Episode 30: Are you too old to become a personal trainer? – with Marc Trussell of GoMarc Personal Training

Marc Trussell tells us how, aged 42, redundancy led him to decide to leave his marketing career in financial services to become a personal trainer.  He explains how he became a personal trainer, what it’s like having a career in fitness and how he’s planning his future.

Today’s guest

Marc Trussell of GoMarc Personal Training

Website: GoMarc Personal Training

Instagram: @gomarc_pt

YouTube: GoMarc Personal Training

Marc has twelve years’ experience in endurance, obstacle course and high intensity interval training.  He is the first and only certified Spartan SGX Level 2 Coach in the UK as well as CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and Level 1 MovNatCoach.  Marc is the first and only Spartan Race Perfect Delta holder in the UK and one of only around ten in the world.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • How redundancy can be an opportunity to start something you otherwise won’t start
  • Why there’s never a perfect time to start something new, but there’s usually a plan B
  • The virtues of changing career later in your life and how you can use the experience you’ve built to your advantage
  • How to maintain the passion when your passion is also your job
  • The challenges of working with people on a personal level (and not just on a professional level)

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.

Episode 30: Are you too old to become a personal trainer? - with Marc Trussell of GoMarc Personal Training

Jeremy Cline 0:00
Does your age automatically rule you out of some of the more physically demanding careers? This episode will show you why the answer to that question is an emphatic 'No'. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.

Hello and welcome to Change Work Life, the show that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. My guest this week is Marc Trussell of GoMarc Personal Training. Marc became a personal trainer at the age of 42, and in this episode we discuss why he did it and how he plans to make sure he has a long career ahead of him in what is, let's face it, a physically demanding line of business. Hi Marc, welcome to the podcast.

Marc Trussell 0:54
Thank you very much for having me. Pleasure to be here.

Jeremy Cline 0:56
Can you start by telling us about yourself and what it is that you do?

Marc Trussell 0:59
Yes certainly. My name's Marc Trussell, I'm 47 and I'm a personal trainer with my personal training business Go Marc PT.

Jeremy Cline 1:07
You mentioned that you're 47 - I gather you only came to personal training when you were 42?

Marc Trussell 1:12
Forty two, that's right. Previously I was in financial services. I was in marketing - professional marketeer - in financial services for a good number of years. Got made redundant - that was Christmas 2014 - and decided to basically make my hobby my business. I'd been previously into endurance sports for the last 10, 12 years. And I thought, well, I enjoy this so much, why don't I make a career out of it? So became qualified as a personal trainer in the summer of 2015.

Jeremy Cline 1:45
When you were made redundant - I've spoken to people before and there was a previous guest on the podcast who said when he was found that he was going to be made redundant, he was the only one with a great big smile on his face - was it the sort of big kick that you needed to do what you do now or did it come as a complete surprise and you had to really think about what you were going to do next? How did that all pan out?

Marc Trussell 2:07
Initially we were kind of told we had the review period, that kind of thing. I was initially looking to stay with marketing. I was looking at maybe companies like EasyJet, Britannia, that kind of thing - because I'd previously been in the travel business as well - a travel agent for five years - so I thought well how about you know combining the marketing element with airlines holidays, that kind of thing. But it was actually someone saying you know, you would make a very good personal trainer - and I thought well, why don't I just give that a go? I think it was the kick that I needed in order to kind of launch that because I think having not been made redundant I'd probably be in the same career path that I would have been those years ago.

Jeremy Cline 2:46
So was this suggestion made to you after you'd been made redundant or had someone mentioned it beforehand?

Marc Trussell 2:51
Beforehand. It was beforehand. It was it was over dinner - can't remember where, but it was over dinner -someone said 'You'd make a very good personal trainer', and that thought kind of stayed with me, elements of it - not enough for me to actually go ahead and do it.

Jeremy Cline 3:03
Okay, so it was just something that was in the back of your mind, but not something you ever thought you'd really do?

Marc Trussell 3:07
Absolutely, yeah.

Jeremy Cline 3:08
So if you hadn't been made redundant you think you'd still be there, still be in marketing?

