If you’re passionate about helping others reach their fullest potential when it comes to fitness, you might be wondering how to become a personal trainer.
To turn your passion into a career, it’s going to take careful planning, clear decision making, and the same can-do attitude that produces serious results at the gym.
If you’re ready to take the next step, keep reading. From getting the proper certification to bring in your ideal clientele, this article will help you build up the mental muscles needed to become a personal trainer in the fitness industry.
Step 1: Certification
You might have a passion for this project, but proper preparation can mean more than just years of experience in the gym. Today, almost all personal trainers that work in a fitness facility receive specific certification from one or several national training programs.
Certification from an accredited personal trainer program provides adequate training to help you translate your personal fitness success into something others can learn from. Most programs are self-paced and take 2-6 months to complete.
We’ll cover a few of the most popular programs below.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE)
ACE is the most popular personal training certification program, recognized by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). With a commitment to getting people moving, this nonprofit organization offers a variety of certifications and programs to prepare exercise professionals for beginning a personal training business.
You can earn ACE certification from home and the certification itself is valid for 2 years before the need for renewal. ACE is a personal training certification that involves teaching subjects such as:
- Exercise science fundamentals
- Changing health-related behaviors
- Client-focused methodologies
There are more than 90,000 ACE-certified personal trainers, making this recognizable program a great option for those looking to begin their business with a certification program well known and well respected.
National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM)
For over 30 years, the NASM has been working to help develop the field of personal training within the fitness industry. Accredited by the NCCA as well, the NASM is a reputable program for anyone looking to become a certified trainer.
With several certification packages available, the NASM is an easy resource for developing your knowledge and skill as an athletic trainer.
Key facts regarding the NASM included:
- More than a million professionals certified
- Trainers in more than 80 countries around the world
- More than 10,000 health club and gym partnerships
A certification from the NASM must be recertified every two years, as practices and sciences evolve, and all of the processes can be done online.
International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
A certification from the ISSA can be achieved in as short as 4 weeks and provide international accreditation and even job opportunities for new personal trainers.
ISSA can also provide dedicated coaches and fast track programs if you’re trying to start your personal training business as soon as possible. The personal trainer program offers the unique benefits of unlimited retesting allowing you multiple attempts at certification.
Consider the ISSA’s unique benefits including:
- A huge global presence with trainers in 174 countries.
- 33 years of recognition
- 400,000 students trained
Trainers are frequently educated in adjacent fields and it is certainly worth considering becoming certified in:
- Injury prevention
- Strength Training
- Weight Loss
Most often personal trainers are CPR certified and have a certificate for using an automated external defibrillator, as well as a high school diploma or GED.
The more specialized you are as a personal trainer, the more options you have for finding a niche and offering more options and services to your clientele. As Kris Bell, a personal trainer in Yakima, WA puts it, “I do think people now want more specialization. People are so busy they want quick workouts that bring significant results.”
Step 2: Find a Location
Where you train is almost as important as how you train. With more places than ever to choose from, it all comes down to what kind of services you want to offer.
When considering a location for your personal training services, be sure to examine the overall costs and investments required. Every venue can be radically different and three of the most popular places to begin your personal training business include:
- In the gym – The classic place to start. You can build a partnership with a local gym, paying for the use of their facilities either by a monthly rate or per session. This method allows you to take advantage of the gym’s facilities and equipment and is a tried and tested avenue for personal trainers
- In-home – If you’re looking to provide personal training services to a clientele that appreciates the conveniences of in-home services, you may find lucrative and rewarding career opportunities. You can work as an in-home trainer for those with the means and access to a home gym, specializing your services to fit their needs.
- Online – The digital age has opened up the internet as a potential way to deliver personal training to those at home. Work one-on-one or teach entire classes by streaming your routine online. The market for online training has only grown and may offer expanded opportunities to those looking to branch out into this newer medium.
