What You'll Learn Learn what it takes to become a professional personal trainer in a thriving industry. Understand the physical, psychological and emotional demands of working with an extensive client base.
Why it's Important Aside from the Institute of Personal Trainer Code of Ethical Conduct, the fitness industry is widely unregulated. But personal training is a profession nonetheless and should be seen that way should you choose to join the industry.
Becoming a personal trainer is a highly appealing profession to a number of people. Many individuals who enjoy working with people, remaining physically fit and helping people change their lives for the better will pursue this profession. However, this does not necessarily mean it is an easy career path to follow. A personal trainer’s job is far more demanding than simply hanging out at the gym all day people watching and telling others what to do. The psychological and physical demands of personal training weed out many newcomers to the profession within the first year.
The psychological demands of personal trainers are often too much for beginners to the industry; in fact, between the psychological and physical demands of the industry, most people change professions within six months to a year.
One of the great psychological challenges to overcome is the limited and potentially sporadic client base. It often takes years to develop a loyal client base and many people are not prepared for the uncertainty and commitment involved with building clients over time. If you are a good trainer who works hard and chooses a niche, you will grow your client base organically over time – but you must be patient in the meantime.
Personal Trainer Career Length
Another challenge is the potentially short career length due to the industry’s association with youth and fitness. Of course, if you choose to stick with this profession, you could have a highly successful career well into your 60s.
However, you have to be willing to evolve your business model, your specializations, and your clientele. It is unlikely that a person who is 25 will hire a personal trainer who is 60, but retirees will certainly hire a personal trainer their own age who is in great shape and is seen as an inspiration. You can have a long and satisfying career, but you must be willing to adapt and evolve over time.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition
Personal Trainer Marketing
The number one reason newcomers often flee the industry quickly because they learn that while it is possible to earn a good living working as a personal trainer, this income does not come easily and without hard work.
New PT's may be comfortable with the challenging physical work but they are often not prepared for the additional personal trainer marketing and business knowledge that's involved.
A personal training certificate is not enough to run a successful business and personal trainers that do succeed are often the ones that invest in some kind of marketing and business course for personal trainers.
Most entry level personal trainers are not particularly well paid and these individuals are often ill equipped to retain long-term clients early on in their career. It takes time to develop these non-physical skills to increase your personal trainer salary and many individuals are not willing to put in the necessary time and effort.
Personal Trainer Development
Other areas in which some personal trainers can struggle is always providing motivation and learning about new trends in diet and exercise. Personal trainers do not have the luxury of being unmotivated or taking a day off from exercise as they likely have at least one client most days, and if they work at a gym, they still have to get up and go to work even if they do not have any clients scheduled.
Self-motivation does not exist in everyone. In addition, personal trainers must have a passion for continued learning. You must be current on all the latest science in diet and exercise to be able to cater to each of your clients. If you do not have the motivation to remain knowledgeable and to be seen as an industry professional, your career will not last long.
The Physical Demands
The physical demands of personal training can also be challenging for some individuals. You might be in great shape, but you may still grow tired of the constant work required to stay in shape after a few years.
You might also experience personal injury from overexertion if you are not careful. You will often have to demonstrate exercises or do them alongside your client to keep them motivated. Pushing yourself too hard in one day with multiple clients will take its toll on your body if you are not monitoring your own activities.
Scheduled rest and proper nutrition (the same thing you advice your clients) is essential.
Continued Professional Development
It is not enough that a personal trainer learn the latest exercise trends. A personal trainer must also train in these trends to be able to properly teach their clients. This could require dozens of hours in additional workouts outside of client training sessions in order to become qualified to teach others.
If you do not take the time to learn how to do them yourself properly, you run the risk of injuring your clients by improperly executing the new exercise without professional guidance. All professions require continued training, and personal trainers are no different.
Finding a Niche
Since physical trainers can have varying physical limitations, many choose to specialize in a few specific areas of exercise rather than to trying to do everything. For example, some individuals may be more comfortable with teaching yoga and Pilates over weight training.
Someone who teaches fitness boot camps is less likely to also provide lessons in swimming. Many personal trainers will have a highly specific specialty. This is also an opportunity for people to adapt during their career. If you are no longer able to run, for example, you might choose to change your specialty to areas that are not as hard on your body.
Either way, choosing a niche has proven itself time and time again to be the best way to position yourself as an expert and grow a profitable business.
Should You Become a Personal Trainer?
Clearly, the field of personal training is not for everyone, but individuals who are able to cope with the psychological and physical demands of the personal trainer industry can be highly successful.
Those who succeed as personal trainers will have a positive energy, a drive to learn new things, an understanding of their limitations, suitable specializations and a work ethic to build and maintain their client base. Only you can decide whether you should become a personal trainer; but if these qualities describe you, you could very well make an excellent one.