How to Become a Fitness Instructor/Personal Trainer

Personal trainers are individuals that guide their clients toward physical fitness and good health.

A competent fitness instructor must be a highly motivated individual who can motivate their clients to work diligently toward their fitness goals. A good trainer inspires clients to push harder and to remain focused on the goal.

Acquiring effective personal trainer skills takes a lot of hard work and dedication. The personal trainer has to have elite levels of physical fitness and self-motivation in order to do their job successfully.

Becoming a personal trainer can be a rewarding job. This is a comprehensive post on how to become a fitness instructor/personal trainer. Let’s get to the details.

Develop the Skills

Walk the talk

As a fitness instructor, your work will involve educating and guiding your clients on physical fitness and self-motivation.

For effectiveness, you have to demonstrate that you have mastered these aspects in your own life – you need to be physically fit and self-motivated.

You have to be a good example of physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle for your clients. If you are not in shape, you will struggle to find and to keep clients.

This, however, does not mean that you have to meet every fitness standard out there. You only have to demonstrate excellent levels of physical fitness and self-motivation.

You also have to demonstrate that you believe in the power of fitness. Effective personal trainers don’t view exercise as just a way of staying slim.

They see exercise as a great lifestyle that fundamentally improves people’s lives. With this strong belief, they can effectively motivate their clients.

Understand the human anatomy

To be a great personal trainer, you need to have a profound understanding of how the human body works. This is crucial because instructing clients to perform exercises that are unsuitable for their bodies could lead to injuries.

Also, if clients use equipment improperly, they can end up sustaining injuries. As a fitness instructor, you should be well versed with how clients should exercise to avoid such injuries. Much of what you need to know is learned in the personal trainer courses that you have to take to be a certified personal trainer.

Develop leadership skills

As a personal trainer, you have to be a caring, inspiring and trustworthy leader. Your job involves guiding clients through training sessions that invoke physical and mental pain. You should possess the leadership skills to keep your client’s mind focused on their fitness goals.

Hire a personal trainer

Hiring a personal trainer will help in achieving your personal fitness goals and will also help you understand the dynamics of a personal trainer/ client relationship.

Your personal experiences will shape, to a great extent, the fitness instructor that you become. Think about the best approach to take with your clients as you interact with your fitness instructor.

Getting your Certification

What kind of personal trainer do you want to become?

Before you start pursuing a certification, it is important to think about the kind of work you want to do and where you want to do it. This will guide you with the decision of what type of certification to get.

Different kinds of personal trainer jobs may require you to have different kinds of accreditation.

This is because of the differentiated nature of the jobs. For instance, gyms and clubs may require you to have a specific certification so that they can hire you.

When making this critical life and career decision, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you prefer working in a gym or a fitness club, or do you aspire to own your private fitness business?
  • What age group do you wish to work with? Would you prefer working with children, middle-aged people or seniors?
  • Would you like to work with healthy trainees or would you prefer to work with individuals who are recovering from injuries?
Pursue a certification that will lead you to your preferred career

Once you have determined what you want your career to be, it is time to choose a certification that will meet the requirements of that career.

With different career paths demanding different kinds of certification, this is a crucial step. Here, we will list some examples of certifications and describe the sort of work they can be used for

American Council on Exercise (ACE) certifications – if you wish to go into educating people about fitness and guiding them on exercising on their own, then these should be the certifications of choice.

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM ) certifications– these are the ideal certifications if you want to work on improving the strength and mobility of people who are in recovery from illnesses or injuries.

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certifications – these are useful certifications if your career goal is to be a personal trainer for individuals who wish to have improved strength and fitness.

With this certification, your clients may include amateur and professional athletes.

National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) certifications – if your goal is to work with people who want to improve their strength and mobility, then you should pursue this type of certification.

With this certification, you may work with either healthy individuals or people in recovery from illnesses or injuries.

How to fund your certification

As you have already figured out, earning a certification will cost you money. You, therefore, need to make money so that you can invest in your preferred certification.

Before you even check whether you meet the requirements of your preferred certification, it is crucial that you consider whether you can afford it.

Earning your certification may require you to attend classes and workshops, and the process can become quite expensive.

But how can you fund your certification? Fortunately, there are multiple ways by which you can get money to invest in your certification process.

