You see them at the gym correcting someone’s technique or encouraging people to keep going through a tough workout. Personal trainers are pretty much there to help whenever you need them.
Now, maybe you’re sitting there wondering about the profession as a whole. When did we start hiring fitness trainers? What is it like to walk a day in a trainer’s shoes?
I’ve put together a list of 23 interesting facts about personal fitness trainers that you probably didn’t know, from a quick history overview to the common personality traits among these fitness professionals!
Don’t be fooled into believing we’re the only generation to focus on fitness. Sure, now we have better equipment and reliable science to guide our training sessions, but it’s not a novel idea at all.
You can trace physical training back 4,500 years. You’ll see people training in ancient Egyptian chapels and the concept is also reflected in Homeric poems.
However, personal fitness trainers (certified professionals) as we know them today popped onto the scene in the 20th century, with the rise of the ‘Physical Culture.’ For instance, the National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT) didn’t start certifying personal trainers until 1988.
Of course, one of the pioneers that helped pave the way for many trainers to come is the one and only Jack LaLanne.
Many gym-goers prefer hitting the gym after they leave work, which is usually a 9–5 job. Meanwhile, others like to start their sessions in the early morning. That means that, more often than not, personal trainers don’t have the luxury of following a conventional schedule.
Their work hours (around 25–30 hours per week) are usually split throughout the day to accommodate as many clients as possible. Plus, it’s not uncommon for a trainer to work nights, weekends, and some holidays.
Of course, personal trainers might have to turn some clients away to avoid spreading themselves too thin. On average, a trainer sees 10–25 clients per week, but it depends on the location and how each gym is set up. Sometimes there are multiple trainers who share clients in a gym as opposed to each trainer working independent.
Although many personal fitness trainers work fewer hours than the normal 40-hour work week, they could still get burnout.
Recent research published by The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that 29.6% and 17.4% of personal trainers reported feeling burnout due to work-related and client-related issues, respectively.
In case you were wondering, the burnout rates among strength and conditioning coaches in the same research were 27.7% and 18.4%. So, both roles seem to suffer from nearly the same stress levels.
If we’re guessing why those burnouts happen in the first place, my money would be on unconventional work schedules and difficult clients. Plus, it’s not always easy to take days off when there aren’t enough trainers in the facility to cover the scheduled appointments as-is.
That’s why it is important to work with other trainers and not try to be a one-man show.
4. It Doesn’t Take Long to Become a Certified Personal Trainer
People don’t need a specific degree to become a personal trainer. So, you can jump into the field regardless of where you are education-wise—yes, it’s also possible to land a training job with a high school diploma.
However, you’ll probably want to get certified. Doing so will help boost your odds of getting insured. It’ll also help you land more jobs.
There are different options out there, but some of the most common ones are:
The exact duration depends on the certifying organization and how fast you can go through the curriculum. For instance, you can get a NASM-CPT in as little as 15 weeks, but you might be able to push the test date for around 6 months.
ACE-certified trainers probably had to study for 3–6 months before finishing the program. Meanwhile, something like ISSA’s Fast Track program could be over in 4 weeks.
Okay, so certification is king when it comes to the personal fitness training field. Still, there are a few degrees that can come in handy.
For instance, one study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research indicates that a bachelor’s degree in science can lay a solid foundation for trainers. This is particularly true if the degree covers courses like:
- Biochemistry (tough but vital for understanding hydration and nutrition!)
- Exercise science/kinesiology
Then, the trainer can build on these college-level courses with certifications and hands-on experience. It goes without saying that the main downside that keeps personal trainers from seeking a bachelor’s degree is how long it takes vs. the popular certification options out there.
Suppose a trainer gets certified and then starts working in a gym. He’d still need a healthy dose of continuing education, even if the clients aren’t complaining.
Why? Well, fitness and nutrition aren’t stagnant fields. There’s always a new exercise to try or discoveries in nutrition and weight management to catch up with.
Reading journals, magazines, or newsletters is one way to do that. So, it’s not uncommon for a trainer to pick up ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal or NSCA’s Personal Training Quarterly.
That said, networking is also vital for keeping up with current trends. Then, if a trainer is willing to put in even more time and effort, he could sign up for new certifications or courses to bolster his qualifications.
Even if there’s nothing new to learn about a certain topic, it doesn’t hurt to freshen up the information! Any reputable certification also requires trainers to take Continuing Education Courses.
