You’re a personal trainer.
Quick to qualify, you’re tanned, buff and full of energy. You start the day early, after a green smoothie, eggs on rye and checking Instagram for your latest 1000 followers. You’ve gained a few (followers) overnight so you’re pretty proud of yourself. Surely Nike is just about to ring you for that sponsorship deal… You put on your latest activewear and train a few clients. They love coming to train and are nearly as enthusiastic as you. They’ll happily do anything you say and their technique is nearly as good as yours. You have a three-hour break in the middle of the day so you train and eat. You hang out with your training mates at the gym and shake your protein drinks together- multi-tasking by checking Insta again….You take a quick, bicep curling snap of yourself in your latest gym attire- the same gear you saw Mat Frase, or Michelle Bridges in last week and whack that on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and send it to your clients too. You decide to train a few more clients after you’ve checked your bank balance. Easy money. You’ll have that mansion on the coast- along with the Nike deal in no time! You head home satisfied. You hit the hay and have a great night sleep, dreaming of world fame and fast cars……sleep well, my friend.
Let’s rip this band-aid off REALLY quickly, shall we??!
Let’s check reality and let’s burst that bubble RIGHT NOW!!!
Being a personal trainer is not an easy job. It’s not about making quick money. It’s not about getting a quick qualification, swanning around in your gym gear, training a few enthusiastic clients, automatic fitness and being famous for doing all of the above.
From some people’s perspective, we personal trainers look a little light on in the ‘professionalism department’.
It may appear that we are standing around, making conversation, wearing cool and comfy gear and checking our phone (although never on MY watch…). Every now and then we might change the exercise, perform one or two ourselves and give a high five (again- not on my watch…I’m just not a ‘high fiver’) when our client finishes a set with jubilation and self-satisfaction.
I’m going to tell you how it REALLY is.
For all those budding personal trainers out there, this is the reality.
PLEASE don’t get me wrong.
I love my job. I love it with a passion and I revel in the satisfaction I get from coaching clients and getting them results and reaching goals. I applaud learning and I love the flexibility it provides with also running a family and my own business. Being a trainer ticks the box for me in so many ways and I wouldn’t change it. I get fired up about health, wellness, and fitness and I appreciate everything I have been taught.
I just want you all to realize being a PT isn’t as glamourous or as easy as it sometimes appears to be. In a world where we are bombarded with everyone’s PERFECT life portrayed on social media and vibes are all positive, filtered and pain -free, the reality is becoming lost. We can’t always see the genuine picture. So I’m going to quash 5 myths about being a personal trainer.
MYTH #1 – It’s easy to qualify as a personal trainer. You just need a certificate.
Well yes- you need a certificate. Certificate III to work as a fitness instructor in a gym and certificate IV to work as a personal trainer. But ‘no’- it’s not necessarily easy.
For a start, you need to begin with a true desire to learn and help people. Without this, you just won’t get through the study, let alone the practical component of the course.
A Certificate III gets you a number of skills to start your trainer journey.
You will learn First Aid, how to provide fitness orientation and health screening. You’ll develop awareness of specific populations and how to modify exercise delivery as a consequence. You will learn how to assess clients’ health, nutrition, and current fitness levels.
You will learn principles of programming for clientele ranging from children, to adults, to diabetics, to athletes. You will undertake a risk analysis of activities. Anatomy and physiology will become your new language and above all, you will be monitored and tested no end.
Secondly, Cert IV becomes a little more involved and complicated.
With anatomy and physiology under your belt, you will progress to mastering appraisals of functional movement, motivational psychology and delivering programmes to support desired body composition outcomes.
You will develop strength and conditioning programmes, demonstrating excellent technique and deliver exercise plans to clients with pre-existing medical conditions.
You’ll learn how to start up, market and run a small business while establishing legal and risk management requirements.
Above all, you will learn how to develop a rapport with clients. Without a basic trust and respect in play, there’s no way you can establish long-term business relationships and client goals. Developing rapport takes time and energy.
If you’re too obsessed with your phone or your reflection in the mirror, you’d better hand up the Dunlop volleys right now, let alone progress to that Nike sponsorship.
It’s a fantastic studying journey, with both practical and theoretical components. If you have a real desire to learn about the body, health, and fitness and working with people you will find great satisfaction in it.
MYTH #2 – Once you get your certificates, you know it all.
Nup. Would you trust a doctor who got his degree twenty years ago and left it at that?
Just the same, if you want to be a highly regarded personal trainer who is up to date in current fitness knowledge, trends, new findings and efficient protocols, you’re going to have to KEEP STUDYING.
My email inbox is forever full of new information, articles, research papers and studies. I don’t necessarily agree with everything but I read it all. From all this information, and with my background in the medical industry, I read some with a grain of salt and I make a partial religion out of other readings.
Again, without self-motivation and a passion for fitness, health, and learning, you wouldn’t bother to read and study any further. There are countless courses available to increase your knowledge and repertoire of exercises and information you promote to your clients.
If you want to be a member of Fitness Australia, you will need to gain 20 Continuing Education Credits (CEC’s) every two years. These help to advance your career, improving current skills and developing new ones. CEC’s are determined by quality and duration of an education programme.
Even if you are not a member of Fitness Australia (and there is no rule to say you have to be), you should continue your education through courses, mentoring, reading, practising and simply ‘living the job’. Your First Aid should be up to date and your personal indemnity and public liability insurance also.
If you want to stay informed, highly regarded and reputable, you need to keep learning. With such a conflict in opinions, research results, media hype, and people’s perceptions, work out what YOU believe in. Promote what YOU believe in and do it with passion and conviction.
