Personal trainer ‘disgusted’ at gym ‘scam’
A "scam" is being run by GoodLife Health Clubs, according to a personal trainer, who has accused the Australian chain of charging fitness professionals huge sums of money to work in their gyms but then uses them to do loads of "unpaid labour".
CJ, a personal trainer from Queensland, filmed a TikTok video claiming it was standard in the industry for "commercial gyms to run off unpaid trainer labour".
She said she worked as a personal trainer for GoodLife Health Clubs where she paid $310 in weekly rent for the "privilege" of being a trainer.
"When you sign up you get a complimentary PT session - a full hour of a qualified professional's time. GoodLife is getting paid. How much does the trainer get paid? Nothing. They do that for free. For exposure," she said in the video.
"You might think 'oh well I can pay $59 for three sessions, that intro package, at least the trainer gets something' - uh, no - the trainer gives you three hours of their qualified time GoodLife pockets the entire $59, plus the trainer's $310 rent, and the trainer gets nothing. There is no paid role for this. They rely exclusively on unpaid labour."
Speaking to news.com.au, CJ said she paid an "extremely expensive" $1600 initial sign up fee to be a personal trainer at GoodLife Health Clubs. She was then offered the option of going straight into paying full rent or having a period of reduced rent in exchange for a certain number of hours of free labour.
"I chose the reduced rent and adhered to the necessary hours of work," she said. "But the free labour doesn't stop when the rent starts though. Well into paying rent, we were expected to work at reception to promote the eight to 12 week challenges and trainers were expected to run the challenge bootcamps every weekend for free. Clients usually pay upwards of $200 for the challenges, and the included bootcamps, yet the trainers get nothing as compensation for the marketing, sales, and subsequent running of challenge services."
GoodLife Health Clubs have a range of membership fees depending on the length of time and level people choose, with a start up fee of $99 required upfront when signing on. The cheapest membership is $17.99 a month for 18 months, while the most expensive is a $39.99 month to month option. Casual memberships cost between $20 and $299.
Even when paying full rent, trainers are expected to run GoodLife programs without being paid - like Jumpstart sessions where a person pays $49 for two PT sessions and Kickstart sessions where clients can get three 45 minute sessions for $59, CJ said.
"You are supposed to use these sessions to convert them into clients but barely 10 per cent convert into clients," she said "When they do things like the three sessions package they are literally selling your services and pocketing all the money for themselves."
GoodLife gyms also gave some members a quarterly coaching session of either 30 or 45 minutes - which is either complimentary or costs $9.99 every three months depending on their level of membership - and a trainer is required to do them for free, she added.
"Even if a client was paying a trainer for regular sessions, they would be told that they were entitled to a free session from their trainer because they paid the "quarterly coaching fee" to the club.," she said. "The trainer gets nothing - and this is for a client that they have already converted to a paying client, so trainers are left with the choice of training them for free, or risk them going to another trainer for the free session and losing their patronage."
The 31-year-old said she signed up to a contract with GoodLife but the notice period to leave was 90 days and trying to get out of the contract earlier was a "nightmare" and "basically impossible".
"You have to pay rent for that entire period and the toughest thing for trainers in the industry is once realise you are not succeeding you're already going broke and you have to pay for another three months which further makes it difficult to stay in the industry," she said.
CJ believes that personal trainers already suffer from a credibility problem and the rental model doesn't help.
"The industry favours salesy trainers, not people who are good at helping people with their health," she said. "It's quite a detriment to the career because good, knowledge trainers who care about health are pushed out for people who can make the most sales, regardless of whether they care for people."
But CJ said it wasn't just an issue with GoodLife Health Clubs and instead is a "widespread problem" across the industry, which often forced many personal trainers to abandon their careers.
"The trainers do all of this free labour for these multi-billion dollar companies because we are told that it gives us "exposure" and that we must do it to get "leads" to potentially convert into new clients," she said. "It is considered the norm in the industry to work for free, so as new trainers, we feel we have no other options if we are passionate about being trainers as a career."
Other personal trainers commented on the TikTok platform confirming they had gone through the same thing.
"I'm a trainer at GoodLife and this is 100% true, was at the gym for 10 hours this week and didn't get paid a single cent," one woman wrote.
"As someone that user to be a membership consultant at GoodLife this is 100% true and I felt so bad every time I sold the package or booked someone in," another user wrote.
While the rental model has potential to be successful, the real problem is that the gyms rely on the free labour to complete the services they sell, she explained.
"If every trainer is succeeding, then there is no-one to complete the services that they are actively charging people for," she explained. "So it feels like the gyms oversaturate the market to ensure the regular failure of trainers, which, in turn, ensures a constant inflow of new trainers to do their work for free.
"I personally worked at a gym with around 24 trainers, and once I finally started, I realised that only four to five of them were actually successful as trainers. The rest were barely paying bills, many with second jobs, desperately trying to stay afloat. There were six new trainers added that month. This showed me that I wasn't brought on as a trainer because there was demand for the service. There was never a chance of my success. I was merely brought in to do the company's work for free, all while paying them for the privilege of doing so."
The experience saw CJ nearly give up the industry but she met another trainer who had gone through the same thing and they have set out to change things.
"We were honestly disgusted that the rental model was the norm," she said.
On January 4, the duo opened their own gym GeekFit 24/7 in Sumner, QLD, funded with their own money. Trainers at GeekFit 24/7 are on a wage and clients have access to quality advice without having to pay excessive fees, CJ said.
Most people drop out of gyms as they aren't comfortable and don't know how to use equipment properly and GeekFit aims to offer advice, guidance and support for free, with the option of one-on-one programming if members decide they need it, she added
"People have access to advice from quality trainers being paid to give them it, instead of people being afraid to talk to a trainer in a commercial gym and ending up in a sales pitch," she said.
GoodLife Health Clubs were approached for comment multiple times but did not respond to news.com.au's requests.
Originally published as Personal trainer 'disgusted' at gym 'scam'