Personal Trainers Have Strong Prospects

When many people think of personal trainers, they envision celebrities, fabulous wages and luxurious perks. In reality, personal trainers work mostly for people with disabilities, the elderly and people recovering from surgery or illness.

"Ten years ago, only the rich and famous had personal trainers," says Janice Hutton. She works for a company that offers training and certification for personal trainers.

"Now the average [person] can afford and should hire a personal trainer to make the most of their exercise time."

Hutton says clients often hire a personal trainer for a short time to refine a workout routine. But clients also work with personal trainers to reach long-term goals.

"We pay $50 an hour for a haircut from a specialist. Personal training is no different if the client feels there is value in the experience and the education. More people need to improve their lifestyle, exercise habits and overall health and hiring a personal trainer is a great way to make this priority a reality."

There are other factors contributing to opportunities for personal trainers. "The economy continues to improve, which allows for more disposable income and increasing personal trainers' earnings," says Mark Occhipinti. He's president of American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA).

"In the U.S., the most common certification is the American Council on Exercise or ACE-certified personal trainers," says Hutton.

"A trainer is more employable if they have additional qualifications beyond a base certification, like a kinesiology degree, a fitness diploma, specialty training to work with older adults, pre- and post-natal women and sports conditioning for athletes."

Hutton says that potential trainers often train themselves before seeking certification and employment. "Many personal trainers also begin by hiring a personal trainer to train them so that they can find out more about the business before they choose to make it a career. Your personal trainer can become your mentor."

Exercise physiologist and certified trainer Debi Lander says that the most essential part of a personal trainer's job is to understand the client's needs and motivate them to reach their goal.

"It's important to get specific and find what makes a person tick. Then we can find appropriate activities," she says.

"Personal trainers provide professional guidance, support, motivation, and hold people accountable. Physicians don't have time to instruct patients that need activity."

Developments in equipment, nutrition science, fitness knowledge and even computer technology have all allowed personal trainers to deliver better results.

Based in Florida, Lander has found that technology allows her to offer the kind of interactivity trainers and clients require -- even from a distance.

"Technology allows me to reach more people," says Lander. "Some of my clients are too intimidated to go to the gym. I also work with people who travel and have trouble connecting with trainers in person."

Giving clients a little bit extra is one strategy for success, according to Lander. Clipping out articles, sending a birthday card or any other personal touch helps.

"Word of mouth is probably the biggest testimonial," says Lander. "Give more than expected and people will talk about it."

Lander says personal trainers love helping people and are very passionate about exercise and health. "People skills are really important because training is all about building relationships," she says.

"Ideally, anyone interested in fitness training should study exercise science in college. Enroll in a school that has both book and hands-on learning."

Lander adds that further specialization helps kick-start a personal trainer's career. "Pick a niche market and jump in and learn everything you can. Become an expert in your area of personal training."

Ian Campbell is president of a company that offers certification to personal trainers. "This isn't the job most people think it is," he warns.

"Sometimes you start at 5 a.m. and work into the evening. You have to be on all the time. You are your own boss in most cases and you can work on your own.

"Larger clubs are a good place to start, but you're on your own for a client base. Of five trainers, one or two make it past their first year. Treat it like a business and market yourself."

Campbell says there are over 200 newer, minor certifications. But some of the most widely recognized major certification sources in North America are the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

"Required certification depends on where you live and what company you work for," he says. "There is no law requiring specific personal trainer certification anywhere in North America."

Occhipinti adds that nutrition training and subspecialties such as children's fitness and pre- or post-natal care are assets.

As more people see the benefits of healthy living and the actual possibility of achieving their goals, personal trainers will continue to find work.


American Council on Exercise
It accredits personal trainers

American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA)
Check out the health, fitness, nutrition, sports certifications and education programs

Find certification and professional support for personal trainers

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