by Tyler Valencia, MS, PFT, PES
The feeling of passing your personal training certification is amazing. You made the investment to purchase an education package and now have a certification that allows you to get a job that will allow you to take on the world of personal training. Skip forward six-months and you’ve been working at a gym and now realize things aren’t quite as easy as the advertisement that hooked you into becoming a personal trainer. There are some common realities of working as a personal trainer whether you’re inside a gym or starting your own business. In this blog post, I will outline five aspects a personal trainer doesn’t realize before starting on their first day. Of course there are exceptions to this article and it helps when a gym has a great onboarding process that helps educate entry level trainers on how to be a successful trainer inside their gym. This process is also dependent on the fitness manager of the club, but sometimes he/she is busy with the other aspects of running a personal training department (sales, managing leads, budget, etc), so taking a proactive approach will help you and your success.
- Personal Training is 70% Personality 30% Education
Don’t get me wrong, education is important (the initials after my name are not just there for show). A part of personal training is being able to connect with clients and also communicate a plan. When training via a complimentary new member session, your ability to pitch an exercise plan to the new member while also connecting with them is key to getting them to purchase personal training sessions. I’ve seen highly educated trainers with low interpersonal skills strike out at the sales pitch because they couldn’t show value in their services. On the other end, there are many trainers who are very personable and have one personal training certification, and can effectively make new members very comfortable during the purchasing process.
New members walking into a gym do not know what the difference between ACSM or NCCPT. Or even what KIPS stands for. Instead what they can do and will do is base their evaluation of your skills and education on their hour long training session and how you spend that time with them. If during your session you can show exercises they can do on a regular basis or show a great modification that helps them perform an exercise they never thought possible, not only are you building trust but showing that you know what you are talking about.
- Your Schedule is Not 9-5
A part of being a new trainer at a gym is doing floor shifts and being “available” at peak times. That means being able to train the morning crowd before work and then coming back to train the after work crowd. While there is time between peak gym sessions, growing your business in the middle of the day is one of the hardest achievements and the clientele that come at those times are the most desired by everyone on staff. Who is it that typically goes to the gym in the middle of the day? Stay-at-home moms and retired individuals. While this article is not about attracting middle of the day clients, keep in-mind that it is possible.
Another part of not having a 9-5 is that vacation time or time-off is often unpaid. While I have worked at gyms that do have paid time off as part of their benefits packages, it is often calculated based off sessions rendered during a certain time-period and can be lost during slow gym months.
- You Start by Giving Away a Lot of Free Sessions/Time
Whether you’re working at a corporate gym or starting your own business, giving away discounted or complimentary sessions are typically the norm with beginner personal trainers. Complimentary sessions give new members a chance to learn new exercises in the gym and also gives the trainer an opportunity to showcase their talents. Another aspect that isn’t as apparent as the previous two is the valuable practice being done. Personal training is just like exercise or any type of practice, you need more reps to get better. Being in-front of different types of populations and personalities provides valuable learning opportunities on how you should approach each session and how to deal with the intricacies of selling personal training.
- Finding Your Selling Style Takes Repetition
As mentioned previously, personal training takes practice and more importantly selling personal training takes practice. There are different ways to approach each sale, whether you’re the hard sell closer, educator or a combination of both (more information can be found inside Business & Sales: The Guide to Success as A Personal Trainer). What’s important is that you find the approach that works for you. I have personally known successful trainers who were all three of the previously mentioned sales personalities. Each personality has its benefits, but making sure you’re comfortable with your approach makes the process smoother. If you’re not a hard seller and have trouble asking someone if they want to purchase training, there are other approaches that you can master. A valuable tip I was given as a young trainer was to just put the obvious out in the open. When starting a complimentary session state that there will be an option to purchase personal training and at the end you can take the new member through your sales pitch. This tactic helps you and the new member avoid any awkward moment and focus on getting to know each other.
- A Certification Gets You in the Door
A very common social media post I see is “I just got certified as a personal trainer, who wants to train?!?”. While it’s a great accomplishment to have successfully passed a personal trainer exam, that gets you in the door at the gym. To grow your business and your monthly paycheck, a combination of experience and education will help you take those next steps. I know in the first point I said education is 30% of training, but growing your education base not only helps you train different types of populations but also helps you typically move up a pay scale (please note that not all gyms have a pay scale depending on experience and education). Within my first year as a personal trainer I decided to take the TRX Suspension Training Certification and got into reading a variety of exercise blogs. This helped me attract individuals interested in this new fad (at the time it was a growing fad) and it also came with a small pay increase.
I hope that the five realities I mentioned did not scare off any entry level trainers, because being a personal trainer has a lot of benefits. For me, being a personal trainer while I was completing my undergraduate education allowed me to work when I wasn’t studying and still make a decent pay check. Entry level trainers can make between $15-30 starting out, which could allow you to manage your bills and work more or less if needed. Another benefit that is often under valued is the free membership. While in the grand scheme it might be small, I know that some of the gyms I have worked at have had a $120+ per month membership! For many trainers, exercise is part of our lives and this monthly cost can be a savings that can be used during the initial months of starting at a new gym.
Along with the benefits I just mentioned, one of the greatest rewards is helping someone achieve a healthier lifestyle. Especially right now when our bodies are being destroyed by sitting and exercise seems like a daunting task, educating individuals on ideas to become more active is what makes the strange hours all worth it. Helping someone achieve a life long goal is something that you will keep forever and be able to recall that moment at the drop of a dime. I’ve had the privilege of helping men get stronger to meet strength goals, and also women reach a weight goal to help during their pregnancy term. Being a personal trainer has it’s struggles, but with each session you can learn something new and eventually turn personal training into a career that has great earning potential.
Tyler Valencia is the President of KIPS. While working for a Southern California online education company he started his first business, Time 2 Train Fitness which specialized in bootcamp and personal training. Time 2 Train Fitness went on to receive the distinction of 3X Best Bootcamp and 2X Best Personal Trainer with the Long Beach Press Telegram. Before founding KIPS, Tyler was the Vice President of the National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT) & Smart Fitness.