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PERSONAL TRAINERS: Want to become a trainer or move to full time?

I’ve talked to a lot of young trainers lately and many have mentioned the same thing. They all have a passion for fitness and sometimes nutrition. They usually are not trainers or full time trainers already. They have a day job, but want to move more into the health and fitness industry. After a short conversation with them, they all have semi-formulated plans for the future, but they are all very long term, involve taking on debt, and most likely won’t happen.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against education or anything as I am the President of a personal trainer association. However, many of these efforts seem a little backwards.

“If I go back to school and get a degree, I’ll make more money.”

“If I get this license to be a dietician, I’ll make more money.”

“Maybe if I have 6 more certifications, I’ll stand out and get more clients.”

Now, not all of this is about making more money. Everybody wants to wait until they are seemingly “qualified” or have this degree, or that certification to start. I’m just not convinced having in some cases, a multiple year plan and taking on thousands of dollars in debt is a good move to get into the fitness industry especially in a down economy with no guarantees that you’ll be successful.

In fact, that’s what’s great about this industry is that you can literally do whatever you want. I’m not against certification, you do need to specialize in your niche, but this might be the opposite of what you want to do to get into the industry. You definitely don’t need 17 certifications. If you want to pursue CEC’s just for the learning experience, then more power to you. I worked my way through school as a personal trainer to obtain my degree in exercise science. During that time, I obtained 3 more certifications while studying for my classes. One of my specialty certifications I studied and worked on the job for 2 years before attempting it because it was so difficult. At least in my head. Truthfully, I could have done it after a couple months. All financed from my CURRENT personal training job at the time. Even smarter was getting my employer to pay for my last specialty certification.

Why wait? The longer you wait, the more money you are paying out for education and not bringing in by actually training. This is called opportunity cost. It cost you because you’re missing the opportunity. Why not hit the ground running? There’s really not a lot standing in your way. There is very little barrier to entry in this industry. The longer you plan to wait and the more debt you pile on, the more unlikely it is that you’ll succeed when you do start if you ever get the nerve to start at all.

The point is that you don’t necessarily need all of that. I would never encourage someone not to go to college, but don’t think that it is a guaranteed route to your success in the fitness industry. It might be a $100,000 liability that you have to overcome as soon as you graduate. You will still need to get a job or start your business. Unless you majored in business, a degree in exercise science, or a personal trainer certification won’t give you any of those skills. You’ll need to get those skills too which may have extra costs associated with them after graduation or certification. That’s one of the major drawbacks to most personal trainer associations; business is an afterthought. All the education in the world won’t help unless you can convert that into paying clients. It won’t just happen automatically especially if you have no clients to start with. It just doesn’t work like that. Just because you build it, does not mean they will come.

Instead, don’t wait, jump in (but have a good plan). Don’t put things off for months or years, take action now. There’s no replacement for experience in the trenches. Use your position as a trainer as the vehicle that will allow you to get a degree or license. Don’t put yourself in debt with the hope that it will automatically translate into a good job or a successful personal training business. You’ve got to make the most of what you’ve got. Get in, learn some things, get some experience and see if it’s something you feel like committing to for the long term before you commit to things like tuition to start your training business.

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