Marc Trussell 3:14
I think I'd probably still be in financial services along the lines - yeah in marketing, probably doing what I was doing all those years ago.

Jeremy Cline 3:21
Tell me more about the decision to become a personal trainer then. So you were made redundant, you've got this idea in the back of your head. Was it then that you thought 'Yes, I'm going to give personal training a go', were you thinking actually 'no I'm going to try and find another job doing something else'? What was your thought process like at the time?

Marc Trussell 3:37
The thought process was - I mean, when we were made redundant, there was three of us in the marketing department that were made redundant - we were given adequate time to sort CVs out, basically look for jobs. In the time kind of running up to the redundancy that's what I was doing. And then later on, I thought, well, you know, I'll give this personal training thing a go. So as I said, I was made redundant In the December and I started my gym instructors course in the January. Yeah, I basically kind of just left the company running really and just, you know, went into that aspect of it. It was a case of Yeah, okay, well, what about this? I've got the opportunity to do something I want to do, so this is the perfect time to do it. I mean, the timing wasn't perfect - never is. We were in the process of selling our house. We had a five year old at the time, and a nine month old as well. So the timing element was terrible, but I think there's no real good time to do it, there's no perfect time to do anything. It just worked as it was.

Jeremy Cline 4:33
The stars never align!

Marc Trussell 4:35
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Jeremy Cline 4:36
So how much did you know about personal training as a career rather than fitness as a hobby, when you took the decision to go down this route?

Marc Trussell 4:46
Nothing really. Not that much really. I was lucky enough to be able to get a grant - I think was a government grant, that if you're over certain age, then the government will pay an element towards your gym instructor qualification. I mean it's two stages. So you become a gym instructor first, which is level two, then you become a personal trainer, which is level three. From the element between level two and level three, you've got the option to specialise in acertain aspect, which I specialised in CrossFit, which is functional training, and also Spartan SGX, which is group training based around obstacle course race methodology. The first one was a week's course, offsite at Stevenage swimming pool. I learned the fundamentals of gym instruction, physiology as well. So learning about the muscles and bones, that kind of thing. It finished with a practical exam on the gym floor. So from that developed into a level three element, which is more like tailoring fitness plans for individuals and looking deeper into the physiology of the body.

Jeremy Cline 5:48
So when you started the training course, how long did you expect that it would take basically, before you'd start earning money? What was the sort of expected journey before you had paid employment as a gym instructor, and how did it actually pan out?

Marc Trussell 6:06
That's a good question because initially the gym instructor - okay so you're a gym instructor, that's fine, that's great, you can go and get a job in the gym, you can go and get a job as as a fitness trainer in the gym - but the personal training element, that's when you can get your insurance as well in order to train individuals rather than walking around the gym, checking equipment, that kind of thing. A few weeks after the personal training element you have got this kind of honeymoon period even where people know you, you're new to it, they say, 'Okay, yeah great, I know you so let's go and train together.' You're still learning the ropes as you're going along in the first year or so, but now I'm still still learning all the time as well.

Jeremy Cline 6:47
And how much of a risk did it feel like when you started down this road?

Marc Trussell 6:52
Pretty big risk, but I did get some redundancy money so I was okay for a while. I had a bit of a buffer in that element. As I said previously, I don't think I would have just left the job and gone into this personal training element because you know, because I would have needed financial backing for that.

Jeremy Cline 7:11
At what stage did your wife know that you were planning to do this? Had she already got an inkling before you were made redundant? Did it come as a complete surprise at the time you were made redundant that you announced 'No, I'm not going to get another marketing job, I'm going to become a personal trainer.' Can you tell me a bit about that?

Marc Trussell 7:28
Yeah, my wife was very supportive all the way through, it was a case of you've got to make it work so you've got to enjoy what you're doing, and this is the perfect opportunity to go down the personal training route and you know what, if it doesn't work, then you've always got your marketing background, you've got the financial services background, that you could go back into that industry as well.

Jeremy Cline 7:48
So did you have a plan that you were going to give it for a certain length of time?

