Working in the health and fitness industry

Chrisdavisjr

> 1k Posts
I qualified as a personal trainer at the beginning of the year with the intention of making a full-time career of it but have yet to figure out how to get started.
Is there anyone here who works in the health and fitness industry, either as a trainer or instructor, full or part-time who would be willing to share their personal experiences?
I feel like I've been taught the absolute bear minimum and have absolutely no idea about the actual working patterns, necessary financial outlay, finding work/clients etc. and would really appreciate any advice or recommendations any of you would care to share. Thank you in advance.

@Steve Freides If this isn't the place to be asking for careers advice please let me know and I'll gladly take my enquiries somewhere more appropriate.
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
@Chrisdavisjr it’s fine to post this here. If you’re an SFG, let me know that and you can participate in those sections here as well.

I think most people start by working for an existing gym.

-S-
 
@Chrisdavisjr

I'm also interested to hear how this is playing out for some.

I've been studying for the NSCA cert, but before I take the test I am going to tour a bunch of the local boxes and see what the hours and pay are for entry level. I suspect it won't work out due to the hours I am able to work.
 

Chrisdavisjr

> 1k Posts
@North Coast Miller Let me know what you manage to find out; I'd be very interested.

I must admit I've only looked at a couple of gyms so far but it looks like their 'deals' for personal trainers are very one-sided: One particular chain has personal trainers pay for 'Business, Leadership and Sales Training' (as if they've not already paid enough for training!) as well as paying for their own uniforms, being obliged to either pay the gym a set fee for use of their facilities or delivery a set number of hours of their classes (spin, hiit, boxercise etc.) for no pay and still be self-employed (i.e. not technically employed by the gym itself so they have no obligation to you whatsoever).

I do wonder if this is common practice as it seems that you'd have to be brutally determined and driven to make even a few pennies with that kind of deal. I was under the impression that a PT working in a gym would just pay a membership and some kind of percentage of their profits from training. I'm not really a 'hard sell' kind of guy so I don't think I'd thrive in that kind of environment.

Naturally, none of this was mentioned at all throughout my PT course.
 
@Chrisdavisjr,
Is no wonder folks are always hiring.

I know a couple people who PT, one is also a manager of an exercise store that deals in everything from big machines to KBs. He is all word of mouth, but also not full time.

Another old friend of mine has his own small box and teaches small classes primarily GS and bodyweight, though again it is a part time job for him.

I joined an expensive local club a few years back that had full and a few part time staff. I did speak with the head of the PT department, they had the latitude to hire me and I could work toward my cert within 90 days.

He also said while having a degree was helpful, ultimately you needed a cert and a good attitude - how well you did with the clients was the only real factor in your employment longevity. PTs are listed at 30-39K, not sure if there's room on top of that with some time in.

Looking at most of the local listing it runs from 25k to as high as mid 50s, though I am willing to bet a chunk of that is commission on membership sales. Most want a year of experience but if you're not a kid, a good interview can do wonders for getting around some of those requirements.
 
I've also considered offering courses through the local town rec programs. That would be an easy way to get your feet wet. If you've ever been involved with those, the average instruction level is mid to fair. You'd have to supply your own gear and specify class size etc. And then the town would have to agree to loan you the use of a classroom etc. I'm not sure what their cut is, but I have considered this.

Offer the class, provide the KBs, and at the end of the program offer to sell them a KB(s).
 

Anna C

> 6k Posts
Elite Certified Instructor
I do it part time and have outlayed probably $6k in expenses for probably $1k in income so far. Fortunately for me, my other career (IT) supplements this.

Step 1 for me was training people for free at the military base where I work. Step 2 was to train a few people in their homes who found me through StrongFirst. I didn't need NASM-CPT for this but I got it anyway. I did need that for Step 3, which is to sign on through my military base to provide Personal Training services at their fixed price. I'm on my 4th month of that now.

There is so much to learn! I don't know the best way to get started, but for me, I'm grateful to have a slow start and not rely upon that for my living. I have all kinds of new respect for those who do.

Hope that helps... Let me know if there are any specific questions that I might be able to help with.
 

