Hi, friends! Today we are going to take a break from all the holiday cookies and wonderfulness. I promise it will return shortly. If you want to listen to holiday music while reading then, you do that! The Amazon delivery guy was blasting Katy Perry in his van and told me he was excited Christmas music would be on next week. I was excited to inform HIM he could list NOW, but apparently, he limits himself to Christmas music for 1-week max. In my house, my hubby can barely wait until Thanksgiving is over to blast it, so I respect the one week limit, six weeks later it gets a bit like torture music (also known as EDM).
Okay back to today’s post. Two years ago I wrote about what it was like to work as a WIC Dietitian for one year. I know many of my readers are Dietitians or friends considering going back to school to be an RD, so I thought writing about my experience would be helpful! I’ve received numerous emails, messages, and calls from RD’s asking what it was like to work as a Life Time Dietitian so I thought it would be good to do another post. So here we go! Keep in mind; this is my experience and my experience only. My experience has no reflection on the company or other RDs that are currently or were employed by Life Time. I want to keep it general and say “health club Dietitian,” but in reality, there aren’t many of those.
What Drew Me In
I always loved and hated being a member of Life Time. I joined, canceled, and joined again. I loved the facility, the classes, and all the amenities but I hated the aggressive selling. I would complain to my husband about how terrible they were and how annoying it was. Then, one day, shortly after I had just rejoined the gym for a second time, I saw a sign advertising food sensitivity testing. My immediate thought was how cool I thought it would be to do that with my clients. I searched online, found they had a position open and was interviewed less than two weeks later. For me, it was and still is my dream job.
- Functional and Integrative Medicine Training – food sensitivity tests, cortisol curves, blood work interpretations, resting and active metabolic assessments, it was all as incredible as it sounds (if you are a nerd like me.) Supplement training included as well.
- They take a “real food” approach to food. I wasn’t just calculating calories or giving out meal plans. Nope, I was teaching people how to eat REAL food. They favor a paleoesque – high fat lower carb style approach, which I loved and still love. (Read the Eat Well Live Well Manual, it’s incredible.)
- Sales Training – an overlooked skill that should be learned by everyone in college. Cold calling, talking to strangers, not fearing rejection, and becoming extremely confident were all invaluable skills I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
- Becoming a personal trainer satisfies all five years for one CDR cycle. Well, you do need to take one ethics course, but still.
- Working as a personal trainer and with personal trainers teaches you how to coordinate nutrition advice with the workouts. You learn so much about how each personal trainer is different and what works, what doesn’t, and how they strategize.
- You are working with people who genuinely wanted your help. Coming from WIC, where many people had no desire to talk to me, this was refreshing. You can help them because you are not bound by any strict government regulated advice. You have all the tools that you could need to help someone as long as they can afford it. Coaching, seminars, and all the testing mentioned above, you have all the tools you’d ever want to help someone improve their health.
- Amazing co-workers. My co-workers, a team of 35 personal trainers, were terrific. No, I mean really, they are remarkable people. Granted, they were all outgoing people interested in health and fitness, so, it wasn’t hard to get along with them. When I think about the people I worked with, honestly, I learned something from every single one of them. I also met Dr.K there, who was the first and only person to get me off my Meloxicam and help me fix my back, twice.
- The atmosphere is fast-paced, full of energy, positivity, and excitement.
- Free membership to the gym.
Since this is the number one question I get, I will explain how your employment is set up. I was part of the Personal Training Department. The position (at least when I was there) was 100% commission. Different levels of commission, are attained for various services and products sold under the Personal Training umbrella.
NPC vs. Dietitian
Dietitians may find themselves beginning in one or two roles. They may be a nutrition coach, or they may be a nutrition program coordinator (NPC). Most Dietitians will start as an NPC, which means they will make a second commission under any nutrition service or product sold by anyone in the club (again that’s how it was set up then.) I began as a nutrition coach because there was already an NPC in place at my club; this was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because I had someone who was the top nutrition program coordinator in the country there to teach me everything. She is amazing, and I’m forever grateful for everything she taught me. On the flipside, I wasn’t getting that override (a commission all things sold under her product by herself or any other person in personal training) that she had which was a substantial monthly amount. When I look back, for me, that was a wash. I would have never done as well as I did if I hadn’t trained under her. Eventually, about ten months in, the NPC at my club got promoted, and I began as the NPC. The NPC is part of the leadership team, which is the management team. In my case, the goal was always for me to take over as the NPC. So, I was already going to leadership meetings.