Marc Trussell 7:52
I thought initially about three years, something like that, see how it was. Obviously the first year just to see how that goes and then develop it. But I mean, it's not easy. I would say it's pretty tough. There's always a concern about you haven't got a fixed income, you know where your clients are booked up -there's quite a few up and downs. However, I've been given so many opportunities that I would have never have got if I'd have stayed in financial services, and that's why I can't look back on it.

Jeremy Cline 8:20
So what sorts of opportunities do you mean?

Marc Trussell 8:22
I work closely with Spartan Race who are an obstacle course race company. I'm the highest qualified Spartan SGX coach in the country, which is great. I go to races, I do emceeing for races, start line warm ups, finish lines, I've done obstacle course racing training courses, I coach online, and also I've got the opportunity this year to do some coaching in Spain as well - really looking forward to that the odd weekend over the summer.

Jeremy Cline 8:49
I've got to ask this question with a certain degree of trepidation that when you started the fitness coach - at age 37, were you at the upper end of the age bracket of your fellow students or was it sort of pretty typical that a lot of the people starting down this road were not just starting out in work?

Marc Trussell 9:11
That's a good question. There were a couple of people on the course, that were around my age. They were doing the course as a development of their career in the leisure industry. I think I was probably the oldest one there. So yeah, it was more 20 somethings on the course if I remember. But yeah, I was one of the one of the more mature students as it were.

Jeremy Cline 9:35
Was that ever something that you thought about might put you off, you know, 'it's a young man's game', or anything like that?

Marc Trussell 9:41
No, not at all. No. My background is endurance sport. I coach on experience rather than going through the motions of sets and reps. Traditionally, a coach is a personal trainer. I'm previously Ironman Triathlon, double Ironman Triathlon, ultra marathons - the way I coach is basically I apply what I've done to I can coach somebody how to actually get it done based on my methodology. I think that with age comes experience. So that's how I look at it.

Jeremy Cline 10:10
I guess it gives you a certain amount of credibility. If you can say, 'Yes, I've done these Ironman triathlons and these ultra marathons' and all that sort of thing.

Marc Trussell 10:18
Yeah, definitely.

Jeremy Cline 10:19
People will look at you and go as 'Oh yes he's done it', rather than a 22 year old who's just starting out say.

Marc Trussell 10:24
Yeah, that's it, who's got it from a manual! You know, he's got it from manual, or he's read an article on on how to coach it. So yeah, I coach purely on experience.

Jeremy Cline 10:33
Is the physical training, is it a physical job in itself and kind of where I'm getting to is does it have a longevity, a shelf-life? You hear about people in trades, who, you know, by age 50, their back's knackered and that sort of thing. What sort of length of career do you think that you can have or intend to have or would like to have as a personal trainer?

Marc Trussell 10:56
I think you've got to be active, you've got to be moving. So if you're - like a tradey for example - if you've done your back in or something like that, then that's not gonna help you, because you can't get out there and coach because you're helping with the weights, you're picking weights up, you're showing people the moves, you're running with them. I mean strictly it could be classed as a bit of a young man's game. However, there are kind of other elements to it. I can't see myself - in the kind of longer term - I can't see myself coaching from a one to one basis for years and years and years to come. I think I would like to go down the online route - online programming, online coaching - and also as a resource to companies for their coaching as well. Maybe on a consultancy basis, that kind of thing.

Jeremy Cline 11:41
What does online coaching and being an online resource look like? 'Online programming,' I think that was the phrase you used.

Marc Trussell 11:48
I've got clients around the country who I coach. We check in once a week with a call - video call - to see how we're doing, any tweaks that need doing and also I'll set them up a programme, basically a four week programme at a time, for the goals they want to do - whether that be an obstacle course race, which I specialise in, or whether it be an ultramarathon, or whether it be a some other kind of triathlon, or some other kind of event. They do kind of come to me. The online element is more specific, they come with a specific goal, an end goal - rather than 'I want to get fit', that's more on the one to one side.

Jeremy Cline 12:21
Okay, so what sort of a goal is that, to run a marathon, or to do one of these Spartan races or something like that?

Marc Trussell 12:27
Yeah, that kind of thing. Usually it's mainly Spartan racing that I help people with. Spartan racing, obstacle course racing. And also it's not only the physical side - it's the mental side which I'm very very interested in. Basically the kind of, you've got to have it in your head if you want to complete it.

