How do I become a trainer? This is the question I’ve heard a lot lately. If you’re thinking about turning your passion into a career there are a few things to consider before taking the plunge. What certifications to get, where you’re going to work, how much experience you have, and why you’re interested in becoming a trainer in the first place are all questions that should be addressed before beginning your new career. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about what being a fitness trainer entails. The pay is often low to those first starting out, the hours long, and the frustration plentiful. If you’re dreaming of high pay and a glamorous lifestyle you’re in for a shock. If however you have a genuine desire to help people change their lives, and a talent for building relationships this may be a good career for you.
First things first, fitness training is not about how good you are at working out, or what you know. I know too many would be trainers that believe a lifetime of working out automatically qualifies them to be good trainers. Sure it helps to be proficient at the skills you’re trying to teach others but if you lack humility and good people skills your clients will not trust you let alone pay to listen. Fitness training is first and foremost about building relationships with strangers. A weekend seminar or an online certification is not going to cut it here. You need real world experience helping people on a professional level.
It’s logical to assume that a certification is the first place to start but this is another misconception fueled by clever marketing and advertising. Online certification and weekend seminars are about one thing; turning a profit. Anyone that tells you a six week course or seminar is going to prepare you for training clients is lying to you and setting you up for failure. If you’re serious about becoming a trainer your first course of action should be to find a trainer you respect and admire and ask to shadow them throughout the day. Long ago it was common for aspiring professionals to apprentice under a master craftsman for a set period of time before ever being allowed to practice their trade. When it comes to fitness training this is a tradition that needs to come back. There is no substitute for real world experience. A degree without experience is worthless these days and quite a few college graduates are learning this lesson the hard way.
I’d recommend at least a year working under and with an experienced trainer before ever handing someone else up to a thousand dollars for a certification. A good example of this is the world of CrossFit. A level one certification is not cheap. I’d suggest finding a box you’re comfortable with and working with and under a trainer there for awhile before heading out on your own. This is a great way to learn the subtle everyday aspects of training and program building that few online courses teach. Use this time under another trainer to perfect your own skill and build the kind of physique your clients will admire and want to achieve their self. In this industry you are your own best advertising. A trainer that cannot perform the movements and workouts they prescribe or look the part is a fraud pure and simple.
Finally, a word about nutrition, the biggest advances and gains in weightloss and health today are coming from nutrition. You must learn about proper nutrition and enact it in your own life if you really want to help your future clients. Your time in the gym with a client is only a tiny fraction of their life, if you want to insure the greatest chance for success with their goals you have to find a way to influence them while you’re not around. Nothing has the potential to sabotage a great training program like a bad diet. I see too many clients work hard in the gym only to throw it away by eating crap and then blaming it on the trainer when results don’t come quickly. You need to clear your mind out of all the fad diet crap and get your head in some books about science and biology. The reason why diets like Paleo and the Zone are finding so much traction these day is they are based on simple biology not decades old traditions and bad marketing. Low fat, high grain, vegan, shake, and crash diets have no place in a reputable trainers programming. Any trainer who prescribes these methods to clients is displaying laziness at best and at worst a sad ignorance of proper nutrition and hormone response in the body.
Being a fitness trainer today is about living a lifestyle. Like any career that is driven by passion first over profits; it takes long hours and dedication. This is not a job or career path for those who suffer from lack of focus in their lives or are just looking for something “fun” to do. When you become a trainer you assume tremendous responsibility for the health and well being of those you train. Your attention and guidance could change their life or seriously hurt them if you don’t know what you’re doing. In the United States Fitness training is unregulated. There is no governing body to enforce standards or basic requirements, so if you screw up it falls on your head. If you have a real passion for fitness and a desire to help people, then we could use you in the industry. If however you’re just looking to make a buck and think your own gym experience makes you an authority. Do us all a favor and find another career. We need people who want to facilitate change not get paid to stroke their own ego.