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Getting On The Career Path To Personal Training

After spending so much time yourself in the gym, putting in the work and effort to create a body that turns heads, you may start to realize that you’re bored in your current career and would like to do something that’s more health and fitness oriented. Or, perhaps you grew up as an athlete and would like to get onto a career path that keeps you active and helps others stay in shape. Whatever your background, a career in personal training can be very rewarding and financially lucrative if you approach it in the right manner. Here are the things to consider.

Who Do You Want To Work With
First off, you need to think about your ideal client.  Who are they – how old are they, what type of physical background do they have, how often are they looking to partake in training, or do they have any special needs? All of these are questions to ask yourself so you can begin to identify the area of the field you want to work in. For example, if you find working with seniors highly rewarding due to the fact you’re able to take them from potentially being immobile to getting off their feet and moving around again, you’re going to take a much different path with your career than if you’re interested in working with high level athletes who are looking to push their performance up a notch. Having a good idea of this factor before your proceed is going to be a smart move so you know what types of certifications to specialize in and afterwards, where to look for work. If you don’t have any idea who you want to work with, then that is okay too, many personal trainers do find they change areas throughout their career, so you would then just focus on the general population and likely work at a major health club where you’d be exposed to a variety of individuals. That in itself might help you narrow it down and determine the population you feel you make the best fit with.

Look Into Certification Paths

The next step is to start looking into the different paths of certification that will be required of you to start your career in personal training.

Certification Pathway

Many provinces or states will have their own certification bodies, which offer smaller-degree certifications that can take anywhere from a few months to a year to complete.  Most often you will be required to complete theory coursework (either in class or through self-study), write a theory exam, and then do a practical component. These certification bodies also frequently offer specializations such as personal trainer, group exercise instructor, older adult instructor, aquatics instructor, and so on.  If you know who you want to work with, that’s a good time to start specializing. After the certification, you typically also must complete a standard first aid and CPR course, as that’s a requirement to work with any clients who are doing physical activity.

The University Pathway
If you decide that you’re a more dedicated individual towards this career path and want a much larger degree of higher learning, then you should look into a kinesiology (sometimes called Physical Education) degree. This will be a four year university degree where you complete courses in anatomy, physiology, sport and leisure, physical activity courses, and a mix of other optional coursework required to complete the degree. Generally speaking that university degree itself isn’t going to necessarily make you more money if you were employed in a fitness club and their only requirement was a certification, but if you ever hope to work with high level athletic teams or with the university itself, it’s a very good thing to have. Additionally, if you have any desire to work in a hospital or physiotherapy setting, a degree is often typically a requirement for those places as well.

Also, another nice thing about the degree route is that it is definitely a lot broader in nature, thus if at any point you decide you no longer want to just personal train, there are other career paths you can follow such as recreational planning, recreation coordinator, or perhaps even becoming a physical education teacher depending on your own state/provinces requirements for that.

Looking for Work
Next up, after you’ve obtained your certification, the next step is to look for work.  Many of the certification bodies will have job postings right on their site, so that’s one place to start. Another option is to simply visit the gym you want to work at and talk with the owner about the hiring process. You may also decide that you just want to train where you typically work out, which also can bode nicely for getting a job since the staff likely already know who you are. Another option is to approach senior centers as sometimes they also hire on recreational staff to work with the residents.  If this is the population range you want to work with, this will likely be one of your first places to check.

You can also look for jobs at hospitals or physiotherapy clinics as well, as already mentioned depending on your educational background and what they are looking for in particular. Keep in mind as well that if you do have a pretty good idea of where you want to work when first starting your career path, you might want to check into what their requirements are first for certification beforehand since this will guide you on the path for education.

Building Up Clientele and Marketing Yourself
After you’ve secured your job, then comes the harder part, which is developing a strong base of steady clients.  Most often personal trainers are mostly left on their own to do this and do so by developing relationships with people first through general advice given at the gym. In some cases the gym may ‘feed’ you clients that have just signed up and are requesting memberships, but this really does vary from gym to gym. Once you do start working with a few clients, you’ll also find that you get referrals through word of mouth, which can help out tremendously. Once you’ve got a few regular clients acting as a ‘sales force’ for you, recommending you to their friends and family, then you’re off and running with your personal training business.

Obviously you can also look into doing some outside marketing as well by creating meet-up groups or posting flyers of your services at local groceries stores, libraries, daycares, and so on (ask the owners before posting these, however). If you are interested in getting involved with online training, then developing a website is going to be another step you should take. More and more trainers are starting to go this route as then they are not bound by location or time barriers with their work. Keep in mind that you need to always remain focused on your current clientele and make sure you are giving them everything they deserve with their training.

It’s when trainers start focusing too much on new business and their current business starts faltering that big problems happen.  Always remember that keeping a current client satisfied is a lot easier and less time consuming than searching for new ones.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t always be out prospecting potential clients – it’s good to have people wanting to work with you so if you get no-shows or complete cancellations you can still have work for that time slot, but if your current clients start noticing you aren’t doing much for them any longer, you’re going to start losing clients, which will really hit your income hard. Some personal trainers also like to offer ‘finder’s rewards’ so that any time a current clients finds them a new client, they get some sort of discount such as a free training session.

This is another technique that when done properly, helps to strengthen that sales force you have out there without you having to do a whole lot of work. Obviously that free session is your time, but if the new clients signs up for a 30 session package, you’ve easily recouped that money.

Group Training – The Newest Personal Training Technique
Finally, it should be also noted that one of the hottest trends in personal trainers, particularly with those who choose to branch out on their own is with running fitness group classes or ‘bootcamps’. If you work in a gym then it’s going to be a much different story since you will likely be paid a flat fee per class (which is typically slightly higher than the personal training one-on-one wage), but if you are working for yourself and can find a cost-effective space to rent or perform it outside in a field, you can get by charging $5-15/head and work with groups of 10-20 people at a time.

Obviously you can see how quickly that would add up, so if you managed to get a good group of people wanting a bootcamp 2-3 times a week, you’d be doing very well financially with minimal time invested. This is definitely something you might want to consider depending on your own individual interests and preferences. So, keep all of these points in mind as you try and build your personal training career.  While there are some trainers in the field who get burned out very fast and don’t enjoy themselves, there are plenty that fall in love with the career that follows their passion.

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