Have you ever seen the episode of The Simpsons called ‘King of the Hill’, where Homer joins the gym, eats loads of Power Sauce bars and climbs the imposing mountain, the Murderhorn?
You have! Well, once you’ve stopped laughing at Homer plummeting down the mountain with a dead body for a sled, it’s important to remember that our balding, yellow hero would never have been able to join his local gym and climb the mountain without a fitness centre manager to run his local facility.
Fitness centres provide personal exercise and fitness training facilities for members of the public. These establishments exist in both the public and private sectors; public sector fitness centres are administered by local government authorities, while private sector operators include large companies, healthcare facilities, hotels, resorts, cruise liners, educational institutions and health and fitness companies that operate as regional, national or international franchises, such as Fitness First and Virgin Active.
As a fitness manager, your core responsibilities will involve meeting revenue targets through marketing and promotional activities, and recruiting and training staff for customer service and personal trainer roles.
At all times, you’ll be focusing on providing a satisfactory and enjoyable customer experience, whilst ensuring that high standards of hygiene, health and safety are met.
You’ll also be responsible for handling supply and procurement activities and dealing with equipment manufacturers to ensure that all pieces of exercise equipment comply with the required safety standards.
Furthermore, you’ll be preparing and maintaining detailed records of day-to-day operations, managing finances and writing reports as required by regulatory authorities and local councils.
Salary & benefits
Annual salaries for fitness centre managers in the early stages of their careers range between £17,000 and £27,000, while managers with more than ten years of experience can earn between £35,000 and £60,000 a year.
Multi-activity health and leisure clubs, boutique fitness and spa facilities and well-established national chains, catering for affluent or corporate clientele, provide higher salaries. Many also provide additional benefits such as pensions, target-driven bonuses and discounts on certain products and services.
Your average work week is likely to be comprised of irregular hours, i.e. early mornings and late evenings, and may involve shift-based schedules over a seven-day period.
However, the job involves very little travel and the working environment is relaxed when compared to other office jobs.
You may need to follow a dress code; most fitness centres and gyms provide uniforms for all personnel, including managers.
Specialist training and certifications in specific exercise forms or fitness levels, physiotherapy, first aid and other related areas are useful in securing jobs in large-scale establishments.
The job is open to candidates with all kinds of academic qualifications. You certainly don’t need a degree to develop a successful career in this area.
However, obtaining a degree, diploma or certificate in sports science, fitness training, leisure management, business studies or another similar discipline will provide you with an extra edge over other candidates.
Before you take up a job as a fitness centre manager, it’s often necessary to obtain recognised credentials in fitness training and instruction, which are recognised by the Register of Exercise Professionals.
Prior practical experience is pretty much essential. Therefore, working as a personal trainer, group fitness trainer, a lifeguard or a sports coach before applying for positions is a good idea. You will also need to have a high level of personal fitness.
Training & progression
Initial training is largely facilitated through work shadowing and gaining hands-on experience. Some large companies may provide formal, structured training schemes. However, most training and development activities will be self-initiated, depending on your interests and future ambitions.
Various organisations offer relevant certificates and diploma courses which will help you to develop your skills, such as the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) and the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES).
Continued professional development and updated specialist certifications will pave the way for a long and successful career as a fitness centre manager.
Flexibility and mobility are also essential, since moving across locations is essential for landing bigger and better jobs.
An alternative career option is freelancing as a personal trainer for an exclusive group of clients.