The personal fitness market is booming. According to research from Ibisworld there were more than 23,000 personal trainers in the UK in 2016, contributing to a revenue of £635 million. One interesting implication of the research was that there’s never been a better time to enter the industry; not only is it expected to keep growing, but there’s also a trend for consumers to leave the bigger chains for smaller, budget gyms.
Therefore, you could become a personal trainer and launch your own business within just a few months, and that’s just the start.
What do you do as a personal trainer?
A personal trainer is someone who is certified to have qualifications and knowledge on the general fitness involved in exercise.
- The usual methods of teaching and empowering clients is through assessing their needs and setting goals over certain periods of time. When training someone the aim should be to explain why they are giving the client certain exercises, and the science behind the frequency of those exercises.
- A personal trainer would be expected to help the client work towards specific goals, but keeping them safe at the same time while using equipment, exercising and perhaps modifying their diets.
- The client should also be encouraged to work well in their spare time as well.
- Once the trainer has reached a certain level of qualification he/she can move on to specialisms, such as working with people recovering from illness and injury. Perhaps he might concentrate on nutrition, or working with sportsmen.
- In any event, the trainer should possess the knowledge and passion to motivate the client to achieve their aims – while enjoying themselves!
What are the qualities and skills of a good personal trainer?
There are a huge number of personality traits and behaviour that mark out a personal trainer as being of a high quality; here’s a few of the most common:
- Good health and fitness
- Adaptability of teaching
- Good listener
- Willing to learn
What do you need to know to become a personal trainer?
There are many reasons that becoming a personal trainer can be a rewarding career:
- No two days or two clients are the same; in fact, no two hours are the same. One day you might be running classes for school children or young athletes, the next you may be working with a 60-year-old with arthritis or a sportsman coming back from a cruciate ligament injury.
- You can get fit at the same time as you’re making money
- There’s a possibility of launching your own business, but also being employed at the same time. For example, you could work for four days a week in a gym and spend another 2-3 days working in clients’ homes on a freelance basis.
- Sometimes you can help people achieve great personal milestones, such as running a marathon or climbing a mountain. You can build a plan of action, slowly increasing the person’s activity until they peak at the right time.
- As well as landmark achievements, you might also help people return to normal health if they have been ill or injured. Your teaching can help someone walk again, or return to playing a sport or pastime they like. Your teaching could help a disabled or elderly person overcome any handicaps they have experienced.
- You can pursue a specialist direction, concentrating on a specific body part (back etc) or a certain type of exercise.
- If you’re lucky you might get to work with a high-profile client or team, and travel around the country or even the world.
For a look at some of the aspects of becoming a personal trainer that might be a surprise to you, try reading this Telegraph article. It’s quite a whimsical piece dealing with the volume of coffee that you might consume, the fact that you’ll always be asked for fitness advice from friends, and the relationships you’ll gain with clients.
How to become a personal trainer?
There are some basic, physical requirements to becoming a personal trainer, and some formal qualifications.
For example, being drastically unfit or permanently ill is not going to fill your client with confidence. One of the other pre-requisites is the ability to communicate and instil confidence and explain yourself clearly. A cold, dispassionate or unfriendly attitude will not bring business, and neither will a failure to understand why clients behave the way they do.
Don’t let age, disability, gender or any other similar factors affect your decision to become a trainer, and also don’t let shyness or quietness rule your life; experience and knowledge will soon help you find your voice.
How long does it take to become a personal trainer?
Not long at all. As described below, some courses can literally be taken over a week or two. It largely depends on your own life circumstances, as many courses can be completed remotely at home or over weekends or evenings.
Qualifications to be a personal trainer; level 2 certificate in fitness instructing (gym)
The first qualification you’ll need is the Level 2 Gym Instructor Course, which will equip you with the basic tools that you need to plan, instruct and assess one-to-one programmes with potential and established clients.
The level 2 qualification has been described as roughly equivalent to a GCSE, and since this is the starter qualification for a fitness career you might not be surprised to know that not too much preparation is needed.
It’s assumed that you’ll have a reasonable level of physical fitness and basic writing and numeracy skills, but even though these are minimum requirements you might also want to gain some experience within a working environment. Get involved on a voluntary basis with local clubs and organisations, and learn to be comfortable in communicating and speaking to people. It also pays, from an early age, to read the latest industry news. Monitor relevant websites for written pieces/videos on fitness techniques, recovery, weight management and nutrition.
Your training course could be taken in multiple locations up and down the country in conjunction with universities and gyms. In fact, some people study for their Level 2 at the same time as working at a fitness centre, or initially paying to use space in a gym to train private clients. Others might secure a job at the gym while studying.
The course should include:
- An overview of anatomy and physiology
- The necessity for warm-ups and cool-downs
- The benefits of promoting physical activity and its virtues
- How to use equipment correctly
- The principles of effective training programmes
Assessment for the course usually takes the form of a combination of written examinations (multiple choice), continuous practical assessment, and a practical exam. The course will be administered face-to-face or online, with a range of videos and tutorials available for access, and can be completed on a full- or part-time basis.
Level 3 certificate – personal trainer course
The next stage is the Level 3 Personal Trainer Certificate, which cannot be taken without having already passed the Level 2 qualification. It’s the most widely-recognised personal trainer qualification and represents the next stage in starting your own business rather than working as an employee in a gym or alternatively work as a trainer.
The course syllabus should include:
- effective assessment of clients and setting results
- nutrition, to include weight management and loss and programmes around this
- developmental and dynamic stretching techniques
- Myofascial techniques (muscle pain caused by irritation)
- It’s also likely that your course will include kettlebell training - one of the simplest and most versatile pieces of equipment, that can be used anywhere.
