Working at Equinox: ‘It’s Very Hunger Games’

While the gym offers a well-regarded professional development program, as well as health insurance and other employee benefits that few fitness chains provide, many Equinox trainers, especially beginners, work exhausting schedules. Some say they can spend 70 or 80 hours a week at the gym — many of them unpaid — hustling to recruit clients, waiting between workouts, planning routines and conducting training sessions. In the gym’s draining environment, new trainers frequently last only a few months, unable to cope with the long hours and low starting pay, interviews show.

The bed at the Greenwich Avenue location was at least a designated place to sleep. Current and former Equinox trainers in Dallas, Boston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles said they or their colleagues routinely slept in cars, curled up on yoga mats or dozed off with heads resting on tables during long sessions at the gym.

“It’s very ‘Hunger Games’-style,” said Alexander Miotti, a trainer who worked at a Los Angeles Equinox until this summer, when he left after a dispute with his managers. “They’re like, ‘We want you to have a really nice work-life balance.’ But at the same time, ‘How do you expect to be successful if you’re not here for 12 hours a day?’”

Upon hiring, Equinox trainers begin a process called “ramping”: roughly 15 to 20 hours a week putting away weights on the gym floor, plus some additional hours of educational sessions, all paid at or slightly above minimum wage. During those floor shifts, trainers are expected to pitch their services to Equinox members working out in the gym. As they start accumulating clients, trainers can convert floor hours into better-compensated training sessions — $26 an hour for beginner trainers and as much as $62 per session for more experienced employees. Trainers who succeed at Equinox pick up enough clients to move from floor shifts to coaching members full time. A complex bonus system allows top earners to make six-figure salaries.

In practice, however, many beginner trainers struggle to recruit enough clients to live comfortably and end up spending unpaid hours at the gym in a bid to improve their numbers. A trainer who worked at an Equinox in Los Angeles said she could not afford to pay her electricity bills during the ramping period and left after five months. Eric Hannah, who worked at Greenwich Avenue in 2014 and 2015, said he sometimes earned only a little over $200 a week. Omar Kharroub, who trained clients at an Equinox in Northern California until August, said he had worked as a DoorDash delivery driver on the side to support himself.