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20 Tips to Successful Career in Fitness: Step by Step

Fitness is a real concern in modern times. With staggering work hours and cheap fast food obesity is on the rise. In order to maintain a healthy life you need to pay attention to a lot of factors. For the average person that is quite the challenge. Consequently, fitness training has become a necessary profession. This blog written for both fresh and experienced fitness professionals outlines an efficient curriculum for building a successful career in fitness. 

Where to start a Career in Fitness

While it may be true that there are many ways to get into the fitness industry the strategies to become successful are pretty straightforward.

Let’s start of with Dan John’s advice on how to become a successful trainer or coach.

Start you career in fitness by following Dan John’s advice.

1st Step – Get a degree in English, study Theology, score a job as a high school teacher.

2nd Step – Spend evenings teaching an online religious studies course.

3rd Step – Volunteer as a strength coach with your high school track team.

4th Step – Give it 25 years

While it may sound ridiculous, that’s exactly what he did. Which brings us to the point that, unlike in certain fields such as economics, law and medicine, there are no clear, predetermined paths in fitness. You have to find your and make your path as you progress.

20 Tips for a successful career in fitness

Here are 20 tested ways you can ensure a growing career that helps your clients as well as give you the competitive edge.

1. Start coaching immediately

You don’t need a degree to start coaching. Neither do you need gym space, or your own studio.

In other words, you don’t need permission from anyone to get started. All you need to do is help someone get in shape and improve their life, one step at a time.

Doesn’t matter whether it’s a friend, family member, or a client. The only way to know if you enjoy helping people is to start working with them. If you’re not confident about coaching on your own, find a personal trainer or another experienced coach you can “shadow”.

You don’t have to know everything about fitness to help someone get in shape. All you need is to know a little bit more than the person you’re trying to help.

2. Get certified

While you’re working in the field with people, start earning your credentials. A lot of certifications in the fitness industry are considered a joke and rightfully so. Many require a single weekend of “effort” and barely scratch the surface of what you really need to know.

However if you want to be considered a professional—and get insurance—you’ll need the paperwork. So getting certification is a good way to start.

3. Become a “complete” fitness professional.

Once you get your basic certification, it’s time to get serious and expand your education. Exercise alone will never get your clients the kind of results they’re expecting. And to be honest it’ll take a lot more than just the two or three sessions a week they’ll have with you.

So what should you do? The answer is Nutrition Education.

First, learn more about nutrition, so you’re capable of discussing food and diet with your clients. Nutrition is where people 1) will see the greatest results and 2) need the most help with.

It has been shown that including nutrition coaching with your fitness regime can increase your effectiveness as a trainer by at least five times. Being able to craft exercise routines and design diet and nutrition plans brings you closer to become a complete profession in your career in fitness.

4. Learn how to coach real people.

Apart from learning about movement, nutrition, and exercise programming it’s necessary to learn how to coach your clients. This involves understanding the deeper psychology at play and saying the right things in the correct ways at the appropriate time. It means really connecting with your clients and helping them through their body transformations in their minds.

You can have someone do all the squats and crunches you want. However, unless you learn “change psychology” and the art of coaching, it’ll never be as effective as it could be.

5. Get some business training.

If you’re considering opening your own fitness oriented business or, if you work at a bigger gym and want to learn how to get more clients—you’ll need some business training. This however doesn’t mean you need an MBA.

What you need is fitness-specific training taught by people who’ve actually had success in the fitness business. The better you get at marketing and running your business, the more people you can attract. More people means more money if you can get them to commit.

6. A career of learning and development

Feel free to pick any relevant book, course, internship, and certification that resonate with you. Or will at least help your clients in some way. It’s good to geek out about advanced programming for nutrient timing, soft-tissue therapy, different populations, advanced exercise and diet techniques, hormonal issues, and more.

It doesn’t matter whether you got a  four-year college degree, doctoral program, theology school or dropped-out. If you’ve got the energy, the drive, and the interest to do this work, you can do it… and eventually be good at it.

7. Be a Strategic Thinker and Partner up

Fitness trainers are strategic thinkers. An understanding of cost, margins, ROI (return on investment), revenue, and staff management provide better insight on how your role affects the organization. 

Another one of the qualities of a good trainer is to be a strategic partner. Most clients will look for a guide in their quest for fitness. It’s important that your clients trust you and believe that you have their best interest at heart. A sense of partnership does a lot in establishing these trust and commitment

8. Instructional Design

To be a good trainer you need to be well-versed in the instructional design process. Aside from being included as a skill for training managers, instructional design (or ID) is a big part of a trainer’s repertoire of abilities. 

A working knowledge of Training Needs Analysis (or TNA) and the application of the inductive learning process through different adult learning methodologies are the main topics in Instructional Design.

9. Be Project Manager

Being able to manage projects is perhaps one of the outstanding qualities of a good trainer. Managing a business, handling clients, holding training sessions and implementing new techniques is only possible when you are a skillful project manager. With an ever changing market and growing financial stakes there is simply no other way to be successful with your career in fitness.

10. Evaluate

This is probably one of the most under appreciated qualities of a good trainer. The skills required for trainers regarding evaluations include conducting client surveys, creating effective tests, and assessing learners through observable behavioral changes.

Moreover, computing a learning program’s ROI (return on investment) and checking performance trends are also parts of the evaluator skillset. These two not only help the trainer determine learning needs but can also help establish the success (or failure) of a training program.