Jeremy Cline 12:46
So the Spartan races, these are the ones where you got to scale a 10 foot wall, drop into freezing mud and all that sort of thing?

Marc Trussell 12:54
Yeah, that kind of thing. Mud runs - very popular in the UK at the moment. So you've got I would say 5k distance, 10k distance, half marathon distance - and from that you've got number of obstacles that you have to complete, whether that be scaling walls, whether that be flipping tyres, throwing spears, carrying heavy objects, that kind of thing. So basically kind of a spiced up race.

Jeremy Cline 13:17
And the online coaching that you do for people to help them get through that, what sort of form does that take? Is that just you sitting down and talking to someone about what to do? Or do you get up and demonstrate things?

Marc Trussell 13:29
Well, what I like to do if possible - I've been expanding a series of videos on YouTube as well, which show techniques in terms of rope climbing, in terms of scaling walls, and as well as that I tailor the programming to the event. It's not always possible, it's difficult unless you've got a specific place to go to to replicate these kinds of things. I'll programme an individual so that they'll experience the same sort of stresses as they would as per an obstacle race.

Jeremy Cline 13:58
Okay, so where I'm going with this - this sounds like something that you can potentially do, it doesn't take the physical toll, it's something that you could do for the next 15, 20 years if you wanted to. Is that right?

Marc Trussell 14:09
Yeah. I could well do. If it was something that I got to sell globally. I mean, something selling globally, kind of, you know, stack it high, sell it cheaper, because we've got a one overall programme that I would produce, I prefer to actually programme on a personal one to one basis, because everybody's different.

Jeremy Cline 14:27
You used the word passion earlier when you were talking about personal training, and some would say why don't you go into it, which is something that's come up several times, actually. And I always think it's interesting with following your passion, the danger of you losing the passion in the thing because you're making a job out of it. So you know, when you are doing all the races and you're doing all the training and all that sort of stuff you're doing it for the love of it, but then when you've got to earn money out of it, and you've got to find coaches and you've got to do it no matter what, even if you don't feel like it or whatever, is that something that you've been alive to? Is it something that you've experienced? Can you see how making a job out of this could risk sort of losing the passion that started you down this road in the first place?

Marc Trussell 15:18
Yeah, definitely. It can be - for want of a better term - a poisoned chalice I would say, because I mean at weekends, that's when a lot of people like to train. That kind of stops me sometimes being able to do what I want to do in terms of the racing itself. But I mean, that sounds a bit cliched, but when you see what you've done to help people in terms of them getting over the obstacles, and in terms of the training, and then completing the race, that kind of passion goes over to them as it were - it's kind of you get your passion from that person because you've helped them achieve it. Even though you may not have done it yourself that time.

Jeremy Cline 15:56
You've already done it, so you've inspired other people to do it I guess.

Marc Trussell 15:59
Yeah. That's it. Yeah. I mean, sometimes you do want to continue. I will take the odd weekend out o continue with the races. You know, I'm not training and I'm not racing as much as I did previously, because I'm coaching other people to do so.

Jeremy Cline 16:16
And when do you fit family life round all this? You mentioned you've got two young kids?

Marc Trussell 16:19
Two young kids. Yeah, I mean, I try to do a lot of my training early in the morning. So I've got people who I coach at 6 in the morning and I try to kind of close that off in the evenings, just so we've got some kind of time with the family as well. Sometimes with personal training, it's a case of you know, you're working all hours because you're working the hours of people's free time. So if they're kind of working nine to five, nine to six o'clock, you have to coach at seven, eight o'clock - but I try not to do that. Weekends I coach in the mornings at weekend, trying to keep the afternoons free, and during the day as well, I've got clients that I do coach during the day who are on different shift patterns, and early in the morning as well before work.

Jeremy Cline 16:59
What was the thing that was most surprising or that was most different about doing this for money, essentially doing it as a job rather than doing it just for pleasure? What was the most challenging thing that arose as a result of switching in that direction?

Marc Trussell 17:15
I think dealing with people. I was in a big financial services firm, and you were dealing with people on a professional level, whereas here you're dealing with people on a personal level. I would say I was very good at marketing with other people's money, however, it's sometimes a bit of a challenge when it's your own money as well.

