We all have different reasons for becoming certified personal trainers. Some of us have seen great success in achieving our own fitness goals and want to help clients achieve theirs. Some of us just love the feeling of getting in the gym and working out with people eager to improve.
Whether it's weight loss, exercising more effectively, getting consistent about going to the gym, feeling better, or anything of the sort, most of us became fitness trainers and got our certifications to help others. And it's really important to keep this in mind when we run into common challenges in this great profession. Ultimately, it's this focus on helping people that will help you overcome the challenges in your personal and professional lives that will enable you to be the success you've always dreamed of.
It's rarely easy, but few things that are truly life or career-changing ever are. Don't think about this as a list of boxes to check to solve the problems that you face as a personal trainer. Rather, look at this as a well of ideas. Some will be feasible for you, and others won't be. But there's likely something in here that can be adapted to your process, how you train, or how you think about problems to make a real difference.
And it all starts with one core idea: How are you helping people?
This seems to be one of the top issues encountered with a lot of personal trainers who are new in their careers. We hear all the time that being a personal trainer is about your personal brand, that you have to get out there and sell yourself. But in reality, it isn't about selling yourself. It's about helping people.
Many trainers try to simply look at the question of "how many personal training sessions have I filled in my schedule this week?" or "how do I get more clients in my gym?" In reality, they aren't looking beyond the four walls, free weights, and equipment that's surrounding them. And they struggle financially as a result.
But the question really should be broader. Look around at the opportunities around you. How can you help more people?
The more versatile your health and fitness options are, the more people you will be able to help. The fitness industry is becoming more diverse every day — and you have to grow and evolve with it. This means that sometimes, the old ways won't work anymore. Or, at the least, they'll keep you in a dead end.
So, stop thinking about it in terms of money and start thinking of it in terms of helping people. This does not mean that you work for free, but rather, allow people to understand the value you have to offer them.
Here are some practical ways to make a difference and help people that will enable you to make a little more while maximizing your impact on the world.
How scalable is personal training? Well, that depends on how you view it. If you aren't able to fill your entire schedule with one-on-one training sessions, then you have an issue. It doesn't matter how great your fitness program is, it doesn't matter if you're the world's most knowledgeable person on strength and conditioning, and it doesn't matter if your fitness level is on par with a professional athlete.
You have to fill that time. The old way of doing things would have you spending more time at the gym, more time trying to interrupt someone's workout to try and pitch your services by correcting them.
But the trends over the past decade have moved in a decidedly new direction. Group fitness is so in vogue right now, and it's a great way to help others at scale who might not otherwise be able to afford one-on-one personal training. And there are so many variations in fitness classes.
Boot camps, large group exercise classes, small group training focused on a singular goal—all of these are great options that you can offer without the need for a single piece of equipment. A resourceful personal trainer can lead a group through exercises while modifying the training program for each participant so they all can get something out of it.
A fitness challenge among a group of friends or a collection of professionals in an office setting is another great approach for this strategy. You can help them get there, and keep up the motivation by being that source of encouragement and positivity that people need. Again, helping others is the key here.
We're in a crazy new era of fitness. Going online is becoming more of a requirement to make it work. Some online trainers have a lot of success. Others not so much. The question is, how are you leveraging your network? Are you posting your workouts, programming, and the like on Instagram and Facebook? Are you positioning yourself as a well-spring of information, and doing so in a way that makes people feel comfortable with asking you for help?
It isn't enough to simply be willing to help others, they have to be willing to come to you. Online is a great way to position yourself, but you have to make sure that you're reaching the right people as well.
There are great apps and tools for tracking workouts, heart rate, and many other factors while your clients workout. This can be a valuable resource for accountability, and new tools are being developed every day that you can use for more effective online training.
Online fitness isn't the easiest direction to go in, but it is another way to try and grow your offering. And, in the right conditions, it can help you succeed. ISSA has great information on online training, so check it out if it's something you're interested in.
The truth is that most certified trainers aren't within their scope of practice to give counsel on nutrition, meal plans, etc. But, as we all know, nutrition is one of the most important aspects of losing weight. So, what do you do?
Pairing with other professionals is an amazing way to further help others when training clients. Nutrition specialists are in the same boat that you're in—they're looking for more people to help as well! So, you both have a need for the same types of clients without offering competing services. This is a match made in heaven.
But that's not all. You can also try to network with doctors, physical therapists, and other health and wellness professionals. Most people need to exercise more but lack the support system to get an active habit going. That's where you come in. These health professionals only interact with their patients every so often. You can be the in-between solution that helps keep a person accountable. But first, you have to create this relationship.
Effective fitness professionals have a whole host of professionals that operate within their ecosystem. They have a chiropractor for when their clients experience pain, they've got a nutrition professional who can offer meal plans and recommendations, and a whole host of other options.
The question is, how much time have you invested in your professional network? It can be scary, but it's one of the best ways to set yourself up for success in helping people. And the more you help people, the more they're going to want to pay you for your services.
This recommendation is going to address several challenges that personal trainers face. There can be a lot of uncertainty in a changing industry. So just what do you do when you need to break through barriers? When you lose that motivation to get out of bed in the morning, how do you inspire it in others?
Or, what happens when you run into a problem that you're not sure how to solve? With the world the way it is now, there are fewer and fewer "textbook" answers to the issues that fitness professionals face.
Mentors who have gone where we want to go are a great way to expand your horizons and get you out of a jam. Their advice can often turn your assumptions on their heads and make you consider a problem from another angle. They aren't going to feed you magic answers, but rather, the best mentors help you to find your own answers.
Look around in your network. Think about the people who helped you become a personal trainer. Reach out to the people at your gym or in your network who are successful. Just don't do it halfway. When you ask for help or mentorship, you have to be ready to take a solid look at your career and your goals and do the hard work. So many people who seek out mentors are looking for magic bullet solutions. I'm going to save you a lot of time and trouble—if a solution seems like a magic bullet, be very suspicious of it!
Most things that are going to make you successful are going to take hard work and stepping outside of your comfort zones. But if you're ready for that, they can open doors you thought were locked forever, and expand your horizons like never before.
Understand that the more you do to help those around you, the better ecosystem you will develop. This is what your future will be dependent on within your personal training career. No one truly goes it alone. In the beginning, it's all about the goodwill you engender from others.
So make sure your focus is in the right direction. Be personable and get to know the people around you. Learn how to talk to others about what you do, what motivates you, and why they should be a part of it.
Ultimately, whether you want to start your own personal trainer business, or simply be the most effective trainer you can for an employer, these are essential skills that you need to develop. The mentality where you start by assisting other people is what's going to make the real difference between just getting by and rising to the top.
It's going to take hard work, dedication, and humility, but for those willing to put in the time, having a mindset focused on helping others will pay dividends for the rest of your life.
If you would like to know more secrets for growing your personal training business, check out this article from ISSA.
And if you're ready to expand your reach as a well-educated personal trainer, check out ISSA's specialties and enroll in a course today!