How much does it cost to be a personal trainer?
It depends on the actual course, as prices vary. As an example, Premier Global NASM’s Level 2 certificate is available from £800 (depending on location) and Level 3 costs around £2,199. You can also combine the two by taking the Premier Global NASM Diploma in Personal Training for Optimum Performance for £2,499. These courses all have a range of payment options, so it’s worth getting in touch to find out more.
First aid certificate
Accidents and health issues can occur in a fitness environment, and while you hope that they are rarities you need to be confident that you can tend to people if they are suffering. Recognising when someone is at risk of injury through poor technique, overexertion, or stress – in a fitness environment or generally in life – is a great skill for the fitness practitioner.
Therefore, a first aid certificate - sometimes known as an emergency first aid at work qualification – is a vital accompaniment to your fitness certificates. The one-day courses are available from a range of providers such as St John Ambulance. The courses are interesting as you will meet people from a wide variety of backgrounds, many of whom will not be working in the fitness industry.
The certificate, which is valid for three years, covers topics such as:
- The role of the first aider
- Bleeding (minor and severe)
- Choking (adult)
- Seizures (adult)
Personal Trainer Insurance
Once you start actually training people you’ll need some form of insurance, to protect them, your equipment and premises. It’s not actually a legal requirement, but it would not be wise to embark on a career without it. Gyms, running tracks, stadiums, people’s homes and outdoor environments are ripe with possibility for accidents, and without insurance, a trainer could be liable for costs.
Your insurance may include, as standard:
- Public liability insurance
- Professional Indemnity – this covers you in the event that a client questions any tuition you have given that they believe led to an injury
- Equipment cover
- Optional personal accident cover
CPD stands for continuing professional development, and you’ll see the term referred to on many fitness prospectuses and sites. Essentially, the CPD process refers to the system of continually logging the skills and knowledge that you pick up as you work, beyond any initial mandatory training. You’ll usually file your work in a portfolio or folder. Jobs.ac.uk says of CPDs: “The CPD process helps you manage your own development on an ongoing basis. Its function is to help you record, review and reflect on what you learn. It's not a tick-box document recording the training you have completed. It's broader than that.”
For fitness trainers, the CPD system works on a points basis administered by CIMSPA– the Charted Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity . This independent register recognizes the qualifications and expertise of health professionals, and ensures they meet certain standards, so if you see an instructor with a certain number of CIMSPA-recognised CPDs you’ll know they’ve reached a certain standard of training. Membership of CIMSPA is just £30 per year (including vat).
CPD fitness courses might include:
- Advanced resistance training
- Behavior change coaching
- Obesity prevention
- Group exercise
- Pre and post-natal exercise
- Build your fitness business
- Low back pain specialist
There are literally hundreds of different courses that can help you move in a specific direction, or top up existing skills. As an example, the FA runs licensed coaching courses, while conversely there are also courses in leadership and management – both of which could help you in your fitness ambitions. Shop around and you’ll almost certainly be able to find a suitable CPD for you.
Case Study: Ben Cuthbert
Fitness instructor Ben Cuthbert, from Peterborough, has worked in the industry for more than a decade.
After leaving Stamford College in Lincolnshire in 2004 he went through his Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing and Level 3 in Personal Training. He used Premier Global NASM for additional courses in 2007/08, to complement his Level 3 certificate.
Ben (30) set up BeYou Health Studios in 2013, after leaving employment for the big chain gyms behind.
Instead, going it alone and possessing a smaller more tailored client list has given him the freedom that he always wanted.
Ben has helped people return to work after accidents/illness, and started and followed a journey with those who have desperately - and unsuccessfully - tried to lose weight before
He’s also enabled ‘non-runners’ to complete half marathons and marathons, and those who’ve never put on a pair of climbing boots to scale Mt Kilimanjaro.
Ben said: “At school, I was always quite a natural when it came to fitness, so working in the industry seemed to be a natural move and it’s never been something I regretted.
“It’s one of the very few jobs where you can help change people’s lives.
“You build a relationship with those you work with; sometimes you see them even more than their own families.”
Ben’s boot camps take place around the city, in fields and parks, or in his studio if the British weather won’t allow it.
That, added to bespoke visits to clients’ homes, means that he gets out of the gym regularly – another advantage to being a personal trainer.
He has several employees, teaching martial arts and boxing among his additional fitness attractions, and he’s also travelled across the world for specific courses in America to continue his learning.
He added: “The other big thing about being a personal trainer is that people who are self-motivated can keep learning; there’s no limit to what you can do or the direction you can go.
“Of course you have the benefit of being in an environment where you are healthy yourself.
“You’re never struggling with your weight yourself because you’re always in shape; unlike most jobs, you’re not sedentary.
“And it’s a cliché, but no two sessions are ever the same for a personal trainer.”
The next steps
As you’ll see on our website, there are plenty of other courses that might be of interest for you to continue your training, such as the NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist qualification (which enables you to work with athletes of any level) and the NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist which will enable you to successfully work with clients suffering from common musculoskeletal impairments, imbalances, or post-rehab concerns.
There are a huge number of fitness instructor jobs across the country to be found on the major websites, offered in partnership with leisure operators. Be patient and above all, plan ahead. Don’t assume that you’ll instantly walk into a job and have 100 clients a week at your doorstep. Be aware that you might have to do some heavy networking and rely on word of mouth to pick up clients/customers in the first few months, or save enough to rent a gym.
Becoming a personal trainer is a rewarding and interesting career choice, that will ensure your own health, strength and wellbeing and those of your customers. You will be helping people lead a better life and feel better about themselves – so why not sign up now. For more information give us a call on 020 3883 6527.