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EPTI has years of experience passionately supporting students to become the most prepared, confident, skilled and knowledgeable new PTs in the industry.
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HOW TO BECOME A PERSONAL TRAINER
Probably the most important step if you're serious about becoming a personal trainer is to ensure that the course you sign up for is an "Accredited" course.
As explained previously, CIMSPA & REPS provides a framework that recognises the qualifications and expertise of professionals in the fitness industry.
Therefore, all credible UK personal fitness training courses will be accredited by CIMSPA &/or REPS.
Choosing the right course:
Depending on your current circumstances, you need to choose a course that suits your needs. There are a large number of personal fitness trainer courses out there, but choosing one doesn’t need to be difficult.
Only consider courses that are accredited by the national REPS (or if in the USA, one of the main certification bodies such as NASM, or ACSM for example). The qualification must also be at the relevant accreditation level for you to be able to become a certified personal trainer upon completion.
Also check to make sure that the qualification is recognised worldwide. There are so many endless opportunities to work where you want within the fitness industry - so don’t impose a glass ceiling on your opportunities with a certification that is only recognised at a local level!
You then need to search out a course that fits in with your needs. There are different types of personal fitness training courses available that vary from online, part or full time courses and residential courses that are blended between online study and practical elements of the course.
Blended Learning Course:
If you are currently working and have a busy schedule, or you wish to get the qualification completed quickly, then maybe a blended course might suit you better. The online part of the course benefits the students with being able to progress through the theory at their own pace. Many students like to attend a residential campus to complete the assessment part of their qualification as the intensive nature of the course and being together with fellow students creates a positive and concentrated learning environment. This helps students to focus their mind and get the qualification completed on a single training/accommodation campus site within a desired period of time. A face to face training component allows students to learn from experienced professionals, practice the newly learned skills and techniques and then receive constructive feedback on ways to develop this.
Part-time courses also allow you to complete much of your study at home, however you may need to attend regular practical courses and assessments over a number of weekends and the courses tend to take a long time to complete.
Full-time courses require students to attend a course on weekdays for up to 6 weeks. This can be a problem if you need to take time off to attend one of these “fast-track” courses. Due to the length of time students are with the training provider, this is the most expensive option.
There are a few leading personal training course providers that afford their students the opportunity to train real clients as part of their learning experience, as opposed to them just practising practical skills on fellow students. This allows students to build up their confidence with instructing strangers in a real training environment away from awkward student role play client/ trainer relationship which most fitness courses have to make do with.
PT clinics provide students with an opportunity to iron out their PT delivery style and put into practise for “real” the theory and practical skills that have been studied. This ensures that the first few PT sessions of a student’s new career are not with fee paying clients!
First aid certificate:
This qualification is not a legal requirement to become a personal trainer and nor is it a requirement to become a member of REPS, but it’s good practice for trainers to attend at least a basic first aid course, in the event that a client has any health difficulties or emergencies while they are training them. The first aid certificate, sometimes known as an emergency first aid at work qualification, is a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recognised certification and counts towards a fitness professional’s CPD. The course lasts one day and covers practical elements of safe & effective first aid practice and usually costs between £125-£175 and is valid for three years before it needs to be renewed again.
The trend recently is for more and more gyms to have a requirement that all job applicants hold a valid first aid certificate when applying for a fitness position as this reduces the cost to them for their own staff training.
Public liability insurance:
Although not a legal requirement in the UK, all members of the Register at levels 2, 3 and 4 are required to hold adequate public liability insurance which covers your legal liability for death, injury or illness to others and loss of, or damage to, third party property. The Register requires you to hold an annual liability policy. To become a member of REPS, you must be able to show that you are either insured through your employer, or have an insurance liability policy with a minimum indemnity of £5,000,000. Insurance packages can be purchased for approxiamtely £55 per year.
Finding a job once you have qualified:
Once you have obtained your personal fitness training qualification, the next step is to find a job in the fitness industry. It is a good start to get yourself on the cover lists for studio classes at the gym for the areas that you are qualified to instruct. This is an excellent way of working your way into a position at a gym and you also have a large pool of potential personal training clients that you can “advertise” your skills to during the class.
There are a number of options available to you as a personal trainer:
Personal Trainer employed by a gym:
This option tends to reduce the potential money that you can earn because the personal training fee is fixed for clients and a percentage of it must be paid back to the gym. The PT tends to be paid a salary and work for the company and not themselves. The benefit of this method is that you have full access to training the gym’s client database and most gyms provide liability insurance for their trainers.
