How To Get A Fitness Job With No Experience

Welcome to Wednesday friends!

Today’s post is a little different from the explosion of food that usually accompanies Wednesday here at Erin’s Inside Job. I have decided to take a bit of a break from the What I Ate Wednesday posts because a) I’ve been doing it over a year and b) all the linkup hopping week to week was making me dizzy. You know that I always love to bombard you with delicious meals, so I may do a WIAW post here and there, but for right now I’m going to take a hiatus and see how it works out. You can read old WIAW posts here or check out the board on my Pinterest page.

Now that we are on to new and foreign territory, I want to share my experience getting a job in the fitness industry with no prior experience.

How To Get A Fitness Job

If you guys have been following along, you know that I moved to Chicago in November and decided to promptly overhaul my life. I had been working in admin for about 4 and a half years and although I loved forms and detail-oriented spreadsheets (no sarcasm), it wasn’t really where I saw my life heading. I decided that I wanted to concentrate more on growing this blog and diving into the fitness world. I already spent enough time there, why not get paid for it?


I was taken back to the same feelings and emotions I had when I got out of jail and could no longer return to pharmacy. How was I supposed to get a job in a field where I had absolutely no experience?

First off, I decided that I would get my personal training certification. Since I wasn’t working and the cost was too prohibitive for Neil and I to just spend with a click of a button, I used GoFundMe to raise the money. In lieu of Christmas presents (this was done in December), I asked my family and friends to donate to something that they have seen me be passionate about for years.  I raised the money in 2 days and bought my training package.


You have 6 months from when you get the material to take the test and I will sheepishly say that although I have finished the textbook, I am still procrastinating on taking the test. Don’t worry, I know myself and I know it will get done, but without an approaching deadline I will always put something off. Since I have already gotten a coaching job without it, I’m also not compelled to maniacally study. So, how did I get a job without any qualifications?

Enter networking. For me that came in the form of ClassPass, where I was able to experience a large number of diverse workouts in different locations around the city. (Although I won’t go into great detail about ClassPass here, I think it is amazing and I credit it (and I guess myself) for the job I have today.  If you want to read more about it, check out my review).

Since I knew I wanted to work in the fitness industry, I knew I would have to open my mouth and let people know that. This is not something I enjoy or am very good at, but I knew it needed to be done. Every class I took I made sure to introduce myself and ask the instructors for any tips on getting started.  What I heard from a lot of instructors surprised me:

“It’s more about the relationships you have than the certifications.”

Sure, many types of workouts require certifications, but a number of people I talked to also said that it is important to make sure that you are comfortable and knowledgeable about exercise movements and energetic about teaching.  By developing relationships with those people you want to work for, they will be able to identify how well you know movement standards and if your exercise philosophy aligns with theirs.

The first class I ever took with ClassPass was at Sweat Chicago (previously Sweat on State). I loved it so much that it became my favorite place to work out.  I realized that I wouldn’t be able to afford a membership once ClassPass was over, however, so I emailed the owner and let him know how much I loved Sweat and wanted to continue but couldn’t.  He emailed me back and we met for coffee the next day.  He informed me about a membership exchange program they had where I could get a free membership in exchange for working 4 hours a week.  He also mentioned an internship program that would allow me to start coaching there after it was completed.  Score.

I started the membership exchange program in January 2015 and the internship soon after.  Being able to consistently attend classes allowed me to develop relationships with not only the owner, but other trainers and members as well. Soon I was teaching classes under the guidance of another coach and building up my confidence and knowledge base. Also, I seemed to like this red sweatshirt.




My internship took about 8 weeks where I would shadow/teach two classes two times a week. Upon completion I was able to design my own workout and playlist for a free class.




I am super happy that I have been teaching for a couple weeks now, but it will feel more complete when I actually have my certification. I love all kinds of degrees and certifications, so I am looking forward to actually having the certification behind my name. Since this was a long post, I’ve condensed it to some tips that I think may help you in starting out.


  • make yourself known
  • consistently take classes at locations you are interested in
  • find out who has the power: managers, owners, etc and develop a relationship
  • let them know you want to teach (they can’t read your mind!)
  • ask about internships or other ways you could get involved

Also, I know that not everyone has the luxury of not working while pursuing a new career.  This internship could have been done alongside a full time job since I was able to pick the times/classes to shadow. Had I been working, I could have easily picked times outside of normal working hours. It can be done!


