What They Don’t Teach You At Personal Trainer School

By February 28, 2016 April 7th, 2017 Sales

What They Don’t Teach You At Personal Trainer School by Carly Jennings


Does this sound familiar?

‘Are you looking for an exciting new career with an opportunity to earn £35k+ with flexible hours and full business support?’

‘Do you love staying active and want to inspire others?  Then a career in Health and Fitness could be for you’

‘If you choose our training company you will have a GUARANTEED interview with one of our partners’


Sitting here writing this and reflecting back on my 2 years in the fitness industry I could argue that I am a failure!!

I certainly don’t earn £35k plus.

Full business support?  Well, I did receive a few emails to see if I was still employed within the industry.  I guess if I wasn’t then they may have put me forward to a few other partner gyms to provide interviews.

Guaranteed interview?  Well yes.  This is not false marketing.  However can I highlight this does not mean a guaranteed job.

too good to be true

Luckily for me I have always had work

Upon qualifying I was fortunate to be successful in an interview process that every personal training student was competing for.

One position.  20 candidates.  Everyone interviewed as per the guarantee.

You see, like many other new trainers just starting out, you are literally hurled into a very competitive world with challenges and obstacles.

I was a nurse previously.  Working in an environment where I was wrapped in cotton wool if I am honest.  I was safe.  I earned a monthly salary.  I knew my rota for the month.  I could plan my holidays for the year knowing that little will change.

But my passion for applying the education I had learned through nursing to the world of fitness was too great.  I just had to work in this industry and I went full force into it.  Giving up my secure position and applying myself 100% into the unknown.

I have never been so scared  

From the safety of the classroom I was then launched into a huge gym environment.  While the team were extremely supportive and welcoming, it was clear from day one that you have to apply yourself very quickly in order to be successful.

personal trainer success team

I had always had peers to be accountable to

Not anymore.  It was now me.  By myself.  Making it.

I am now fortunate to have gained a good client base.  But this was not handed to me on a plate.  This was through work.  And hard work.

I have never been so happy in my career

The feeling of helping another person to achieve a goal they have had in mind is hard to describe.

On a couple of occasions I have even welled up with absolute pride.

While you facilitate their programmes and nurture their lifestyles, it is their hard work that gets applied.

And I will assure you of something, it is amazing seeing people achieve.

So what is my point to this article?

I want to help you

From my experiences I can guide you on avoiding mistakes that are often made within the industry.

It is not just about programme designs and training clients.

There are a whole new set of skills that you will need to embark on a successful career.

So here are some useful points to get you started…


There is no optimal way to transition from your previous career into a career within the fitness industry.  I would advise though, that new trainers should have another source of income to depend on initially. The time period to establish a full working schedule can vary upon trainer.  Anything up to 6 months can be a normal time period to build on.  In this time you need to be able to be financially secure for your commitments.  Whether it is a mortgage, children, phone bills etc we all have financial constraints that will need adhering to.  So whilst the initial excitement of a new career can take over, remain focused on working to survive also.

Personal trainer dog

Some do argue that you should ‘throw away the safety net’ and go into it 100%.  Now, while I do also support this approach, it is important to point out that if you are to opt for this method then you need to build your business.

And fast.

In my experience, those with a mature mind set and have sales experience can generate leads quicker than those just out of school with some good ‘sporting’ experiences but little people skills.




Surround yourself with people who love and support you outside of you work.

You know who I mean; family members, partners, good friends.  Those who will not judge you whether things go bad or good.  Those who are ‘Switzerland’.  Neutral.

At training school you get taught about the body and how to apply it to exercise.  But you do not get taught how to deal with the emotions around growing a business.

The pressures.  The expectations.  The fears of failing.

In order not to burn out, have that support network and ensure you schedule time for them also.  If all goes to pot, it will be those people who will help to pick up the pieces.




Many trainers will tell you this can be the hardest practice to apply to their careers.  They have all the knowledge.  They research more content each weekend to continue to develop in their profession.  But they have no clients.  Why?  Because they haven’t sold themselves.

This industry is highly competitive.  I would encourage you to read books on marketing and sales techniques.  Apply these methods to your own business.  Focus on how you would want to be approached if it was the other way around.  What methods would work on you?  Often, what will work on yourself, will attract the client base that you will be looking to work with.




I am not suggesting you offer hours upon hours of free time to try and build a few clients.  But be prepared to offer a ‘free showcase’ if you like, and impress in this time.  30 minute personal trainer taster sessions could be one approach offered to clients.

I actually used this and had a 100% turnover from applying them.

Use the time to impress.  Show clients you understand them.  Focus on what makes them tick.  Empathise.  Would you give your money to someone who gave you a price list over someone who has given you 30-60 minutes of their time for nothing?

