Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

I’m an Online Fitness Coach Who Overcame a Lot of Obstacles to Make It

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“When things are going really badly, the one thing you can almost always control is your movement,” explains Bo Hickey, a full-time online fitness coach for RITTER Sports Performance. “‘I’m lucky that I’ve always had mentors who’ve taught me how to keep moving, to set small goals, and to just figure out what’ll get me through the day.”

In grad school, he had one goal—to be a collegiate level strength and conditioning coach. He filled out tons of applications, but couldn’t even land a phone interview. A few months later, he got an in-house personal training job at a tech company. Two weeks in, he learned they’d accidentally offered him a salary $20,000 too high (oh, oops), and they’d eventually reduce his pay. Thinking he chose the wrong career path, he decided to try physician assistant school. He got waitlisted.

After a short-term fitness and nutrition training gig with the U.S. Department of Defense (in Japan) and a facilities position at a university’s rec center, he found RITTER and started working for them a few hours a week. He loved it, and knew that one day, he’d want it to be his main job.

And today, less than two years later, he’s achieved that goal.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Hickey says. “I definitely had moments of self-doubt. There were points during the past few years that I’d get into bed and think, Man, how’d I even make it back to bed? This day was just crazy.

When Hickey told me his story, I noticed a theme: Resilience. Resilience is what’s helped him not give up on finding success and a career that brings him joy.

Read on to learn more about what he’s doing now and how he kept pushing forward.

What’s a Day in the Life Like in Your Current Job?

I wake up, have breakfast with my girlfriend, and open my laptop to see if there’s anything urgent. Then, I have time to work out. For the rest of the morning, I’m either filming content, administering a webinar, creating training plans, or having one-on-one calls with clients to review their progress. The afternoon consists of pretty much whatever pops up. There are currently about 365 athletes on the platform, so there’s always something to do.

What’s it Like to Run a Fitness Business Online Versus In-Person?

I’ve actually seen better results training people remotely. One thing that helps is the exercise videos I produce on Instagram. I provide a voiceover, so people can see and hear how to do a range of different movements.

And, honestly, the focus I put into training sessions now is so much higher because I’m not there to monitor my client every second. I have to think strategically about what their gym setup could be, what limitations they may have, what machines may be used by a lot of people. I need to be able to anticipate problems and provide possible solutions. Training online requires a lot more planning and less improvisation than in-person does. But it really pays off.

You’ve Hit a Lot of Roadblocks—What’s Kept You Going?

It came down to realizing (and accepting) that the field I picked had huge turnover and burnout rates. The hours are tough—split shifts, weekends, early mornings, late nights, you name it. There’s not a lot of time in there for family, relationships, or hobbies. Also, when a head coach leaves, there’s a good chance her replacement will get rid of the old team to bring in her own. (In other words, there’s a good chance of getting fired).

But, I knew this field was right for me. I’d see former classmates, ones who had the same dreams I did, throw in the towel. Sometimes, doing that seemed easier. But when I’d think about pursuing something different, it didn’t truly interest me. I thought, The passion is there—I’m not worried about that. I’ve just got to keep my head down until I find the best route for me.