Consider taking a temporary job – a temporary job may help you fund your certification. The options are many with this one – you may choose to work in retail or office type jobs.

You can also work in colleges, universities or high schools. If you have the means, consider going into self-employment.

Seek sponsorship from a gym or club – if you want to work in a gym or club, you may have some gyms and clubs in mind where you would like to work.

Consider asking these gyms and clubs whether they can help fund or sponsor you, with an agreement of working for them once you are certified.

If you could get a hold of the top management of such places, your chances of getting funding or sponsorship can improve tremendously.

Look for a scholarship or financial aid – some certifications may require you to get a standard college degree or a 2-year Associate’s degree so as to meet the requirements of the certification.

If you are in this situation, you might want to try getting a scholarship or financial aid from scholarship organizations.

As you already know, earning a degree can be very expensive. Luckily, there are many websites and scholarship organizations that could help.

Also, in you are still in school, check whether your school can offer you a scholarship or provide financial aid.

Meet the requirements of your preferred certification

If you have already picked a certification that you wish to acquire, it is crucial that you check the requirements of attaining that certification and ensure that you meet them. Different certifications have different requirements.

With some certifications, you may be required to seek additional training, advanced courses, or degrees in order to qualify for the certification. You may also be required to attend workshops or even acquire certain memberships.

Some other certifications are less demanding, and you may be qualified if you have a high-school GED and a reasonable level of training experience.

If you fail to meet the requirements of your preferred certification, do not feel discouraged. You just have to attend the required additional classes and workshops.

If you wish to get into the business as soon as possible, you may want to go for the easiest, most affordable certification first. This certification will grant you access to the business, where you can acquire more experience and make money.

Later, you can go for your dream certification once you have enough money, time and training experience.

Certification in CPR and AED may be a mandatory requirement for virtually all personal trainer certifications. Ensure that you acquire these certifications.

Prepare for your personal trainer exam

Once you have picked your preferred certification and met the certification requirements, it will be time to prepare for the exam. You, of course, need to pass this examination in order to earn the certification.

If you ask the certified personal trainers around you, they will tell you how tough these exams can get. They are also quite expensive and could run into hundreds of dollars.

If you fail the exam on your first attempt, you may have to wait for weeks before you can get the chance to re-take the exam. Here, we will discuss ways to prepare for the exam to improve your chances of passing.

  • Consider enrolling for a standard bachelor’s degree or a 2-year Associate’s degree in a local college or university
  • Consider taking some short courses. The organization that offers the certification you are pursuing may sometimes offer some short courses meant to help with preparing for the exam. A great thing with such courses is they are tailored to what the exam requires you to know. The classes could last from a couple of weeks to several months. You can take them in person or online.
  • Attend some workshops – just like the short courses, the organization that provides the certification may conduct some workshops that can be very helpful in passing your exam.
  • Other factors that can be helpful include reviewing sample questions and having the appropriate course material, including textbooks. With this, you will be able to study the course material effectively and then practice by answering practice questions, either offline or online.
Ace your test and get your certification

When you have thoroughly studied for the exam, you will feel prepared and confident to take it. It will be time to register and take the exam at the required time.

Most of the certification exams last for 2 to 3 hours. You may have to take the exam within a few months after the exam registration.

It is important to note that some certifications may require you to take re-certification exams every couple of years

Other certifications may require continuous attendance of courses and workshops. Make sure that you understand where your certification lies.

How to get Hired and get Started

Build your experience

You will need to accumulate some experience before you can get hired for your dream job. Experience is also vital when you want to start your own business.

Having some experience will make you more attractive to potential employers, and it will reassure your clients of your competence.

Getting an avenue where you can get initial experience may be quite challenging, but fortunately, there are various ways you can overcome those challenges and accumulate experience

  • Apply for an internship while in college. Ensure that you intern at the kind of place you would like to work later. If your goal is to work at a gym eventually, seek for an internship at a gym.
  • Volunteer at the sort of place you would like to work. By doing so, you not only accumulate invaluable experience but also references. They may hire you later.
  • Seek to help individuals in setting and achieving their strength and fitness goals. Such personal stories of success can be excellent for your cover letter when applying for jobs and looking for clients.
Get a job at a gym or fitness club

Working at gyms and clubs has both upsides and downsides. You have to perform some cost-benefit analysis depending on your individual life situation. Here, we have outlined some advantages and disadvantages that you might want to consider

