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  • Becoming a personal trainer

    I think like many people on here I was introduced into the "weight training" lifestyle at a later age. Anyways over the last 2 years I've been able to put a smile on my face by just thinking about the gym except when I have to do a DC Anyways I've been second guessing my current schooling and thinking of starting something in the fitness industry. Not sure what yet but of course I'll need some certs to give advice no matter what I do first. Just wondering if there is any input from the fellow IM'ers about this topic. I'm not looking to become a millionaire but I'd woul like to do something that I can enjoy day in and day out. Any insight?

  • #2
    speedR, I have been a personal trainer since '91, I do have a regular 40 hour job also, so it can be tough to do the two. I do know many full time trainers here in rich CA, but they are mostly miserable, you have to put up with a lot of shit, hell I fire them left and right, you don't listen to me or you whine too much, your gone.

    I am training 5 clients right now and that is more than enough with my regular job and training my self.

    Good luck in what ever you decide...
    "That damn log book" Highest quality protein at the lowest price...


    • #3
      Hey thanks IH. Your a good guy, just don't ear me...hehe :dcchomp: . Anyways, like you said it can be a difficult career that's why I'm trying to know first hand what ppl think. Basically I'm looking for a career change the this industry but I think I have to sit down and think this one over. Thanks again!


      • #4

        There are many personal trainers, but very few who make an entire career out of it. There seems to be a very high burn-out rate. Perhaps the nature of the work environment doesn't attract the type of people who have the people skills and personality to deal with some of the B.S. that In-human mentioned.

        As your standard personal trainer, you'll have to deal with the frustration of having many clients (at least at the start) who are simply lacking in motivation (thus they hire you). Only when you've been training for a while can you screen out those who won't do the things that they are told to do. (I think a certain prominent mod or two here does this very thing before taking on long-term clients.)

        If you're in college now, I would finish your degree but consider switching to kinesiology / exercise science / whatever its called at your school (if its offered). In that arena, becoming a certified athletic trainer (ATC) is perhaps the best deal (depending on the state you live in) as far as having tangible skills when you're done with your degree. Those degree programs also are often constructed to have the prereq's for med school, PT school, PA school, nursing, etc., which leaves a door open for ya.

        I'd highly recommend planning a career where you can personal train part time and make other money somehow else. As an ATC, for instance, you might work at a physical therapy clinic part-time, work as a local High school or college athletic trainer or assistant ath. trainer and/or strength coach, and personal train in between. That woudl be a nice mix of injured regular folks, mostly healthy highly-motivated athletes, and your personal training clients.

        Feel free to PM me if you have particular questions - I think I could help you out...

        The Book Has Arrived!
        The Book Has Arrived!

        Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a pristine, well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, used up, worn out, and shouting, "Holy #$&^%$^... What a ride!!!"

        2012 NPC Master's Nationals HW 5th. Mid-USA HW & Overall
        2010 NPC Jr. USA HW 4th, Pacific USA Heavy 2nd
        2009 NPC Mr. Arizona HW & Overall, Jr. Nationals HW 16th, Smoked at USA's


        • #5
          Man how i would of wished i went to school for what Randy is talkign about..... or something in that area that would have options for me when i graduate. Dont ask me why but i got mixed up into computers and the more and more i take these classes the more i realized im NOTHING like these kids in class and have literally no interest. My word of advice is make sure you like what your doing. It really matters


          • #6
            Tyson, Those are some very good words of wisdom there...
            "That damn log book"

   Highest quality protein at the lowest price...


