Since passing my NASM exam and becoming certified as a personal trainer, a lot of my questions have sprung from one major one: “What next?”
There are so many pathways to take with a personal training certification and as someone who likes to plan and have the answers ahead of time, you can imagine that I was left feeling very unsettled. I did have the foresight to expect this problem because it quickly became evident as I was studying that the exam only gets you a certification based on objective anatomical and NASM-specific training information. There is no practical component to the exam or any job experience necessary to becoming a personal trainer.
This explains why there are so many mediocre, if not downright awful, personal trainers. I’m not saying that it is their fault, but if you start training someone based on only information from the textbook, then you really only have half the picture. You have to figure out pricing (if you’re on your own), people skills, how to accommodate any issues relating to the training plan, and that each person is going to need something different than the last.
I believe that training is specific to each individual person and is comprised of much more than a prescribed set of exercises. Training is about the entire person: mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually and that is most definitely not covered in the textbook. There is some mention of motivators and strategies to help increase compliance, but I feel that it goes a little deeper than that with each individual person.
So I set out to
annoy kindly ask all of the personal trainers I know roughly 2316571 questions about their experience and what they have been doing with their certifications. I even shadowed one for 10 hours over the weekend. This way I am able to get a wide variety of responses and develop my own philosophy and practice. Here are some of the things that I have found that you can do with a personal training certification:
1. Work at a Gym
This is a great opportunity for people starting out. You are guaranteed clients and are able to learn the ropes from more seasoned trainers. You get familiar with developing training plans using a wide variety of equipment available at a large gym.
- Pros: steady base of clients, learning experience, less work marketing yourself
- Cons: paid less than going on your own, can require a lot of selling yourself in order to attract new clients
2. Private Clients
Having private clients means that you do the work to grow your client base. You can set your own hours, figure out if you want to train clients at your home, their home, online, or at a commercial space (usually requires a small payment to use the space). You also keep the entirety of the fee you charge.
- Pros: flexibility, all profit, choose who you want to work with
- Cons: a LOT of marketing of your services, lack of consistency until a solid base is built (risk), administrative tasks of running your own business
3. Group Fitness
Some establishments require that you also be group exercise certified in order to teach classes, but others do not. If this is something you are interested it, ask local businesses what their requirements are. If you can teach group fitness as a personal trainer, it is a great way to make connections with a larger group of people. For clients, often having other people around them will cause people to pick up the pace and challenge themselves during workouts.
- Pros: able to see many people at one time, fun atmosphere, can make connections with people who may also later become personal clients
- Cons: have to lead a large group (some people may not be comfortable with this), not as much time for individual attention to form correction
4. Corporate Wellness
Many businesses and corporations are now realizing the importance of health and wellness. Check and see if any near you would be willing to have you lead a group class a couple times a month. If the business is large, they may have their own gym or fitness center in the building. If not, many gyms rent space for a monetary fee for you to hold your classes. To approach businesses about any ideas you may have, check places like LinkedIn for “Wellness Coordinators” or other similar job descriptions to find a point of contact.
- Pros: tend to pay higher for one class than teaching at a gym/studio, can develop a lasting relationship which leads to steady employment
- Cons: infrequent opportunities (better as supplemental income), requires more self-marketing, not all business have budgets for health/wellness for employees
If you aren’t as interested in training or teaching all the time, you could simply program workouts to be used in classes or for other trainers. This may not be a lucrative choice, but could bring in some extra income.
- Pros: can be done from anywhere, relatively easy with experience
- Cons: not sustainable as sole income source, usually included under the other categories
6. Fitness Writer/Contributor
If you like to write about fitness, being certified as a personal trainer will give you a reputable voice in the community. You can offer to write for local papers, magazines, and websites.
- Pros: good supplemental income, gets your name out in the community, ability to write (if you love it like me)
- Cons: not sustainable as sole income source (unless you write lots of books), could take time away from training clients
So those are some of the options that I have discovered over the past couple weeks. For me, I have an interest in all of these except for working in a commercial gym. Programming can also fall within most of these categories because unless you are teaching/training a pre-programmed workout, you will be developing one on your own.
My hope is to get a mix of private clients and fitness classes. As you know, I am already working with a Sweat Life as a writer, but now that I am actually certified I plan to reach out to more publications in an attempt to get more writing under my belt. WRITING EVERYDAY.
- Do you have any other jobs to add to the list?
- If you’re a personal trainer, how do you structure your training?
- If you’re not, what’s your job?