You’ve decided to have a career in the fitness industry. Now what? Most people involved in the industry are passionate about fitness and really like people. Over the years I’ve discovered there are two types of people in this industry: those who really love fitness and want to help others and those with a big ego wanting to showcase how fit they are. It’s the people that care and love what they do that will last and have a lifelong career in fitness.
Not all of us come from a “fit” childhood. Sure, we had Physical Education in schools, but not all of us had parents who encouraged us to participate in sports or become involved in fitness. But once we discover it’s benefits, we are hooked! Our job is to “hook” others into loving being fit.
In the “old days” only the people that “looked” fit became instructors and personal trainers. But a perfect body comes in all shapes and sizes. If you are willing, enthusiastic, and happy to learn new things, you can become a fitness trainer. Yes, you can have a lifelong career in fitness. The best part about the fitness industry is that it’s forever changing. The types of fitness classes we taught in the 1980’s is nothing like the types of classes that are being taught now. Even personal training has changed since we know so much more about how the body functions and responds to exercise.
The first thing you’ll need to consider is getting the right education. The Fitness Theory course teaches you all the basics: anatomy, physiology, fitness principles, safety in exercise design, strength, flexibility, and basic nutrition. Then you’ll have to consider what type of trainer you want to become. Do you want to teach group or aqua fit classes? Or will you want to work in a weight room or personal train clients in their homes? The sky is the limit. Where does your passion lie? Do you like the outdoors? Then why not teach boot camp or personal train outside? If you love the water, you can teach aqua fitness or personal train in the pool. Or if you love travelling, there is nothing stopping you from working at resorts in the Caribbean or having a job on a cruise ship. If you love hanging out in the gym you can become a weight room attendant. Do you like the idea of teaching online classes? You can do one or all of the above.
Once you know what type of trainer you want to be, you can then take the right course to get you there. Courses include aqua fitness, group fitness, older adults, yoga, Pilates, weight training and Personal training - just for starters.
Once you have taken the courses, you will need to get some practical experience. Fortunately, many fitness facilities are more than happy to hire you and give you more hands on training. If you want to work for yourself and not in a fitness facility, then you must practice with your family and friends before training “real” clients. The old adage “fake it till you make it” doesn’t cut it in the fitness industry. You literally have people’s lives in your hands. If you believe you can positively influence someone’s musculo-skeletal health with the right exercises, then you must also believe that you can negatively affect someone’s musculo-skeletal health with the wrong exercises. As I say to my students: You have the ability to change someone’s life. But you also have the ability to injure or kill someone if you don’t train properly.
Get to know other trainers who are willing to help you on your journey. Many instructors and trainers are happy to have you shadow them and learn from them. It’s important to have the experience and confidence to safely train your clients. Sure, it’s ok to learn along the way, but don’t pretend you are more experienced than you are. This doesn’t mean you have to tell them you are new or nervous, but we need our clients to have confidence in us to guide them safely through their fitness programs.
COVID has had a profound effect on all of us, including the fitness industry. But most instructors have managed to not only survive, but flourish by providing online training. That means holding online fitness classes or having interactive personal training sessions on Zoom or the like. In fact, COVID has provided us the opportunity to train people outside our areas that we may not otherwise have had the opportunity to train!
Someone said to me “Why would anyone want to become a personal trainer now, in the middle of a Pandemic?”. My reply – this is a perfect time to get the education you need and start an online training company. Many have successfully done this, and facilities are opening up. And since there is a shortage of staff just about everywhere, there is no better time to become a trainer.
Getting a Job
Now that you have the education and are ready for a career in fitness, put the word out about who you are. Reach out to fitness facilities in your area and ask for an interview. Don’t just drop off a resume and think you’ll get a job. It is with perseverance that people will get to know who you are. When I put in my resume at a fitness club many years ago, I followed it up with a phone call making sure they got it. I found out who the manager was and who was doing the hiring. Then called every few days saying I was available for an interview. This may have seemed pesky to some, but that’s what got me the job and a start in the fitness industry. I got hired because it seemed I “cared and really wanted the job”.