Jeremy Cline 17:34
I was going to ask you about that. I mean, do you think that your marketing experience has helped you in this career?

Marc Trussell 17:40
It has helped but again, I think I'm because I'm so close to the business, I'm so close to GoMarc Personal Training, it can be challenging because you look at it on a very kind of one level - quite insular - rather than a broader spectrum when it's a company you're actually working for,

Jeremy Cline 17:54
And I guess it could be quite a lonely thing, actually. I mean, do you have a support network, a mastermind group of other personal trainers? Who do you go to talk to if you've got a particular problem in the business and you need some advice on it?

Marc Trussell 18:08
I don't really kind of network that much with local personal trainers - only kind of guys and ladies that I see in the gym. And we talk about stuff - we talk about the challenges of coaching on a one on one, and also on a group basis as well. I'll also coach groups of people as well. So I would say they're a kind of a network as well, because you do hear everybody's problems and things like that. Part of an obstacle course racing team as well, that's a community network. No, not really kind of networking with other personal trainers actually, that's a very good point.

Jeremy Cline 18:39
Okay. And when it came to the business side, then what sort of support did you have in terms of turning this into a business, you know, getting paid, charging money, how much you should charge? Presumably there's all sorts of insurances and all that sort of thing. Has that just come out of the courses that you did? Or is it stuff that you have to learn separately?

Marc Trussell 19:00
It's pretty basic. You've got to have an hourly rate, you have a day rate, you have a monthly rate where you get a certain amount of sessions for a discounted rate, you've then got a company called Reps who look after the insurance. The rest of it is kind of self-done. I've got me an accountant I use for the tax return, and that's it really. And you have a relationship with the gym, and how much rental you pay and on what terms. So, you can basically - not make up as you go along, but I suppose it is - it's kind of however you want to do it, whether or not you coach from home, or whether you coach at an individual's house, whether you coach from gym, from a gym, or in a field or at a facility. It's all quite scary at first because you just don't know where to start. But I think it's just something that you learn as the job goes on.

Jeremy Cline 19:49
Okay, so it is literally just picking it up as you do it?

Marc Trussell 19:52
Picking it up as you do it. Exactly, exactly right.

Jeremy Cline 19:55
And when it comes to the business development side of things, getting clients, how do you do that? And is that an uncomfortable part of the job or something that you're quite happy with?

Marc Trussell 20:07
A lot of it comes from recommendations from the gym. A lot of it comes from social media. I use a lot on Instagram, Facebook, and face to face at races as well. The obstacle course racing community is quite quite small - although it's getting bigger and bigger it's quite small - and so everybody knows each other. That's where you get a lot of business and recommendations from that community, people talking to each other and saying I've coached with this person you know, and he's good. Give him a go.

Jeremy Cline 20:36
And wants the toughest thing about what you do? If someone has a magic wand and they can say Marc, I can make this disappear for you I can get someone else to do it, what would that be?

Marc Trussell 20:45
I think from a personal basis it's something you have to do in terms of notice periods, charging people, charging people for sessions when they cancel, that's difficult - but you've got to do it. You've gotta treat everybody the same. That kind of thing. If you've got notice that's fine, but if somebody cancels the night before or a couple of hours before they're due to train, you've got to say well I'm sorry, I've got to take this as a paid session. And people are very understanding of that as well.

Jeremy Cline 21:12
And how do you manage your risk on that? Do you take upfront payments?

Marc Trussell 21:15
Try and take up upfront payments, yeah, as much as possible. I mean, that kind of negates it really, but it's just rather than say sorry that you've used your credit for that session, because the late notice, it is a lot more difficult if people are paying cash. So I try and get the payment up front.

Jeremy Cline 21:34
And have you had any difficulties with that - people kicking up a stink where you've charged them for a session which they've cancelled late?

Marc Trussell 21:40
Not so much, no, it's just I think it's kind of the trepidation in my head of doing it, and it's never as bad as you think!

Jeremy Cline 21:48
I think there's a lot of things like that where you kind of dread it and then you come to do it and actually it's not so bad at all.

