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10 Steps to Become a Personal Fitness Trainer

Looking For a New Career? See if You Have What It Takes

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Updated April 03, 2014

If you're a fitness enthusiast who wants to annoy others with your passion for health, maybe you should consider becoming a personal fitness trainer. The following steps will give you an idea of how it all works.

1. Decide if You Have What It Takes-Personal trainers need to have a multitude of skills. You should be analytical, patient, nurturing, persistent, organized, an effective motivator and, most importantly, a good listener. You should love working with different kinds of people and be a self-motivator. You don't have to look like a body builder to be a fitness trainer, but you should definitely lead a healthy lifestyle to be a good role model for your clients.

2. Choose a Certification - There are a variety of certifying organizations, each offering different classes, workshops and exams for getting certified. You'll want to choose an organization that is nationally recognized and accredited. If you already have a club in mind, call and ask them what certifications they require. If you don't know where you'll work, take some time to research the websites of major organizations to find out: How much the certification costs, what the pre-requisites are, if they offer a workshop/exam in your area or a home study program. More about certification organizations.

3. Choose a specialty - This isn't required, but in this competitive market, many fitness trainers are boosting their resumes by getting specialty certifications. Getting a specialty certification means you have more to offer and, even better, you can usually charge a little more for your services. One example is ACE's Clinical Exercise Specialist certification which takes you beyond basic personal training and allows you to work with special populations like people with chronic diseases or injuries.

4. Get a Job at a Club - Using your local phone book, call some clubs in your area and ask them if they employ personal trainers. If they say yes, ask about availability of jobs and the procedure for filling out an application. You can also visit some of the major clubs on the Internet and see what jobs they have open. Check out the Gym Locator to find clubs near you.

5. Setting Up Your Own Business - Briefly, setting up your home business requires: Choosing a business entity (i.e., sole proprietorship, partnership, etc.), choosing a business name, registering your company, getting liability insurance, setting up your gym (if you're training from your own home), targeting potential clients, and marketing yourself. For more info, see Guide to Become a Personal Fitness Trainer.

6. Market Yourself - Once you get things going, it's time to get your name out to the masses. This means making flyers, newsletters, business cards, a website or even setting up neighborhood seminars to bring in the business. It helps to have some equipment at your disposal to make this easier; having a computer, a color printer and basic publishing software. Be prepared to hawk your wares anywhere you can: posting flyers in sporting goods stores,getting friends and family members to spread the word and sending out flyers and newsletters to people you know. Offering free consultations and seminars is a great way to get people in the door.

7. Improve Your Skills and Education - Continuing education. It's a dirty job, but if you want to keep your certification and be good fitness trainer, you'll have to do it. Thankfully, there are some companies out there who's sole job is to offer you continuing education courses. Desert Southwest Fitness offers a variety of courses, or you can get your CEU's from your own certifying organization.

8. Become Indispensable to Your Clients - Being successful at this job takes work, talent, skill and experience. Getting a certification is no guarantee that you'll either get clients or, more importantly, be able to keep those clients. To improve upon your skills, consider joining a national organization, such as IDEA, and attending personal trainer summits, workshops and seminars.

9. Other Options - You don't have to work in a gym or even work for yourself. Personal fitness trainers work in all kinds of different areas: corporate fitness, cruises, resorts, spas, online training and more. Check out The Wellness Connection or Resortjobs.com for some ideas on what else you can do with your certification.

10. Beyond Personal Training - Once you're an established fitness trainer, there are even more opportunities available to you. You can consider consulting, fitness writing, athletic coaching (with the proper education), group fitness instruction or even opening your own gym. Whatever you choose, you'll find that being a personal trainer provides everything you love in a job.

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