            • #7
              Originally posted by Tyson23
              My word of advice is make sure you like what your doing. It really matters
              Exactly man. When I was going thru school I heard the bad things about the career I was pursuing but always put them behind me. Now that I think about it it's worse than I thought, especially the shift work. The shift absolutely screws up your sleep patterns I don't care what anyone says eve more so when it's weekly. Homonunculus you've got PM


              • #8
                trust me, if you take kinesiology or any other health related field you will not learn jack shit. at purdue univ. you learn basic anatomy/physiology and wellness/healthcare B.S. if you want to learn how to train read all of DC's stuff, charles poliquin, paul chek is great for rehab, etc. practical and real life application and experience with training will teach you more than anything you will learn in school. of course a degree keeps your doors open the only reason i wanted a degree but i know so many people who graduate and do not know a damn thing about how to train a bodybuilder, athlete, or even someone who wants to lose weight. if you go into dietetics all you learn is the fucking food pyramid and i argued constantly with my nutrition professor about how ridiculous and outdated the info was we were forced to learn. i have chosen to learn from DC and wyldeone(promuscle) about how to diet and train.


                2008 Mr. Indiana Heavyweight Champ


                • #9
                  Yup I have to agree with you Joshb. I'm not sure about the US but here in Canada it's very easy to get into a program such as kinesiology. Therefore alot of ppl that come into university that aren't sure what to take usually end up enrolling in said programs because they sound cool, meanwhile they couldn't teach a monkey how to eat a banana. Most of these ppl haven't even picked up a weight in there life.


                  • #10
                    Ive been training people for about 5 years, at first you definetly need a back up job, but if you are good and your clients like you they will refer others to you. Then you dont need to spend money on advertising and once your clientle is full you can pick and choose who you train. The main thing that i found is to always change their programs up, so they wont lose interest and you wont either. IT does however get annoying being in a gym atmosphere all day, with all of the idiots that come and go through out the day. But overall it is a good job if you work at it and truly have and interest in it. Plus once you have a reputation you can start charging big bucks and work the hours that you want.
                    that's all ive got for ya


                    • #11

                      by Jason Meuller

                      If you're not a personal trainer, you may think this article has no application to you. Well, you'd be wrong. As one who pursues to highest of aesthetic ideals for your physique, you're undoubtedly going to be approached by people asking you for advice on diet, working out, supplementation, and anything else related to getting in shape. I recently started training clients for an associate of mine that has gone back East for a few weeks to pursue an excellent job opportunity and quickly realized that I had agreed to descend to the Ninth Circle of Hell. How quickly our mind numbs to the pain of past actions, I had somehow blacked out all of my nightmarish memories of working as a personal trainer to put myself through college. With one simple attempt to do a friend a favor and make some quick green in the process, I effectively opened up Pandora's Box. Except this time it wasn't all of humanities ills and evils and that came flying out of the box, it was two fat ladies eating cheesecake, a portly college professor who mistakenly believed he knew everything about nutrition because he was familiar with the RDA, and two rich housewives who didn't really care about getting in shape, they just needed to tell their friends they had a personal trainer. Imagine my dismay when no amount of beating these people over the head with the closest Olympic bar forced them back in the box. The two old broads blinded me with cheesecake in the eyes, the professor managed to confuse me with his recitation of the latest bullshit from the RDA, ADA, and AMA, and the two housewives were coming on to me so much that I was actually kinda flattered. Nooooo, get back in the fucking box!!!

                      Personal trainers generally come in two varieties. Those that have no idea what they're talking about, and those that do. As you might imagine, those that fall in the latter category are few and far between. Mind you, the moment you begin helping someone get into shape, you have become their de facto personal trainer, regardless if you're being compensated monetarily or if you're simply doing a favor out of love or friendship. Now, this article is orientated towards those of you who actually know what you're talking about, so those of you that hold 24 Hour Fitness Certifications or got yours through the mail can stop reading right here. Not only do you not have the right to bitch about the quirky characteristics of your clientele, you should be thanking the Fitness Gods that someone is actually naïve and stupid enough to listen to your advice. For the rest of you, let's continue.

                      The most important thing to remember as a trainer is that those that are coming to you are rarely prepared to actually do what is necessary to achieve their goals. Let's face it, we live in a society that has conditioned all of us to expect instant gratification with a minimum of effort. Given the fact that John or Jane Doe has been barraged with advertisement after advertisement for weight loss products which promise miracle results in a matter of weeks simply by swallowing a pill or imbibing some drink, you're going to face an uphill battle when convincing your client that getting in shape actually requires a long-term commitment to both diet and working out. In fact, many clients will actually question your expertise and qualifications because you're telling them something they've never heard before, and quite frankly, would rather not believe.