  • It will be easier to find clients. Your employer may assign some clients to you, while other clients may just find you at the gym when they sign up. Getting clients will be hassle-free.
  • You will not have to pay rent or buy equipment. Your employer provides the studio and the equipment. On the downside, you will be stuck with the studio and the equipment provided. If you are dissatisfied with what the employer provides, there is really not much you can do about it.
  • Less flexibility with the work schedule. You employer largely determines when you work.
  • Your employer fixes the salary and any other employment benefits. The earnings potential may be capped.
  • It may be less risky compared to starting your own business
Consider working independently

Like employment, self-employment has its advantages and disadvantages. With working independently, you will have more control over much of the aspects, including working hours, location, how much you get paid, and the insurance you use.

With self-employment, you will have to put tremendous effort into finding and retaining clients. This is perhaps the most challenging factor for many trainers who wish to go independent.

It may also be a riskier path compared to employment.

With this option, you have to weigh the pros and the cons as well, and make an informed decision.

Get insured

Regardless of where you are working, employed or working for yourself, having an insurance cover is a crucial issue.

Insurance will have you covered financially if you sustain injuries on the job and cannot work for some time. If your clients sustain injuries, your insurance will protect you as well.

If you are employed as a fitness instructor, the company insurance plan may already have you covered. However, we recommend that you review the company’s insurance plan to understand the extent to which you are covered.

If you work independently, you would have to purchase a suitable insurance plan. Getting General Liability insurance would also be a good idea – this protects you in case a client is injured in your business premises.

But you will not be responsible for injuries sustained in a client’s premises during a training session.

Specialize in specific fitness areas

Specialization won’t require you to abandon everything else in favor of the specialized activity. It involves being an expert in a certain form of exercise while maintaining your skills in other fitness and training aspects.

Being an expert in a particular fitness aspect will make you attractive to potential customers that require training for that specific aspect.

For instance, you can become an upper body expert, specializing in abdominal muscles.

You may also specialize in the use of a particular piece of equipment, and incorporate them into your training sessions.

Finding and Getting Clients

Start a blog

The blog does not have to advertise your personal trainer services explicitly. Instead, use the blog as a workout journal – this way, fitness enthusiasts will follow your progress.

They may contact you later for help with their fitness goals or refer you to their friends. These can be your future clients.

Use social media

like a blog, social media can help you reach many potential customers. Consider having social media accounts across all the major platforms. Also, ask your clients whether you can post their motivational stories on your social media – everyone could use some motivation.

Create a website

you can create the website from scratch, or you can use the online e-commerce services available so that you won’t have to build it from the ground up. On this site, you can have a biography of yourself, discussing your background, where you are now, and your goals.

Also, have a section where your clients can post their progress and success stories – this will motivate others to join your program. It would also be great if you had a QnA section where you answer any fitness-related questions form your clients and site visitors. Optimize your website for search engines (SEO) so that people can find your site more easily. This may be a worthwhile investment for you.

Talk to people

in the course of interacting with people, it would be helpful to let them know that you are a fitness instructor. Do not explicitly advertise your skills, but rather, let the issue come up naturally. You can always find a way of bringing it up without sounding like you are soliciting for customers.

Place Ads on the internet

Internet Ads, if done effectively, can help you reach lots of potential customers. You can place your ads on the many websites available, or you can narrow down to advertising on fitness-related forums.

Advertise in newspapers or magazines

Many newspapers and magazines are available in both print and electronic form. They are a great way of reaching out to potential clients.

Post fliers

you may post your fliers in the various public spaces that permit posting of fliers. This could be places like libraries and community centers. Ensure that your fliers are well designed and that they contain all the vital information you need to relay.

Final Thoughts

If you are passionate about physical strength and fitness, becoming a personal trainer can be a great career decision for you.

It is, however, important to understand that you will need to be strategic and also work hard to succeed in this field.

You will need to attain and maintain high levels of fitness and self-motivation, so that you can be an effective leader to your clients.

To keep up with the industry trends, you may have to continue with your education so that you can learn about new developments in your field. You may also want to look into new fitness methods as they appear.

To succeed in this field, you need to have a deep conviction of the benefits of fitness to people’s lives. We trust that this post will help you become an elite fitness instructor.

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