Perhaps you’re a self-confessed gym addict, and are looking for a way to squeeze a few more hours in at your favourite fitness centre? Or maybe you’ve been on your own physical journey and want to help others in their pursuit of health? Whatever your motivation, becoming a personal trainer isn’t as simple as donning some Under Armour and finding a willing student. Many PTs underestimate the unique demands of the industry and burn out in a couple of years, so before you make a dramatic lifestyle change, it’s worth really drilling down to find out if it’s the right path for you.
It probably won’t come as a surprise that most gyms in the UK require you to hold some sort of related qualification before you can start telling people about how to exercise for their desired body. There are many ways to achieve this, and lots of people choose to attend a specialist centre like Storm Fitness, which offers Level 2 Certificates in Fitness Instruction and Level 3 Diplomas in Health and Fitness, among much more. This will equip you with the knowledge you need to start personal training, learn the relevant business skills and specialise in certain fitness techniques like kettlebell training or studio cycling.
It’s going to be a big help if you’re already interested in understanding how the human body works, and are keen to learn about anatomy, physiology and biomechanics. Being a personal trainer isn’t just about being fit – it’s important to know the effects that movement and pressure will have on different bodies.
Firstly, don’t worry about being in perfect shape. Yes, you need to be looking after yourself, but being able to demonstrate motivation and personal achievement are just as important in terms of empowering your clients. No matter what you’ve worked through in the past, if your body is now a testament to where hard work can get you, you’ll be an inspiration to your clients. Every single one of them will be on their own personal fitness journey (or they wouldn’t be coming to you), and you just need to show them that results are possible.
That said, you can’t show up looking exhausted – a healthy person does not have dark rings under their eyes and grey skin! If you like a night out where you don’t crawl under the covers until the early hours, this might not be the career for you. You’ll be expected to eat clean, get plenty of rest, and be on perfect form to help your clients at any hour of the day.
Be prepared for the fact that becoming a PT will reduce the time you get to spend on yourself, so if you’re still working on your own physique and abilities, you’ll have to make additional time somewhere in your day. Instead you’ll be working out meal plans, schedules and session programs for other people.
It’s probably best if you’re an early bird or a night owl. PTs have to be flexible to work when their clients are free, and you will typically end up busiest first thing in the morning, after 6pm and on weekends. While you will still probably get Friday and Saturday night to yourself, your income is going to rely on putting your own timetable second.
You will also have to be mentally flexible about the people you work with, at least initially. It’s unlikely that you are going to be booked out with hot 20-somethings who just need to tighten up for their next photoshoot, and much more likely that you’ll be helping the young, the weak, the old and the middle-aged. You’ll need to learn how to train those who have zero motivation to get them to reach their goals.
It’s vital that you are comfortable communicating with all kinds of people, and can spend more time listening than talking. You will need to actively hear what your clients are saying; about their goals, their schedules and what’s going on with their lives (you might find there are days when you need to switch a treadmill for a punching bag to get an effective workout).
On top of that, you’re going to need to unofficially be a part-time therapist. Just like nail technicians and bartenders, your job is going to catch people somewhere between their private and public lives, and you’ll end up hearing about both, all the time.
Does all of this still sound good? If so, Personal Training might just be your calling. Once you have completed your course you can start looking for a job. Some trainers dream of running their own business and promoting a personal brand, but when you’re starting out it can be easier to work for an established gym or health club. You’ll get to learn from likeminded colleagues and become accustomed to managing a group of clients. Good luck!