Five years ago I was stuck in a dead-end office job hating the daily grind. Chained to the computer for 6 hours a day just wasn't for me. I thought to myself, "what's the opposite of this shit? Ah ha! Fitness! I'll do that!" It made perfect sense: I loved working out and I loved the idea of making my own schedule, $90 an hour and wearing Lululemons all day, everyday. The plan was fool-proof.
Boy, was I mistaken. Don't get me wrong, I love my job and would recommend it to anyone with the passion, resources and skills to do it. But it's definitely not easy street. Here are my top tips to those of you who want to become a PT or pursue some other career in fitness -- many learnt by me the hard way.
Know how to regress any exercise
Many people become PTs because they love working out. But working out yourself is very different to working out someone else. If you love working out and have been for some time, you're probably pretty advanced and know a whole bunch of awesome, kick-ass exercises. You're probably pretty excited to impress clients with them. But it's important to remember that the majority of people coming to you are doing so because they are beginners and have no idea what to do in the gym.
Furthermore, most people who will come to you will be older (PT sessions ain't cheap and it's older people who can afford it) and often will have injuries. Save your reverse lunge plyo box jump burpee (I don't even know what that is) for your own workout and know how to regress any exercise to its most basic. You are going to have your work cut out for you just trying to teach a newbie how to squat. Keep it simple, stupid, and start with the basics.
Good things take time
Don't expect to be an in demand, full-time PT right away - or any time soon. It takes time to build up a client base, for people to get to know you and for you to actually have enough experience to be a good PT. If you decide to give up your day job and go full hog on fitness, expect to live below the poverty line for a while.
Schedule yourself silly
Forget making your own schedule. You'll be making yourself flexible to everyone else's. And because just about everyone else has a "real job" expect to be busy before work (early!) at lunch and after work. So you'll start early and finish late with several hours in between of not doing much. In reality you'll be working 12 hour days, but (if you're lucky) only be paid for 6 hours. And you won't make rent if you don't.
Keep your head in the books
It's only after you've done and passed the PT exam that the real work begins (for the most part those exams are a joke, so basic). Now you begin to really learn, hopefully. Read and keep up to date with new studies, good blogs and taking courses and continually better yourself. Fitness knowledge is ever evolving and you need to stay current if you want the respect of other trainers who do. Here are just a couple blogs I like to follow.
Be a people person.... and a psychologist
Maybe even more important than knowledge is great people skills and a dash of phycology. The trainer-client relationship is a very close one. Clients often have to share sensitive information about their health and lifestyles, sometimes you have to whip out the calipers and pinch their fat rolls and you will see them at their worst -- red in the face, sweaty and cursing you to high heavens. To maintain your client base and a pleasant experience for you both you'd better be personable, understanding and also be a bit of a psychologist. People will tell you things you are unprepared to deal with and you'll also have to understand why clients don't listen to your advice.
Walk the Talk
Yes, it helps if you stay in decent shape and practice what you preach. You don't have to be ripped (I wrote about that here) but at least be healthy, workout and walk the talk.
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