Becoming a Personal Trainer For Dummies book cover

Becoming a Personal Trainer For Dummies

By: Melyssa St. Michael and Linda Formichelli Published: 10-01-2004

Love helping other people improve their physical fitness? Become a certified trainer, start your own business, and grow your client base with this user-friendly and practical guide 

Want to turn your passion for fitness into a lucrative career? Each year, more than 5 million Americans use personal trainers to take their workouts to the next level—and this plain-English guide shows you how to get in on the action. Whether you want a part-time job at the gym or a full-time personal training business, you’ll find the practical, proven advice you need in Becoming a Personal Trainer For Dummies.  

If you want to become a certified personal trainer and start your own business—or if you’re a certified trainer looking to grow your existing practice—you’re in the right place. This practical guide has a thorough overview of what it takes to get certified and run a successful business, complete with expert tips that help you: 

  • Find your training niche 
  • Study for and pass certification exams 
  • Attract, keep, and motivate clients 
  • Interview, hire, and manage employees 
  • Update your training skills 
  • Expand your services 
 

A user-friendly guide with unique coverage of personal trainer certification programs, Becoming a Personal Trainer For Dummies includes tips on selecting the right program and meeting the requirements. You’ll learn to develop your training identity as well as practice invaluable skills that will make you a great personal trainer. Inside you’ll discover how to: 

  • Choose the right fitness equipment, for you and your clients 
  • Create a business plan, a record-keeping system, and a marketing campaign 
  • Perform fitness assessments 
  • Develop individualized exercise programs 
  • Advance your clients to the next fitness level 
  • Manage legal issues and tax planning 
  • Train clients with special needs 
 

Complete with ten ideas to expand your services (such as adding workshops or selling equipment or apparel) and a list of professional organizations and resources, Becoming a Personal Trainer For Dummies gives you the tools you need to be the best personal trainer you can be. Grab your own copy to get the most out of this fun, fabulous career. 

Articles From Becoming a Personal Trainer For Dummies

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Becoming a Personal Trainer For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-27-2016

To become a successful personal trainer, you have to master your certification exam, market yourself to potential clients, and know what clients want and need from a personal trainer.

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Being the Best Personal Trainer You Can Be

