What do I need to be to make a good Personal Trainer?

Superhuman!

Earning money for helping people change their lives and get fit with your knowledge. Sound perfect doesn’t it? But there is more to being a Personal Trainer than just loving to exercise and with the increasingly growing competitiveness of the fitness industry, you need to know you’ve got what it takes to succeed. With so much to consider it can be hard to know where to start, this guide will pull you through the process, giving you the honest truth of what it takes to be a successful Personal Trainer.

Become a personal trainer

What qualification do you need to be a Personal Trainer?

There are 4 qualifications you need to become a Personal Trainer in the UK:

  1. Level 2 Gym Instructor
  2. Level 3 Personal Trainer
  3. First Aid Certificate
  4. Personal Trainer Insurance

In the UK REPS was created to make sure Personal Trainers had all of these qualifications, to ‘beat the cowboys’ or so to speak. REPs stands for The Register of Exercise Professionals and is the most widely used database in the UK, in fact most gyms will require REPs registration as part of your employment. (Visit http://www.exerciseregister.org).

What is a Level 2 Gym Instructor?

A level 2 Gym Instructor is your first step towards a career in fitness. This is the entry level qualifications for REPS and essential for building a career in fitness. Whether you want to become a Personal Trainer, teach classes or just work in the gym, you will need this course as your foundation. The level 2 Gym Instructor qualification includes a basic knowledge in the anatomy and physiology for exercise, health and safety and principles of exercise, fitness and health. Once you have a level 2 qualification, you will be able to apply for jobs within a gym , although you won’t be qualified to train clients 1-1 for PT sessions, you will be able to conduct inductions to the gym.

A typical day in the life of a Gym Instructor:

6 - 7am - Start Morning Shift. As a gym instructor you are usually responsible for opening the gym. This can include doing health and safety checks, equipment checks and fire checks all prior to opening. The earlier you gym opens, the earlier you’ll start, so be ready to be getting up before sunrise.

7-8 am - Cleaning. Most gyms will have cleaners responsible for the changing rooms and floors overnight, but as a gym instructor the machines and free weights are your zone and as people get nice and sweaty at the gym, cleaning machines can be gruesome, you’ve got to love what you do, be warned!

8 - 9 am - Circling the gym. At most gyms I’ve worked at, this is a busy time as parents make their way to the gym after the school drop off. Keeping members happy is part of your job, so be ready to circulate the gym floor, chat to and get to know your members. As a level 2 you have the knowledge to offer general guidance, just not 1-1 PT.

9 - 10 am - Calls. You have to be good on the phone, here you may be calling to book in members for inductions, classes or other sessions. You’ll also be calling new and old members to see how their fitness journey is coming along.

11- 1 pm - Inductions - This is the main part of your job. Introducing new members to the basic gym equipment, so they can use it safely and effectively. It’s important to give this your own spin and be ready to still deliver the induction with flare even after the millionth time, as your enthusiasm could be the difference between a member coming to the gym or giving up.

Depending on your chosen gym, timings and responsibilities will differ slightly but this is a good guideline.

2 - 4pm - Start Evening shift. Scan gym, complete health and safety and fire checks.

4 - 5pm - Calls.

5 - 7pm - Circling the gym.

7 - 8pm - Inductions.

8 - 9pm - Cleaning.

9 - 10pm - Tidying, closing down the gym. It’s your responsibility to make sure the gym is left clean, safe and most importantly, empty! Try not to lock any of your members in the gym, however dedicated they are, they won’t appreciate it.

Once you are a qualified level 2 you can move on to do courses such as Exercise to Music and Group Cycle or Adolescent Training which enable you to teach classes or supervise children.  

