How to be a Fitness Professional

You go the gym,  a lot.  You look good, you feel good, your friends ask you for fitness advice.  You think to yourself, “This would be my dream job, helping people look fabulous and hanging out in a gym all day.  Where do I sign up?”

Being in the fitness industry certainly has its perks.  You get to wear sweats all day, people are happy to see you when they walk in the door, and it feels amazing when you help a client reach a goal and they give you a big ol’ hug.

But there’s a downside, too.  Getting up at 6:00 am to be at the gym to work out your first client.  Doing split shifts, where you work in the morning and come back in the evening to work out more clients.  Clients blowing you off at the last minute and not expecting to pay for the session.   Even just scrounging up clients in the first place can be a challenge, especially these days.   Do you really want to be in the fitness industry?

Here are some things to know before you leap:

It’s not a 9-to-5 job. This is especially true when you first start and are working nights and weekends. You tend to work when most people aren’t working; that’s when they’re at the gym.  And more senior staff will be scheduled for the plum morning shifts.

You can’t work 40 hours per week.  People don’t realize this, but you really can’t see more than 5 or 6 clients in a row.  In my studio, most of my instructors work no more than 4 straight.  Working with clients requires intense focus; it’s not the same as a desk job where you’re constantly shifting your attention.  Fitness is all about the client and how they’re moving and it is actually pretty draining.

Get good credentials. There is a movement in the fitness industry to standardize certifications, which I think is a very good thing!  There’s also a growing movement for clubs to hire only people with college degrees in fitness and related areas such as physiology or kinesiology.  A one-weekend certification class or (God forbid!) an online certification aren’t going to cut it.  Look at certification programs offered by the ACSM or the NSCA; either certification will get you hired at most health clubs.

Keep learning. The fitness industry is dynamic.  There’s still a lot we don’t know about the human body.  There are new gadgets and theories and research coming out all the time.   As scientists and researchers learn more, fitness professionals need to stay on top of the latest developments and integrate this new knowledge into our client’s routines.

Take time off.  Burnout happens.  When you’ve just given the sixth person of the day their ab set and you don’t even remember what it was 30 seconds after it happens,  it’s time to take a break from the gym.

Keep working out. This seems obvious, right?   You’re standing in a gym all day, but guess what?   The gym becomes your job and at the end of the day you just want to get out of there and relax.  Remember that your joy of fitness is what started you on this career, so continue to pass that on to your clients.  I actually used to pay for a gym membership at another facility so I could work out incognito.  Now I have a home-based gym which accomplishes the same thing.

Be good to the people you work with.  Not just your clients but the business contacts you make, too. Even in a city as large as Boston (where I live) there is a small and influential group of fitness gurus.  You want to be part of this group; it’ll make your life much easier.  Fitness people tend to float from gym to gym over time so everyone gets to know everyone else.  Keep that in mind if you’re thinking of quitting a job in a huff as it could come back to haunt you later.

Don’t do it for the money. Yes, there are a handful of celebrity trainers who make a fortune.  It is unlikely you’ll be one of them.  The average full-time trainer in an urban environment will make between $40,000 and $60,000 per year.  In suburban areas, the pay is $30,000 to $50,000.   As a trainer, you’ll probably earn between $25 and $50 per client.  These figures are important if you’re deciding whether or not you can afford to switch careers.

Are you still interested?  Then click on the links above and get started!  You can also ask me any related questions below and I’ll be happy to answer them for you.