Sure, commercial health clubs and gyms are the go-to places if you’re looking to find a personal fitness trainer. However, that doesn’t mean these two are the only employment options for someone in the field.
For instance, personal trainers could find jobs in places like:
- Educational institutes (schools, universities, etc.)
- Yoga studios
- Cruise ships
- Recreation/community centers
- Boot camps
- Corporates (yes, some companies treat their employees to on-site fitness centers!)
- Senior living facilities
Most trainers pick a specialty/niche and stick to it, though. This can help them push their career path faster. Others might want to try a little of everything to keep their clientele base diverse and learn more along the way.
Sure, designing workout plans is the key aspect of a personal fitness trainer’s job, but that’s not all there is to the position.
Depending on where the trainer works and whether he runs his own business or not, there will be an additional list of tasks to tackle regularly.
Conducting fitness assessments, managing payments, organizing paperwork, answering inquiries, promotion on social media, and promoting the facility’s services are all part of the job. Plus, those appointments won’t set themselves!
Photography skills won’t hurt, either.
9. Personal Trainers Face Quite a Bit of Liability
No matter how skilled a trainer is, accidents can always happen on the job. So, yes, a personal fitness trainer (or the health club that employs him) could be sued for a whole lot of reasons.
According to a legal analysis in ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, the top three liabilities behind negligence lawsuits in the field are:
- Pushing the workout intensity to the point that puts the client’s health at risk
- Going beyond the legal scope (diagnosing conditions, prescribing treatments, etc.)
- Inadequate client supervision during training sessions
That’s actually why some personal fitness trainers opt to set up LLCs. It’s an attempt at protecting their personal assets against potential business-related lawsuits.
Whenever you say “personal fitness trainer,” the first thing that pops into mind is a rather costly one-on-one training session.
A program like that is a valid option for clients who need a lot of attention during their workouts—this category could include elders or people with heart conditions. However, a one-on-one personal training session isn’t the only way to go if you want to work with a personal trainer.
Most health clubs offer small group training programs, too. These are often cheaper but still offer a tailored experience. After all, the trainers who cover these sessions are in no way less qualified than those tackling one-on-one programs.
So, unless you consider yourself a high-risk client, you don’t have to worry too much about it. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even make some friends in your training group along the way!
Good personal fitness trainers never walk with a one-size-fits-all sort of workout plan and try to force it on each and every client. It’s just not what the job is about.
Instead, they’ll assess the individual’s physical abilities and ask about their fitness goals. Then, the trainer will craft a customized plan that helps the client get to their goal safely and quickly.
Even if a trainer has a default balanced diet plan ready to go, he’ll still tweak it to suit each client’s lifestyle and preferences.
You might think that a trainer is overstepping or being nosey when they ask for too many details about your eating habits, sleeping patterns, and health conditions. But there’s a reason for all that.
The same applies when trainers ask for medical release forms. They’re not just getting their paperwork in order for bureaucratic reasons.
Fitness trainers have your best interests at heart, but they can’t do their job if they don’t know about possible health conditions that might get in the way.
They could still take you on as a client if you have cardiovascular diseases or previous training injuries. However, they need to know how far they can push you during each session—that’s something that your physician needs to weigh in on.
In fact, checking releases and communicating with healthcare professionals are two of the main tips that I’d recommend for trainers working with high-risk clients.
Personal fitness trainers don’t only have to get on the same page with healthcare professionals. More often than not, they’ll need to communicate with each other efficiently.
After all, it’s plausible that two trainers in the same gym will have to swap clients for one reason or another. In this case, it’s crucial that they discuss the clients’ limits, workout plans, and personal preferences.
Personal fitness trainers have to know enough about nutrition basics to be able to help clients achieve their goals. This means they could discuss how your eating habits can boost your performance in the session.
Yet, a personal trainer shouldn’t recommend supplements without a medical evaluation form—at least according to the NFPT.
The good news is that not everyone needs to take supplements to be fit or healthy, anyway.
However, if you’re after detailed diet plans and supplements as treatments for medical conditions, you’ll probably need to get in touch with a registered dietitian (RD).
15. Many Personal Trainers Are Certified through Precision Nutrition
Although personal trainers don’t diagnose or treat conditions with diet and supplements, covering nutrition basics is within the work scope for a lot of them.
In fact, it was estimated that 40–42% of all personal trainers were PN-certified.