Step 3: Insurance
Beginning a business often comes with a whole host of start-up costs. Luckily, starting your career as a personal trainer is typically highly affordable, with one monthly cost that should be taken into consideration: insurance.
Personal trainer insurance typically falls into two different categories:
- General liability – Accidents happen, despite all your knowledge, you should still be prepared in case something unexpected occurs. General liability insurance will protect you from potential lawsuits from customers who sustain injuries while working with you. Whether they slip on the gym floor or drop a dumbbell on their toes, you should be protected from any legal actions.
- Professional liability – Sometimes called “errors or omissions insurance” these policies protect you from clients seeking legal claims for mishaps due to professional errors. If a misunderstanding of advice leads to an injury or you lose your grip while spotting a customer, professional liability insurance will protect you and your business.
Being properly insured is part of running a respectable and reputable business. It also means you can rest easy at night knowing you’re protected from lawsuits and other legal issues. Plus, liability insurance is extremely affordable, often costing only a few hundred dollars per year.
Step 4: Build Your Brand
Are you a rock-climbing rebel looking to push your clients to their most extreme, or do you value a serene and meditative workout that aligns the body and mind?
Discovering who you are as a personal trainer requires reflecting on your fitness passions and determining the best ways to share them with your clients. Consider things like:
- The clientele you want to work with
- The type of services you want to offer
- Personal interests
- Long-term career goals
You might even be inspired by a personal experience, which can be a key component to building your business and telling your brand story, as in Kristi-Lynn Lake’s case. The Palm Desert personal trainer was motivated by a neck injury to expand her fitness pursuits, stating, ”So, I learned how to regain mobility and strength on my own. Once I saw the power fitness gave me to regain my own independence, I knew I had to start helping others.”
Your story might be similar or you may come into personal training through a radically different perspective. There’s plenty of room for every kind of personal trainer in this expanding field, and what makes you unique can also be the most exciting part of your brand.
Step 5: Market Your Business
Even the best trainers with the most unique niche still need to build up a customer base through marketing. Besides going up to every person you see on the street, a marketing campaign is the best way to let people know you’re out there, ready to help them meet their fitness goals.
Try to make your marketing materials pop by combining interesting visual elements, snappy wordplay, or relevant information quickly and concisely. Additionally, look into a variety of ways to get your materials out there, including:
- Local print ads – Support your local newspaper by taking out an advertisement for your training services. You’ll get to see your name in print and hopefully land a series of new customers.
- Digital campaigns – Social media and digital banner advertisements can reach large amounts of people at a relatively low cost. As you’re just starting, investigate potential digital avenues for getting your name out there.
- Local connections – Finding your customer base usually means interacting with those in your community. Reach out to your community through any resources possible. Whether online or in-person, building a rapport with those around you might be the fastest way to start growing your business by word of mouth.
Start Training Your Community with Nextdoor
With all the knowledge you need to make your personal training business a reality, there’s no better time than now to start showing the world how to get in shape. That said, there is one place you should check out before you run out to your local gym with your full-proof plan.
Just a hop, skip, and a click away, Nextdoor is where locals meet to get the scoop on the best new businesses in town—from restaurants to real estate, and, of course, personal trainers. If you’re looking to start training your neighbors, you might be pleased to know that nearly 1 in 3 households are on Nextdoor. Claim your free Business Page and start engaging with nearby potential clients today.
Yakima Herald. Checking in: Kris Bell, Yakima Athletic Club fitness. https://www.yakimaherald.com/news/business/local/checking-in-kris-bell-yakima-athletic-club-and-yac-fitness/article_a8cd8cdf-8410-5be4-970d-b9995a675fc6.html
Desert Sun. Personal trainer provides gentle exercise for Alzheimer's, dementia families. https://www.desertsun.com/story/life/2021/02/05/personal-trainer-provides-gentle-exercise-alzheimers-families/4387746001/
Small Business Trends. How to start a personal training business: the ultimate guide. https://smallbiztrends.com/2017/01/starting-a-personal-training-business.html