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Your clients want more than just a good workout. They want a personal trainer who motivates them, cares about them, and sets a good example. When all else is equal, your professionalism, your attitude, and your knowledge of business etiquette are what will put you ahead of the pack. Don't be a know-it-all You're having a conversation with a new acquaintance at a dinner party and he starts talking about the works of Umberto Eco. Instead of saying, "Who in the ever lovin' world is Umberto Eco?" you nod along, pretending that you're deeply familiar with The Name of the Rose and the other works of whatshisname. C'mon, you know you've done this before. We all have. Although you may get away with this tactic at a dinner party, you won't get away with it as a personal trainer. If you give false information because you don't want to look stupid in front of your client, you can do more than get found out — you can injure the client. Be there for your client Being there for your client doesn't mean you have to trail her, handing her warmed towels when she gets out of the shower and feeding her chicken soup when she has a cold. You do have to put your own ego and wants aside and focus completely on the client. Don't ever take your eyes off your client during a session. A trainer who's looking around the room is thinking about himself — how bored he is, what he'll be having for lunch that day, how much he likes that hot trainer across the room — rather than about the client. Your job is to be the most motivating, inspiring trainer you can be, and to set a good example for your client. That requires you to put yourself aside and be there for your client. Stay within the boundaries You have your personal self, and your professional self. Your professional self does not offer relationship advice, does not eat candy bars in front of the client, and does not make comments about the client's home or its contents. Personal training is just that — personal. Your client may come to think of you as her friend. That's a good thing, but it also invites unprofessional behavior. If a client starts, say, complaining that her husband doesn't pay attention to her, you need to draw that boundary line. Say, "I hear you, I understand" — but don't offer advice or tell her what a jerk her husband is. If a client asks you to train her for an extra half-hour free of charge, or to drive 15 miles outside your regular area to train her daughter, tell her you can't do it. If you do, the client may come to expect this from you all the time — and it can hurt your business. Do what you say, say what you do When you tell the client to do something, you should do it. Sounds simple, right? Well, you'd be surprised at how many personal trainers forget this simple concept. The best way to keep your word is to be prepared, to always be on time, and have your bag and files ready ahead of time. To make sure you always have a program ready for the client, have the client's file with you when you need it, and have a place where you can work — a place with a desk, adequate lighting, and all the tools you'll need to stay on top of things. And be sure to have access to all the health information you need so that if you tell a client you'll bring her a recipe or a new exercise or information about heart disease, you can have it ready the next time you see her. Showing clients you care Care is more than just a four-letter word. It also stands for "Clients Are Really Everything." You may know everything there is to know about personal training, but you wouldn't be much of a personal trainer without your clients. Clients can make or break your business. That's why you have to care about them. Here are some tips for showing clients that you care: Return phone calls promptly. Return e-mails promptly. Follow up with your clients to make sure the sessions are working for them. Send your clients thank-you cards for doing business with you. Always be sympathetic to your clients' complaints. Keep individual files on each client so you can track them and create the most personalized programs for them. Always be on time Being late shows a lack of respect for the person who is waiting. Not only that, but if you have a personal training session and you show up late, what are your choices? You can either cheat the client out of a few minutes of training so she can be done at 5 p.m., or you can run late — which is annoying for a busy person (and who isn't busy?). If you're always late, ask yourself why and come up with a solution. Do you get stuck in traffic? If so, find alternate routes or leave earlier. Do you have trouble getting yourself out the door? Have your bag, your client folder, and everything else you need ready by the door early in the day so you can grab it and leave when the time comes. You can even buy a shelf or hook to keep your stuff on — it may motivate you to use it. Dress professionally Here are some dress-for-success tips: We'll say it again — no skintight spandex! Don't wear jeans and a T-shirt, no matter how comfy they are. Make sure your clothes aren't too baggy. If you demonstrate a machine, your clothes may get caught. Women, don't slather on the makeup. (Guys, this goes double for you!) Keep jewelry to a minimum. Long, dangly jewelry can get caught in the machines. The same goes for long, loose hair. If you have long hair, you may want to pull it back. The best uniform may be a collared polo shirt, well-fitting sweatpants, and good-quality exercise shoes. Stay educated Personal trainers need to stay up-to-date in medicine, fitness, business, and even psychology and nutrition. These fields are constantly changing, and researchers are uncovering new information every day. Here are some ways to keep learning: Attend continuing education courses. Talk to other personal trainers. Go to conferences and workshops. Read industry magazines. Read medical journals. Read health, fitness, and business magazines (many are available at the local library). Talk with doctors.

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Buffin' Up Your Body of Knowledge as a Personal Trainer