                      Put yourself in the place of your client, loved one, or friend. First of all , they don't have the level of commitment to fitness and physique development that you have or they wouldn't be needing your help in the first place. Having made the decision to get into better shape, most people are prepared at most to make a 2-3 month pledge to achieving their goals, and the last thing they want to hear is the they need to make a lifelong commitment to eating correctly and working out. It's not surprising that their first response is to question your expertise, why in the world would they want to accept your advice when they've been conditioned to believe since they could understand such things that all that is required to get in shape is Seven Minute Abs, a healthy shake for breakfast and lunch, followed by a sensible dinner, and Carb Blocker, allowing them to eat their favorite foods and still lose weight!! And yet, your sage advice is EXACTLY what your clients need to hear, as now isn't the time to fill their head with pipe dreams and warm fuzzies so they feel better about the challenge that lies before them.

                      The number one piece of advice I can give you about being a trainer is to be confident in your abilities!! Case in point, when I first started training clients through AE, I was approached by an advanced Masters competitor who wanted to take his already extremely muscular physique to the next level. After examining what he was currently doing, I tripled his intake of steroids and doubled his intake of calories. Guess what happened!


                      So I discussed things with this client, and he assured me that he was following my direction. You can imagine my dismay when he didn't grow, I mean, if he was actually following the program like he promised, why in the world wouldn't he grow? And why in the world would he lie to me?

                      As embarrassing as it is for me to admit now, I spend months with this client, switching foods, drugs, and workouts, all because I was too naïve to see the truth. He was lying to me. It's impossible for someone to double caloric intake and triple their use of steroids and not grow. At the very least, he should have been getting fatter. But because I couldn't see the truth right in front of my face, because I ultimately doubted my own advice, I wasted both my time and that of my client.

                      When you're confident in your abilities as a trainer, it allows you the freedom and security of not being bullshitted by your clients. And as trivial as this may seem, it's a huge issue. I know now that when I put someone on a program, they absolutely will see results within a given period of time. And I also know that if I don't see these results, it's not because my program was lacking, but because the client wasn't following my advice in the first place. This isn't to say that my first attempt at a program for a client won't require some tweaking or modifications to reach optimum effectiveness, but I certainly do know enough that any program I design will be moderately effective before changes are made to account for the individuality of each client.

                      Why do clients lie? The reasons are too numerous to mention. Perhaps they feel guilty because they cheated on their diet. Perhaps they don't want you to know that they don't have the willpower to stick to a diet. Quite frankly, I've stopped trying to analyze the reasons why clients will lie and just accepted the fact that they will. Which brings us my second piece of advice, don't be afraid to cut your clients loose!!

                      As a trainer, you will play several roles. That of educator, motivator, and taskmaster. However, there will be clients that will not make progress regardless of how well you perform your duties as a trainer. When this situation arises, it's imperative you inform your client that unless they start following your program, you'll end your association with them as their trainer. Sounds kinda harsh, doesn't it? Yet, that's exactly the motivation some people need in order to actually get on track. And the old adage that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink applies here. If you absolutely know that you're doing everything you can to help a client and nothing seems to be working, it's time to terminate your relationship as their trainer. This can be difficult at times, especially if the client your firing is your wife, girlfriend, of best friend, but the bottom line is that you are doing them a disservice by allowing them to waste both their time and yours.

                      There are many people who will come to you for advice with absolutely no intention of following it. This is due to the fact that these people are not willing to change anything in their life to achieve some dreamy goal of getting into shape, but actually feel better about themselves for having sought out the advice of a trainer. How many times have you heard a fat person talk about the brand new diet they're on, or the brand new exercise program they've started? Probably more than you care to remember. It never fails, the person making the boisterous claims about how they're getting into shape never does, or if they do, they quickly lose it to become as fat or fatter than they were before. These clients cannot be helped, simply because they do not want to help themselves.