Free sessions can also be a good marketing tool – people talk – word of mouth referral is huge and solely how I built my own business

Other options could be to write blogs and articles for free.  You gain valuable critique from writing and also challenge your knowledge, continuously researching and educating yourself whilst in turn educating others



While it is important to build a client base to support your business, no one is jack of all trades!!  Some people are strong at training males who want to build muscle and get onto stage.

Some people are strong at training 60yrs+ females who are looking to mobilise post hip replacement surgeries.

Each niche has a market.  Focus on what you are more confident and knowledgeable in.

Initially, you may have to take on a few clients who wouldn’t fall into your preferred avatar, and this is fine provided you feel comfortable with giving them the support they require, but once you have a few sessions under your belt I suggest focusing on your avatar and targeting them with clever marketing strategies, ie boot camps, discount sessions, seminars



It may be that for the first time you are self-employed and have the freedom to choose the hours you work.  Seems like an ideal situation, right?  Planning your day so you can still have every evening with your family or partner, taking weekends off so you can watch or play sport.  However, in this industry, to truly build a successful client base you will need to put in some pretty unsocial hours.

personal trainer-working-late

The majority of people will attend the gym after work.

Gyms are extremely busy from 5pm onwards and this should be the time you are available on the gym floor.  Answer questions, offer one on one warm ups that are different from your typical 3-5 minute grinds on cardio machines.  Help with cool downs/ stretches.

How about those who attend the gym at 6am?  These people often get forgotten as they rise with the sun, but these are people who are seriously dedicated to their goals.  Make an effort and rise with them.  Offer early morning boot camps or circuit style classes.  Even just be present while they are around.

Ok, these serious gym enthusiasts can be difficult to approach.  They want to be in and out before work, but if you continue to be available during the times they are there, they will notice you.  Smile, offer to help them set up equipment, offer alternatives to their routines to make their workouts more efficient – thus saving them time.  These members should certainly be approached.

Instructing classes could also be an option.

I am a class instructor also but only taught spin.  However, during my spin classes I ensured that the class was well presented and had an effective training plan.  With introducing themes to the sessions, I encouraged new ‘spinners’ and successfully filled all the slots.  At the end of each class I offered an ‘add on’, where I had everyone involved in a 10 minute ‘ab blast’.  So many got involved with the afterwards, and from here I engaged with members.

You could even train during these times on a day off.

By creating a presence in the gym, people will notice.  But they won’t notice you if you aren’t there.

Portray yourself as a leader, build the client base, focus on working times and then adjust accordingly to suit both you and the client.




Newly qualified personal trainers (or those who are considering the qualification) are the worst for comparing themselves to others because they see how successful some PTs are on social media.

We’ve all liked many groups and pages of coaches in the industry, who have 1000s or even 10s of 1000s of likes, interactions and a huge degree of success.  A lifestyle of flexibly, whilst training the most aesthetically beautiful people that grace this planet, earning mega bucks and having trips around the world is a dream job.  And by qualifying as a personal trainer gives you this, right?

I won’t go as far as saying wrong.  It certainly can give you this lifestyle.  But the work and effort that goes on ‘behind the scenes’ is often missed.

Take Mike Samuels as an example.  We all know of him for founding Healthy Living, Heavy lifting.

At present the Facebook page alone has 13k likes.

Along with a twitter account, Instagram, Facebook groups and a personal page, it would appear on the face of things that he gets it extremely easy as a personal trainer.

Write a few blogs.  Get a few clients.  Take many holidays.  Choose working hours.

Who wouldn’t want that style of life?

But what about the previous 8+years that he grinded for?

The hours upon hours of training, networking, writing and continued development he put in before he got to this level!  Doesn’t get acknowledged but trust in the fact that he didn’t just land his luck.  He has worked his backside off, and continues to do so still, to ensure he stays on top of his game in an ever competitive industry.

If you want to read more on Mike’s “journey” see – Why The Gilmore Girls Nearly Made Me Give Up Personal Training

Another example is business coach and good friend of mine, who some of you will be familiar with.

The growing popularity of the bearded presence, that is Dan Meredith, certainly gives those following him something to aspire to.

Copywriter extraordinaire, Dan is extremely open about his lifestyle and career to date.  Encouraging anyone who interacts with him that they can also adopt any lifestyle that they wish to.

Coffee With Dan, a group page that was to keep the man himself accountable, has ended up a global network full of the most successful entrepreneurs you will find in this day and age.  But, like Mike, Dan grafted for 7+ years within the industry prior to this success.  Hours spent training clients, gym ownership claiming all his spare time to ensure it was a success, investing himself totally to further his professional development, this man has grafted from the bottom.  By creating solid foundations and a good working ethic, has resulted him in being the role model he is to others today.

