As a personal trainer I feel very privileged to earn a living from helping others become happier in themselves. It is rare for me to have even one day where I don’t feel a buzz from seeing one of my clients achieve something they never thought they would. I would recommend the job to anyone that enjoys helping others and has personally felt the positive effects of exercise and living a reasonably healthy lifestyle. However, before you decide whether becoming a personal trainer is the right career path for you here is a list of my top 10 myths about being a personal trainer.
1. You have to be super fit
Is the best tennis player in the world going to be the best coach? Not necessarily. Are the fittest people in the world the best personal trainers? Probably not. Obviously we wouldn’t take financial advice from a friend that is broke so if a personal trainer is completely out of shape, drinks heavily, smokes heavily and has a terrible diet then it is unlikely that anyone will take them seriously but personal trainers don’t have to have the fitness levels and the physique of elite athletes. The majority of personal training enquiries that I have had over the years have been from those that have been quite sedentary and never really established a consistent routine when it comes to exercise and their diet. Im certainly no elite athlete but my physical assessment data would suggest that I am healthy and strong, which I believe is a great goal for anyone. Most importantly it is an achievable goal for anyone too. Personal trainers with elite fitness levels are very likely to be spending a huge amount of their time training and food prepping which for most of us is unrealistic and they are probably not a suitable role model for us.
2. Personal training is only for the wealthy
Is smoking only for the wealthy? I think not. In fact a large majority of homeless people smoke. As I am writing this in 2017, you can not buy a pack of twenty cigarettes in the UK for less than £8. If you smoke twenty a day that is £56 a week. The personal trainers in the gym I am sitting in whilst writing this charge £25 an hour. Two personal training sessions a week is cheaper than smoking twenty cigarettes a day.
3. Personal trainers are scary
For the record I have never screamed, shouted or even raised my voice at one of my personal training clients. I don’t need to. I screen them, assess them, goal set, write the programme, deliver the programme, support them via email, text, and social media. All this is done in a very calm and friendly manner! Shows like ‘the biggest loser’ has probably not helped the publics perception of what a personal trainers job is. Running an obese person to the point of collapse and then screaming at them to do more is not my style and not the style of any other personal trainers I have met, and I have met a lot. Although my style probably does not make as good telly as seeing some poor desperate guy practically having an MI in the pursuit of dramatic weight loss and a large cash prize!
4. Personal trainers have to have crazy personalities
I was a little hyper as a child and Im sure my family would argue that I still am but I don’t walk into every PT session with a beaming smile shouting ‘whoop whoop, come on let’s do this’. I have a plan that I deliver with the presence of my actual personality (not an exaggerated version of my self). I leave my problems at home and try to conduct the session with friendliness, empathy and enthusiasm. Nothing crazy about that I hope.
5. There is too much competition
Everyone should be physically active but not everyone is. A 2013 survey carried out in England found that 80% of the adult population were not meeting the recommended guidelines for physically activity. That is a huge number of potential clients and there is not enough personal trainers to meet that need. In the UK there are 6728 gyms and there are almost twice as many new ones opening compared to those that are closing so it is still a growing industry. Bottom line is we need more personal trainers.
6. You have to be stuck in a gym all day
Over the years I have taken clients running over the downs and along the seafront, I have trained them in their homes, I have trained them in parks and on the beach. I have even trained clients in my own home. You train your clients anywhere that is safe, practical and suits you and your client.
7. The pay is rubbish
I wasn’t going to include this as I don’t want to attract people into the industry that just want to make money. However, if people reading this are thinking about leaving their profession to become a full time personal trainer then may need the peace of mind to know that they can still pay the mortgage, the bills and feed the kids on a personal trainers salary. Now everyone has their own perception of what a good salary is and it is largely proportional to what an individuals overheads are and the cost of the life they have become accustomed too. However, let’s take the UK average salary of £27,600 for comparison. To earn this as a personal trainer you would need just nine clients that train with you three times a week, paying £25 per hour (26 hours a week). This includes 6 weeks holiday too. Now obviously there are other costs such as equipment and clothing. However, most personal trainers own a lot of kit anyway and if not they can ask for some bits for birthdays and Xmas from their family. They could also train clients in their homes and parks to save on venue hire; use social media, attend free networking events, and give free sessions for referrals to pick up new clients and save on advertising costs.
8. You have to be young
Being an older personal trainer has its advantages. The school of life is great for building the essential skills that are needed to succeed as a personal trainer such as the empathy that is needed to support clients that are making some significant behaviour changes. Also, older clients may not want to be trained by somebody half their age and feel more comfortable being trained by someone that is closer to their own age.
9. You can never eat anything unhealthy ever again
I better quit my job then! If I bump into any of my clients when Im shopping, which actually happens quite a lot, they rarely look in my trolley as they are usually too busy trying to hide what is in theirs. That being said if they did they would very likely see a bottle of red wine. If they see me walking along the seafront with the family they would also very likely catch me eating an ice-cream. The point is we can have these things in moderation. To be realistic role models for our clients they will actually feel quite relieved to see us eating these things on occasion.
10. Once qualified I must embark on a social health crusade
If you want to lose all of your friends then yes! Health and fitness education is part of being a personal trainer. Your clients are paying for that education so let them have it. People that are following you on social media and reading your blog posts are also willing participants. However, pointing out to your friends, family and colleagues every time something unhealthy is about to pass their lips is like forcing someone to participate in your favourite hobby. By all means offer advice if it is asked for but once you gain your personal training qualification don’t think it is know your responsibility to bully the world around you into adopting a more healthy lifestyle.