                      Follow your dreams but dont let your life become one.
                      -Vander V


                      • #12
                        THE HELL THAT IS PERSONAL TRAINING
                        PART II

                        by Jason Meuller

                        This series took on a special significance for me when I was recently offered a job in Rochester, NY to become part of upper management of a very large corporate health club chain. Among other duties, I'd be implementing programs to train the trainers, and part of that includes preparing them for the hell that is personal training. Having said that, personal training can be a rewarding experience for both the client and the trainer, it's rare that you'll ever be able to have such huge impact on another persons life. I can think of no other profession, with the possible exception of a doctor or surgeon, that allows you to totally change another human beings mental and physical well being in a short period of time.


                        With the obvious exception of knowledge, the most important thing you're going to impart to your client is motivation. I'm going to be real unpopular here with a lot of trainers and say the one thing they don't want to hear. The biggest motivating factor in any client/trainer relationship is the physical condition of the trainer. I will be the very first person to admit that some of the most knowledgeable trainers I've ever met have had the worst physiques. And for the most part, these trainers survived on reputation alone. However, given that most trainers do not have a reputation that proceeds them, they are the proverbial book being judged by its cover. And as a client, that cover is going to speak volumes (ok, enough with the book puns) to me about what that trainer actually knows. Furthermore, even if I give that trainer a chance and find out that they actually do know what they're talking about, why in the world am I going to want to suffer on a diet or workout program when it's obvious that my trainer isn't willing to do so? I can think of a somewhat humorous situation that is analogous to what I'm discussing here. What if you went to your doctor, and after finding out you took steroids, he began a long-winded tirade about how steroids are dangerous and how you were slowly killing yourself. Here's the kicker. You're physician is 100 lbs overweight. Furthermore, you go out later that night to dinner and see you doctor in the bar of the restaurant, completely hammered and smoking like a fiend. How much credence are you going to give to the advice of a man who clearly is the very worst kind of hypocrite? Physician, heal thyself!!

                        The same kind of relationship exists between a trainer and client. Given that we've already established that your clients will use ANY excuse to cheat on their programs, you're opening the door to a failure after failure if you can't or won't follow your own advice. If you're knowledgeable enough or a good enough salesperson to be hired by clients despite your horrible physical condition, you're going to run into the inevitable situation where clients will not follow your advice simply because they don't see you following it yourself!!! At many points during a client/trainer relationship, the mood becomes almost adversarial as your attempts at helping the client achieve their goals are at some point going to cause them discomfort. When this happens, the out-of-shape trainer is going to start dealing with opposition on the part of the client, the root of which is a train of thought that goes something like this:

                        "If he can't even eat right or workout himself, why in the world should I suffer? He has no idea what I'm going through, yet is on me constantly to stay on my program. FUCK HIM!!"

                        Think this won't happen? Place a large middle-aged woman on a low carb diet for the first time in her life and see what happens. The bottom line is that it's imperative that you're client can not only seek motivation from you, but can actually LOOK at you and be motivated. Looking the part is just as important as being able to play the part.

                        Tailor Programs for the Individual

                        Part of my job here at AE involves training clients. And in the course of doing this job, I've been able to review the work of a lot of the trainers that failed to properly do their job. Now, when I speak about tailoring programs for the individual, I'm referring to a lot more than simply plugging in the obvious variables, such as sex, weight, and body fat and waiting for the computer to spit out a program. ANY trainer with a few hours of instruction on the latest fitness software can easily accomplish this, and it probably wouldn't take me more than a day to teach a chimp to do so if I had enough bananas.

                        What I am referring to is having enough knowledge to allow your client to achieve their goals in an expedient fashion with a minimum of suffering. Case in point. Let's take two female clients, both of whom are overweight, both in their late 20's, both seeking to lose fat with a minimum loss of lean body mass. Both are roughly 40 lbs overweight, but one, let's call her Suzie, wants to get into good enough shape to enter a local bikini contest. The other, let's call her Betty, simply wants to lose about 20 lbs of fat.

