Certified personal trainers have a wealth of career options available to them.
Jim Fish is certified by the National Federation of Professional Trainers and primarily works with clients at Power Shop Fitness in downtown Plant City, which he also helps manage. For him, personal training is a dream job — he gets to stay physically active and help others meet their goals, whether they’re training for athletic events or just want a “beach body.”
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What made you want to become a personal trainer?
It was a way for me to continue my career in bodybuilding, a way for me to stay competitive, stay in good shape. That’s what led me into it. Turns out, it’s a great career. You have to do what you love in life and I’m doing my passion, so it never feels like work to me.
How do you get started?
There are a lot of personal training certifications out there. You research, look at who you want to get approved through. There’s online courses that you can take. It doesn’t happen overnight. Those top ones are gonna require a lot more work. There’s a lot of physiology involved. You want to be educated in nutrition because nutrition is a huge part of your training. It’s not just lifting — there’s a lot of different things to learn within it. For somebody getting started, they have to realize you really have to have a passion for it. I recommend to anybody, if they’re gonna do it, they should be training also. You can’t just learn this out of a book…you have to have practical experience. You’ve got to do it yourself and live it yourself. If you have a passion for that, people sense that. If you really know what you’re doing, people sense that.
How long can it take to get certified?
For mine, for instance, you can do it online, there’s no real time limit on it. If you’re good, you really know all your stuff and you can go through the material, you can probably get your certification in six months. Even after the tests online, you then have to go to a national testing center just like you would for a nursing degree or your broker’s degree, sit down and take an actual test. There are personal training certifications that will let you do all your tests online, but they’re not all accredited. That’s the difference. It’s the easy way out. I really, highly recommend anyone goes with an accredited personal training group. If you’re gonna do this and you’re really passionate about this, why not do this right and get the right things? With somebody who’s accredited and has good experience, that does allow your career path to go in a number of different ways.
What are some of the differences between these organizations?
A lot of people want to look at what’s the easiest way to get it. That’s human nature. I would suggest that you look at the different ones. I’m with the NFPT. I did a lot of research before I chose who I was gonna go to. Number one, you want to go with an accredited personal training place. If it’s not accredited, I’m gonna say don’t waste your time. Look at other trainers that are really successful and look at what certifications they have. Also, I recommend to somebody who’s really thinking about doing it to go find some experienced trainers, good trainers, and talk to them. See who they’re certified through. See what they do.
What are some of the costs associated with personal training?
For mine, I have to get CECs every year. I have to re-apply and pay for my license every year. You have to have insurance. As an independent trainer, if you don’t have the finances behind you, it can be kind of tough.
What kind of earnings potential do you have as a trainer?
You can make really good money as a trainer. This is a growing field. You can go travel anywhere if you’re good and get hired. But to break into it, don’t expect to make much money in the beginning. It’s not gonna happen. You could do it on your own, which pretty much is what I do as a self-employed trainer. A lot of people starting out — and this is not bad — get with a corporation-type club where they have club trainers. If you’re brand new, an inexperienced trainer, that gives you some discipline into the training. It brings to you ready-made clients, too. You don’t have to go out and pursue your own clients. More likely than not, you’re gonna get a base hourly income. The downside to a lot of those places is you can’t really lay out your own routines, be yourself. You’re going to be limited to a split because the club’s going to take a big portion of your training money. But it’s a great starting point to get you going, get you immersed in the field, see that you really like it and you get more well-known, if your ambition is to go out on your own. There’s some trainers that stay as club trainers and end up making really good money. It depends on the type of club you’re with. If you do it with a passion and a love, the money comes.
As an independent trainer, recruiting is one of the most important parts of your job. What’s the best way for someone on their own to build their client base?
Word of mouth and people seeing you. If you’re passionate, you care, your client is inevitably gonna talk to other people. Also, other people around when they see you training, they’re apt to it. That’s how I get a lot of my clients. They’ll say, ‘Hey, Steve or Jeff or Sue told me about you, they said you do this and that.’ If you want to be a good trainer, people need to look at you and say, ‘Oh yeah, that guy or that girl knows what they’re doing. They’re obviously following what they’re teaching.’ Not every trainer has to be a competitive bodybuilder or some high-level athlete, but be in shape. Have a passion for it.
When you sit down with a new client, how do you start planning for them?
I always offer everybody a free consultation. I’ll sit down with them, give them a free body fat assessment with calipers. I’ll really go in-depth about what their goals are and I also let them know, if they’re gonna go on with me, they’d better truly want it. I am not an easy trainer. I don’t want somebody signing up with me and, all of a sudden, they find out three sessions into it they don’t like this. I go really in-depth with them on what to expect. Any of your clients’ goals, you should far exceed that for them. I really want to know what they want and what they’re looking at. If they’re looking at, if their big goal in life is a seven out of 10 for what they want to do, I’m gonna give them the 10.
How often do you recommend supplements or training equipment for clients, if at all?
I get that question all the time, probably on a daily basis. My biggest thing that I tell people is, I’m a firm believer in a protein supplementation. I don’t care what you eat and how good you eat, you really don’t get enough protein in your diet without supplementing it with, say, a protein powder. The only other thing I recommend is branch chain amino acids. They are essential in your training. You can’t get branch chain amino acids from anything you eat, they’re not naturally produced in your body and the effects of them are monumental. All the other stuff, you’re starting to toss money out the window and I don’t want to see anyone do that. For the average person, they don’t even train hard enough to really warrant getting all that other stuff for the effects of it. There’s so much out there that’s not regulated by the FDA or anything, so they can come out and say lots of different things, promise you lots of different things.
Every client you’ll get has different goals. Lose weight, gain muscle, boost cardio, whatever. What’s the most common goal people come to you with?
The number one thing is people want to lose weight. They want to lose weight and they want to get toned up, which is great. Besides getting toned up and losing weight, they want to know how to eat properly. There’s certifications in nutrition and I’m not a certified nutritionist, but from all my bodybuilding experience and everything I have a really strong background in how to eat properly. I can lay out the basics. A lot of men and women say, ‘I want to look like so-and-so, like this.’ You don’t. You can never compare yourself to anybody. Everybody is an individual. We’re gonna make you look the best you can look. That’s what we’re looking at. The biggest mistake people make is comparing themselves to other people. Be consistent and eat good. If you do those two things, you will make progress. I guarantee it.