Choosing a personal trainer program and preparing for the certification exam is the first step in learning how to become a fitness instructor. This can take anywhere between 3 to 12 months, depending on your base knowledge and the amount of time you have to study. Most gyms will not hire you as a fitness instructor unless you have a nationally recognized personal training certification. In order to apply for credentials in the fitness industry, you will be required to have a high school diploma and CPR and AED certifications. To land a job later, you will also need personal trainer insurance in many cases.
NASM, ACE, ACSM, NSCA, ISSA, and other national personal training organizations all have their own study materials available for purchase directly from their websites. This is a quick and convenient way to get started toward success. These sites also offer further preparation and exclusive study guides. If you are on a budget, purchasing study materials at lower prices from online bookstores can be tempting. Remember that only the newest editions of all the study books are sold on the official sites. If you purchase cheaper study materials on Amazon or elsewhere, you might miss crucial new industry information recently added to the books.
You definitely can’t go wrong with the information and knowledge spread throughout these top CPT certification organizations mentioned above and the benefits of certifying with the big-name courses. All of these personal training certifications will allow for a great personal trainer salary to be achieved. The needs of trainers individually and their future career desires will play an essential role in which fitness programs for personal trainers are best. You can also look to attend a personal training school for some hands-on experience being taught by professionals in the fitness industry.
If the desire is more in line with pursuing a CPT with the best information and kinesiology with a top-of-the-line digital platform, then NASM is one of the best personal training certifications as well as having one of the best corrective exercise certifications. If the desire is a focus on strength and conditioning, then the NSCA offers the best strength and conditioning certifications to further a personal trainer’s focus here. If the idea for personal training is to focus on the aspect of group fitness, then the education and credentials offered by ACE are possibly the best in group fitness instruction certifications. If you want to pursue the best health coaching certifications or the best multiple certification bundles in the fitness industry, then ISSA is the best for fitness trainers. And lastly, if you want to focus on careers that do research in the field of fitness, basics of movement, and exercise programs, then ACSM is the ideal program to focus on.
When you are ready to take the exam, follow the specific directions given on the certifying organization’s website for testing locations. Make sure you are prepared! The average exam price is $250. If you fail, there is a waiting period (varies, approximately 15 days) before you can take the test again. Be sure to keep your books and study materials, as you will need them every three years for recertification.
You’re Certified! What Now?
Congratulations! The minute you pass the exam, you can call yourself a certified fitness instructor. Within a few weeks, you will receive a package in the mail with a certification card and the first newsletter from the organization. Sometime between passing the fitness instructor exam and starting with your first client, it’s a good idea to get CPR certified as well. Most gyms require all staff members to have this safety certification, so being certified already helps your resume. If you start your own business, a CPR certification is required for insurance purposes.
With the excitement of having your new certification, you might feel tempted to jump immediately into training on your own. However, one of the best ways to gain experience, get clients, and have a regular paycheck is to start off working at a gym. While working directly for a gym is one of the easier options, fitness and wellness professions allow for a wide variety of types of employment. A popular approach for new fitness instructors is to start as a freelance exercise instructor and build up your client base across multiple gyms you can work for. One major thing to focus on here is the need for good personal training insurance.
For the majority of this article, I will broadly discuss building up a fitness instructor’s business and client base, regardless of the choice to coach as a gym employee, a freelance fitness coaching approach, or a more corporate personal trainer role.
Getting Hired And Building Your Book
Whether you are a career changer or have recently graduated with a degree in exercise science, put all relevant work experience on your resume. This includes everything from playing sports and helping your wife lose 20 pounds to skills in sales and customer service. In your cover letter, mention that you are recently certified but add a summary of why you are interested in the fitness industry. Management loves it when you have a weight loss story of your own or a deep passion for fitness that you want to share with others.
When you are hired, you will spend time getting to know the gym and members by “shadowing” another trainer. This on-the-job training is priceless because it allows you to learn through other professional trainers. You will meet clients of all different ages, ability levels, and fitness conditions. Meeting clients with a variety of health conditions, injuries, respiratory conditions, and other limitations will prepare you for your own clients. Take notes of exercises and questions they ask the trainer for your reference. Common ailments such as back pain and knee issues will be easier to address if you have a plethora of exercises and stretches in your notes. Eventually, with enough practice, you will know them from memory. When you start training, you will develop your own style, but it’s always beneficial to learn from others and take advantage of every learning experience.