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

A great way to get real-world experience before you try hanging your personal-trainer shingle is to become an intern or an apprentice. Internships and apprenticeships allow you to discover the technical aspects of the job by working with people who have been there and done it — and who can show you how to do it, too. Interning When you think of interns, you probably imagine someone running around serving coffee to spoiled executives as a low-paid gofer yearning to climb the corporate ladder. But as an intern in the personal training industry, you won't be serving any coffee, kowtowing to any execs, or climbing any ladders. Instead, a personal training internship is a temporary work experience in which you receive training and gain experience in your field. If you have no practical experience under your belt, interning will Give you in-the-field experience that you can't get in a classroom or a book Give you the opportunity to explore and understand the industry before committing to it full-time Let you create relationships with potential employers Help you earn credit toward your certification or degree Help you acquire the skills necessary to perform your job well Teach you valuable new skills with which to build your résumé Establish vital career networks and mentors Enable you to collect references for future employment Many internships provide compensation through minimum wage, stipends, or hourly wages comparable to full-time pay. Others don't pay but do provide perks and invaluable experience. Internships vary in duration. The best place to start is with your local gym. Ask the gym owner or manager if you can shadow one of his trainers or maybe start working the front desk to learn the business. Also, don't hesitate to call other personal training companies to see if they would be open to taking you on as an intern. It's a great way for a personal training company to train you in the way they want things to be done — and it works for you too, because you get to learn the ropes! Apprenticing Apprenticing provides education and on-the-job training. Typically, you work in a structured apprentice program for a company under the watchful eye of one of their veteran staffers. Unlike internships, apprenticeships are always paid positions. The benefits of apprenticing include the following: Paid on-the-job training, under the guidance of a skilled employee Additional instruction, classroom theory, and hands-on training Progressive, increasing wages as your skill level increases If you're just starting out as a personal trainer, you can earn entry-level income as an apprentice and gain the skills you need to become a higher-ranking trainer. Plus, you'll typically get a raise in pay after you've successfully completed the apprenticeship program. The bonus here is that, when you go through an apprenticeship, your employer is able to train you in the way they want you to work, so your chances of being taken on as a full-time trainer at that facility are greater than they are if you were just an intern there. If you're interested in apprenticing but aren't sure where to start, try your local college. Colleges with Exercise Physiology programs typically have a list of companies that offer apprentice programs to their students, because their students have to complete an apprenticeship for their degree requirements. Even though you may not be a student, they can give you a few names and contact numbers of companies you can apply to as an apprentice. If you don't have any colleges or universities in your area, don't hesitate to approach a company yourself and ask if you can work with them as an apprentice — it never hurts to ask! Training to train If you haven't done it yet, you may want to think about coughing up a few pennies to work with a personal trainer yourself. Although you want to be training other people — not be trained yourself — spending time with someone who's been doing it for a while and is successful at it can be worth way more than the money you shell out for the session. Trust us, if you tell your trainer that you're interested in being a personal trainer, too, and you'd like to work with him for a couple of sessions to get a feel for it, he'll be delighted. For the most part, trainers are very supportive of one another — a good personal trainer will want to see you succeed. A bonus to working with another trainer is that, when you do get certified and start training clients, you have a colleague whom you can call when you need help troubleshooting or you just need a quick answer to a question. Taking advantage of other learning opportunities If you belong to a gym, work out with a friend who's slightly less advanced than you are. While you're working out with her, practice your training and spotting techniques. Your partner won't mind — after all, she's going to get stronger as a result of your practice! If you can't find anyone to work out with, try role-playing. (And no, we don't mean meeting your significant other at the local watering hole wearing a wig and dark glasses.) While you're working out, run through a mental dialogue of what you would say to yourself if you were the client. Practice explaining what the exercises do and which muscle groups are involved in the exercise. Just be sure to do this in your head, not out loud. Practicing your dialogue prevents you from being tongue-tied when you're working with a live, flesh-and-blood client. One great way to expand your mind and elevate your glass ceiling is to visit the leaders of your profession — and what better way to do that than to visit a conference? Try attending conferences put on by different certifying bodies or groups such as IDEA or the National Strength and Conditioning Association — click on Meetings. Also check out the seminars by Northeast Seminars, an outfit that gathers some of the top people in the fitness and rehab industries to discuss functional training and rehabilitation. Study or practice one of your training skills every day. Read up on medical literature, listen to a lecture at the hospital on preventing back injuries, practice stretching a friend. However, whatever, and whenever you decide to practice, when the time comes that you actually need that skill or tidbit of knowledge, you'll be glad you did!

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Checking Out Some Important Personal Trainer Equipment