Zack

Triple-Digit Post Count
Elite Certified Instructor
I worked for a major big-box fitness company for 4 years and am now freelance/online.

The corporate gig definitely has its ups and downs, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I recommend putting in time at a big box for a few reasons, but not the least of which is interacting with LOTS of different people.

The best advice I can give in this context is to remain solely focused on the experience of your client. It's been said to achieve success you need not fall in love with your business, but you must fall in love with your customer.

To be fair, I was not (in my own opinion) qualified to train anyone when I got started.
 

Chrisdavisjr

> 1k Posts
@North Coast Miller That's definitely something worth looking into that I hadn't considered. Thanks for that!

@Anna C I am currently thinking about relocating to somewhere I can continue to work in the area I do at the moment but, hopefully, have the free time (without my ludicrous commute) to start looking into gradually transitioning or, at the very least, doing a bit of training in my free time.

@Zack That's excellent advice! I am curious about your experience working in the corporate fitness environment. Were you employed full-time by the company? I'd be interested to know what your day-to-day working pattern was like.

I'd love to be training people online as I'm sure it allows one to specialise without severely limiting one's client-base as well as not being tied to a particular location but it definitely looks as though I'd need to 'earn my stripes' first.
 

Norcoaster

Double-Digit Post Count
@Chrisdavisjr

I'm also interested to hear how this is playing out for some.

I've been studying for the NSCA cert, but before I take the test I am going to tour a bunch of the local boxes and see what the hours and pay are for entry level. I suspect it won't work out due to the hours I am able to work.
Why did you choose NSCA vs. other certifications?
 

Kettlebelephant

> 1k Posts
I'm not a PT, but to help @Chrisdavisjr out it would also be nice to hear from someone who's based in the UK, because IIRC Chris is living there.
I say this, because fitness culture can differ from country to country. Here in Germany for example the 3-5 biggest gym franchises don't even offer something like personal training. The personal there just gives you an introduction and then you can choose from a variety of routines, but nothing personalized.
Working for a company like that would yield basically no results for you.

I'd love to be training people online as I'm sure it allows one to specialise without severely limiting one's client-base as well as not being tied to a particular location but it definitely looks as though I'd need to 'earn my stripes' first.
Social media can really help you with that.
I know you can do things like OAPUs on the neuro-grips. People really bite on such things when you post them on Instagram.
Regularly post "party tricks" like that and some of your regular training sessions, connect with other "online fitness celebs" by following them and commenting on their posts, so their huge follower base can accidentally stumble over your instagram profile. They might like what they see and start following you aswell. Over time this can lead to big follower numbers and if you're lucky people want you to train them and companys want to work with you.
Sure you need luck, but you wouldn't be the first person to start a career in fitness through social media.
 
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mark reinke

Double-Digit Post Count
Certified Instructor
I qualified as a personal trainer at the beginning of the year with the intention of making a full-time career of it but have yet to figure out how to get started.
Is there anyone here who works in the health and fitness industry, either as a trainer or instructor, full or part-time who would be willing to share their personal experiences?
I feel like I've been taught the absolute bear minimum and have absolutely no idea about the actual working patterns, necessary financial outlay, finding work/clients etc. and would really appreciate any advice or recommendations any of you would care to share. Thank you in advance.

@Steve Freides If this isn't the place to be asking for careers advice please let me know and I'll gladly take my enquiries somewhere more appropriate.
Great line of inquiry here...

I am a Director of Personal Training at a Fitness and Wellness Facility that has 12,000 members and a staff of 38 team members who can do personal training... about 10 of them are full time.

Our company has over 250 trainers system wide and 60 full time trainers.

I have hired and managed nearly 50 trainers in the last 5 years here. Prior to that, I worked in fitness on and off over the last 16 years. I was a full time personal trainer for 4 of those and part time for 8. I have never gone longer than 6 months without having at least one student. Needless to say, I've seen a lot of things work and not work in the business of personal fitness and I've been responsible for a good number of mistakes in hiring and development.

It is an interesting time to be in the world of personal training. As an industry, we're limping through a phase of evolution.

