Hey, there. I’m certified personal trainer Frank Hawley. You might know me from other Fitplan articles such as Chest Exercises to Do at the Gym, Bicep Exercises for Bigger Arms and 8 Strategies for Working Out to Lose Weight.
I’ve been a personal trainer ever since I finished college in 2015. My first training job was in a small town in Wisconsin with a population smaller than my graduating class. I worked and saved for a year before I was able to fund my move to Venice, CA, which is what I believed to be the center of the fitness world.
I slowly built up a network and a clientele, doing what I could to separate myself from other trainers. I worked long hours, followed up on leads, and took vigorous notes. I continued studying until I built a self-sustaining business, as well as a good reputation within the community, as someone who actually knew what they were talking about.
Today I live in the heart of Venice, CA, just a few feet away from the iconic Muscle Beach, which is what inspired me to move here in the first place.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a personal trainer in Los Angeles, here’s a day in the life of yours truly. It might sound amazing, or it might sound absolutely terrible —you decide.
My Morning Routine
My day usually beings when my alarm goes off at 4 am. I check my phone to see if I any of my clients has canceled or rescheduled. If I’m lucky, my first appointment can’t make it and I get to go back to sleep, although this hardly ever happens. Before I get out of bed I put on a podcast, usually something fitness related. The Jugg Life and Squat University are my favorites.
The only thing that really gets me out of bed is the thought of a freshly cooked breakfast. I’ll roll out of my sheets and into the kitchen where I’ll start preparing an omelet and some oatmeal. I’ll sit at my desk to eat my meal as I stare at my monitor. There are yellow sticky notes covering the edges of my screen, reminding me of all the work I have been procrastinating on. I figure out what needs my attention, which is usually programming for clients or making notes on my client’s videos that they’ve uploaded for me.
If I have a busy day ahead of me, I also prepare my meals for the day. You don’t want to be on your feet all day with your last meal occurring at 4:30 am. I’ll prepare between one and three meals to take with me to work.
After I finish doing a poor impersonation of Gordon Ramsay, it’s time for my first client of the day, Riley. Riley is a 5-year-old, 60 lbs Rhodesian ridgeback mix who trains harder than any one of my human clients. He pulls me on the skateboard along the beach every morning before dawn and has never once complained. I wish all of my clients were this enthusiastic.
Morning Training Appointments
After Riley is taken care of, it’s time to go to work. I live about a mile to the studio where I train clients, so usually, I’ll skateboard there. I like to arrive a few minutes early. This way I can look up my client’s routine for the day and start setting up a work station. Normally this means grabbing a squat rack and getting a handful of resistance bands.
The client will arrive, usually a few minutes late, which in LA is actually early, and we’ll discuss what they have been up to since last we met. Some clients I meet every time they train, but for those who can’t afford that luxury, either because of financial or time constraints, clients are expected to complete the recommended workouts on their own, which I draw up for them a few weeks prior.
Hopefully they haven’t hurt themselves since I saw them last since I’m not there to tell them that maybe today isn’t the day to make their personal record (PR), but in any case, we touch base and discuss what’s working and what’s not, and begin blueprinting for future programming.
While we discuss this, they are performing their prescribed exercise-specific warmup for the day. Warmups are usually broken down by addressing weak points in technique, stability, weakness, or mobility.
Then we get into the main lift(s) of the day. We generally want to be going for some sort of program PR. Either we’re adding more weight, more sets, or more reps to whatever we did last week. As a client’s lifts become more intense, more faults will reveal themselves. I look for weak links in the chain, make notes on what we need to work on in the future, and move on.
After the main lift(s) we’ll do accessory movements, which help fix faults in technique and muscle imbalances.
I’ll make sure to record all the day’s data in their Google spreadsheet, which we both have access to, and make sure we are making progress and not plateauing. Data is a coach’s best friend.
If I time the workout right, which is a big if, then right as I’m wrapping up with one client, the next one will be getting ready to rock. The process repeats itself until the clients stop coming in and I get a bit of a break.
I usually have a gap between my morning and afternoon clients. If it is one of my training days, this is when I work out. My routine follows a similar structure to my clients’, starting with a specific warmup, then working up to the main lift, followed by accessory movements.
If it is a non-training day, I’ll go home, let Riley out, and relax until my next appointment. If I’m lucky I can take a nap. Depending on how much time I have, I’ll do some work from home. That can include writing programs, scheduling/rescheduling appointments, or responding to messages from clients.
After the break, I go back to the studio to train my regular afternoon clients, or sometimes my morning clients who wanted to sleep in. The training is pretty much identical except now I’m wearing shorts.
In addition to training one-on-one in the gym, I’ll also sometimes meet with clients for coffee or lunch. Not only do I get an opportunity to dive a little deeper into how to manipulate their training to better achieve their goals, and build repertoire required to be a more effective coach, I usually get a free latte out of it.
As soon as I’m done with my in-person clients, it’s time to go home where I also coach remotely. A lot of the remote work can be done via text and shared documents, but face-to-face video calls are also a powerful tool for a trainer to build a relationship with a client who is in a different location.
Then it’s time for my last client of the day: Riley again. We’ll go for a skateboard ride around sunset and watch the sun fall into the ocean. Then we’ll go home and I’ll prepare my last meal of the day while Riley eats his kibble.
The evening time is usually when I do the bulk of my continuing education as a trainer. Being a trainer, and your own boss, it is easy to slack off and stagnate. But just like in training, you have to make sure you are getting better every week and not plateauing. I mix it up with the media I educate myself with, i.e. video lectures, audio, and reading.
As far as what I like to read, I spend a weird amount of time on PubMed reading the latest research on sports science. In addition to that, I have been building my home library with the works of people like Dr. Stuart McGill and Dr. Bret Contreras. Currently, I am reading Conscious Coaching by Bret Bartholomew.
Then I check my schedule for the next day, make sure I don’t have any assignments overdue that Fitplan’s Editorial Director is going to yell at me for, [editor’s note: she never yells, at least not through email.] and get ready for bed. I’ll turn off the lights and turn on Netflix and binge until I can’t keep my eyes open anymore before doing it all again tomorrow.