One last thing about the commission Dietitians receive. As I said, you are set up under the personal training umbrella. So you make the same commission for nutrition services as you do for personal training services (although there are levels of commission depending on experience and training.) However, consider this. If I sign someone up for coaching for three months, they will sit with me for a total of 6 sessions. If a personal trainer signs someone up for three months, they will work with them 1-3x per week for three months. I will say that when I became the NPC and the only nutrition coach in the club, I had no problem filling my schedule. It was when there was another Dietitian (more established than I) that it was more difficult.
I used to call this negative money because that’s what I felt like it was. This isn’t done in all states, but it is in Arizona. They pay you a minimum wage hourly loan, and then you have to pay it back as you start making more commission.
Feel free to message me if you have more questions about that. UPDATE: I was recently informed from a friend still working at Life Time that they have done away with the draw system so I can no longer speak to the pay system that is set up currently.
I’ve written and then rewritten this paragraph a thousand times. It’s so hard to articulate what the hours are like. You are encouraged to work 45-50 hours a week, but I usually worked much more than that. The more you are there, the more chances to make a sale, make connections and see clients. As the end of the month approaches, I would work countless hours to hit my own “goal” or help the team hit the collective goal. By the time I got a workout in and then got ready at the gym, then worked out, I was often in the building 10-15 hours per day. Weekends were more profitable, so I always worked on Saturdays. Honest to god, nothing made me want to skip a workout more than working in the gym full time.
I loved my job there, and I still think that it was the coolest most worthwhile experience I’ve had as an RD so far. Unfortunately, you don’t get any extra credentials for working there but you should because my training was potentially more valuable than grad school. Except that graduate school gives me three little additional initials after my name and qualified me to become an RD. I loved the members, I loved my co-workers, and I loved the management team. So then why did I leave?
Honestly, my love for the role is the reason it took me a solid year to write about working there, I didn’t want to leave, but I knew I had to. I knew that I couldn’t work as much as I was, maintain Hungry Hobby, and have a marriage. With commission pay, I felt like I was always in survival mode (regardless of whether I was doing well or not). As I explained in my recovering from amenorrhea post, I hadn’t had a period in four years. There was no way I was getting any better working a commission job in the fitness industry. Despite what I knew and what I was teaching my clients, more often than not, my eating was erratic and weird. I was always comparing myself to others and trying to live up to the standards of bodybuilders. At some point, it all imploded on me. I became very very very depressed about six months in. I didn’t recognize it as depression at the time, but that’s precisely what it was. I just thought it was me adapting to sales and my new position, but no, it was full blown depression. I slightly improved when we got Nala because she forced me to come home more often. However, she also caused stress, because hello a puppy while working that much — bad idea.
By the time I was making consistent money and had established myself I was full on burnt out. My usual bubbly self would hide in the office and shut the door. I took as many on the phone lab review appointments I could see so that I didn’t have to talk to anyone face to face. I just wasn’t myself anymore. So, when the opportunity came to teach classes at a local community college one time per week, I took it. The next semester I was offered two additional courses, so I quit to teach, re-launched my private practice (Hungry Hobby RD), and worked my tail off on the blog.
Bottom line – it was a freaking awesome experience, with excellent training opportunities, and great co-workers. For me, it was a dream job. I probably would have stayed if it wasn’t for my health concerns as well as my other dreams of writing, blogging, and private practice.
This is mostly written for the Dietitians that I get emails and phone calls from considering taking the position. If you guys still have questions feel free to shoot me a message, I’m happy to talk with you about it. Too all my past co-workers reading this, you guys are fantastic, thanks for making it such a fun year.
Update — I get emails from Dietitians several times a week who are thinking about this position. The most common questions I get are:
- How much did you make while you worked there? Honestly, I don’t really remember, but I do remember there was a ton of variability. To be honest I was usually more concentrated on my sales number than my paycheck. Probably somewhere between 900 and 5000 a month.
- Was the position high-pressure sales? Yes, you have a quote you must reach every month. High pressure is what you make of it, that wasn’t my style and I still hit my monthly goal almost every month. I recommend the book, to sell is human.
- Were you involved with blood testing? Yes, but I was one of the last to be trained on interpreting the results. Toward the end of my time there they started outsourcing interpretations to corporate if you weren’t already trained. I would inquire with the NPC that interviews you about your potential to be involved with blood testing.
- Were you already a PT or did you become one while you worked there? I got certified while I worked there and Life Time reimbursed me for my NASM certification.
- What were your typical hours? At first, I tried to be in the gym when it was busiest – 5 am to 9 am and 3 pm to 9 pm and weekends. I went home in between or worked out when I did split shifts. Once I was well established I tried to stick to a more “normal” schedule of 7 to 7.
If you have questions beyond that I’m happy to answer them. I prefer a comment on the post so that more people can benefit from seeing your question and answer but if you have a more personal question feel free to email me!