  • Have you ever started over in a new career field? How did you do it?
  • Want to study with me?
  • Are you good at networking or do you freak out and hide like me?


  1. April 1, 2015 / 7:05 am

    I am not a good networker. I always end up just talking to the same people that I already know, haha. I think that fitness, like any other career, it about luck mixed with preparation and just the right about of confidence. You have to be prepared enough to be taken seriously, confident enough to seem like you know even more than you do (but also humble enough to admit that you don’t), and lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time.
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  2. danielle
    April 1, 2015 / 10:25 am

    these are great tips! although i love fitness, i don’t think i want a career based on it. i was thinking about it for a while and decided that i want to keep it a fun hobby and love it, but the idea of being a fitness expert didn’t make my heart zing. however, the career i am interested in, real estate, DOES require all of the tips you mentioned. networking and relationships are key! you are totally right, it’s not all what you know but ‘who’ you know. yup, amen sister.

    • erinsinsidejob
      April 2, 2015 / 12:55 pm

      You’re definitely right! I have found that networking and the people I meet have opened a lot of doors. Good luck in your real estate pursuit!

  3. April 1, 2015 / 12:55 pm

    I am a horrible networker. It is the last thing I want to do but I know how important it is! I have been looking into getting certified as a personal trainer. There are a lot of different options out there for certifications! What made you choose the one you did?
    Lindsey @Fit Life Pursuits recently posted…Tried it: Arctic Zero Fit Frozen DessertsMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      April 2, 2015 / 12:56 pm

      I did a lot of research on the different programs and which ones companies were more inclined to pick. I settled on NASM and after I FINALLY take the test I will write a recap of it all!

  4. April 1, 2015 / 2:36 pm

    This is such an awesome, inspirational & motivating story of you life & how you went out & GOT IT!

    I can only imagine how crazy it must have been to jump all in, in so many ways! Good luck now that you have your first few weeks under your belt!

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    • erinsinsidejob
      April 2, 2015 / 12:56 pm

      Thanks MaryBeth! It was crazy to put myself out there but thankfully it paid off!

  5. April 1, 2015 / 2:53 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience! Back when I was in high school & college, my summer job was working as a lifeguard, which included teaching swim lessons to the kiddos. And I LOVED teaching swim lessons. But at $6.60/hour (15 years ago), it wasn’t exactly something I planned to do beyond a summer job. However, I keep coming back to that and wondering if teaching SOMETHING (maybe fitness, maybe not) would be a good side job for me. I’ve taught a few burlesque workshops at my sister-in-law’s dance studio and really enjoyed those. I would love to teach Pilates, but the certification is so pricey. But perhaps teaching a similar workout not under the licensed name would be a good option.
    Maggie recently posted…Race Report: Shamrock Shuffle 2015My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      April 2, 2015 / 12:57 pm

      Ooh burlesque how fancy! Some of those branded certifications are definitely expensive so I decided to take all kinds of abnormal routes haha.

  6. April 2, 2015 / 12:38 pm

    This is awesome! I didn’t put all the pieces together of your journey getting to work at Sweat so this was cool to read. I also didn’t know that Sweat did that kind of program! Go Paul! He’s the best 🙂
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    • erinsinsidejob
      April 2, 2015 / 1:01 pm

      Totally! Yeah it was a very roundabout way that I did it but it seems to be paying off!

  7. July 1, 2016 / 2:22 pm

    Thanks for this – I’m very into fitness myself so I’m considering a group fitness instructor certification. I’m wondering if anyone has experience working at the larger gyms and can tell me what that is like?
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  8. August 8, 2016 / 5:02 pm

    Hello! Thanks so much for posting this. It was extremely helpful! I am in the same position that you were in and am deciding to uproot my life all for the love of fitness and teaching others to have bodies that they love and bodies that love them back. I am currently studying for my NASM cert also however since I am currently working a full time job, it is so hard to balance and find time. I am also working a second job as a front desk coordinator at a spin studio, hoping to get my foot in the door of the fitness world. Hopefully itll be alright!

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 8, 2016 / 5:06 pm

      Sounds like you’re on the right track! The transition can definitely be tough, but once you get yourself established its great! If you have any other questions about it, feel free to shoot me an email at!

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