Becoming a Personal Trainer (Part One)

February 3, 2011 // Al Kavadlo

I often get questions from aspiring personal trainers who want my advice on how to begin. Before getting to that (which I do in part two), I first need to dispel some common misconceptions about what it means to be a personal trainer.

The Client is the Star (Not You!)
Personal training is not about how great you look in a tight shirt or how much you can lift – it is about your clients! Your job is to be there for them. Just like a good parent must put the needs of their child before their own, a good trainer always puts their clients’ needs first.

Knowing How to Train Yourself Doesn’t Make You a Trainer
Since most of your clients are not going to be athletically inclined, the workouts that you do for yourself are rarely going to have any relevance for your client. If I took a new client and tried to get them to do a pistol squat or even a pull-up, it would likely be embarrassing for both of us. You must understand the beginner’s mind as well as what they are capable of. Just because an exercise is easy for you, doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy (or appropriate) for your clients.

Certifications Don’t Matter
Sure I learned some stuff from studying textbooks and preparing for exams, but it’s nothing compared to what I learned from actually training people. Just like reading a book about working out won’t make you fit, getting a PT certification won’t fully prepare you to train people. Some of the worst trainers I’ve ever met had all the credentials in the world and some of the best weren’t even certified at all. Knowledge and experience matter more than a piece of paper ever will, even if you spent a lot of money to get that piece of paper.

Your Clients are Your Boss
A lot of people think that being a trainer means you get to make your own schedule. This couldn’t possibly be farther from the truth. Most personal training clients are busy professionals who will need you to work around their schedule. Say a potential client has to be in the office by 9am and they want to work out in the morning. You’re going have to get your ass out of bed before sunrise to meet them before work or they’ll find another trainer who will.

On the other hand, some people prefer to get their workout in at the end of the day; 7am is one of the most popular times for personal training, but so is 7pm. If you’re not willing to put in long hours, you are not going to succeed. I’ve had countless days where the span of time between when I met my first client and when I ended my last session was 13 or even 14 hours. Don’t like long days? Personal training isn’t for you.

All or Nothing
If I had a dollar for every wannabe trainer who’s said, “I really want to be an actor/dancer/model/etc. but I figured I could make some extra money on the side by training people,” it would add up to a lot more than most of them ever made as trainers. The truth is, if you want to be a successful trainer, you have to fully commit yourself to the trade. If you’re turning down clients to go on auditions, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Sure a handful of people are able to find the balance between pursuing their art and pursing a career as a trainer, but they are few and far between. If personal training isn’t something you feel passionately about, don’t do it. You must be willing to sacrifice things in your life for this dream, or you will never make it.

Read part two for more of my advice on how to be a personal trainer.

Check out my brother Danny’s new book, Everybody Needs Training for more proven success secrets for fitness professionals!