According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of fitness workers is projected to increase by 13 percent between 2012 and 2022. This is encouraging news, considering the country’s recent economic downturn. Accordingly, a career path that continues to see growth during hard economic times suggests a certain level of job security for those working in the fitness profession. What about you? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a personal trainer? Here are four signs that could mean you’re ready for the challenge of helping others achieve their fitness goals.
1. You have an interest in the workings of the human body.
Leading a physically active lifestyle is integral to good health. Simply put, you cannot have optimal health without regular physical activity. Having a passion for learning about anatomy, physiology and biomechanics is helpful for becoming a fitness professional. To lead clients through safe and effective exercise programs, trainers must have knowledge of exercise science principles, as well as how different types of exercise affect the various body systems (e.g., cardiovascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal, nervous and endocrine). Many trainers report having a natural curiosity about the inner workings of the body and how exercise influences health and performance. For me, studying the human body was the most intriguing part of preparing to become a trainer. As a child, I was always interested in the health sciences, specifically anatomy and physiology. Throughout my education, I found that I was naturally drawn toward human movement and biomechanics. In my work as a fitness professional, I get to use my knowledge of these sciences in every session with a client.
To be clear, a formal education and/or degree in exercise science is not necessary to become a fitness professional. In this respect, the barrier for entry into the fitness business is relatively low, and there are many resources available to help interested individuals gain the knowledge and skills they need to become great personal trainers. So, even if your education or experience is unrelated to the health sciences, you can certainly learn what you need without going back to school.
2. You have empathy and compassion for others.
Regardless of how credentialed a fitness professional may be, the connection and rapport between the client and trainer is absolutely the most important first step in any training relationship. The ability to empathize with others’ struggles and connect with them on a personal level is a essential for developing trust and respect with clients. Often, this ability comes from having overcome your own personal challenges. For example, some of the most successful personal trainers draw upon their own difficulties with losing weight or achieving fitness goals as a way to connect with and motivate their clients. Clients appreciate hearing personal stories about their trainer’s struggles, and the strategies used to overcome them. In other words, being allowing yourself to be open and communicating effectively with a client is necessary to develop the trust needed in the first stages of the relationship. It is a trainer’s empathy and compassion for others that makes the job so rewarding when the client reaches his or her goals. Many fitness professionals claim that the joy they feel for their clients upon seeing them achieve their goals is the best part of personal training.
3. You are an early bird or a night owl.
Having regularly scheduled clients is the goal of any successful personal trainer. To get those clients to commit to regular timeslots typically means that you have to commit to working hours when most other people don’t. In other words, most personal trainers see clients early in the morning and in the hours after 5 PM. There are a few exceptions to this, such as working with retired people, kids, stay-at-home moms or people with flexible work schedules, but for the most part clients will need to work with you during the “prime” training hours of 5 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. So, if you are not opposed to waking up early and/or working late, you might really enjoy the business of fitness. Trainers who work full-time usually have a long break in the middle of the day where they enjoy time for themselves or run errands. Fitness professionals who work part-time typically choose time blocks to work either early in the morning or late in the evening.
4. You enjoy being a role model.
Personal trainers wear many hats. They are leaders, educators, skilled communicators, and coaches. Regardless of the role they are taking on from one moment to the next, trainers who are good role models for the behaviors they are teaching their clients are successful. Leading a lifestyle complete with regular physical activity, a healthy diet, adequate sleep and effective stress-coping strategies will give you the best chance at optimal health and wellbeing. When a trainer leads by exemplifying these healthy choices, clients are more likely to follow the same behaviors. Furthermore, trainers who make healthy choices themselves are better able to teach their clients strategies for successful behavior change as they draw on their own personal experiences in overcoming challenges.
Notice that I did not mention being extremely fit or a superior athlete as essential criteria for being a role model. Making smart lifestyle choices is about being healthy and well—it is not about achieving unrealistic standards portrayed by certain media that include famous athletes, models or celebrities. Some clients (and trainers, for that matter) are committed to being in elite physical shape, and that is a commendable goal. On the other hand, the majority of people are working toward being healthy, which might result in lower body-fat and a more muscular physique, but it might not, and that goal is just as praiseworthy.
Do you see yourself as a health role model?
If you have these four characteristics and you yearn to help people achieve their health and fitness goals, you might have what it takes to be a successful personal trainer. At the very least, you might be an outstanding health role model who could be an encouraging friend or mentor to someone who needs that type of support in his or her life.
Click here to learn how to become an ACE Certified Personal Trainer.