                        In most gyms across this country, the programs most trainers would put these women on would look EXACTLY the same. That's because most trainers are not taught to think outside the constraints of whatever system they've been trained in, and lack both the knowledge base and confidence to tailor programs to suit the individual needs of their clients.

                        Let's start with Betty. She has the simple goal of wanting to lose 20 lbs of fat. Now, it should be understood that Betty is fully aware that she's 40 lbs overweight, and is still perfectly fine with wanting to only lose 20. Betty's program should be designed with that in mind! Given that, she should not be subsisting on only chicken and brown rice, nor should she be asked to commit to a program that requires a tremendous amount of time in the gym. Quite frankly, Betty can reach her goal with a few simple changes and the absolute bare minimum of suffering. Perhaps after easily reaching her initial goal of losing 20 lbs, Betty will commit herself to an even greater level of fitness and decide to lose another 20. Bottom line here is that it's much easier (and more responsible on the part of the trainer) to get Betty to implement a few simple changes that will permanently change her weight and body composition than to place her on an overly restrictive program that in reality, is just a quick fix. Although she may stick to an overly restrictive program for a period of a few months and rapidly achieve her goals, the moment she is happy with how she looks, she'll return to her "normal" way of eating and begin the inevitable yo-yo process most dieters go through.

                        Given that Suzie has much more lofty fitness goals, her program WILL have to be very restrictive. However, someone who has decided to pursue such endeavors is almost always prepared for the rigors involved in doing so. My simple point here is that you cannot simply plug people into a system because they happen to share a few obvious variables. A competent trainer plans not only to help the client achieve their goals in the short term, but maintaining those goals after the trainer/client relationship has ended.

                        Teach, Don't Preach

                        Your job as a trainer is to impart your knowledge onto the client, helping them achieve their fitness and physique goals. Inevitably, every one of your clients is going to ask you the dreaded question"Why? Why am I doing this exercise? Why do you have me eating these foods?" Believe me, it's going to get really old after a while.

                        Too bad. It's one of the more unpleasant aspects of the job, explaining the same things time and time and time again. After all, to you these things now seem like second nature, and it can be somewhat shocking to learn how little most people actually know, or to discover some of the absolutely asinine things people believe. And again, 9 times out of 10, you are not preaching to someone whose mind is ready to accept what you have to say as Holy Writ, as almost all clients come to you with preconceived notions as to how to properly eat and exercise. When what you tell them doesn't jive with these preconceived notions, expect to be asked "Why?".

                        All too often I see trainers who have become jaded in the business and are tired of educating clients, wanting only to have clients follow their advice without having to explain why. Trainers who have the attitude of, "I'm the expert here, just do what I say!!" And although this seems to be the prevailing attitude amongst trainers, this simply means that there are a lot of lousy trainers in the business!! Only the most docile of clients are going to totally change their lifestyle without wanting to understand the reasoning behind the changes. I liken these people to sheep, willing to be blindly led wherever you might take them. For better or for worse, 95% of clients are not going to be sheep, and it's going to be up to you to not only help them achieve their goals in the short term, but educate them so that they can maintain their results long term.

                        If you're going to make a living as a trainer, or even if you're just considered an authority on getting into shape and am constantly being asked to help others, perhaps one of the most effective time saving endeavors you can engage in is producing a document or Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) sheet that covers a lot of this material. Rather than answering the question, "Why am I doing cardio in the morning before I eat?" for the one-millionth time, put it in your FAQ. Look, even the best trainers have common threads running through every program they design, if they didn't they wouldn't be successful. It's these common threads that should be addressed in such a document. Doing so will not only make you appear more organized and professional to your clients, but will save you Excedrin Headache #25 when you're asked the same question 5,295 in a row.

                        Obviously there's a lot more to being a successful trainer than what I've outlined in this series. However, if you can follow the advice I've given you, everything else will soon fall into place. Like I said in the introduction, personal training can be an extremely rewarding experience. It can also be an absolute nightmare. The choice is largely up to you.
                        Follow your dreams but dont let your life become one.
                        -Vander V