11. Determine Your Role in the Business

If you assumed that personal trainers have only one way to start a business, think again! While one-on-one personal training is a popular business model with plenty of opportunities for success, there several are other options as well, 

Some of these include:

  • Starting a business with multiple personal trainers specialized in different fitness areas 
  • Creating a unique personal training model or brand and licensing out the model
  • Working as a freelance personal trainer and working with clients through gyms
  • Creating an online platform where you or your employees can train clients virtually 
  • Offering group training alongside one-on-one training 

12. Determine Your Time Availability

As a self-employed personal trainer you can have the advantages of building your own schedules. However, consistent income from personal training takes time to build. This means you may have to work another job as you build up your clientele. 

There is no fixed amount of time for getting to a point where all of your income comes from personal training. After you’ve decided what your role will be in the business, you’ll have a better idea of the time you’ll need to invest to get your business off the ground and working. 

13. Make Sure You’re Legally Compliant

In order to be successful you need to ensure your business is legal and documented. This means,

  • Offering services for which you are specifically certified or permitted to in your state
  • Clear all tax requirements
  • Filing for a business structure if you won’t be self-employed
  • Setting up legally-backed agreements (contracts)

A contract clarifies expectations and responsibilities on both ends. Remember that, in order for your contracts to be legally applicable, they should be drawn up by a practicing attorney. 

Your contract should include sections on what your personal training service includes, scheduling, billing and payment, cancellation policies, communication, and terms for terminating the service. 

14. Service Details

Writing out what your service includes is essential for becoming a professional. While you do this try to be as specific as possible. For example, upon signing up, clients will receive an initial consultation where you will discuss their goals and their physical conditions. Then you explain proposed methods, and shortly after, you ought to provide a custom training plan. 

Describe what they should expect, including providing weekly or bi-weekly training sessions, whether the sessions will be in-person or online, whether you provide access to an app, and other details. You may also want to describe what their responsibilities are such as, sticking to the training, consulting with you before changing their routine, and the importance of being honest about health conditions and physical limitations. 

15. Cancellation Policy

A definite cancellation policy is important and you need to stick to it. Many trainers have a policy that states if a client cancels within 24 hours of a scheduled appointment, they will be charged a partial or full amount of a training session fee. Illness and family emergencies must be taken into consideration as acceptable excuses. Use your own discretion. 

A cancellation policy means nothing unless you enforce it. Your time is valuable, and you need to gain something for those hours that you set aside for clients. Setting boundaries for when your clients can contact you and for what reasons is very important. You also have to set aside time to socialize, rest, and be with family can help you stay alert, creative, and active. 

Don’t Forget to take time off for yourself. The patterns and rhythms you set early on in your business set the tone for what your clients can ask of you and what limits you set for yourself. A successful personal trainer needs to allow time for their own workouts and personal interests, as well as an occasional week off.

While it seems contradictory, taking time for yourself ensures you can give 100% to your clients in the time you have allocated to be there for them. 

16. Get Certified and Continue Your Education

Apart from the basic certification you’ll need to start off as a professional you should try to gain expertise in more specialised fitness techniques. CPR certification is one of the additional credentials you should earn. 

Workshops and lectures are held around the country every month that provide trainers with new information and material to update their skills. Most certifications require that you update through continuing education on an ongoing basis.

17. Get Professional Liability Insurance

Professional liability insurance protects professionals like personal trainers against financial or otherwise losses that arise from legal claims your clients could file against you. The most common of these are claims of negligence and malpractice. Having insurance is critical for any personal trainer. 

18. Invest in Marketing Materials That Represent Your Brand 

It’s more likely that prospective clients will see your marketing materials before they see you in person. This material could be Facebook ads, a website, a brochure, a printed ad, or a business card. If your marketing material doesn’t entice a prospective client to get in touch with you, they are not effective.

Digital Marketing Materials

  • Display banners and advertisements
  • Paid search ads
  • Email marketing
  • Mobile app marketing
  • SEO
  • Social media marketing (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)

Creative Marketing Tactics

A great idea is to offer free “mini” sessions in a community center, park district gym, or through Facebook Live or Instagram TV. Limit these sessions to a half an hour, and focus on the client’s immediate interests. If you provide value for your clients time, several of them will come back for more. 

Other materials

  • Business Cards
  • Brochures & Marketing Pieces 

19. Offer an Initial Consultation

Before you start training, it’s important that you meet with your potential client to get a better understanding. You should become aware of their needs, goals, expectations, and note down whether they have any special medical or physical limitations. 

The first meeting with a potential client is critical. In this meeting, it’s all about creating the best possible impression. It sets the tone for your client-trainer relationship. This meeting is sometimes enough to determine the extent of the commitment the client is willing to make with you. You should also establish your boundaries regarding cancellations and billing in this initial meeting

20. Choose a Personal Trainer Practice Management Software or App

Traditional personal trainers use Excel spreadsheets, agendas, and pen and paper. Hence, it’s not a surprise that they find themselves shuffling between several documents and files to keep bookkeeping, scheduling, and programming all in order. 

Save yourself the time and the stress, by using personal training software which is designed to manage clients, programs, scheduling, and even billing. 

Ending Notes

In this article, we covered several tips on how to be successful in the personal training business. Nothing can replace finding your niche, making sure you’re legally compliant and choosing marketing tactics for a fruitful venture.

Always remember the value you can bring to people’s lives. It’s essential for your future clients to know what you offer as a personal trainer and understand why you are the best choice for their good health.

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