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The fitness industry is booming, and demand has never been higher for personal training services. People are also increasingly looking for something more bespoke and tailored to their individual needs.
We're seeing more and more independent PT studios and "mobile" personal trainers all the time, but still there are people out there crying out for a personal trainer who is the right fit for them.
If becoming a personal trainer is something you're seriously considering, below we have stripped away as much of the complicated detail as possible into exactly what you will need to do to become a personal trainer (and what else you might need to consider after that).
If you find this information useful, subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on social media, or keep an eye on our blog. We maintain close relationships with several personal trainers and PT studios, so we will be looking to add more useful content and guides for aspiring and current personal trainers alike.
So, let's start with the important bit: the things you will definitely need before taking the leap into becoming a personal trainer.
There are two qualifications that you'll need to become a personal trainer. You won't need to meet any GCSE or A-Level requirements, though the two qualifications you need are considered to be equivalent to a GCSE and an A-Level (or BTEC National Diploma) respectively. So, you won't need to be a genius, but it's not going to be a walk in the park either.
There are positions out there you can apply for where you can start with no experience or qualifications and you earn these qualifications as part of the role. Those jobs, understandably, tend to be very competitive and will also tie you to working for the gym/company that funds your training for a minimum time period. This is clearly not ideal if you're planning on starting your own PT studio or working freelance.
Even if you do go that route, there's no way around the fact you'll need to get the below qualifications one way or another.
You will need...
Also known as a level 2 certificate in gym instructing. This one is roughly equivalent to a GCSE and will allow you to work as a gym instructor in a gym, fitness centre, or health club in the UK. This is normally, but not always, a requirement for taking on a Level 3 Qualification (more on that in a second).
This will usually take 1-2 weeks full-time, or 6-8 weeks part time (depending on the course you take).
This is roughly equivalent to an A-Level or BTEC National Diploma. This is a requirement if you want to work as a self-employed personal trainer in the UK, and most gyms will also require this qualification for you to work as a PT for them.
This will usually take 2-4 weeks full-time, or 12-18 weeks part time (depending on the course you take).
A word of warning: there are cheap courses out there that may look the part, but they do not grant industry-recognised qualifications.
You need to make sure that any course you take to become a personal trainer is accredited by the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs), by the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA), or ideally, accredited by both.
It also doesn't hurt to check that the certificate provider itself and the qualification you'll receive are accredited by a body such as OFQUAL (who you may have heard referred to as the "exam watchdog"). Origym is an example of a provider who tick all the boxes listed above, and they help many people to become personal trainers in the UK every year.
While the two things below are not always required for becoming a personal trainer, we believe they are very important. We think you're going to need:
Many commercial gyms require you to be first aid trained to take on a personal trainer role there. But, even if you aren't working for a gym, accidents can happen at any time. Being able to say you are first aid trained will certainly not hurt your chances of impressing potential clients, and will of course mean you have the skills that could be vital in an emergency.
There are two types of insurance you may need when working as a personal trainer (though they will almost certainly be covered for you if you will be working as a PT for a gym). You may need Public Liability Insurance, which covers you against allegations of causing injury or damage to others' property. And you may need Business Equipment Insurance, which will cover damages to any equipment you own.
While neither type is a strict legal requirement, you don't want to become a cautionary tale about the risks of not having insurance! There are loads of insurance providers who offer policies specific to the fitness industry out there; shop around for policies that you think best meet your needs.
While they're certainly not strictly necessary, we believe it will certainly help if you have some (or all) of the key skills listed below.
If you read the below and are thinking "that doesn't sound like me," then you may need to give some serious thought to developing these skills in a different setting first, before pushing on with becoming a personal trainer.
Don't be put off, though! Just like physical training, you can always train yourself to be better in all these areas. If you're really set on becoming a personal trainer, we have no doubt that you'll be just as determined to make sure you have all the skills necessary to do it and be successful.
We think that an aspiring personal trainer should have...
You don't need to be a professional athlete. You don't need to have the perfect physique or the biggest muscles. But you do need to be passionate about fitness. If you're going to make it your profession to motivate people to care about their health and fitness, you're almost certainly going to want to be passionate about it yourself to become a personal trainer.
These two go hand-in-hand. Being organised is essential for managing your clients and holding classes or 1-to-1s. But it's also important to be flexible.
You're unlikely to be able to work a regular 9-5, Monday-Friday as a personal trainer because a good portion of your prospective clients are probably working 9-5 jobs themselves. Staying on top of your schedule while potentially working irregular hours is an everyday reality for personal trainers: that's why flexibility and organisation are so important for an aspiring PT.
This could be an article in itself, but the shortest explanation possible is that it is important that you have some talent for explaining things clearly and in a way that someone who is unlikely to be an expert will understand. You may know all the terms, how to execute workouts perfectly, and why following your instructions is so important, but many of your clients won't!
Plus, you'll want to be able to communicate goals, discuss appointment times, offer solutions, explain your methods, motivate clients, and more. You can certainly work on your communication skills if you think this is an area you are lacking in, but being a confident communicator already will be very useful for becoming a personal trainer.
Clients are going to cancel on you from time to time. They're going to misunderstand your training and instructions. They're going to make progress slower than you'd like. They're going to ignore your advice sometimes. You may lose one or more clients for months due to injury. This can be frustrating.
It's vital that you can take this in your stride, be patient with your clients, and adapt your methods to suit their needs.
Like any industry, trends change, and there's always more to learn. If you stand still, you risk going backwards. There are always helpful additional qualifications out there, for example. You can become certified to advise on nutrition or managing obesity, or even on exercises for people with disabilities, just to name a few. These extra qualifications and skills could really help you to up your game as a personal trainer.
Plus, learning about the latest trends in health and fitness will reassure any clients that you are an expert in the field. You certainly don't want to miss out on any fitness trends from a business perspective, either.
You have fitness sensations like Zumba or CrossFit that seemed to come out of nowhere to take the world by storm. New equipment and ways of measuring fitness progress come to the market every year too. Being on top of fitness trends could see you ahead of the game, instead of missing out on great opportunities.
If you've read the above and it sounds like something you still want to pursue, then go for it!
Do remember that you will need two more final, very important things before beginning your journey to becoming a personal trainer: time and money.
There's no way around it, getting the qualifications and skills you will need are going to cost you time and money. You'll either have to work the training around your current life and schedule, or have savings and a plan in place that will enable you to dedicate 2-4 weeks full time towards gaining the necessary qualifications and skills.
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We'd also love to hear about your experiences if you're in the process of becoming a personal trainer, or are currently working as a personal trainer. Drop us an email or connect with us on social media and let's get talking about your experiences!