Personal Trainer renting space at a gym:
In this scenario, the personal trainer doesn’t actually work for the gym, but pays a monthly rent (in either £ or time on the gym floor as a fitness instructor) to the gym to train their PT clients at the gym’s facility. In some cases, the gym will offer leads from their members to you. Trainers will be required to pay for their own insurance since they are working for themselves, but are free to attract clients how they wish and to charge whatever payment they deem appropriate for their services.
Freelance Personal Trainer:
The final option that trainers may opt for is to stay out of a commercial gym all together and run their own personal fitness training or boot camp training business. They may either construct a gym unit or studio; or just use open places, such as parks, or even the client’s home as the setting for training. In this type of situation the trainer is again able to control how much money they charge. They are liable for everything, from finding the location to train, purchasing equipment and obtaining liability insurance and target potential clients by marketing themselves.
Whatever option you choose to pursue, once you have become a certified personal fitness trainer it’s time to get your name out there. One of the most effective marketing tools in the fitness industry is word-of-mouth. So start spreading the word.
Set up a media account for your business, make some flyers, create a newsletter and buy good quality business cards. Start with people you know and places that you frequent and move outward from there. At the beginning, you may need to offer free consultations and taster sessions to attract new clients. Once you start to get results with clients, advertise this with before/ after photos and testimonials. The fitness industry is constantly evolving. Research is constantly being updated and new products introduced. It’s your job to stay up to date with continuing education, which is not only vital to your relevance as a personal trainer.
In order to stand out among the competition, try to find a niche personal trainer interest and develop your specialism in it.
CAREERS IN FITNESS
An Overview of the Fitness Industry
In terms of revenue, the fitness industry in Europe has become the largest worldwide, topping even the United States and Canada. The value of the health and wellness market within Europe tends to be much higher in western European countries than in eastern European countries, nonetheless both show a steady increase. The revenue of the health club industry of European countries show that the United Kingdom and Germany are clearly on top, followed by France, Italy and Spain.
The fitness industry has seen growth year on year and the market size is estimated to reach approximately £22.8 billion by 2020 in the UK alone, with personal training growing at 2.8% annually and accounting for a staggering £631 million in revenue.
A career in fitness is a great choice for someone who is a "people person" as the job will involve you interacting with a diverse range of clients.
The roles within the industry have been constantly evolving with its growth over the past 20 years. The career path within the fitness industry for those with the accredited fitness qualifications is to take either a role based on the gym floor or fitness studio (fitness instructors, personal trainers, group training instructors); or a career in management (health club managers, duty managers, personal training/studio managers, etc). Management roles can often be seen as a natural career progression, after a few years experience gained from hands on fitness instruction.
The hands-on roles of those instructing fitness to clients on the gym floor is traditionally split between gym instructors and personal trainers.
There are various levels of exercise professionals:
Level 2 Fitness Instructor:
The Level 2 (Level 3 Europe) Fitness Instructor certificate is seen as the first step to obtain a job as a Gym Instructor and will be required as a prerequisite for study to obtain further fitness qualifications such as Circuits Instructor and Personal Training.
The role within the fitness industry of those qualified to level 2 Fitness instructor was to be present on the gym floor and to provide general help and advice to a large number of people (ie the gym members). Their purpose is to ensure that everybody on the gym floor is training safely. This is achieved by demonstrating how to use the equipment correctly and teaching the gym members into independence with their use. Depending on the induction policy where they work, it is usual for gym instructors to also provide fitness and health appraisal and a basic fitness programme for new gym members as part of their gym induction.
If the gym instructor has other level 2 fitness qualifications, then they may also provide group training classes (eg circuits, TRX, spinning, body pump etc) in the gym studio.
You should choose a course provider that offers an accredited Level 2 Fitness Instructor (Gym) qualification from an examining body such as Active IQ or YMCA (CYQ).
Level 3 Personal Trainer:
If you want to qualify as a certified Personal Trainer, then the course needs to be at Level 3 (Level 4 in Europe). Again, both Active IQ and CYQ Level 3 Personal Trainer qualifications are popular.
Level 3 qualifications are designed to provide an advanced level of exercise and fitness knowledge and these qualifications provide the basis for careers working 1:1 with clients.