Gyms get new members every day. Introduce yourself to these people and welcome them to their new gym. These newbies are your best source of potential clients, as many of them haven’t worked out in months or at all. Talk to all members (new and regular) and ask them how their workouts are going. Listen for keywords like “bored” “rut” and “plateau.” These are indicators that their workouts are not giving them the results they are looking for, and they could use a trainer. Offer ways you can help them reach their goals more efficiently than they can by themselves. Understand the emotion behind their goals. Most people want to get in shape for a very specific reason – to get a date, to look good for a wedding, to feel better about themselves, to live long enough to meet their grandchildren – all of these are heartfelt reasons that you can appeal to when selling your services.
Be honest with your new clients about how long it will take them to reach their fitness goals. As a fitness instructor, you will make a program for them to follow on the days you aren’t training them. Some people have a misconception that once a week with a trainer is enough to make an impact. Try to sell your client the largest package first. Not only will going high make the other package prices seem lower, but if they purchase it, you will have financial security knowing your client will be training for several weeks.
You will make a completely different program for every client. Some of your clients may have similar goals, and you can certainly have your clients do some of the same exercises, but make sure each program is unique for them. Be available to your clients when you aren’t training them. Keep it reasonable but offer your phone number and email address in case they have a question. Knowing you are there to answer questions about their food choices and exercise questions will maintain a solid relationship. Recognize their achievements. The more interest you take in their goals, the longer they will train with you. Client retention is 80% of your business. You can also count on your clients for new clients through referrals.
Eventually, when you have more experience and more of a following, you may want to pursue a training business outside of a gym. By starting your own company, you will have more freedom in where and when you train. You can make house calls, train in the park, or rent space in a studio and bring your own equipment. Having your own business gives you the ability to charge your own rates without giving a percentage to the gym. As long as you have a full book of clients, you can make more money with your own company. Keep in mind the advertising costs, equipment, and personal training insurance, once covered by your gym employer, are all expenses you will now have to pay for on your own.
Rise And Grind: A Fitness Instructor’s Daily Schedule
The schedule of a successful fitness instructor can vary from day to day. Some days you may have eight clients, and some days you may have only four with a boot camp to teach. You will cater your hours around the average person’s 9-5 work day. Most of your clients will be early morning and late afternoon and evening. The few free hours in the middle of the day are yours to work out, make programs for your clients, and contact prospects. Because you make your own schedule, it can be tempting to work every day but don’t let yourself get burned out. Try to stack your days with more sessions on most days, so you don’t have to come in for just one or two sessions on your “day off.” Ultimately, your income is based on the number of sessions you have each week.
Becoming successful in the fitness industry takes time and a lot of hard work. Do not get discouraged if your book is not building up as fast as you’d hoped. Achieving a full book can take up to a year! You will gain clients and develop a lucrative business by keeping a positive attitude and presenting yourself as an example of health to your clients and prospects.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What qualifications or experience do I need to become a fitness instructor?
As far as qualifying for personal training certification, a student will need a CPR certification and a high school diploma for most fitness organizations. Then for a personal training job, you will need a degree or a certification as a fitness instructor to qualify and get employed by a company. It is a good idea to call around your local gyms or ideal places of work to find the exact factors they look for in candidates.
How do I find a job as a fitness instructor?
To find a job as a fitness instructor, individuals will need to have met the requirements for employment for an organization. Fitness professionals might need to have a specific certification or even a bachelor’s degree, as seen sometimes in strength and conditioning and similar specialized fields. Make sure to research and call the ideal places of employment in your area.
What are the different types of fitness instructor certifications?
Fitness is a very broad field with many specializations and topics to focus on. You can become a group fitness instructor, focus on strength training specialty for athletes, provide assistance for physical therapists and fitness centers, and much more. It is important to look at all that is offered by certifying organizations and choose your ideal career path.