Personal Fitness Trainer Business Idea

Personal Training Business Mistake That Hurts

fit2max 7/16/2008

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Business Summary:

Personal fitness training is one of the fastest-growing segments of the fitness industry today. The range of services offered by personal trainers are limited only by the scope of each trainer’s interests and the education and experience levels they achieve. Personal training services not only include exercise training in many specialized areas, but also nutrition counseling, motivation, and life-coaching as clients are guided into a healthier lifestyle.

A personal trainer was once a luxury accessible only to the rich and famous: high-profile athletes, movie stars and celebrities, Fortune 500 CEOs, and other privileged types. In today’s ultra-fitness-conscious society, people of all age groups and in every walk of life are using personal trainers to assist them in learning how to exercise, lose weight, rehabilitate from illness, and generally adopt a healthy way of living.

Personal trainers work both as employees and as independent contractors in many venues such as in large gyms and fitness centers, on cruise ships and spa resorts, sports team settings, YMCAs, and the list goes on. Many have set up shop working from home in their own private gyms as well as going to clients’ homes.

Fitness trainers who work on their own can set appointments exclusively one-on-one with individuals, but in today’s personal training business environment, small group programs are proving to be more mutually beneficial for the the average trainer and client. Only trainers who develop a seriously upscale following can make a good living doing private single-individual training and counseling sessions. Most trainers these days create sessions for clients in groups of four to eight people who meet on schedules ranging from three to six times a week.

Start Up Cost: $5,000 – $20,000

Can Be Home Based?: Yes

Can Be Operated Part Time?: Yes

Skills Required:

Most people considering personal training as a career are already major fitness enthusiasts, in fact, many personal trainers go into the business in order to afford their own workouts. But before you develop a personal training business, it is important to take a realistic look at yourself: do you represent, physically, mentally and emotionally, the type of person your clients will want to become?

Are You Ready for Your Own Business Now?

If you are not now at the epitome of health, physical fitness, energy, exuding a positive attitude toward life in general, you may need some level of personal overhaul before thinking of becoming a personal trainer for others.

Qualities of Successful Personal Trainers

To gauge your chances of launching a thriving personal training business, answer these questions honestly:

  • Are you a “people person” or more of an introvert?
  • Can you comfortably tell people what to do?
  • Will you be at ease speaking in front of a group of people?
  • Do you maintain a high level of energy throughout a 12-to 15-hour day?
  • Have you been called a go-getter?

If you are unsure about your answers to any of these questions, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a success at your business, but you will to work on yourself in these areas.

Knowledge and Education Are Prerequisite

It may seem obvious, but understanding of the human body is critical to becoming a respected personal trainer. A Master’s or Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science, Exercise Physiology or a related field is a definite jump-start to a personal trainer’s business aspirations. Expert knowledge of physical anatomy is a must; many who call themselves personal fitness trainers know a lot about doing exercise routines, but do not have any depth of awareness of the "whys", and therefore cannot professionally direct clients to predictable results.

Personal Trainer Accreditation Programs

It is possible to become a professional personal trainer without formal college degrees, but to earn accreditation, without which you really can’t hang out your shingle, you will still need to have the knowledge level to earn certifications from at least one of the organizations accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

What Certifications Are Best?

Personal fitness trainer certification preferences vary somewhat by geographical area. Contact gyms and talk to the Fitness Directors or Fitness Managers about which certifications they prefer. You can also get a feel by learning what certifications the most successful private trainers in your area hold.

How Many Certifications Are Really Needed?

If you will be working for a gym, or using gym facilities to work with your clients, you will need to go by their requirements. Most gyms require a minimum of one national certification, but often prefer two. Some places, the YMCA for example, also have their own personal fitness trainer certification programs that you will need to pass.

What Do the Certifications Require?

Various levels of education are required by different certification boards, some requiring college degrees and some only a high-school diploma. Each certification has its own testing. All personal training certificate programs call for enrollees to have a current CPR Certification. Most gyms and fitness centers are now requiring trainers to certify in advanced lifesaving techniques through the American Heart Association’s Healthcare Provider CPR.

After you become certified, completing a certain number of continuing education hours every year is also mandatory to renew each certification.

How Much Can You Earn:

Potential income for personal training on your own depends largely on how much time and effort will be put into operating your business. Working part-time, perhaps meeting clients during after-work hours, can garner but a few extra dollars. Going all-in with every resource possible to make your personal training business a success can be another story.

