I am celebrating 20 years of being a personal trainer. When I started this journey it was because I loved being in the gym and thought that I had something to offer people that were struggling to find success working out. I cringe when thinking back upon some of my early days of training people. Even with a college degree and certification in the field, I was relatively clueless on how to train people effectively. If I want to be really honest, when I first started training others I did’t even know how to teach a compound lift correctly.
Here are a few are a few other things I like to share with people before they make the jump into the field.
YOU HAVE TO HUSTLE
Being a Personal Trainer or Strength Coach is a life long journey of continual education, experimentation, and hustle. My first 6 months as a trainer I made less than minimum wage. I spent 10+ hours per day at the gym trying to attract clients. I had to work construction part time to just have some cash on hand and lived with my parents for a few months. The hustle really never ends as a trainer. There are countless hours of building your clientele. When you are busy it is great, but when the holidays come and your clients are out of town your pay check can get crushed. To be a successful trainer you have to constantly market yourself and be able to save your money for slower seasons. To be successful in any field you have to work hard, but as a trainer there are no salaried positions that pay you to build your clientele book. You have to enter it with thinking that are running your own business and are responsible for your own success.
TRAINING YOURSELF ISN’T THE SAME AS TRAINING OTHERS
“I love being the gym”……..” Working out is the most important part of my life and want to make it a career.” …. ” I have transformed my life and I want to help others”.
Though all these thing are assets when wanting to become a trainer, they don’t mean you will be successful. Just because you changed your life with exercise doesn’t mean you can help others do the same. Being able to work with people with different injury histories and mental attitudes is very different than overcoming your own battles and doing what you love. Remember many of the people you ill be training don’t love it, that is why they are hiring you. Being a great gym rat won’t transfer over to being a good coach. That 62 year old guy that is stiff as a rock might not need an upper/body push pull split that you have in your back pocket. Believe it or not they may not even need to touch a weight for a long while. They may need some breathing and mobility work while focusing on mastering the fundamentals of learning how to move their body again.
WORKING WITH ELITE ATHLETES ISN’T THE STARTING POINT
So many new trainers tell me they want to work with athletes. I get it. It is glamorous, it looks exciting and fun. Seeing that NFL wide receiver with his trainer doing explosive drills is awesome. Here is the truth. If you don’t have an “IN” with University or other athletic program you will need to start where everyone else does, In a gym filled with regular people. Even if you have an “IN” you will still need experience to get your foot in the door. In the beginning you won’t have dozens of athletes just blowing up your phone to train with you because you just earned your NSCA cert. Most of the people looking for training that can afford your services, are regular working folk or retired people that need your help.
I had a prospective trainer (new trainer) tell me on an interview once that he prefers to work with athletes and hopes focus on higher level athletes. I immediately asked “What would you do to make a pro athlete better with an injury history and gross asymmetries in their hips?” I was met with a blank stare and stuttering…. Exactly. Most new trainers wouldn’t even know what to do with a pro athlete if they had one ask them for help. At best, they could make them better in the gym but wouldn’t be able to help them perform better in their sport.
Many of the sports performance training centers that are known for training athletes for the combines etc still make most of their money training regular people. Sure they have the walls lined with pictures of athletes and framed jerseys, but those athletes aren’t what usually pays the bills. I have personally trained a few high end athletes in my life including a couple of Olympians, and It was awesome, but my business can’t grow only catering to pros. The reality is, if you can learn how to get that 45 year old computer engineer to move better, become stronger, and injury free, you will have the ability to get busier as a trainer. It may not be as glamorous, but it is a start and crucial to learn.
On another note, if you get an “IN” with a University as an entry level strength coach, expect to work 70+ hours per week and not make much money. It’s a grind to get in and work your way up in that industry. Most burn out pretty early on.
IT IS A LIFE LONG JOURNEY OF LEARNING
I really had no clue what I was getting into. My first few years I did some fill in the blank continuing education worksheets to keep my certification active. I did the bare minimum to learn anything new. I was in my 20’s and probably had too big of an ego. I stood at a turning point one day and was strongly considering changing careers. I dove into some deeper learning of the human body and felt energized in the field again. I started building some very effective tools and training became exciting to me again. That began the journey of spending 10’s of thousands of dollars on my continuing education over the years. Continual learning differentiates you from the rest of the industry and builds an amazing base.
There are so many solid workshops and certifications in the industry now that can transform your life and career. Specializing in, strength training, corrective exercise, kettlebell training, mobility training, nutritional education, and behavioral modification are abundant. There is no shortage of quality education in the fitness field. The sooner you start to embrace learning the better your career will be. It won’t be cheap, but it will be worth it!
LEARNING DOESN’T JUST COME FROM WORKSHOPS AND CERTIFICATIONS
Over the years some of my best learning experience have been from working with other coaches. I have hired nutrition coaches, running coaches, and strength coaches to program for me and teach me new things. I have learned a ton from them. I have picked up new skills like learning to swim for a triathlon and entered a 70.3 Ironman after years of being a strength athlete. Being a beginner again was an amazing experience that transformed me as a coach. Pushing yourself to learn in this field is huge.
These are just a few things that come to mind and wanted to share. IF you have any other question about the industry or training feel free to email or reach out on social media and I’m happy to answer them for you.