This is why the OPEX model is so powerful. It allows you to create alignment in people’s lives that goes beyond just training. We talk about nutrition, lifestyle, sleep, their purpose—why they walk on this earth—and we help them keep everything aligned toward one goal so there aren’t any contradictions in their actions,” she said.  

As a result, Smith explained she feels like she’s finally able to help people now. She’s finally “making a difference,” she said. She’s finally fulfilled.

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