Teaching people to feel better in their skins and their life and helping them progress in the sports of their choice might be one of the best jobs there is.

A fitness coach, whether they work at health clubs or offer personal fitness training at home, is something of a wellness worker, a fitness artisan.

Personal training came to Europe from North America around the turn of the millennium and has spread like wildfire.

Some fifteen to twenty years later, the profession still suffers from a lot of prejudices - among them the idea that knowing how to lift weights or do sports is enough for you to help others do it, too.

That’s the same as saying that anyone who writes without making spelling mistakes can become an author…

It’s the same thing for personal fitness: to become a personal trainer instructor, you need to take courses in exercise science, practice sports at an advanced level and be competent in a plethora of other things, such as fitness nutrition or kinesiology, depending on what specialisation you want.

This article aims to give an overview of everything you need to know about becoming a personal fitness trainer.

What is a Personal Trainer? And What are They not?

Sports professions have also experienced the specialisation of most other occupations.

Thus, a personal trainer is not:

  • A gym instructor
  • A PE teacher
  • A sports science or sports medicine lecturer
  • A sports coach
  • A group fitness trainer

A home fitness specialist is much more than a personalized PE teacher!

A personal coach is not a civil servant

Let’s take the example of a sports lecturer: a civil servant (unless the college is private), he is officially tasked with encouraging, lecturing on, training for and promoting sports.

He doesn’t offer a personal training program for getting back in shape like personal coaches might do for an in-home session for a client.

On the contrary. A sports professor will be a group fitness instructor offering education courses to those seeking a sports diploma.

Thus, their role is to promote fitness within a specific institution, a sports college or university, for example.

A personal trainer is not a PE teacher

A PE teacher is someone who teaches theory and technique and initiates students into sports (gymnastics, group sports or individual sports) at a secondary school.

A PE teacher is there to promote youth fitness, not help someone get fit with cardio training, aerobic workouts, Pilates or stretching. He or she will be following the curriculum set by the Ministry of Education.

A PE teacher has Qualified Teacher Status and a coaching certification, such as the UK Coaching Certificate.

A personal trainer is not a fitness trainer for professional athletes

A sports coach for professional athletes is above all himself a professional athlete who trains other professionals.

Their role is to accompany the trainers preparing athletes who are taking part in competitions, whether on a local or national level.

He or she mostly works to ensure that their athletes place well and that their club runs smoothly.

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Nor is a personal trainer a gym instructor

There are a number of trainers offering exercise programs for group training - senior fitness, for example, or beginner aquatic gymnastics. You find them at a fitness studio or a holiday exercise program, or even offering group classes in the park. Whether for a small group or a huge sports event, at 24-hour fitness centres or a small two-woman studio, their main role is initiation and fitness education.

They offer a stepping stone into the world of fitness. At a set date and time, with the same fitness programs for all participants. They are vital to the fitness industry as a means of introducing people to sports. Those who are truly passionate about health and fitness will go on to a more individual approach - personal coaching.

Qualifications to be a Personal Trainer

In Great Britain, a personal trainer’s annual salary is somewhere between £14,000 and £22,000 depending on your experience.

Obviously, garnering more experience is beneficial to your bank account!

Doing additional certification courses will open doors for you and widen your clientele, allowing you to earn more as a fitness professional.

Personal trainers in the UK need trainer certification to practise. You will need to get certified as a Level 2 Gym Instructor to work as a personal trainer in a fitness centre or health club, and a Level 3 Personal Trainer if you want to be self-employed.

You might want to look into some additional fitness certification to ensure you are giving your clients the best advice on their health and fitness and to explore new avenues for clients.

First aid and AED certification

Even if your clients are athletic and lead a healthy lifestyle, knowing how to deal with common injuries and what to do while waiting for an ambulance for more severe cases is a useful skill for a personal trainer.

Clients who know you know emergency first aid and have a CPR certification will feel safer with you.

Personal trainers should know first aid.
Knowing that you have basic first aid skill will make your clients feel safe. Photo on Visual hunt

You might want to take the extra accreditation on how to use an Automated External Defibrillator, especially if you are working with elderly or obese clients. While the instructions the defibrillator will give you are clear, you will feel more secure if you already know how they work.

Take part a nutrition specialist certificate program

Maximize your usefulness to potential clients by becoming a fitness nutrition specialist. While you will not be a full-blown nutritionist, you will be able to assist your clients to get in shape or bring their fat loss back on track by assessing their nutritional needs according to their fitness plan and designing a nutrition plan tailored to them.

Many training schools offer Fitness and Nutrition qualifications - a must to help combat obesity and ensure that your clients led healthier lives.

Motivation training

People often turn to a personal trainer with very specific fitness goals. It will be up to you to do a fitness assessment, find ways to keep your client motivated and find a personalized fitness solution to suit their needs.