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

You wear many hats in your role as a personal trainer. You're a salesperson, scientist, friend, coach, motivator, teacher, employer, bookkeeper, and business owner, to name just a few. To be successful wearing any of these hats, you need to be equipped properly — and that means you need to have the right tools to use at the right time. Your mindset The equipment available to help you be a successful trainer is limitless: cellphones, computers, software programs, weight-training equipment, cardiovascular equipment. . . . The list goes on. No matter what types of toys you have (or how expensive or cutting edge they are), it won't matter if you don't have the most important one: the right mindset. Important factors for having the right mindset are: Honesty: You need to be honest with yourself about what you realistically can and cannot do; this flows through to your clientele as well. Determination: Not every day is easy; you won't always have a full book, and sometimes those slow days end up being weeks. Pushing ahead and staying on track when the going gets tough takes determination and focus. Willingness: You need to be willing to change if your original course of action isn't producing the results that you want. You also need to be willing to keep an open mind when your client is complaining that she's not happy with your services. Willingness is more about what you should do as opposed to what you want to do — after all, sometimes you'll have to do things that you don't want to do. Your certification Certification is your badge of honor — it tells everyone who works with you, from employers to clients, that not only do you say you know what you're doing, but you can also prove it. Certification assures your client that you're a true fitness professional; you've undergone stringent studies and testing protocols to figure out what to do and what not to do as a personal training professional. It ensures your client that you know what they don't — which is how to help her reach her fitness goals, safely and efficiently. Being certified also gives you the credibility you need for other professionals and clients to take you seriously. Certification helps you to build a solid rapport with the people you will be doing business with, such as: Employers Clients Mentors Media contacts Doctors with whom you have a referral relationship Your business card Here are some tips for making a long-lasting impression with your business card: In the case of a chance meeting, when someone asks you, "What is it that you do?" have a brief summary (called an elevator pitch) prepared that makes you memorable as you hand her your business card. For example, you can say, "I help people look great naked" or "I build muscles." Make sure the information on your card is correct and up to date. If your area has just recently implemented ten-digit dialing, if your area code has changed, or if you've just gotten an e-mail address, make sure you invest in a new set of business cards to reflect your new contact information. The impression you leave with a potential client is the one that will bring her back to you for business. Make sure that your business card reflects everything you want your potential client to remember about you — professionalism, integrity, quality, and trustworthiness. Tape measure The tape measure can be used for many different things. You can record your client's anthropometric measurements (body circumference) with it to show change and make sure she's on track to achieving her personal goals. You can also measure degrees of flexibility as well as how far your client can reach past her toes in the sit-and-reach flexibility test. Other uses for the tape measure are: Measuring vertical jump height Measuring plyometric (explosive) movement distances Measuring length of stride Measuring stance distances Body-weight scale Going hand in hand with recording baseline biometrics (body measurements), a scale is useful and important in determining gross bodyweight. After you've recorded your client's gross body weight, you can assess body-fat percentage, BMI, and one-rep-max percentages to determine how heavy your client needs to be to train for her workouts. Heart-rate monitor Having a heart-rate monitor for your client to use while you train her has multiple benefits: It allows you to see where her heart rate is without stopping her exercise. A heart-rate monitor is a lot more accurate than the palpation method. Your client will get instant feedback from it — it is an invaluable tool when it comes to teaching clients about perceived rate of exertion and working intensity. You can use it to teach your client stress management, breathing, and biofeedback techniques. Jump rope A jump rope is a light, inexpensive, very portable, and excellent tool for challenging your client's cardiovascular system. Anyone at any fitness level can use it — and as exercises go, your client will burn more calories per minute jumping rope than doing any other activity! Skipping rope is a challenging workout that burns about 360 calories per half-hour (by comparison, moderate running or jogging burns about 330 calories per half-hour). Experts suggest rubber, leather, or beaded ropes (ropes with small plastic tubes on a cord). The grip should be foam-based to absorb sweat and give your client a firm grasp. The client should be able to stand on the rope and hold the handles slightly above waist height. Jump ropes generally come in 6- and 9-foot lengths, and many have detachable handles so you can trim the rope yourself.

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How to Ace Your Personal Training Certification Exam

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Being hired as a personal trainer requires a certification if you want to be taken seriously by potential employers and clients. These tips will help you hit the books and prepare for your certification exam: Get ready to study. Make sure you have a quiet place where you can concentrate on the course materials, whether your kitchen or the local library. Turn off the TV, the radio (unless listening to classical music helps get your brain cells moving), and your Internet connection (unless you’re using online course materials). And make sure your study area is equipped with pencils, paper, and a good light source. Find course materials. Each certifying organization offers its own course materials to help you study for the exam. You may receive (or be able to purchase) textbooks, online study guides, sample tests, and access to live seminars and courses. Check out the certifying organizations’ Web sites for information on the course materials that are available. Role-play. If the exam includes a practical portion, you’ll need to get your hands on such equipment as skin-fold calipers and blood-pressure cuffs. Recruit some friends and use them to practice measuring flexibility, measuring body fat, performing submaximal cardio evaluations, and anything else you may have to perform on the test. Use sticky notes. Learning anatomy is an active process — you have to get up and get moving to understand how the body works. Stick labels on your muscles and joints to remember what they’re called and how they move. Draw up flash cards. Make up flash cards with definitions and formulas. You can test yourself whenever you have a free minute — in line at the grocery store, in the dentist’s waiting room, while stuck in traffic — or have a friend flash you (the cards, that is). Get moving. Get off your chair and perform movements to find out which muscles are involved. Which muscles do you use when you kick? How about when you’re doing a bench press?