Here are a few of the key issues we're facing:

1. We have an abundance load of "qualified" trainers out there that can't interact with non-fitness people.
These are potential trainers that have the right certifications and the right degree, but ZERO interpersonal skills and ZERO business skills.
I made the mistake of looking for those people when I first started hiring... They can talk a blue streak about physiological responses to resistance training, and will split hairs about daily undulating periodization vs. block periodization... I get it, I love talking shop too. But trust me when I say this; your customers don't give one s*** about how much you know.
I have found that I can make a career trainer out of a good "people person" with a hunger to learn how to train. The inverse simply hasn't been the case outside of a couple of isolated incidents. A good programmer with no people skills is, more often than not, dead on arrival...
If a certified, educated trainer interviews with me and they can't keep a conversation going or don't ask good questions, I know they're not ready to work in the personal fitness industry. I sincerely hope they can find a living as a strength and conditioning coach at a school or specialty gym...


2. The industry is in its infancy as a career and the best "jobs" out there are really hard to get.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the best 10% of jobs in the fitness training industry make 72K+... (Fitness Trainers and Instructors : Occupational Outlook Handbook: : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
The median is half that.
With two Master's degrees between my wife and myself, I can't afford to work for 37K/year...
I am lucky to have stumbled into a "top tier" job in this field, and do not take it for granted... I work my a#@ off to keep that job. If you want it, come and take it from me... I dare you. You chasing my job will make me better and our whole field better. "A rising tide floats all ships..."
as @Zack mentioned that he wouldn't trade his experience as a big box trainer for the anything. I suggest that you do what he and I did and try to make it in that world for a while... You'll get an amazingly diverse developmental experience and you'll find out what you really like doing and who you really like working with.
This experience will help you no matter what your end goal is in the industry.

A fellow StrongFirst instructor likes to remind me where our industry is at when he asks: "You ever heard of a retired personal trainer?"

Expect to scrape and claw your way to the top... just as you have as an instructor in our school.


3. There's a gap between employer's recognition of qualification and a really great coach.

I believe that StrongFirst coaches are among the best in the world, and that StrongFirst (especially the SFG course) is the finest school of strength and fitness coaching around.
That said, I have had to tell two SFG's that I cannot hire them without an NCCA accredited certification. I recently spoke with a retired Marine NCO who is sharp as can be and has 26 years of experience in physically training Marines, but was passed over for a job at a corporate wellness facility for a recent college grad with the right degree and right cert with no experience...

Big employers and institutions are bound to accredited certifications that you can find here:

ICE : NCCA Accredited Organization Search

select "Fitness and Wellness" in the "industry" field and click through for a list. The good news for you is that NSCA is on there...

Chief SFG @Brett Jones has been actively supporting the newly created CREP (USREPS - The United States Registry of Exercise Professionals) and rightfully so. This organization will help us exercise professionals "raise the bar" for coaches everywhere, but just having a great certification won't do a damn thing for you to build a thriving and vibrant business. You have to provide an experience to beam about to your customers.

Get a Cert so you can get a job, then do your best in coaching them and exceeding their expectations in every possible way. Stand out by being a partner in your customer's journey toward fitness success. Don't count reps and don't tell them what to do... guide them, pull them and walk with them toward THEIR idea of what fitness is, not yours, or a textbook's.

4. The recognized certification and degree programs out there won't leave you prepared for the business and psychology sides of the fitness profession.

You're going to have to get these skills somewhere and if you're not interested in at least a C+ level capability in them, please, don't get into this line of work...

I used to be bitter as hell about s***ty trainers and coaches out there kicking my a#@ in revenue. Now, I see that I can't show how good I am as a trainer if I can't get someone to know me and like me first.

You don't have to sacrifice your morals and "entertrain" people, but you sure as hell can't rely on being the best trainer (with no clients) to do the marketing for you. Trust me, with the internet and online training, the people looking for the best of the best coaches aren't looking for someone who just got into the industry...

Swallow the pill... get moderately proficient at marketing, sales and administration if you're not already capable in those areas. You'll need those skills to earn the opportunity to show how great a coach you can be.

OK.

end rant...

@Chrisdavisjr does that help?
 
I'll add this little bit just for general info. An accredited cert is required to get insurance in many locales, whether training as an individual or looking for employment.


