Whether you are a fitness superstar who treats your body like a temple, an elderly individual who is looking to remain active, or just someone who wants to get in better shape, a personal trainer can make a huge difference. The past couple decades have brought a new awareness of how exercise and diet impact lifespan and quality of life. There has never been a better time to get fit in Britain, making personal trainers more in demand than ever.
But what is being a personal trainer really like? What kind of credentials do you need, and how much can you expect to earn?
Different Types of Personal Trainers
There are two basic career paths from which personal trainers can choose.
You might decide to go alone and work as a freelance trainer. With freelance work on the rise, this is an increasingly popular option. There is far less that you have to do in the way of credentialing. Clients will certainly find any health credentials you possess attractive and thus make them more likely to sign on with you. However, freelance personal trainer work is far less regulated.
What’s more, it also allows you to be your own boss and maintain your own schedule.
That said, freelance work is notoriously volatile. One week, business may be booming; another, it may be barren. Clients come and go so sometimes you can feel overwhelmed with too much work. At other stages you can be starved for work. Freelancing also means that without proper credentialing, you cannot cross over into accredited positions.
This second option, and the one on which we focus more heavily, is for credentialed trainers. You will need to obtain a Level 2 or 3 qualification for personal training from an accredited organisation. Simply going online and doing a digital class with a random uncredentialed website will not be sufficient. You can check the Register of Exercise Professionals or similar organisations to see if the institution you are considering is accredited.
Some personal trainers work with the elderly. People today live longer than ever before. This means more senior citizens need personal training and fitness assistance to help them stay in shape. Working in this capacity often means getting a credential to work with the elderly. There are several CPD programmes that offer this. An employer looking to hire you in this capacity can often recommend one that best suits their particular needs.
The same holds true for personal trainers who intend to work with those with physical or mental difficulties. This kind of work can be especially rewarding as it gives you a chance to make a real difference in the lives of those who can most benefit from your expertise.
That said, as you might imagine, these kinds of positions often require extra certification. For example, if you are looking to be a personal trainer for children with disabilities or special needs. If you plan on working with them in a school setting, you will likely need to acquire an SEN certificate.
Other Employment Options
There are a litany of other employment options available to you as well, including:
- Health clubs and leisure centres
- Resorts and spas
- Cruise lines
- The armed forces
- Health-related charities
Finally, you may consider using a personal training background as a springboard to other careers in the future. For example, you could decide to go on to work as a physiotherapist or sports therapist. You may decide to go into management and open your own exercise clinic.
Personal fitness careers, the same as personal fitness regimens, are extremely open-ended and tailored towards your personal goals.
Great Motivators and Personalised Care
Physical trainers specialise in getting the most out of their clients. Personal fitness isn’t about being as strong as a world-class bodybuilder or being as fast as Usain Bolt but about maintaining healthy lifestyles and achieving personal improvement.
The best personal trainers understand this and work to keep people motivated, which means winning their trust. Maintaining a fitness regimen can be exhausting, with many days where progress seems difficult and slow in coming. Personal trainers help motivate their clients to push through those difficulties.
For many, this is just as rewarding as the actual fitness part of personal trainer work. There is something truly satisfying about helping people meet their goals and make improvements. Personal trainers work closely with clients, often on a weekly or even day-to-day basis. That means forging a strong bond with clients, inspiring them to succeed.
In order to help clients achieve that success and new personal bests, personal trainers design personal exercise and diet programmes. This is why obtaining health and fitness credentials is so important. Different exercises and foods have a massively diverse impact on people’s personal fitness. To know which exercises and nutritional programmes can best help clients achieve their goals, an in-depth understanding of the science behind fitness and nutrition is essential.
Necessary Credentials For a Trainer
Clients expect their personal trainers to have a significant amount of insight into the human body in general and fitness in particular. That means having credentials related to health and fitness.
Some of the personal trainer qualifications that you may want to acquire include:
- Diploma in Personal Training
- Certificate in Fitness Instructing for Gyms
- Diploma in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training
- Diploma in Health, Fitness, and Exercise Instruction
You can obtain these degrees through studies at your university, an apprenticeship, or training with an accredited provider. Furthermore, while not obligatory, it may be preferable to have a first-aid degree as well as some training in and understanding of health, nutrition, and sports science.
Job Expectations For a Trainer
One thing to note about personal training jobs is that, whether they are more freelance or structured in nature, they rarely take on a routine 9-to-5 timetable. Providing personal fitness assistance means working around your clients’ schedules. Moreover, if you have multiple clients – say, a school or clinic as well as private clients – you will need to be careful that you don’t double book dates and times.
In addition, you will want to keep up with developments in the industry. New exercise routines, technology, nutritional trends – knowledge of all these things can help you improve clients’ fitness and make you a more attractive candidate. If you work as a freelance trainer, you will also be expected to purchase public liability insurance.
Marketing Yourself as a Trainer
If you are going to aim for private clients, you’ll need to be a self-starter and able to promote yourself. This means creating a website and social media page and filling both with quality content. Doing this can include everything from recording YouTube videos demonstrating fitness techniques and diet trends to writing blog entries to posting this content on social media and so much more.
This is also where some of those credentials can come in handy. Those looking online for services know that there are many options out there, not all of them legitimate. Having credentials that you can display prominently on your website can help your cause greatly.
While the freelance or self-employed side of being a personal trainer can leave you with lots of personal freedom, it’s also one of the trickiest when tracking personal trainer pay progression. Unlike more government-mandated such as nursing, engineering, and teaching in public schools, there is less of a clearly delineated pay progression pathway for personal trainers.
Instead, for many personal trainers, the path forward is more entrepreneurial. As with any such free-market enterprise, some make a lot, others not so much. Much depends on how much you charge, how many clients you have, and how the market is.
That said, if you do choose a more “structured” setting, such as being a physical fitness personal trainer for a medical facility, gym, or similar environment, you can expect a salary somewhere between £14,000 and £30,000. This is obviously a huge range and there are a lot of factors that contribute to that variation. You thus want to take the time to check each job opportunity and weigh it individually. Jobs that are remarkably similar can have different salaries depending on the location, the nature and income level of the clients, and other factors.
Investing in a CPD course can have a huge impact on the salary you take home as well. This is another example of how added skills and certificates can help you. A CPD represents both. What’s more, these courses can help you specialise in particular areas, which would be ideal if you are looking to work in a more niche field.
Above all, personal training jobs are about freedom and fitness. As a personal trainer, you enjoy a level of professional freedom that isn’t found in many other jobs. You help others maximise their fitness potential and make a real difference in their lives. Personal fitness means achieving one’s personal best and you can do that for others and yourself as a private or specialised personal trainer in the UK.
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