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Becoming a Fitness Trainer: what kind of discipline do you need?

Personal training is a fast-growing business that’s already a £8.4 billion per year industry, and it’s growing at an impressive rate. As more and more people realise the benefits of working out but don’t know where to start, choosing to go with a personal trainer is the most popular option. And for people who are already in great shape and love going to the gym, becoming a personal trainer seems like a natural progression. Who doesn’t want to turn their favourite pastime into their job? But it’s not as easy as just getting a job at a gym.

Becoming a successful personal trainer takes more than simply knowing how you got into shape and telling other people how you did it. There’s no one-size-fits-all method for being in shape, and your clients’ goals may differ from your own. So it takes discipline to become a personal trainer. While you may already think you’re doing pretty well on the discipline front -- you eat right and hit the gym every other day, after all -- it’s a different type of discipline that keeps you hitting the books and successfully passing your assessments to qualify.

At the bare minimum, you’ll need a Level 2 Gym Instructor qualification. It is an essential requirement to instruct people on how to properly use gym equipment and set out an exercise plan. However, it’s a good idea to get your Level 3 and Level 4 qualifications, which entail higher-level anatomy and physiology, advanced exercise programming and coaching knowledge, nutrition, and more specialised skills like behaviour change coaching and kettlebells.

To start with, it’s a good idea to sit down and list your goals as a personal trainer. Will you be the type who takes fit people and helps them build even more muscle? Are you interested in helping the overweight lose their extra pounds? Do you want to target middle-aged people who are trying to get back into working out after years away from sports? Are you going to work with university students just getting started on their fitness journey?

You may even have larger ambitions. If you’d like to be a fitness coach for sports teams, you’ll need to look at strength and conditioning qualifications, and may benefit from something like a degree in exercise science or kinesiology. You may then want to specialise in something. You could be the fitness guru for professional golfers, like Joey D, who counts significant champions Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka as clients. Special programmes like those found at the Titleist Performance Institute can get you on the right track to being a golf trainer.


The additional training that you should have

You may also want to get into physical therapy, helping injured clients get their bodies back into proper physical form. There are qualifications available to enable you to do this, but to get to a high level you will require a university degree and post-graduate studies.

Of course, you may simply want to get your basic certifications down so you can start taking on personal clients while working towards that higher degree. Or you may just want to be a great one-on-one trainer for everyday clientele. You’ll still need to discipline yourself to prepare for your assessments.

You can find many courses online or at local colleges that will teach you the basics you need to pass the exams, often in as little as 6-12 weeks. But even then, if you don’t put in the work, you’ll find yourself having trouble meeting the requirements for the exams and case studies.

You’ll also need to take care of the basics. First off: practice what you preach! No one’s going to want a physical trainer who doesn't train or has poor form themselves. You’ll want to not only set an example for your clients to aspire to, but you’ll want to be able to perform any exercises you expect them to do perfectly.

Second, you’ll need to maintain a positive and energetic demeanour. Being a personal trainer isn’t just about telling your clients what exercise to do. It would help if you encouraged them during the exercises to give their all. It would be best if you were a friendly face that they look forward to seeing instead of a drill instructor who they’ll try to avoid. You’ll need to be a coach who sees the client’s potential and maximises it. And you’ll need to be a coach who helps the client overcome their own mental hurdles.

It also helps to have some training in nutrition so you can give your clients effective and accurate advice. New studies come out every day about nutrition and the best way to eat, so you’ll have to have the discipline to keep up with current trends. If a client asks you if keto is right for them, or if they should go vegan, you’ll want to have an educated, thoughtful answer at the ready.

Personal training can be an incredibly rewarding profession. You’ll have a front-row seat to some truly incredible personal transformations, and you’ll be an integral part of numerous success stories. People will credit you with their victories, and you’ll see your clientele grow with each success story.

Who is our guest writer:

Jordan Fuller is a golf coach and mentor. Aside from teaching golf, he loves to write about it. Jordan owns a publication site, https://www.golfinfluence.com/, where he shares his expert tips on how to play and improve the game.