What does a personal trainer do?
One of the best things about working as a personal trainer is that you’ll enjoy a varied working day.
And you won’t spend it all doing laps or press-ups, either – although physical fitness is obviously a big part of the role, communicating with your client about their goals and limitations is every bit as vital. Here are some typical tasks you might find yourself doing:
• Establishing a client’s base fitness level, and conducting assessments
• Creating personalised diet and fitness plans
• Recording your client stats and achievements during a workout
• Providing motivation, as well as feedback on performance
• Working with clients on their own, and with small groups
• Developing client retention strategies
• If you’re freelance, marketing yourself to increase your client base
• Establishing and maintaining an online presence online through blogs, social media, and other means
• Creating and upholding positive relationships with clients
Although some personal trainers work for gyms or fitness centres, the majority, around 80%, are self-employed. Whilst working for yourself certainly has some downsides – like invoicing and accounts – it also offers more freedom, as you’ll be able to pick your own clients and hours. Having said that, there’s every possibility you’ll need to be willing to kiss many of your weekends and evenings goodbye, as you’ll need to work around client availability. We’ll explore this in more detail later on.
What are the key attributes of a personal trainer?
Personal training is a highly competitive industry, which means that clients will often base their decisions based around who they feel they have good chemistry with. Bearing this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the key attributes all PTs need in order to keep turning a profit:
• Great interpersonal skills. Sure, you might not be your client’s favourite person to begin with, but as most personal trainers will tell you, visits from you will become the favourite part of their week in no time. In fact, you’ll likely find that you and your clients end up becoming fast friends – if you’ll excuse the pun!
• Empathy (and patience). You might be fit as a fiddle right now, but it probably wasn’t always that way. Remember how tough things were at the start of your fitness journey, and show your clients you understand the struggle.
• Motivational. Your clients will need to push themselves harder physically – and mentally – than they likely ever have before. Making sure they stick with it rather than throw in the towel is key to your long-term success, so this attribute is especially important.
• Excellent listening skills. When your clients first come to you, they’ll tell you what they’re looking to achieve during your time together, whether that’s shaving an inch or two off their waistline, or getting in top shape for a triathlon. Whatever they tell you, listen, and prepare a plan that indicates you’ve paid attention to their goals, as well as their limitations.
• A passion for fitness. It’s an obvious one, for sure, but it needs to be said. If you don’t love fitness enough to be out there every day come rain or shine, your new career won’t last long.
What qualifications do I need to become a personal trainer?
If you’re loving the sound of everything so far, you’ll no doubt be wondering how you can make it happen. Online, you’ll likely come across many ‘providers’ that will offer you some form of certificate, but not one that you’ll find helpful when it comes time to find a job. So, don’t waste your money, and make sure the personal training qualifications you pick are nationally recognised and accredited.
Let’s take a look at the two courses you’ll need to take if you’re starting from scratch:
NCFE Level 2 Certificate in Gym Instructing – This qualification will break down the basics, and there’s a lot you’ll need to know. Every personal trainer needs a pretty solid understanding of anatomy and physiology, and it’s especially important to get to grips with natural biological differences between different age groups – this course will give you a comprehensive overview of both. You’ll also need substantial training on the relevant national legislation and guidelines, how to support client health and wellbeing, as well as conducting client consultations, and deliver gym-based exercise programmes. I’m getting out of breath just thinking about it!
NCFE Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training – After your level 2 qualification, you’ll be ready to earn your personal training accreditation! Throughout this course, you’ll pick up a number of hugely useful skills, such as how to motivate clients to make and maintain positive long-term changes, design and deliver tailored training programmes, as well as nutritional regimens. Just as importantly, you’ll gain an incredibly thorough overview of how to setup and run your own personal training business, running through everything from financial planning, to KPIs. You’ll also be required to demonstrate your PT skills in front of an assessor – just to make sure you’re ready to take on clients.
Both of the courses above are not only nationally recognised, both also fully endorsed by CIMSPA (Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity), meaning that you’ll be able to gain entry to their Exercise and Fitness Directory as a practitioner when you’ve gained your level 3 diploma. This shows clients that your qualification has been validated, and it’s also a great way to access further learning and development opportunities.
What career options are there for personal trainers?
The career paths available for personal trainers are actually more varied than you’d think: you could set up your own consultancy firm, work in corporate fitness, or even sail the seven seas onboard a cruise liner, helping passengers to burn off that extra helping of profiteroles. However, in general, most PTs will choose from the following three career routes:
• Work directly for a gym – this is the ideal option for anyone who needs a consistent salary, set hours, and loves working with lots of different people every day. Your duties will mainly include: introducing new clients to gym equipment and conducting consultations, as well as seeing established clients for regular sessions. Some personal trainers will also hold group fitness classes.
• Work freelance for a gym – Most big-name gyms hire freelancers to work in their establishments, rather than salaried workers. While there are some downsides to this (for instance, you won’t get sick or holiday pay) it affords more freedom on both sides of the relationship. While gym owners aren’t obligated to give you a certain number of hours when business is slow, conversely, there’s the potential for you to really cash in on busy periods, like the January rush.
• Working as an independent trainer – This is probably the toughest route of the three, as you’ll really need to know how to market yourself, especially to begin with when you’re unable to rely on word-of-mouth. However, once you’re established, this is arguably the route that will afford you the greatest freedom: you can pick and choose your clients, and you’ll enjoy greater flexibility to conduct outdoor workouts. There’s also the potential to specialise even further by completing a sports psychology course and become a high-end coach, working with athletes to boost their performance and endurance. Additionally, you’ll enjoy complete freedom when it comes to your hours (and therefore earning potential).
What is the average salary of a personal trainer?
If you opt for direct employment at a gym, an entry-level PT can expect to start on £16,000 per year. However, you might see this rising to £20,000 within a year or two.
Salaries for freelance PTs vary enormously depending on location, hours, popularity, and specialisms. Typically, you’ll charge a minimum of £40 per hour, meaning that if you manage to see two clients per day, your earnings will yet again work out to around £20,000 per year. However, more experienced trainers will charge around £60, which could see your annual wage rise to around £30,000 per year.
The great thing about working as an independent PT, though, is that there’s no cap to your earnings. If you establish a great reputation in your local area, market yourself well, and are prepared to put in the hours of hard work, there’s no reason that personal training can’t be a very profitable career indeed.
How much does a Personal Trainer earn?
Like the sound of this career? Check out our range of Sports and Fitness courses to take the first step on your personal training journey. Alternatively, give one of our friendly, experienced learning advisers a call on 0121 630 3000.