I’m a scientific person and I like to make sure any information I relay and advocate is peer-reviewed, proven and published. It’s not info I’ve grabbed from the latest fitness mag at the hairdressers.
MYTH #3 – Cool ! You get to wear sports clothes every day.
Sure. It starts off pretty cool. You’re donning your activewear and sneakers, maybe a cap. You’re comfortable and you look the part. Everyone would love to wear trackies for work right?
I learned pretty quickly that the grass was not necessarily greener. I’m not saying that this myth is untrue. I’m just letting you know that the excitement of not having to wear a uniform (in my case) , nor load my face with make up soon wears off. The appeal is now lacklustre and some days I’d just love to frock up like an executive chick.
There are varying degrees of quality of sports clothes.
At the lower end of the scale, we have cheap gear, which looks good on a picture, on a waif, on a beach. When it comes to actually being active and professional the dollar savings just don’t cut it. While demonstrating a squat, you become a plumber with pants too low, they last three washes and then they disintegrate. A cheap price tag but highly dysfunctional and poor quality. The waif on the beach a distant memory.
At the upper end of the clothing scale, we have a hefty price tag. It may look the part and the quality MAY be up there too. Being a trainer though, you need to wash after each wear. I don’t know about you but I’m not going to finish my day late, then wash again, ready for a 5am start. I need more outfits. Until I reach that Nike sponsorship, I’m unable to afford too many clothes at this end of the scale. Yes- they mold to your body and they don’t turn you into a plumber but they are expensive.
Some days I’d like to doll up for a day of work. Little skirt, makeup, high heels, all ‘girly’. But hey- I can’t have everything!
MYTH #4 – You’re a personal trainer? You must be so fit!
Yes. I’m fit- compared to many. No -it’s NOT just because I’m a trainer.
Would YOU like to pay a trainer to train them? I think not.
While you are being trained, your trainer should be watching YOU. As I mentioned earlier, we trainers (the professional, well-educated ones) are NOT just standing there talking to you.
Despite the fact I am conversing while you’re performing a squat, I am also cueing you for technique. I’m checking that your head is neutral, your chest is proud, scapulae retracted, back straight, knees don’t lower past the toes, knees in line with the second toe, there’s not posterior tilt of the pelvis, you’re lowering for a count of 3 and raising for an explosive count of 1. Not to mention the fact I am also counting your reps and watching your facial expression. I’m talking so that when you talk back to me I can gauge how hard you’re working and test how many more reps I can get out of you!
Where on earth would I find the time to do the squats WITH you?
What’s more, when you’re starting to feel the pain, get frustrated or give up- I’m there. I want you to keep going. I want you to push beyond ‘your’ limits and reach mine. I’m motivating (or distracting) you until you can’t go on without me. It’s bang for your buck!
Trainers should increase their fitness on their own time. They may join you for a warm-up run or throw a med ball back now and then but ultimately they should be focussed on their client. They need to be cueing, checking technique, promoting safety, building rapport, preventing boredom and programming workouts to get the results the client is paying for.
So yes- I’m fit but I work bloody hard for it. I see a trainer twice a week, watch what I eat (except on Sundays) and some days training’s the last thing I feel like doing but I know that consistency is key.
MYTH #5 – You can earn easy money….
No. Just. No.
I think perhaps the EASY money may come once you’ve hung up the Dunlop volleys and put on the sponsored Nikes…
Let’s say you HAVE the initial passion and hard work ethic to begin a career as a personal trainer. Until you stick with it for at least two to three years, you will start to make some pretty honest wage. Your first outlay is the education. Sure you get a ‘free’ t-shirt, maybe a cap but a good quality course costs thousands.
If you start your own business (as I did), you’re at the bottom of the mountain from the get-go. After you’re education expenses, you need equipment. Not necessarily a lot, but you need some. Between a slam ball for $50 and a good rowing machine costing 2K, you can fill in the gaps..
Your own business also requires initial marketing, a web page, a registered business name, premises you either own or pay weekly rental for, insurance, and sign writing.
Don’t forget your ongoing education courses, replacing broken or worn out equipment and paying any staff you may have.
There is no sick pay (with your own business) and no holiday pay. You sick- you no get money.
If you don’t run your own business but choose to work for a gym, you won’t be paying for sign writing, equipment or a web page but you WILL be paying rent, insurance and for ongoing education ( if you’re a reputable, highly knowledgeable trainer).
For me, it’s the ‘behind the scenes’ work I also include in my hourly rates. From a client’s perspective, I’m standing there chatting and watching. But prior to your session, I’ve cleaned equipment, checked safety, spent hours reading and researching, looking through your past workouts (which I’ve recorded) and designed ‘today’s workout’ around previous parameters and results and around future desired outcomes.
So ‘no’ I don’t think it’s easy money.
I DO think though that if you thrive on helping people, forever learning and being active and healthy then being a personal trainer is a fantastic, rewarding job. I can work around family commitments and earn enough to satisfy what I (the children, husband, dog ) need from life. I enjoy what I do and the pay is only part of the big picture.
I will be here if Nike or Instagram choose to ring me, but they’ll probably go straight to Message Bank. I’m too busy training people!
So there you have it. It’s not all fast cars and beaches.
When we push everything aside, personal training is still a pretty cool career.
You learn about the body, how it functions and how to train it.
You build great relationships with clients and gain great satisfaction in helping them be the best they can be.
You are a part of their journey and you’re making a real difference.
You work hard but you have enough passion and motivation to get you through each day with a sense of purpose.
Nike will just have to wait!
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