Visit Dan’s blog at http://deathgloryordisappointment.com/

So while you should certainly be encouraged by the likes of the Samuel’s and the Meredith’s, I would strongly stress there is no easy route to success.  If you compare yourself, you could easily be led into a false pretence and bitterly disappointed when your business doesn’t take off the way you see others have.

Focus on yourself and your audience.  Whether it is 1 person, 10 people or a full client online network.  Everyone will be different in the way they run their business.



This may seem like I am brushing on the most basic of human skills we have, but many new trainers do not talk to people.  This is madness given that talking is a skill we acquire from our peers whilst we are still in nappies!

I have found that it is due to lack of confidence when first qualifying, however I would simply advise to talk to people like you know them.

People like to be acknowledged.  They pay money to be in a gym and many use this as a social interaction to their day.

Even if it’s clear that they don’t want personal training, who’s to say they don’t have a family member or friend that does?  And who knows, a friendly approach and a nice smile goes miles in this industry, they may even decide that it is worth their while to sign up with you.

There are various techniques you can use if you are unsure how to approach someone.

Just saying hello and smiling I would say are the basics that you can offer to every single person who enters the gym.  There is your initial interaction.  For some, you don’t need to speak any further.  Just wait until you see them again and then engage a little more.

When I was in one of the larger corporate gyms I saw different people all the time.  I engaged and then made a note of them and their name in my notes that I had on a clipboard.  The next time I saw them, I would address them by their name and then continue off from conversation we had previously, which then developed further.

A simple tactic but an effective one.

If someone has their headphones in and are sprinting it out on the treadmill, be intuitive to their surroundings.  It may be that you can refill their water bottle for them.  Ok, not being verbal as such, but the gesture is there and they will remember.  They can then engage with you at a later stage when they can actually catch their breath.

Remember, you don’t need to pitch to every person you see, especially engaging with them for the first time.  It can be uncomfortable for both parties.  Be confident, friendly and don’t stress about making a sale.  If they don’t sign up today, it’s not to say they won’t in the future.



Ensuring you’re presented in a clean, ironed uniform and good personal hygiene is paramount.

Even if your gym of choice does not adopt a uniform, have one yourself.  Taking pride in your personal appearance shows pride in your profession.  It also is encouraging for a potential client, as it shows attention and care to detail; which they would hope to be applied also to their training programmes and ultimately themselves.

young arnold

Ensure you also don’t train someone having just trained yourself, without taking time to shower and present yourself again.

There is nothing more off putting for a client than to be trained by someone who has just finished their own session and is a sweaty mess.  I have seen a few younger trainers do this … and it ain’t pretty!



This industry is exciting in that it is ever developing.

There are constant debates for and against various principles and techniques that make the fitness profession one that you need to keep up to date with.  The only way to stay up to date is to continue your professional development.

Many newly qualified trainers believe that is all it takes to be a success.  One piece of paper and off they go.  Now in rare cases, a newly qualified coach could get a full client base and be happy with their business. (I would still always encourage development however)

But in most cases the personal training course just simply isn’t enough.

Yes, it does provide basic knowledge that you can apply to your training programmes.  But it lacks on evidentiary support and further explanations.  Some courses do touch on marketing and self-employment, but do not prepare their students for the challenges that they will embark on.

To gain further development there are many channels open nowadays which are excellent.

Mike Samuels offers webinars and a coaching group that provides excellent information in relation to coaching and how to launch a successful personal training business.  I would recommend joining this.  He has walked the walk and will help you to avoid any difficulties that could be encountered without assistance.  It also provides some accountability for getting work done towards your business.

(See his Facebook Page for details of upcoming live events.)

Network with as many as you can.  Again this is where the talking element can be a prominent attribute to adopt.  Be friendly, helpful and provide content to others.  Gain trust and professional relationships with people around you.  Outsource to those who are strong in areas you find difficult to find time for.

Read!  There are so many books that you can purchase now that will help you build a successful business.  Focus on what you enjoy and also what you are weak on.  Teach yourself and continue to learn.

Now while I could discuss many other attributing factors, I feel that these points are the main ones to focus on initially whilst embarking on your very exciting career.

In no means would I ever want to put you off transitioning to personal training.  Just be mindful that many trainers never make it in this demanding industry and were disillusioned by promises made in a training course.

I don’t want you to be that person

You will be successful with a sensible approach to a wonderful career.


… It could be a bumpy (but VERY rewarding) ride =)


Carly Bio PicCarly Jennings is a personal trainer and online coach from the UK. She specializes in helping women get stronger, (both physically and mentally,) lose weight and feel amazing about their bodies. Her company Beyond the Weight was born from a passion of wanting to help females boost their confidence and go beyond judging themselves on scale weight alone.
You can reach her at:

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