Is Fear Holding Back Your Fitness Business Success?

It was the scariest day of my life.

After spending 8 years working towards this one goal, it was all gone in a flash. I had just handed over the keys to my gym to the new owner. It was the gym I had built. It was the gym I had filled with clients. It was my dream.


Now I was left unemployed and unsure where my next paycheque was going to come from. I was terrified.

Is Fear Holding Back Your Fitness Business Success_

In this post, I want to share with you the fears I faced as I built my online fitness business at If you're a business owner, I am sure you will be able to relate.

I also want to help you examine your own fears. Are they holding you back? What would happen if you acted DESPITE your fears? What's your next step?

Afraid to Change, Afraid to NOT Change

I became a personal trainer in 2001 and quickly built a business by training people in their homes. At first, this business model seemed great because I had very few costs to run it. I bought a few pieces of equipment, threw them in my car and went ahead. Easy!

But I soon realized that my earning potential was severely capped. I could only see a few clients per day as I spent so much time driving around the city. There had to be a better solution.

I took a leap of faith and bought a house that had a huge basement that I converted into a training studio. Now my clients could come to me. I was a genius!


I now had clients coming in and out of my home all day long.

My neighbours didn't love the constant traffic coming and going to my house and the city issued a cease and desist warning since my home was zoned for this type of business. 

Yikes! Onto the next plan. And here's where things started to get really scary...

I sold my house and bought a commercial property where I could build a gym. I took a bank loan for a few hundred thousand dollars and the construction began. I was excited. Finally, I would be able to grow a legitimate business. This was my dream!

GreenFit Gym

I looked happy in my new gym, but deep down, I hated my life.

But less than a year after the gym opened for business, I was miserable.

I was working longer hours than I ever had before. I was the first person to arrive at the gym each day and the last to leave. Constant "fires" had to be put out: Staffing, maintenance, marketing, finance - they all fell on my shoulders.

Can you relate? Maybe your "dream job" as a personal trainer is a lot different than you thought it would be?

This was when my fears really started taking hold. I laid awake most nights asking, "What have I gotten myself into?"

Sure, the gym was earning lots of money, but I had no time or energy to enjoy any of it. All I did was work. Could I really keep up with this? If not, what else was I going to do? This was supposed to be my dream. 

In the end, the fear of NOT changing was too great. I simply could NOT imagine myself doing this for the next 20, 30 or 40 years. 

I sold my gym, shut down my business, and for the first time in my life, I was unemployed.

What Do You Have to Lose?

When I sold my gym, many people thought I was crazy: "What are you going to do now? How are you going earn a living? What's next?"

Yes, these were legitimate questions, but here's the thing: What did I really have to lose?

I didn't ask that question to myself lightly. I stood to lose a lot:

  • I lost my gym
  • I lost my clients
  • I lost my paycheque
  • I lost everything I had built up until that point 

That's a LOT to lose for sure! But, I repeatedly asked myself, "What's the absolute worst-case scenario in all of this?"

Worst case, I could always get a job training at a commercial gym. I wasn't going to starve. I could build my business back if I wanted to.

Let me ask YOU a question:

IF you were me, unsatisfied with your current career, what do you have to lose by making a change?

In the worst-case scenario, what is really at stake? Is the worst-case scenario so bad that you should be afraid of it?

What Do You Have to Gain?

After listing what was at stake if I sold my gym, I needed to know the other side of the coin. What did I stand to gain? Doing this helped ease my fears a LOT...

I knew that I wanted to continue working in the fitness industry, but I didn't want:

  • To be tied to a gym
  • To be stuck in one geographic location
  • To be at the mercy of clients' schedules

Instead I wanted:

  • To earn more money
  • To work on MY schedule
  • To finally take a vacation and not worry about my business
  • To no longer trade time for dollars
  • To be able to help more people without working longer hours

Basically, I knew that I wanted to start an online fitness business. That's how I was going to gain everything I wanted from my career.


Starting an online business gave me the career I really wanted all along.

When I envisioned my future life, one where I had more freedom, more influence to help people, more money in my bank account, the decision to sell my gym got a whole lot easier.

What I stood to gain FAR outweighed what I stood to lose. What about you?

Think about your ideal business or career for a minute: How much better would you life be if you were able to achieve this? What do you have to gain?

But It's Still Scary!

Even after comparing what I stood to lose and gain by selling my gym and starting an online fitness business, I was still scared...

  • Where do I begin?
  • What am I going to sell online?
  • Where are my online customers going to come from?
  • How much can I charge for online services?
  • Do I need a website? Software? Other tools?
  • How long will it take to make this new online business work?

These were the types of questions that flooded my mind. Maybe you're asking some of these same questions right now? If so, here are some important thoughts to keep in mind:

1. There's No Rush

When I launched Make Your Body Work, I was working against the clock. I had zero revenues coming in so I needed to figure things out quickly. For some people, this "sink or swim" approach works, but it doesn't have to be that way to begin your online business.

Many of the personal trainers I coach start slowly. They begin transitioning clients from in-person services to a mix of in-person and online, and then they go 100% online. There is no rush. There is no pressure. Go on YOUR comfortable pace.

2. Simple Is Better

I spent a lot of time and money trying to build a perfect website, high-converting sales funnels, sexy lead magnets, and all those other bells and whistles that may seem important but aren't at all necessary.

In reality, there are just a few things you need to get started with your online fitness business:

  1. An email account for lead/client communication - I recommend Gmail
  2. A personal Facebook profile for marketing - You don't need a business page
  3. A method to deliver workouts to clients and track their progress - I recommend TotalCoaching
Total Coaching

TotalCoaching is one of the few tools I needed to grow my online business.

There are countless other tools that will come in handy as your online business grows, but keep it simple to begin with.

3. Don't Do It Alone

When I began Make Your Body Work in 2009, there weren't many people in the online fitness industry. This was good in some ways (i.e. less competition), but I was left to figure things out on my own. Doing it all alone with no guidance or proven methods to follow was scary.

Times have changed. There are many resources available online that can help you build your business the right way. You should check these two out:

  1. How to Become an Online Personal Trainer - This is a FREE webinar I teach that walks you through everything you need to know to begin
  2. Join the Online Trainers Federation Facebook group - Mention this blog and I'll accept your request to join
You coach your personal training clients to surround themselves with people who can help them reach their goals, right? The same is true for you and your business. Surround yourself with people who have done and are doing what you want to do.

Be inspired by other personal trainers who are building profitable online businesses.

Concluding Thoughts

Change is always going to be scary, but it's important to evaluate your fear of change versus your fear of staying the same. For me, running a successful gym, but having no life outside of work was a much more terrifying life than giving it all up and starting my online business.

What about you?

Is your fear of change or your fear of the unknown holding you back from experiencing something that's much more satisfying than what you have right now? If so, join us in the Online Trainers Federation Facebook group. You might just get the inspiration you need to overcome those fears!

Have questions about your online personal training business? Post in the comments below and we'll help!

About the author

Dave Smith

Dave Smith was chosen as Canada's Top Fitness Professional for his innovative online fitness coaching found at Make Your Body Work. He now teaches other fitness professionals how to build their own profitable online businesses. Learn more at the Online Trainers Federation.