Many fitness schools offer workshops or courses on motivation. There you will learn everything you need to know about:

  • How to evaluate your client’s needs
  • Program design
  • Improving your client relationship
  • Helping your client stay motivated through even the toughest workouts
  • Rewarding your client for achieving secondary goals.

Motivating someone you barely know in one on one sessions is a special skill that can be learnt in a continuing education certification program.

Motivation is important to personal trainers.
If you don't want your client's gym clothes to stay in their bag, you will need to motivate them to continue with sports. Photo credit: ThoroughlyReviewed on Visual Hunt

Take specialised courses in addition to your training certificate

Specialising in a certain sport will gain your client’s trust and ensure you have a base pool of clients interested in you. You could decide to become a certified personal trainer with credentials specialising in, for example:

  • Postnatal training program to get new mothers back into shape
  • Corrective exercise specialist to improve posture and help with certain skeletal problems
  • Circuit training to motivate your client through smaller training units
  • Stretching instructor to help them relax, from the lower body to the neck
  • Pilates instructor to give your fitness career a boost with the working populace

Qualities to Become a Personal Trainer in the UK

Whether they are interested in resistance training or lifting with a kettlebell, a client has to be able to trust their personal trainer completely.

So, to gain new clients you will need to appear credible and legitimate.

Here are some of the qualities you will need beyond a fitness certification to convince new clients of your expertise:

  • Personal qualities such as confidence and endurance
  • Athletic ability
  • Experience as a personal trainer
  • A tidy personal appearance
  • You eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • You are always properly hydrated
  • You're in good physical shape

Seeing that you take care of your body tells your clients that you will take good care of theirs.

Why clients hire a personal trainer

There are many reasons for someone to opt for personal training rather than going to fitness clubs:

  • To stay motivated
  • Get back into shape
  • Keep stimulated
  • Build muscle
  • Oxygenate and tone their body
  • Build up confidence
  • Lose weight and burn fat
Fitness coaches deal with individual clients.
Personal training means one-on-one training sessions with your client. Photo credit: USAG-Humphreys on Visual Hunt

This means you should:

  • Be ready to listen
  • Be available
  • Understand how to meet a customer’s expectations
  • Encourage your client
  • Be attentive and don’t push them further than they can take it (but keep them motivated!)
  • Have good people skills
  • Be a pedagogue
  • Understand your clients' needs
  • Have a good understanding of anatomy and exercise physiology
  • Be in good physical condition

It seems obvious that, if you used to be a professional athlete, age will eventually push you into coaching if you want to continue to earn your bread with your sports and passion.

You have already mastered the poses, the exercises, techniques and strategies, meaning you already have a basic expertise in the area that you can pass on to your clients.

But don’t forget to get your personal training certification to become a trainer!

Becoming a Superprof trainer

Once you have finished your instructor training and are ready to launch your personal trainer career, you might want to register on Superprof to attract clients.

When you set up your personal profile, you can choose to tell potential clients:

  • Your speciality (Yoga, Crossfit, 400-yard dash…)
  • Your years of experience as a personal trainer
  • Your fitness course and setup (with a warm-up, cardio, muscle-building, a specific physical activity, stretches, toning, endurance, etc…)

Marketing and Commerce: How To Become a Personal Trainer in the UK

How can you build a client base when establishing yourself as a personal fitness coach?

  • Make sure your website is search engine optimized to appear high in the Google search results (make sure your name appears often!)
  • Develop partnerships with other institutions - health and fitness clubs, for example.
  • Make sure your clients come back: offer rebates for those who book for ten lessons or give savings for those who decide on a yearly card rather than booking each session individually
  • Find strategic ambassadors for your business that you can quote on flyers or leaflets: local doctors and nutritionists, for example.

Take care of your public image and make certain you encourage your clients to stay with you!

6 tips for developing your brand

You can develop your own personal branding and do market research to find good strategies for selling yourself - or at least, your services.

  1. Find a name for your business and create a logo
  2. Print information material (flyers, business cards)
  3. Create a website
  4. Rope in social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ etc.)
  5. Generate content to remind your followers of your existence
  6. Try email marketing to capture as many potential clients as you can

You will need to establish a game plan, a marketing strategy to help you get known.

Here are five things you need to know about starting a personal training business:

  1. A personal trainer is a businessman
  2. You are the ambassador for your business
  3. Your client is not simply a bank transfer - take good care of him!
  4. One happy client can bring in ten more
  5. You need to be a marketer: offer sales and deals to loyal customers and free trial periods to beginners. Invite your clients to little events - yoga in the park, a barbecue to allow your clients to meet…)

Never ignore a client; he is what makes your business grow.

Whether large or small, your clientele needs to be bound to you. Establish a long-term strategy for taking care of clients and winning their loyalty.

And then, like a fisherman reeling in his catch, you only have to wait for your clients to bite!

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