Level 3 Personal Trainer Qualification

The Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification takes the knowledge built from Level 2 and delves into the subject further. anatomy and physiology should include a more extensive knowledge in: The heart and circulatory system, musculoskeletal system, postural and core stability, the nervous, endocrine and energy systems and their relation to exercise and health. It will cover health and safety in more detail to account for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. You will be taught how to properly programme for clients, designing, managing and adapting activities. There is a module in the principles of nutrition and some courses offer modules in business management, particularly useful if you are going to be self- employed.

A typical day in the life of a Personal Trainer:

5 - 9am - Your early morning clients. These will be the ones trying to fit their training in before work. Remember it’s your job to be enthusiastic even if you’re struggling to keep your eyes open.

9 - 11am - The Parents. These clients typically want to train as soon as they’ve dropped the kids off at school, so this can be a popular and busy period.

11- 2am - Train. This time of day tends to be quiet for PT. If you’re lucky, it may be busy, but for most trainers, this time is used for their own training.

3 - 5am - Programming.The time between morning and evening is usually spent writing clients programmes, accessing their successes and evaluating their falls to make sure what you’re doing is best for them at all times.

5pm - 10 pm - Evening Clients. The evenings are your busiest time for clients, getting in their training after work. You’re likely to be at the gym until close to fit everyone in if you are successful.

Personal Trainer First Aid Certificate

The course covers emergency life support procedures for adults and young people as well as commonly occurring injuries and illnesses in those undertaking exercise. It is essential to keep your knowledge of this fresh and most gyms will require you to renew the qualification every 6 - 12 months.

Personal Trainer Insurance

Personal Trainer insurance is essential and it isn’t just for your clients. If you get injured and your out of work for some time, a good insurance policy will cover you. Insurance may be expensive, but a client hurting themselves could cost you thousands and essentially, your career. The best, most credible place to get Personal Trainer insurance is through your national certification.

How long does it take to become a Personal Trainer?

The length of time it takes to become a Personal Trainer in the UK greatly varies depending on the provider and type of course you decide to train on. The shortest courses offer to take you from 0 to hero in 6 weeks, whilst longer courses spread the course over anywhere up to two years. If you are already a Level 2, this course length can be shorter than 6 weeks.

6 weeks Intensive: Short courses are very intensive, they require 110% dedication. For the next 6 weeks you're going through what others take years to study. It can be tough and you need to be prepared to give up all other areas of focus during the course. You will need every waking hour to study, develop and learn.

The National Register of Personal Trainers says:

“Taking a full time Personal Trainer course is the fastest way to gain certification as a personal fitness trainer. Most courses will allow a student that has no prior courses to start with the program and complete the full portion of it with a level three certificate.”

Longer courses: Longer courses often spread over the weekends and provide learning at home as well as tutor based sessions. These are better for those who take more time to process knowledge and are working full time, as it allows them the freedom to remain at work during their training.

The National Register of Personal Trainers says:

“Choosing to do a Personal Trainer career by part time study is a popular option for those who are in the midst of changing careers. They may not be ready to jump into studies on a full time basis, but they are able to complete the course work on a part time basis. A student may also be able to pay for the program as they work through various parts of the program. A part time Personal Trainer professional course may be less expensive than taking the course on a full time basis. There are several different institutions available in the UK that offer very flexible programs for students who are learning to be a professional trainer.”

Personal Trainer Cost

A successful Personal Trainer can make an excellent wage and balance a career they love, however you have to be prepared to invest in yourself. The fitness industry is always growing, changing and adapting with society and a Personal Trainer has to do the same.

The initial cost of a Personal Training qualification is often the greatest investment, but then you have to consider REPS membership, PPL music licensing, insurance, equipment, further training and CPD courses.

Personal Trainer Course Costs

Your initial course can cost anywhere from £800 to £3,500 Some gyms may take you on as an apprentice and promise to train you up, but be wary of these, whilst great for building skills, get it in writing that your qualification will be included, or you could end up working for a very low wage without the rewards.