As a trainer or instructor, it’s imperative you have insurance. Most, if not all, registering agencies give you up to $2 million dollars in insurance, but this is only for group fitness, aqua fitness, and weight room attendants. Because there are so many variables with personal training clients, you must purchase extra insurance. Body Blueprint Fitness Inc is working on getting insurance for our trainers. This gives people an option when becoming a registered trainer.
Make sure you have the insurance needed to protect yourself and your clients. If you are applying for a job at a fitness facility, ask questions! Does your company insure me? Or do I need to get my own insurance? If the company insures me, may I see a copy of the insurance papers so I can see what exactly what I’m covered for and what, if anything, I need extra coverage for? (Take your time to inquire about what you are covered for.) If anything happens, how will I be protected?
Stress you will do your very best to keep the clients safe and ask what policies and procedures they have in place when/if anything unforeseen happens?
You can ask “Does your company pay Workers Compensation (Work Safe BC)? or is this something I need to get myself?” Everyone needs workers comp. You shouldn’t train without it.
Once you get the interview, be prepared. Practice what you will say and how to promote yourself. During one interview I asked the applicant “Why should we hire you? What makes you stand out?” The response was “Because I’m the best in the industry”. This was a sure way NOT to get the job. If you are the best, what does that make everyone else? It’s important to be a team player. Be confident yet humble.
Be yourself and be open and honest (obviously). Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t. Make sure you tell them how willing you are to learn and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If the facility is upfront and professional, they will appreciate you asking questions and making sure both you and the company understand each other.
Regarding your pay, if they offer you $20 an hour or less for personal training - keep looking. Remember you worked hard for this, and you aren’t a volunteer.
Contracts & Commitments
Before you sign on the dotted line, there are some things to consider before getting yourself into something you didn’t bargain for…
If you have applied to work at a facility and they are asking you to pay anything to become an employee- do not work there! It shouldn’t cost YOU to have a job. That’s a scam!
If you are signing a contract, read through it very carefully. Tell them you’d like to take it home to read through it. A reputable company will appreciate you taking the time to go through it carefully. Do not let them pressure you into signing it right then and there. You may be stuck with something you didn’t count on. Some facilities will insist that you work exclusively for them. That can be great – but if you don’t get enough work, it may not work for you, and you may want to work at other places. (But you can’t encourage clients to follow you to other facilities or your own private training. This is called “harvesting clients” and is against the law).
If you quit, the contract might say you can't train anywhere else for a period of six months to two years, within a 10 km radius or something like that, so READ THROUGH THE CONTRACT. If there is something that sounds dodgy – don’t sign it. Look elsewhere for a job.
The contract might say that you have to work a minimum of 4 hours a day (and if you don't have a client, will you get paid minimum wage for those hours?).
Some places promise you the world and then you get something completely different when you start working. Make sure you get, in writing, exactly what you will be doing. Some say they'll train you to be a PT, even if you haven’t taken any courses. Once you’re hired as a PT (education or not), you may find out that you aren't getting paid while you are considered a "student" with them. Ask questions!
One student of mine got offered a job at a large chain fitness club. Once there and contractually obligated, she was told she owed close to a thousand dollars for her “mentoring” with a PT. Will you be shadowing another trainer, or will you be on your own? Depending on your experience, you will know what’s best for you.
Ask what type of employee you are. “Am I a contractor or an employee? If I am a contractor, do I come in only when I have a client? Or am I expected to work a certain amount of time? What is the wage I can expect per client? And if I don’t have clients, what is the hourly wage?”
“If I am an employee, will I have set hours? What is expected of me? Will I be doing any cleaning? If there are set hours, what is my wage if I don't have clients? Am I expected to sell the PT packages or is there someone else for that? If I am to sell PT training packages, - is my wage dependent on what I sell? In other words, do I get commission? If I don’t sell packages, am I docked money off my wage? What is expected from me? If someone else sells the Personal Training packages, how does that work for me?”
If they offer you a low wage and tell you that you'll get a raise in the future - ask what that is. And when is “the future” in months? If they promise you something - get it in writing!
There should be a contract between you and the company. Stress to them that it's not about the money, but you need to know what to expect!
Whew. That sounds like a lot, but remember – anything worth having, is worth working hard for. Congratulations on your decision to enjoy the journey and a lifelong career in fitness. It is worth it!
Body Blueprint Fitness Education