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How to Be a Successful Personal Trainer

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Building up, and keeping clients, is key to the success of your personal training business. These guidelines will help you establish yourself professionally, and build your client relationships as a personal trainer. Be a professional. Be sure to dress professionally (a polo shirt and clean sweat pants work well), always show up on time, and keep accurate files. Don't be afraid to “fire” a client. If the client has become increasingly noncompliant, if you find yourself ending workouts early; or if the client has started to complain a lot, the best course of action may be to let her go. Tell her that you feel that Trainer X can offer her more than you can. Scope out the competition. Your competitors are the personal trainers and personal training companies in your area that. The best way to “know your foe” is to “shop” them. Call as a prospective client and ask about their services, how much they charge, whether their trainers are certified, hours, whether they travel to the client’s home or office, and so on. Not only will you get the information you need to compete in the marketplace, you may pick up an idea or two for yourself. Provide personal solutions. Your clients don’t all fit into one mold, and your programs and solutions for them shouldn’t, either. Ask questions to find out about the client’s unique situation and tailor your response to fit it. Plan one step at a time. Break down tasks into manageable steps. For example, if your client has never been on a treadmill, don’t just put him on one and hit the On button. Tell him how to get on the treadmill, how to turn it on, how to step onto the tread, how to adjust the intensity, and how to turn it off. Change up the program. We humans get bored doing the same thing every day. Keep your client motivated by occasionally upping the intensity and changing the exercises. Provide positive reinforcement. Encourage and motivate your clients to keep them coming back. Tell your client how her performance compares to her past performance (if it’s better, that is), compliment her, include positive notes about her performance in her workout log, and send her an occasional e-mail or greeting card to let her know you’re proud of her. Respect your clients’ privacy. Don’t tell other clients, trainers, or anyone else about a client’s home, personal life, or training program. Follow up. Following up with clients holds them accountable and gives them little motivational boosts to boot. It’s simple — just check in once or twice (via phone or e-mail) when the client is between sessions. Keep in touch with former clients. Staying in touch with your former clients is a good business practice. If you have clients who have moved on, shoot them an occasional phone call, letter, or e-mail to touch base and make sure they’re on track. You never know — they may decide to come back to you!

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Telephoning Tips for Personal Trainers

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Drumming up business as a personal trainer may start from a simple a phone call. Use these tips to reassure a prospective client of your personal training ability, make them feel comfortable, and answer any questions or concerns they have. Introduce yourself by name and position. “This is Pat Pectoral of Pat’s Perfect Personal Training.” Ask for your prospect’s first name, then use it when addressing her questions. But don’t overdo this, or you’ll sound like a particularly insincere used-car salesman. Ask how you can help her. Then let her talk, and make sure you listen. Ask questions if you’re not clear on the caller's needs. Your job is to find out what the caller is looking for and how you can give it to her. Ask questions to clarify the prospect’s needs. Modify your rate of speech to match your caller’s. This is an old trick that helps the prospect feel comfortable with you. Let her know it’s okay to interrupt you if she doesn’t understand what you’re saying. Talking with a trainer can be intimidating — especially for someone who isn’t a big exerciser! Assure the prospect that she can ask you anything at any time. Keep your answers short and definitive. Getting too wordy can confuse your caller or make her lose interest in you. No matter what your mood, be upbeat and maintain a positive attitude. You want to exude health and confidence. Smile during your conversation. Your caller can hear it! Make sure your voice reflects enthusiasm and cheer. Speak with confidence. As the saying goes, “It’s not what you say but how you say it!” Know what you’re talking about. If you don’t know an answer, admit it — don’t make one up. Make notes to refer back to during the conversation. That way you can go back if you have a question about something the prospect said. If you’re able to schedule an initial consultation with the potential client, reiterate the date, time, and location of your next meeting before closing the conversation. Always thank the prospective client for calling, and wish her a good day/afternoon/evening before saying goodbye.

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