Personally I view the amount of required ongoing credits to be a bit onerous. If the basic course info isn't changing why would one expect your PT proficiency to be evaporating year over year?
 

Chrisdavisjr

> 1k Posts
Great line of inquiry here...

I am a Director of Personal Training at a Fitness and Wellness Facility that has 12,000 members and a staff of 38 team members who can do personal training... about 10 of them are full time.

Our company has over 250 trainers system wide and 60 full time trainers.

I have hired and managed nearly 50 trainers in the last 5 years here. Prior to that, I worked in fitness on and off over the last 16 years. I was a full time personal trainer for 4 of those and part time for 8. I have never gone longer than 6 months without having at least one student. Needless to say, I've seen a lot of things work and not work in the business of personal fitness and I've been responsible for a good number of mistakes in hiring and development.

It is an interesting time to be in the world of personal training. As an industry, we're limping through a phase of evolution.

Here are a few of the key issues we're facing:

1. We have an abundance load of "qualified" trainers out there that can't interact with non-fitness people.
These are potential trainers that have the right certifications and the right degree, but ZERO interpersonal skills and ZERO business skills.
I made the mistake of looking for those people when I first started hiring... They can talk a blue streak about physiological responses to resistance training, and will split hairs about daily undulating periodization vs. block periodization... I get it, I love talking shop too. But trust me when I say this; your customers don't give one s*** about how much you know.
I have found that I can make a career trainer out of a good "people person" with a hunger to learn how to train. The inverse simply hasn't been the case outside of a couple of isolated incidents. A good programmer with no people skills is, more often than not, dead on arrival...
If a certified, educated trainer interviews with me and they can't keep a conversation going or don't ask good questions, I know they're not ready to work in the personal fitness industry. I sincerely hope they can find a living as a strength and conditioning coach at a school or specialty gym...


2. The industry is in its infancy as a career and the best "jobs" out there are really hard to get.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the best 10% of jobs in the fitness training industry make 72K+... (Fitness Trainers and Instructors : Occupational Outlook Handbook: : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
The median is half that.
With two Master's degrees between my wife and myself, I can't afford to work for 37K/year...
I am lucky to have stumbled into a "top tier" job in this field, and do not take it for granted... I work my a#@ off to keep that job. If you want it, come and take it from me... I dare you. You chasing my job will make me better and our whole field better. "A rising tide floats all ships..."
as @Zack mentioned that he wouldn't trade his experience as a big box trainer for the anything. I suggest that you do what he and I did and try to make it in that world for a while... You'll get an amazingly diverse developmental experience and you'll find out what you really like doing and who you really like working with.
This experience will help you no matter what your end goal is in the industry.

A fellow StrongFirst instructor likes to remind me where our industry is at when he asks: "You ever heard of a retired personal trainer?"

Expect to scrape and claw your way to the top... just as you have as an instructor in our school.


3. There's a gap between employer's recognition of qualification and a really great coach.

I believe that StrongFirst coaches are among the best in the world, and that StrongFirst (especially the SFG course) is the finest school of strength and fitness coaching around.
That said, I have had to tell two SFG's that I cannot hire them without an NCCA accredited certification. I recently spoke with a retired Marine NCO who is sharp as can be and has 26 years of experience in physically training Marines, but was passed over for a job at a corporate wellness facility for a recent college grad with the right degree and right cert with no experience...

Big employers and institutions are bound to accredited certifications that you can find here:

ICE : NCCA Accredited Organization Search

select "Fitness and Wellness" in the "industry" field and click through for a list. The good news for you is that NSCA is on there...

Chief SFG @Brett Jones has been actively supporting the newly created CREP (USREPS - The United States Registry of Exercise Professionals) and rightfully so. This organization will help us exercise professionals "raise the bar" for coaches everywhere, but just having a great certification won't do a damn thing for you to build a thriving and vibrant business. You have to provide an experience to beam about to your customers.

Get a Cert so you can get a job, then do your best in coaching them and exceeding their expectations in every possible way. Stand out by being a partner in your customer's journey toward fitness success. Don't count reps and don't tell them what to do... guide them, pull them and walk with them toward THEIR idea of what fitness is, not yours, or a textbook's.