Marc Trussell 21:53
Exactly. Exactly. People appreciate you're running the business. You're not doing it - even though you are doing it for fun! - you're not doing it for fun.

Jeremy Cline 21:59
Five years from now, ten years from now, what do you think your business is going to look like?

Marc Trussell 22:03
I think hopefully it's going to be on a more kind of consultancy basis. I would like to stick into the sports industry. And also looking to maybe work for a company on this kind of consultancy business to actually use my skills as a personal trainer, use my skills as a marketeer, and use my experience in the world of endurance sports. How that looks I'm not too sure. I like the idea of working for charities as well. The charity sector does appeal to me. I mean, there's a lot more directorship in terms of charity events that involve obstacle course racing, that involve running. So I'd like to look down that avenue as well.

Jeremy Cline 22:40
So let's look into the future. Looking backwards, if you'd known then what you know now, is this a change that you would have made earlier do you think?

Marc Trussell 22:51
I think so yeah. My career has stemmed from travel agency to financial services to personal training, which is quite varied, but yeah. I think it's something I would have done earlier. Definitely.

Jeremy Cline 23:02
So if you could go back in time to any point in your history and you can choose when that might be, when would that be? And what would you say to yourself?

Marc Trussell 23:10
I think it would have been perhaps when I became a coach, when I received my financial planning certificate. Because I had Associate Chartered Institute of Marketing, so professional marketeer, and I think at that point when I had that qualification, maybe I should have just moved on at that point, rather than kind of leaving it four, five years down the line after that.

Jeremy Cline 23:33
Yeah really interesting to hear about what you're doing and your change. The question I ask all my guests is whether you've got any particular resource which has helped you, be it a quote, a book, just something which has helped you through your journey and which might help other people?

Marc Trussell 23:48
Something that kind of does resonate a lot is an ex-manager of mine said - this is when I had to do a presentation to somebody, to a sales team - it was 'be comfortable with being uncomfortable', and that has kind of stayed with me through everything really - through one-to-one coaching, through coaching big groups, through emceeing at races, and also through the events themselves. When you get towards the end of an event and you're struggling, you've got to be comfortable with being that uncomfortable.

Jeremy Cline 24:19
That's great. I love that. And I think you can also turn it around the other way. I think if you find yourself feeling too comfortable, then it's possibly time that you need to start pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

Marc Trussell 24:28
Absolutely, yeah, definitely. Yeah, exactly.

Jeremy Cline 24:31
Where can people go to get hold of you, find out more about you if they'd like to get in touch?

Marc Trussell 24:36
My website is gomarc.net, and I'm on Instagram as GoMarc PT - so it's GoMarc_PT.

Jeremy Cline 24:51
And that's on Instagram?

Marc Trussell 24:52
That's it. Yeah.

Jeremy Cline 24:53
Fantastic. Okay. I'll link to all that in the show notes.

Marc Trussell 24:56
Great stuff.

Jeremy Cline 24:57
Marc, thank you so much for your time.

Marc Trussell 25:00
It's been a pleasure. Thank you very much for having me.

Jeremy Cline 25:01
I hope you enjoyed that episode with Marc Trussell of GoMarc Personal Training. One of the recurring themes in this podcast is how some guests have used redundancy as a kick up the backside really to get out of a career they're not really enjoying and starting to do something different. And they've all said that they wish they'd made the change sooner. I mean, it's great that they've used what could be an extremely stressful time and much uncertainty to create an opportunity. But part of me does wonder, why do you wait until then? I like the fact that Marc recognises he's in a career where he's going to have to think quite carefully about his future. It's not a desk job that you can necessarily do well into your 60s, and Marc's clearly thinking about how he can continue with his personal training in the future. Show notes with links to all of Marc's contact details are on the website, they're at changeworklife.com/30, and you'll also find a link there to Apple podcasts and it would mean the world to me if you could leave a review, it really does help people find the show. Clearly running the Spartan races that Marc coaches on needs both physical and mental resilience, and it's mental resilience that my guests and I focus on next week. If you've got the feeling that your work isn't doing much for your mental health, then you'll want to listen to this one. I can't wait to see you there. Cheers.

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