Hey everyone! Hope you’re having a great night. So I’ve received a crazy amount of emails lately regarding how I became a personal trainer and what someone looking to start a career in personal training would need to do to get started. If I haven’t answered your email (which is basically everyone), it’s not because I’m ignoring you, promise. I was trying to think of a way to get it all out there and figured a post would be best, especially since so many of you are thinking of becoming trainers 😀
So let’s start from the beginning…
Before the pilot and I moved to Valdosta, I had just graduated from the U of A (Wildcats represent! haha), we got married, moved to North Carolina and then had to go to Tucson for a month before moving to Valdosta. It was a whirlwind six months and during that time I secured a final interview for a job in Valdosta, which I was almost positive I was going to get. The position was as a department store area sales manager, which was fine with me because I had worked retail throughout college and high school (in addition to teaching dance and working as a men’s fragrance model) and the pay was ridiculously awesome, especially for such a small town. With our condo full of unpacked boxes, I already had a job offer and I happily accepted.
That’s when my life went on a downward spiral.
I started working at the department store, and even though I was in charge of my departments, I was forced to do all of the grunt work. Moving racks, folding shirts, scanning items, stuff I did not care to be doing. On top of that, I was working 70+ hours each week and would sometimes be at the store from before it opened until after close. Since the managers had to be there at 7am everyday, I got up at 4:30 every morning, went to the gym from 5-6:30 and then went straight to work. Needless to say I was not the happy Gina you know today… I was miserable.
I was exhausted beyond repair, grouchy like the dickens, and dreaded every single day. I started applying for jobs two months after I had started working at the department store because I knew it wasn’t for me.
I stayed at the job for six months before deciding that for my sanity’s sake, I needed to quit. I put in my two weeks notice and instantly felt like a black cloud had been lifted. I felt great because I didn’t have that job anymore…and then it hit: I didn’t have a job anymore. Immediately, I went into panic mode. It’s not like the pilot and I couldn’t have survived without me working, but the thing is I like to work and always feel like I should have a job to do. It’s been ingrained in me since I was young and in both college and high school, I worked two jobs (sometimes three) just because I love to be busy and it gives me a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
I continued to search for jobs and was horribly discouraged when no one would hire me. I had a finance degree and spanish (just wrote "spinach" haha) minor under my belt, graduated cum laude, and felt more than qualified for the occupations I was applying for. The obstacles were that I’m not from Valdosta (obviously) and had no one to recommend me, and the second they found out I was married to a military man (since we would certainly be moving within a couple of years) I was out.
On a whim, I called a personal training studio in the area to see if they were hiring. After talking to the owner over the phone about my fitness background -I had taught dance for 7 years and had a personal trainer of my own on and off for about 3- she invited me in for an interview and I was hired on the spot. I wasn’t certified and needed to obtain certification and personal liability insurance before I could start working.
Many of the "larger" gyms only take certain certifications. Think AFAA, ACE and NASM (there are others but those are the biggun’s). Since I had a pretty decent background in fitness by teaching, doing weights on my own, working with personal trainers (and had lost a lot of weight, which always makes for a good success story for potential clients) the owners said that I could get an online certification because I would be able to start working sooner.
Side note: ‘m going to go ahead and stress that I do NOT recommend online certifications (which is why I’m not going to post the name of the cert I have.. I’d just be bad-mouthing them and that’s not how I roll) -especially if you live in a larger town because most gyms probably won’t even accept them. And I hope you do not think I’m a joker because I got my certification online. 100% of everything I know about personal training is self-taught and I’m a firm believer that having one certification over another does not determine what kind of trainer you are. I know a lot of people who have widely-accepted certifications and don’t know that different between the gastrocnemius and soleus 😉 To be a good trainer, you have to surround yourself with information about fitness and health and dive in- it has nothing to do with the training text book they send you. It is, however, very important to BE certified to be educating others on fitness. I’ve seen too many people irresponsibly dish out incorrect information and really believe that some sort of certification or educational background is critical.
Back to the story….
I finished the online test (sitting in the office at the department store) within an hour, turned it in, got the flawless results back (whoo hoo!), and was a certified personal trainer. I started work at the training studio the week after I finished working at the department store and instantly fell in love.
I continued to train and a month later, got my AFAA group fitness certification to teach aerobics. Teaching aerobics was a natural step for me since I missed teaching and taking dance classes so much. It helped to fill the void and also helped get me through a 6-month deployment. I highly recommend AFAA for the group certification cert as well as the personal training cert. I have both text books and refer to them often– I love the fact that in order to remain a certified member, you have to take fairly frequent workshops and courses to continue education.
Some people have varying opinions of personal trainers and aerobics teachers in general. The stereotypes are well-known, and I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s no joke. Every time I train or teach someone, I’m responsible for keeping them safe during their workout and can have a dramatic positive or negative effect on the future of their fitness. I could scar someone from ever getting on a spin bike again or instill fear of the weight room forever. It’s not a responsibility that I take lightly and I have to be 100% focused every time I put my teaching or training shoes on. One distraction and someone could be injured.
I feel like a totally different person within the two years I dropped the high-paying low-sanity job and embarked on a totally different path. After I train someone or teach I class, I feel so satisfied and it can definitely be a picker-upper to know you’re helping someone to live longer and healthier life. If you are considering becoming a personal trainer, here are the steps I’d take:
- Get CPR certified (you’re going to need it no matter what, so might as well crank it out)
- Call potential gyms to see which certifications they accept and if you’ll need to obtain personal liability insurance
- Do some online research to see if the accepted certification organizations are having cert workshops in your area (just go to the website, type in your zip code, and it will tell you of upcoming certifications and workshops in your area– AFAA, ACE, NASM)
- If you need to obtain personal liability insurance (trainers have to do this, usually group fitness instructors do not) ask the gym which insurance company they recommend and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction
- Start practicing on yourself, or see if a friend wants to work out with you.
I really hope this helps and I’ll be back tomorrow morning with a giveaway, a recipe for raw peach cobbler and the usual shenanigan recap.
Have a wonderful night!