4. The recognized certification and degree programs out there won't leave you prepared for the business and psychology sides of the fitness profession.

You're going to have to get these skills somewhere and if you're not interested in at least a C+ level capability in them, please, don't get into this line of work...

I used to be bitter as hell about s***ty trainers and coaches out there kicking my a#@ in revenue. Now, I see that I can't show how good I am as a trainer if I can't get someone to know me and like me first.

You don't have to sacrifice your morals and "entertrain" people, but you sure as hell can't rely on being the best trainer (with no clients) to do the marketing for you. Trust me, with the internet and online training, the people looking for the best of the best coaches aren't looking for someone who just got into the industry...

Swallow the pill... get moderately proficient at marketing, sales and administration if you're not already capable in those areas. You'll need those skills to earn the opportunity to show how great a coach you can be.

OK.

end rant...

@Chrisdavisjr does that help?
Thanks, Mark! There's an awful lot to think about here. I have been looking into this kind of work (working for an established commercial gym) but I just can't seem to find it: Most positions I see advertised are from organisations either offering to provide training and certification with the potential to lead to employment, or gyms looking to make money from freelance personal trainers using their facilities but very few (if any) actually advertising jobs.

I don't know if that's a difference in the culture between the UK and the US or if I'm simply barking up the wrong tree. You're definitely right about the psychology, marketing and business side of things: These aspects are definitely where my main deficiency lies and it's something I'd definitely have to address before I can seriously consider taking any steps as a freelance professional in this industry.
 

Zack

Triple-Digit Post Count
Elite Certified Instructor
Were you employed full-time by the company? I'd be interested to know what your day-to-day working pattern was like.
Full-time, yes.

Usually booked 6:30am - 9:30am, a few lunchtime appts. and 4-7/8pm plus staff meetings. Free time was reading, napping, and filming content.

I'd love to be training people online as I'm sure it allows one to specialise without severely limiting one's client-base as well as not being tied to a particular location but it definitely looks as though I'd need to 'earn my stripes' first.
I'd recommend 1.5 year minimum before focusing on online efforts. That said, you can and should begin building your online presence yesterday ;)
 

Glen

> 1k Posts
@Chrisdavisjr

I'm based in the UK and have worked in the leisure industry for nearly twenty years as PT, gym manager and eventaught some of the PT courses for awhile. Most places don't employ PTs - more often than not your self employed ononeof three systems

*you work hours for them as your 'rent'
* you pay a set rent fee
*you pay a % of earnings

Many will combine them or have tiered systems.

If your new to the job get employed as a 'fitness instructor' - learn the skills and get better. A qualification is a basic statting point. Being certified doesn't mean being qualified IMO and most newly certified PTs need to do basic fitness work for at least two years tolearn the soft skills before going into PTing.

Look for companies like GLL (Better brand), SLM etc as they offer fitness instructors a lot of free in house training
 

Chrisdavisjr

> 1k Posts
@Chrisdavisjr

I'm based in the UK and have worked in the leisure industry for nearly twenty years as PT, gym manager and eventaught some of the PT courses for awhile. Most places don't employ PTs - more often than not your self employed ononeof three systems

*you work hours for them as your 'rent'
* you pay a set rent fee
*you pay a % of earnings

Many will combine them or have tiered systems.

If your new to the job get employed as a 'fitness instructor' - learn the skills and get better. A qualification is a basic statting point. Being certified doesn't mean being qualified IMO and most newly certified PTs need to do basic fitness work for at least two years tolearn the soft skills before going into PTing.

Look for companies like GLL (Better brand), SLM etc as they offer fitness instructors a lot of free in house training
Thanks for the tips, Glen!
 

mark reinke

Double-Digit Post Count
Certified Instructor
@Chrisdavisjr

If your new to the job get employed as a 'fitness instructor' - learn the skills and get better. A qualification is a basic statting point. Being certified doesn't mean being qualified IMO and most newly certified PTs need to do basic fitness work for at least two years to learn the soft skills before going into PTing.

@Chrisdavisjr

This is terrific advice.

learn to solve people's fitness related problems and watch the way experienced coaches and trainers do it and you can make a rewarding career out of it.
 
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