According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “[f]itness workers held about 236,000 jobs in 2006.” However, this figure is expected to grow substantially in the next few decades, as Americans become more health conscious due, in part, to these disturbing statistics:
- 58 million Americans are overweight (Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control)
- The majority of Americans (78 percent) are not meeting the minimum activity levels required to maintain the health of the major organs, much less that required for optimum health.
- We are in the midst of the greatest obesity epidemic to afflict the modern world. Obesity is a proven contributor to such diseases as:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Certain types of cancer
…and the list continues. Indeed, the aforementioned summary lists diseases that are, in part, caused by inactivity, and the number of Americans succuming to one or more of these conditions continues to increase at an alarming rate. It should come as no surprise, then, that the BLS predicts that the fitness field will grow faster than average in the next decade to cater to alarmed individuals who face frightening statistics after a routine physician’s visit.
The growth of this industry means that health and fitness providers will require an increasing number of qualified individuals to staff their fitness centers. Of course, not everyone has the unique combination of qualities and skills required to be a successful personal trainer.
What IS a Personal Trainer?
Quite simply, personal trainers are trained individuals who work with clients to help them to achieve their fitness goals. Some work one-on-one with clients, others teach group exercise classses. They may, for instance, lead such specialty classes as yoga, pilates, and tae bo.
Although a college degree is not required to become a personal trainer, a growing number of employers are requiring that their trainers have bachelor’s degrees in physical education, sports physiology or other health/fitness related area.
Some of the tasks of a personal trainer include:
- Assessing client’s fitness levels
- Demonstrating and monitoring for perfect form in exercises
- Working with a client to address nutritional needs
- Designing routines specific for the individual client, given age, weight, goals, physiological conditions
- Observing clients for signs of overtraining, eating disorders, or psychological imbalances which may require referral to licensed practitioners
Moreover, personal trainers are not restricted to work in fitness facilities. Rather, personal trainers increasingly work in hospitals, universities, country clubs, health clubs, cruise ships, vacation retreats…and even travel to clients’ homes or workplaces. Today, and in the future, personal trainers can pick from a wealth of fulfilling career possibilities-if one has the attributes needed to become a personal trainer.
Characteristics of a Personal Trainer
Since the majority of a personal trainer’s “work time” is spent working with other people, they must be outgoing, kind, and patient-with a genuine desire to help others to achieve their fitness goals. Moreover, they must have a knack for motivating and encouraging clients; not all techniques work with all clients. Other qualities of a good personal trainer include:
· Being a good listener so as to judge what the client really needs versus what they may indicate they desire
· Analytical skills
· Organizational skills
· Strong communication skills
· Interest in physical fitness that manifests in ongoing education which is then incorporated into routines for clients, as well as explained to clients to enhance their awareness of the latest medical or scientific studies
Certification as a fitness professional is considered mandatory today, as most fitness centers will not hire an individual without such credentials. Certification attests that the applicant for a job as a personal trainer has an understanding of the biomechanics of the body, knowledge of perfect form/techniques for various exercises, how to tailor routines to specific clients, and most importantly how to avoid injuring clients.
There are literally hundreds of organizations that certify fitness professionals. Finding the right one requires diligent investigation combined with (perhaps) a few of these suggestions:
· Ensure that the certification organization is well known and generally accepted by most fitness facilities.
· Check to see whether the certifying organization has been accredited by a major agency, such as the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Accreditation by such an agency verifies that the organization’s certifying procedures satisfy industry standards.
· Determine your eligibility for the examination. (There are no educational requirements for taking the exam, but most certification organizations require that one be at least 18 years old and a high school graduate in order to take the exam. Some also require current CPR certification).
· Choose a specialty fitness area and find out if the organization offers certification in this specialty area. (Although one need not specialize to become a personal trainer, such specialization could well increase employment opportunities, such as a specialization in working with the elderly or those suffering from certain underlying diseases.)
Certification entails partaking in a course of study involving recommended exercises, issues to be aware of, a study of anatomy and physiology, and certain business aspects to personal training. There is also a practical component in which participants are required to practice on one another to ensure that their communication skills and knowledge of exercise routines are well-grounded. The student then must pass a comprehensive written and practical examination.
Once the individual has passed the examination, the certification will be valid for two years. This credential is then renewed by through a specified number of continuing education courses, including attending classes, lectures, and training seminars, both in-person and online.
Finding a Job
Generally, one obtains a job in the fitness field by reading the classifieds, registering at employment agencies, applying at facilities, and networking with other fitness professionals…much the same as one would find any career position. Certain certification bodies assist by providing leads or forums in which to assist graduates of their programs.
If the forecast by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is correct-that the fitness field will grow by 27 percent in the next decade-it should be relatively easy for a qualified individual to find a position in this exciting and rapidly expanding field.