This means that they studied nutrition courses under the supervision of RDs, MDs, and even other seasoned trainers. Then, they got their Precision Nutrition certificate and are now ready to help their clients find out what sort of diet can help them achieve their goals.
It’s not common for someone to have a heart attack during exercise sessions. But that doesn’t mean personal trainers don’t have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
That’s why many personal fitness trainers go through first-aid training and receive CPR certification before working with clients.
Hopefully, they’ll never need to use it, but the skill will definitely be a confidence booster if the trainers ever get to work with high-risk clients, such as:
- Patients with cardiovascular diseases
I’m in no way saying that introverts can’t make great personal fitness trainers. It’s just that most of the professionals in the field happen to be extroverts.
How do I know?
Well, CareerExplorer surveyed 3,874 personal trainers to study their personality traits and found that the majority were extroverted people who fuel up on the energy of others around them.
That’s not all. Apparently, trainers also tend to be conscientious, investigative, and artistic!
I’ve definitely become more extroverted since becoming a personal trainer. The environment kind of forces it in. You’ve got to have your attention outside of yourself and on your clients if you want to do a good job as a trainer.
There are a lot of things that annoy personal trainers. These pet peeves vary from one person to the other, but clients cheating on their diet plans and showing up late to the session are on top of the list of things that violate gym etiquette.
Those two examples are rather obvious, but one tick that often people don’t always know about is the perfume thing.
As it happens, some gym-goers walk around like they just showered under a fountain of perfume or body spray.
Of course, everyone appreciates it when people are put together and care about their appearance. However, perfume is a major distraction. It’s almost worse than body odor.
As you might have guessed, the profession of personal training is highly rewarding emotionally, but that’s not all there is to a job.
While the money isn’t all that bad, I wouldn’t say it’s the highest-paying field, either.
For reference, the 2021 Employment and Wage Statistics survey from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average personal fitness instructor/trainer’s annual take-home was $40,700. Meanwhile, the median income was $45,760 nationwide.
Don’t let that discourage you from joining the field. It’s possible to make over $75,000 annually, but there are a lot of factors that go into shaping a personal trainer’s salary, including:
- Education level and certifications
- Years of experience
Unlike what you may think, personal trainers don’t have to quit the field just because they got “old” or reached retirement age.
For one, it’s hard to even label yourself “too old for the job” if you’re still fit. Plus, there’s a major place on the market for skilled fitness professionals over 50.
Don’t just take my word for it; 23% of all NFPT-CPTs are 50–60 years old, and 7% are over 60. That’s impressive when you consider that the 18–25 age segment only makes up 6%.
That’s good news since senior clients might even prefer working with trainers closer to their age. After all, it’s not always easy taking orders from someone who’s 30+ years your junior!
It’s also worth noting that some people decide to shift to the field when they’re 60. So, it could very well be your chosen job after retirement.
There are a lot of ways that a professional in the fitness industry can promote his services, from setting up a website to distributing fliers.
Yet, word of mouth remains the key strategy.
Think about it: when a trainer helps someone achieve fitness goals, that client is very likely to praise the program everywhere he goes. Soon, the trainer will be seeing some of the client’s friends, family members, and even co-workers!
So, it’s no wonder some experts find that word of mouth should come first and foremost for every personal fitness trainer. Some even recommend giving clients vouchers for free sessions to hand out to people they think could use some training.
Much like a ton of other professions, fitness trainers were impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. As it happens, many clients didn’t return to the gym after the lockdown.
RunRepeat estimates that gyms worldwide had lost 46.67% by 2021. Of course, not all of those people actually hired personal trainers. But still, it’s fair to say that the fitness industry took quite a hit.
However, some trainers saw this as a chance to expand their line of work and get into online training.
Speaking of how trainers kept themselves busy during the lockdown, I have to mention Alex Goulding and his impressive Guinness World Record.
Goulding, a UK-based personal trainer, felt bored during the lockdown and decided to challenge himself a bit. So he started looking for ways to push his limits and have some fun. So one of his friends suggested doing 10,000 push-ups in a month.
The next thing Goulding knew was that he was setting the world record for most side push-ups in a minute, which he broke again in 2022 with a count of 61 whopping push-ups!
Goulding also holds the record for the most 180 push-ups completed in a minute. Spoiler alert: it was 16.
Personal fitness training is a fairly diverse field, but there is a simple pattern to the way we do our work. That pattern is modified by the individual’s goals and the current state of the body.
A personal trainer simply maps the route from Point A to Point B.
And we make it fun.