Rates per hour vary widely per trainer, depending a lot on the reputation they have forged, and their level of education and experience. For a one-hour one-on-one appointment, personal trainers charge from an average $65 up to $200 per session. Small group rates vary, but range anywhere from $30-$45 per person, per group session. Most personal trainers working with groups offer weekly and/or monthly packages, with frequencies of from three times a week sessions to five to six sessions per week. Trainers charge clients additional fees for periodic tests such as heart-monitoring and fat level ratios, and they may also offer fitness and nutrition products to clients for increased revenues.

Meeting Clients in Gyms Is a Business Expense

Independent personal trainers without their own fitness facilities often meet clients at commercial gyms and fitness centers. Arrangements with gyms can be on a monthly or by-hour flat fee the trainer pays to the gyms; some gyms charge trainers a percentage of their client fees.

Understanding Customers:

Experience is key to understanding the needs of various types of clients. At least one year of personal fitness training is usually required for accreditation. You can acquire this by working at a gym or fitness center, or any one of a variety of other places.

Spas and resorts hire fitness instructors to teach exercise classes as well as do individual work with guests. You can find job listings online for spas, resorts and parks at the following websites: Cool Works, and Spas at are websites that provide job listings for parks, resorts, and spas. The corporate sector is also a potential source of jobs. Physical fitness packages are common in large corporations, and some even have their own in-house gyms.

Working at YMCA facilities can also give you insights into the needs of many segments of customers. Senior fitness classes, mother and baby programs, and a number of other classes for specialized groups may offer valuable experience and give you ideas on the type of customers you will want to focus on in your business.

And then there are the cruise lines. Exercise and fitness programs are a big part of the cruise experience, and you will run across many different customer segments.

Marketing Strategy:

Finding customers should not be a big problem for independent personal fitness trainers. Fitness types usually have been hanging out at gyms, attending exercise programs, and the like for a long time, and you can build on contacts you have made at all these.

Many gyms and fitness centers keep a list of approved personal trainers to refer to people. Meeting these customers at the referring gym can incur an expense, as the gyms will want a cut of your fees, but this can be a way to build your credibility and reputation. Contact the health clubs in your area and speak to the hiring manager about applying to be on their list.

In personal fitness training, word-of-mouth is the best way to grow your customer base, so always be prepared to sell yourself and your services everywhere you go. A friend or family member’s referral is worth a lot more than expensive advertising.


NCCA Personal Fitness Trainer Certification

Choose from the NCCA-approved certification programs that apply best to your situation. Below is a list of prominent certification organizations along with their website addresses and basic certification requirements.

  • ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) Cost: $175-$220 for exams plus $129-$359 for workshops. Pre-requisites: A high school diploma or equivalent, 18 years of age and a current adult CPR certification.
  • ACE (American Council on Exercise) Home study with exams taken on location. Cost: All exams are $175 if you register early. Pre-requisites: 18 years old, CPR certified.
  • AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America) Home study with exams taken on location. Cost: $459 for a 3-day workshop that includes certification.
  • AFPA (American Fitness Professionals and Associates) Home study available. Cost: $175-$200. Pre-requisites: High school diploma.
  • ISSA (International Sports & Sciences Association) Home study available. Cost: $495-$595. Pre-requisites: CPR certified.
  • NCSF (National Council on Strength and Fitness) Home study available. Cost: $249-349. Pre-requisites: CPR certified.
  • NFPT (National Federation of Professional Trainers) Home study available, exam on location. Cost: $350-$375. Pre-requisites: High school diploma.

Home Office Equipment

Every business owner needs a computer with the usual office software set, internet access, and a printer-scanner-copier. If you will have occasion to meet with clients in your home, your office setting should be attractive and businesslike.

Personal Fitness Trainer Liability Insurance

Personal fitness trainers cannot work professionally without special liability insurance. This can cost from $200-$500 annually.

A Professional Website is a Must

If you are a professional, you should have a website, even if it is very simple. Even though your business is built client by client, a well-done website is an investment that will not only pay off, but for a business, is a must-have, basic marketing tool. Your website URL will feature information about yourself, your education and other credentials, as well as a resume of your experience. Make sure your URL is listed on all print materials, such as your business card.

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