Becoming a Personal Trainer (Part Two)

February 7, 2011 // Al Kavadlo

In part one of this series, I dispelled some myths about what it means to be a personal trainer. If you’re not disillusioned after reading that, here is my advice on how to get started.

Make it Personal
Anyone can stand there while someone does squats and push-ups; what sets me apart from other trainers in my personality. If you want to be a personal trainer, remember that your product is YOU. If you’re a nice guy, don’t try to be a drill sergeant. And if you’re a stone-cold bitch, there will be people who’ll need you to get in their face in order to push themselves. Nobody is the best trainer for everyone – embrace who you are and you’ll attract clients that you’ll click with.

Give ‘Em What They Want
When I started out in the fitness industry, I thought I needed to look like a bodybuilder in order to be taken seriously. I soon found out, however, that most personal training clients aren’t interested in putting on mass. In fact, they’re usually much more interested in losing weight. As absurd as it seems in retrospect, before I entered the world of personal training, I was hardly even aware that simply being thin could be a desirable body type. It took working for a commercial gym to realize that my fitness goals weren’t the same as those of the general public.

Workin’ for the Man
I’m happy not to be working for a chain gym now, but I’m glad I did for almost seven years. In fact, I think every new trainer would benefit from working at a commercial facility (though not necessarily for as long as I did) before working independently.

Sure you’ll have to deal with a few knuckleheads and the usual bureaucratic bullshit, but the benefits of working for a big-box gym are many. For starters, you’ll get to be around lots of other trainers with more experience, so you’ll get to see firsthand what works and what doesn’t. That’s not to say you should try to copycat the top trainers at your gym, but rather develop your own style based on what you observe to be effective.

In addition, working at a gym will allow you to pitch your services to people who are already interested. After all, if they are in a gym, chances are they want to improve their fitness!

Talk is Cheap
New trainers always like to tell me about how they just got a new client, but when I ask them how many sessions the client purchased or when their first session is, I often get a response like, “Oh, well they didn’t actually sign up yet, but they told me they are going to.” Truth is, potential clients will want to chat you up about your services, but most of them aren’t actually serious about hiring a trainer. Some people will continually tell you (and themselves) that they are going to start next week or next month, but in reality they are wasting your time (and theirs).

Don’t Sell Yourself Short
There is nothing wrong with offering a prospective client a complimentary or discounted first workout so they can try out your services, but don’t allow your clients to take advantage of you. The satisfaction you’ll feel from helping someone develop their body is a huge part of what makes personal training worthwhile, but it won’t pay the bills. While it’s reasonable to keep your rates relatively low until business picks up, remember that a trainer who charges substantially less than the competition is devaluing themselves and will appear amateurish in the eyes of others.

Introduce Yourself
A lot of people are intimidated by personal trainers, especially if they feel out of shape. These people need the help of a trainer the most, yet they will often be the least likely to ask for it. Be friendly and introduce yourself to everyone in your gym. When they have a question, they’ll remember that you were kind and approachable.

Give it Time
Just like getting in great shape takes patience and dedication, establishing a reputation as a quality personal trainer takes years. If you think personal training is going to make you lots of money without having to work hard, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening. However, if you are genuinely passionate about health and fitness, personal training can be a very rewarding career.

Check out my Fitness Pro Master Class if you want to delve deeper…