Personal trainers work with individuals to help facilitate diet and fitness goals. A personal trainer will not work with as many people (they will only train their own PT clients), but the significant difference between themselves and a fitness instructor is that personal trainers will have a far deeper and meaningful impact on their clients’ route towards health and wellness. Together, client and trainer will agree long term goals and destination the client wishes to arrive at. The personal trainer will use their knowledge to plot a fitness journey through lifestyle analysis, training programme design and nutrition guidance for their client to achieve success.
It is important to note that the fitness industry has been evolving so that an individual performing just the role of a fitness instructor only is becoming less common. Many health club business models allow personal trainers to work a set number of hours a week as a gym instructor in lieu of “rent” and allowing them to personal training clients on the gym floor at other times. Pro-active PTs can use the time spent in this role to market their services and show the advantages and service they would be able to provide during these induction sessions with the gym’s new members.
Level 4 Personal Trainer:
If you wish to further develop your learning, there are various courses at Level 4 designed to deliver GP referral fitness training to special populations. This is the highest level of registration available on REPS, placing the Level 4 Specialist Exercise Instructor at the pinnacle of their profession.
Gyms and health clubs would not be willing to employ anybody that are not registered to the appropriate level for their role.
Employment Opportunities as a Personal Trainer:
Once you graduate with a recognised Personal Trainer qualification there are a number of opportunities and niches within the fitness industry for you to work in.
Working as a PT within a gym environment is an excellent place to start for a recently qualified personal trainer and has a number of benefits, as well as providing an immediate, regular income.
You will have the opportunity to interact with lots of potential clients and have available all the equipment at the gym to train them. Many of the larger health club chains also have PT business strategies which identify that newly qualified PT are time rich rather than have cash readily available, so PT “rent” is often in the form of providing a set number of hours per week as a fitness instructor, rather than paying a £ rent. This helps to keep set up costs relatively low.
Many health clubs provide support for their PTs with building up a client base and as this grows, operate a sliding scale for rent, where you can elect to pay more £ for your PT and reduce the number of hours you work for free. This allows you to maximise your time to earn money from personal training sessions.
Working within a health club also provides the opportunity for you to instruct group training classes on their studio timetable which provides an additional regular income stream.
You will also find new doors open to you, such as networking with other professionals working at the club and longer term opportunities to a management position role within the health club (PT manager, duty manager, centre manager, etc).
Many personal trainers decide to set up their own personal training business and become self-employed. One of the driving factors directing you towards considering a career as a personal trainer might be the chance to be your own boss and work for yourself.
As a freelance PT, it is more likely that gym based training with your clients will take place at smaller health club chains or stand alone gyms. The “rent” payable for using their facilities is usually more favourable to the PT than those for larger corporate health club organisations.
However, as the fitness industry moves towards more functional training methods, with less emphasis and need for traditional cardio and resistance machines, there has been an evolution towards personal trainers providing client training sessions from their own space - such as their own, or shared PT studio specifically set up for personal training. Unlike health clubs that are populated with every machine conceivable, swimming pools and spa areas etc, PT studios comprise of a stripped down, practical training space comprising of essential equipment only at a premises ranging anything from a small retail unit to larger industrial use sized facility.
Another appeal to begin a career in personal training is that you don’t need to be stuck indoors all day. A small investment in some equipment will allow you to travel to clients’ homes for training. Personal trainers also have the ability to get outdoors with their clients, in a variety of formats - on a 1:1 basis, small group training or scaled up to group training bootcamp sessions that often provide a personal trainer with their best income return per hour.
One of the biggest growth areas of recent years has been the advent of online personal training. As consumers turn to the internet for their purchases, personal training is no different and a website allows personal trainers to attract online customers allowing you to set goals with them, plan programmes, provide nutritional guidance, monitor and track their progress remotely.
One of the biggest fears and doubts that potential students have when I speak to them on the telephone before they sign up for a course, is whether they will “make it” as a personal trainer once they graduate.
Maybe this is what you are thinking right now?
You’ve read the motivational quotes… “If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life” and this idea sounds great. You really want to follow your passion and do something that you love, but what it really comes down to is, “Can I make a career out of training people for money, will clients really pay to train with ME?”
Well, as I said before, I’ve had this conversation with countless students over the years. It is true, many personal trainers do fall by the wayside and never reach their potential within the industry - they maybe didn’t get the results they’d hoped for with their clients, or maybe they struggled to find enough clients...there are many reasons for this, but usually it’s because they chose a certification that cut corners, that only offered the minimum in terms of providing an assessment which didn’t prepare them for the role of a personal trainer once they had their certificate in hand.