Business | Training Tips

Getting Experience as a Personal Trainer

Getting Experience as a Personal Trainer

Getting experience while you’re still learning is a great way to set a strong foundation for your personal training business. In this article, we’ll share what type of experience future employers are looking for, the best ways to gain personal training experience, and proven methods for finding potential clients once you get hired.

What Kind of Experience Are Employers in the Fitness Industry Looking For?

First, it’s helpful to know what kind of experience is valuable to your future employers so you can look for specific opportunities and track relevant information.

General Knowledge

Employers have a list of general criteria that candidates need to meet, which usually includes having a CPR/AED certification and a personal training certification.

Many employers state that a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field of study is preferable but not required. Typically, only medically-supervised or highly-specialized programs (think rehabilitation or athletic training) will require a Bachelor’s degree.

Demonstrated Skills

Employers want you to demonstrate your program development skills, whether you interview at large gyms or private studios.

You may be asked how you would create a program for a made-up profile that fits the gym’s client base. If you’re interested in working at a specific gym, do your research to find out what types of clients they attract and seek out opportunities to serve that population.

You may be asked to conduct a live training session. During this “mock training session” the interviewer will assess your skills. They will observe the way you engage with them in conversation, how you demonstrate exercises, the cues you give to correct form, and how you carry yourself.

Expect to be asked how you would handle an unhappy client. Every gym has those hard-to-please members and a good personal trainer is highly skilled in client retention techniques.

Sales Experience

As you gain experience in sales it is important to demonstrate persistence and a positive attitude. Most gyms will provide sales training to staff, so it is important that you be eager to learn and demonstrate that you’re working on your sales skills.

(As you gain experience, include it on your resume. Note the dates, location, tasks, and contact information of your supervisors.)

How Do You Get Personal Training Experience Before Completing Your Certificate?

Now that you know the kind of experience employers are looking for, you can go out and seek the right opportunities to learn! But let’s set some expectations right out of the gate—gaining experience is usually a free gig. Don’t expect to earn a whole lot while you get your feet wet, that will come after you’re ready to dive in the deep end.

Volunteer Opportunities for Personal Trainers

An excellent way to get experience as a trainer-in-training is to offer your services at non-profit organizations or events.

Faith-based Organizations

The community church, synagogue, or mosque is a great place to start. If you’re available on a Wednesday night, the youth program would love to have you implement some fun games and exercise to bring the energy level down a little bit! You might also volunteer as an assistant coach for the youth sports program.

Senior fitness classes are usually held mid-morning or early afternoon a few times per week and are another way to develop your skills as a personal trainer.

If you’re a member of a faith-based organization, volunteer to start a program. Whether you’re offering individual sessions or group fitness classes, this will help you develop and demonstrate sales and marketing skills!

Race Events

What better place to learn than at a sports-focused event like a race? Some events have trainers lead a warm-up session to kick-off the event. Not ready for the spotlight? You could man the registration table, a water station, or hand out snacks or medals at the end of the event.

These events pull double duty as networking opportunities. You can meet potential employers, potential clients, or potential fitness business partners here!

Community Health Events

Your community likely hosts several health and wellness events throughout the year where local vendors are invited to sell their products or services and there is entertainment, food, and family fun activities.

You can volunteer to run some of the free activities or seek out volunteer opportunities with vendors. If a local chiropractor is attending, volunteer to attract patrons on which the doctor can conduct posture assessments.

Where to Find Your First Personal Training Clients

If there aren’t many opportunities to get out in your community, take advantage of your social circle. Friends, co-workers, and family members are all potential clients. They know you’re still learning the ropes and will happily volunteer to help you gain experience.

NOTE: Before you earn your personal training certification, choose to work with generally healthy individuals. Don’t risk working with those who have medical conditions or injuries just yet.

Avoid offering personal training sessions for free. People do not value “FREE” and will quickly drop out of the program.

Instead, offer discounted rates or barter. If you need your oil changed and Uncle Eddie needs to lose his “spare tire”, maybe he’s willing to barter for a few personal training sessions. At the very least, in exchange for your time and efforts, require your loved one write a (truthful) testimonial raving about your stellar services.

You’re Hired! How Can You Get More Personal Training Clients?

Congratulations! You are a certified personal trainer and you got the job. Now your new facility expects you to live up to your resume and start bringing new clients through the door. You’re totally ready for this…

In our article, Top Tips For New Personal Trainers, we discuss some ways to stay on top of your game as a new personal trainer. Networking is one.

Networking to Grow Your Personal Training Clientele

Social media is basically online networking and a great way to get the conversation started. Here are a few tips to effectively network using social media:

  1. Follow professionals you want to emulate.
  2. Engage your audience with relevant content.
  3. Share videos to show potential clients what a personal training session with you looks like.
  4. Share before and after photos of client’s reaching their fitness goals.
  5. Support and market your personal training facility by liking and sharing their content.

Create a Referral Program

If you help clients achieve their fitness goals, they will naturally share their experience. But don’t wait until they start dropping dress sizes to ask for a referral, let them know from the start that referrals are your favorite kind of compliment.

Take advantage of a new client’s excitement, ask them to recruit some accountability partners. If they can bring a few friends on board, offer to reduce their cost of training or to host private group training sessions.

ISSA Student Job Resources

As a student at the ISSA, you gain access to our Job Resources, including opportunities offered exclusively to ISSA certified personal trainers, a host of valuable job search websites, and resources for starting your business.

Gaining experience as a new trainer can seem challenging at first, but once you realize how many opportunities exist, it’s easy to start adding to your resume.

Check out all the certification courses the ISSA has to offer, from the Personal Trainer certification to Group Fitness and Master Trainer certifications, build yourself a successful new career.