With more than 6 million people working out with personal trainers, a clear path to a variety of certifications through organizations like the American Council On Exercise (ACE), and a fitness industry that just keeps growing, if you’re hooked on health and fitness, now might seem like the perfect time to turn your passion into a career. Plus, beyond being relatively low stress and high reward, the average salary for personal trainers is on the rise, and wearing workout clothes every day is simply following the dress code—not too shabby.
With so many obvious incentives, it’s easy to overlook a few other key elements of a fitness career. So if you’ve already checked the “must love fitness” box, read on for eight more things that most all-star trainers get fired up about on a daily basis.
Technique in all its glorious minutiae
Basic fitness movements like running, deadlifts, and bodyweight squats look (and often feel) deceptively simple. But to properly perform even the most basic movements requires knowledge about and experience with form and body mechanics, weightlifting technique, and even physics as they relate to exercise.
If something as specific as the degree to which your knee flexes during a squat can change the entire exercise, imagine how much a good trainer would have to know in order to coach these movements properly (and even more so with highly technical movements like kettle bell swings or handstands) . If you like the idea of helping people master technique, make small adjustments to form, or drill a movement repeatedly, personal training could be your calling. Just be sure to think about just how excited you are to spend time coaching a runner’s head tilt, shoulder position, and stride length.
Structure, data, and evaluation
Even though regular exercise is proven to help keep your heart healthy and manage weight (plus killer biceps, better memory, self-confidence, and creativity), thanks to our unique physiological and genetic makeup, everyone responds to it differently. There’s no uniform “dose” of exercise that will bring the same results for everyone. In addition to these biological factors, clients might have mobility limitations, old injuries, and just plain old preferences about what kinds of workouts they like. As a result, there’s really no such thing as effective one-size-fits-all programming.
Working one-on-one with clients requires customizing, planning, and evaluating, starting with finding out (or helping determine) their goals, screening for movement and mobility, health and fitness history, and lifestyle factors, providing a baseline workout to establish their fitness level, and recording and assessing all the data before even beginning to establish a program. From there, the trainer should be tracking their clients’ workout data, evaluating progress, and making any necessary changes along the way. For some, all that data and evaluation may sound like a bore, but it’s actually super interesting and the stuff many trainers love geeing out over.
All kinds of people
Being a personal trainer means not just networking to attract clients, but establishing strong, lasting relationships with them. Because personal trainers spend their days working closely with a revolving door of personalities, it helps to be the kind of person who enjoys and even seeks out social attention. Picture spending your days coaching client after client, staying attuned to their needs as they struggle through workouts, all in the stimulating environment of a gym. We’re not saying the personality of a high-energy cheerleader is a prerequisite, but rather providing a friendly reminder that some sessions may involve a lot of listening and support for what might be going on in a client’s life outside the gym.
Science and research
Trainers are the scientists who cook up the customized programming that will get us leaner, stronger, faster, and fitter. In fact, working out with a trainer while following a structured, evidence-based plan actually results in greater fitness gains than working out alone. To help clients reach their goals, trainers have to understand relevant topics in science, physiology, and anatomy (like the role of the endocrine system in exercise or the science of building muscle and losing weight), stay on top of health and fitness research, be able to create effective programming for many different kinds of clients, and understand how to properly evaluate people they’re training. Fortunately you won’t be flying solo when it comes to analyzing research and interpreting findings
Having your finger on the pulse of fitness trends
Even if you have your go-to favorite way to work out, being a trainer will require you to know about, understand, and be able to program all different kinds of exercise to meet clients’ goals and interests. You’ll also have to be able to tell trends from fads (yep, they’re different). It’s the job of personal trainers to stay on top of what’s in and what’s out and how the research supports or dispels the effectiveness of various kinds of exercise. That way, you can write programming that’s not only proven to work, but is also the kind of workout your client enjoys doing. Even a cursory search of a database of ACE-certified trainers returns tons of pros with a dizzying array of specialties and areas of interest.