A Day in the Life of an NYC Fitness Instructor

personal trainer

I got really into spin classes for a hot minute in college. So much so, that I thought maybe I’d want to become an instructor myself.

I never did, probably thanks to some bullshit limiting beliefs about being good enough, or concern that my senior year bar hopping schedule would be disrupted by having to teach 6 a.m. classes.

But I’m still always wondering what that instructor lifestyle is like, whenever I take a fitness class. Do they work out everyday in addition to teaching? What’s a typical meal? What ungodly hour do they have to be out of bed?

So many questions.

If you’ve ever thought about becoming a personal trainer, fitness instructor, or yoga teacher, or perhaps you’re just interested in learning about other people’s daily routines like I am, you’re in luck today. I tapped my pal Melissa Chisholm, a full time fitness instructor in New York City, to tell us what a typical day in her life looks like.

personal trainerWhat time does a typical day start, and what does your morning look like? 
I’m a natural morning person. If my alarm set, I’m most definitely getting up, but on days I don’t have to set an alarm I naturally wake up probably around 10 a.m.
On work days, I’m typically out of bed by 5:35 a.m. I try to squeeze in every minute of sleep! I have my routine down to a science. On most days I teach 6:30 a.m. classes and am at the studio by 6 to prep and get in a few sips of coffee before clients get to the studio. Luckily my commute doesn’t take too long and I have everything calculated out almost to the minute for the entire day.
My morning ritual is quick because I leave little time before I need to get out the door as I plan most everything the night before. I’ll wake up, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, splash cold water on my face, brush my hair, change into my “work” clothes, grab any food in the fridge I’ve packed from the night before and my pre-made iced coffee. I don’t wear makeup so that saves a lot of time! Oh, and of course before I run out the door I give a hug and a kiss to my dog Fitz!
personal trainer

How many classes do you teach per day on average?

I teach classes everyday except Sunday, unless I’m subbing. Depending on the week I could teach one to six classes. I think the most I’ve taught is nine in one day? Most days I’ll have at least one private training client or two in between teaching. I currently teach group classes at BFX Studio/NYSCLab.

What do you eat throughout the day? Are you a fan of protein powder?

I always keep lunches light, i.e. salad, especially if I have to teach later in the afternoon. I have trouble eating before teaching classes so if I can’t have a full lunch, I’ll grab a Macro or RX bar. As far as protein smoothies, I don’t typically have them after I workout because I would rather eat a meal. I find that when I have protein smoothies I’m still hungry and then end up eating anyways, so it’s just extra calories. But, if thats all you have access to after a workout and you feel good and are on track with your goals then go for it! My preferred protein is by Promix.

Is any other work part of your day, like planning classes, social media, etc.?

It’s important for me to stay up to date on all of the fitness science out there so I’m often reading articles or working on a continuing education course. Right now I’m working on becoming a Certified Function and Strength Coach (CFSC) and there are A LOT of videos to go through. Otherwise I’m definitely planning out classes and social media, a work in progress for me.

Working out is also a part of my day of course. I practice what I preach. I’ll take other peoples classes or do my own workouts. Teaching classes are not my workout, sure I’ll demo a couple reps of each move, but after that I’m concerned with everyone’s form in class and making sure everyone is having a fun and safe experience!

What are some of your favorite songs for classes these days?

I play a lot of top 40/pop/remixes and dance music. Anything upbeat, especially for those early classes to really get people going. A fun song I cam across recently is “Need You” – Dillon Frances feat. NGHTMRE.

What time does your work day end, and how do you wind down in the evening?

Every day varies, but I’m usually home by 8 p.m. This doesn’t leave too much time to wind down because I try to be in bed no later than 10:30 p.m. I’ll usually eat dinner and watch an episode of Jimmy Fallon on Hulu. And then prep for the next day begins.

What’s a typical dinner? Any alcohol on typical work days or doesn’t matter?

I eat mostly the same thing everyday because I don’t like to cook. Keep it pretty simple: chicken, broccoli, sweet potato and avocado. I don’t drink on days I have to work the next day. So if I do have a drink, it’s on Saturday.

Any evening/bedtime rituals? And what time do you usually go to bed?

I’ll take a look at my calendar for the next day to see how many changes of clothes I’ll need and how much food I need to pack. For example, if I know I’ll be out of the house the entire day, I’ll pack clothes to workout in, a clean outfit, flip flops to shower in, a track jacket because I’m always cold and the AC is always blasting. Then I’ll prep and pack any food and my coffee the night before. I drink iced coffee and I will actually go to Starbucks (and ask for no ice) or make it the night before, and keep half in the fridge and half in the freezer so it’s not watered down and I can sip on it throughout the morning. I’ll then lay out the clothes I’ll wear in the morning, including unlacing my sneakers to make sure I can just slip into them and run out. I am usually in bed by 10:30 p.m.


Huge thanks to Melissa for giving us a peak inside her day! Connect with her on Instagram at @melissa.chisholm, and if you’re in NYC, be sure to check out one of her classes. She’s amazing!

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Author Bridget

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