Another point to consider is the quality of your course, the cheapest courses lack depth. If this is a career you really want, invest in yourself and choose a quality course. University fee’s are £9000 per year, so £3000 doesn’t seem so steep in comparison. We recommend speaking to other trainers and looking at the leading providers such as Premier and YMCA.

REPS Membership

A REPS membership is essential for a new PT, seen as a mark of professionalism within the industry. A REPS membership also makes you searchable on their directory and covers your public liability insurance.

Insurance

If you're registered with REPS you will already have public liability insurance, although often you can need more than just this. Insurance covers not only your clients but yourself, if you can’t work due to injury for example. If you are taking clients outside, again you’ll need further protection.

PPL Music License

A PPL license is a legal essential if you are playing music publicly. If you work for a centre, they should pay the license, however if you are working for yourself, the licensing will be your responsibility. Prices start from 23p a day.

Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, if recorded music is 'played in public' (ie, played in any context other than a domestic one) every play of every recording requires the permission of the owner of the copyright in that recording (usually a record company). If PPL did not exist, a business playing recorded music at its premises would be required to contact potentially thousands of record companies to individually obtain their permission before being able to play recorded music lawfully. Being caught playing music without a license can lead to a criminal conviction and hefty fine.

Further Training and CPD Points

CPD stands for Continued Professional Development and refers to the courses and further learning you undergo each year. As a REPS member you are required to gain 24 CPD points a year, through continued development and courses. This might include attending courses such as Fit Pro Live or completing courses in specialised subjects such as circuits, nutrition or kettlebell training. Most courses will earn at least 4 CPD points.

The Pro’s and Con’s of Being a Personal Trainer


Pros

Cons

You’re helping people achieve their goals and doing a job you love. Seeing clients smash their goals and knowing you helped them feels amazing. You wake up and look forward to seeing their faces and thrive off their victories.

Without clients, you have no job. When their income is low, you're the first cut. It can be challenging to keep a steady income, it often climbs and drops. This can prove difficult for those looking to move out and get a mortgage, or if you are responsible for children and need more job security.

Clients become your friends. You see them enough these clients are more than just your wages, you build a relationship and care about them.

Clingy clients. You’re a PT 24/7 and when your clients having midnight cravings, guess who they're going to call? Just be aware that it’s all part and parcel of your job to be available.

You pick your own work schedule, sometimes.

Clients dictate your schedule, despite being self employed, you have to be flexible to your clients schedules. Your last client doesn’t care that you’ve been up since the crack of dawn, you’ve got to stay on top form for long hours.

You’re always active, on you feet and keeping moving.

Unsociable work hours. Early mornings and late nights, plus working weekends.

During busy seasons you'll be working your socks off. Meeting new people and teaching them new skills.

Quiet seasons are bound to happen and can be hard, but you’ll pull through.

You can wear activewear all the time.

You inspire good habits in others.

No two days of work are the same.


Personal Trainer Testimonials

“If you believe you can be a successful PT, you will. I loved my job and I think thats what made it work for me, when your clients can see you love what you’re doing they come back. I would recommend being a PT to anyone who has the confidence to approach a stranger. Creativity and confidence to talk to new people are my top two skills for being a PT,  extensive knowledge should be a given!” Vicky Gardner, Self employed PT and Trainer for Everyone Active, Fitness First and Identity Fitness.

“The reason I became a personal trainer was to help people correct the mistakes I had made previously in the gym when I was younger, show them the best techniques to stimulate their muscles for the best results. I have always loved the feeling you get from playing sport and from training in the gym the buzz it gives you, the satisfaction you get from winning or achieving a new goal I wanted to pass this on so my clients could get the same feeling I get on a daily basis so they enjoy their training.

The best thing to remember is it's all about your client, everything you do as a trainer is for them not yourself so make sure the training you are doing is relevant for their goals.” Ben Freeman, Self employed PT and Trainer for Everyone Active.

Already a Personal Trainer? See our guide to Personal Trainer Marketing.

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