Pros and Cons of Being a Personal Trainer

What are the pros and cons of being a personal trainer? Today I’m going to talk about what it’s like to be in the personal fitness business. You’ll find out what it’s like working with people one-on-one, are what some of the options are that you will have in the fitness field.

The following is a transcript of a personal training career presentation given at Middle Tennessee State University by Dan DeFigio, owner and director of Basics and Beyond fitness & nutrition in Nashville.


Everybody here is an Exercise Science major, is that correct? So I assume that you want to do something that has to do with exercise. I know there are a lot of different options.

About my personal training company in Nashville

pros and cons of being a personal trainer

Pros and Cons of Being a Personal Trainer

I own Basics and Beyond fitness & nutrition. It is a company in Nashville, Tennessee and we primarily provide one-on-one personal fitness training and nutrition coaching for people. And we do it in lots of different places. I’ve been at this since 1993 and looking around I realized that that is before most of you were born. I am very old…

I got into fitness myself as a young person. In middle school and high school I start playing basketball and it turns out I’m terrible at basketball, but it got me working out five days a week, and I kind of like how that felt. And girls started noticing me and I like how that felt too. When I was a senior in high school I started lifting weights because I was missing a semester of gym. They told me I was missing a semester of gym class and I was not going to graduate, so I had to study whole period that was empty. And they just threw me in this little closet that had a pile of dumbbells in it, and they’re like, alright, there’s your gym class, so I did that every day with another kid who was in the same boat. We didn’t know what we were doing but I knew that I like how it felt.

And so as I went into college is started to training more and learning more and educating myself, and pretty soon I got hired at a gym in Nashville that no longer exist as a staff person, and I started developing my teaching chops. And it turns out I’m a pretty good teacher so pretty soon I didn’t need to be an employee anymore. There was a demand for my time and my expertise and my help so I had my own personal training business. As my schedule got more full and there were more people who wanted my help than I had hours in a day, I hired my first assistant and it just snowballed from there. So now I’ve got a great team of fitness trainers and physical therapists at Basics and Beyond Fitness and Nutrition, and we operate at five different locations, and it is really gratifying work I have to say.

I know that the folks in this room have a very deep background. You’ve taken a lot of different classes, lots of academia, some people may want to get into athletic training, some people might want to get into PT or OT. There are a lot of different options. I want to talk about what it’s like to work one-on-one with people, and really coach somebody through becoming their best self — which is really what we’re here to do. People may approach you as a trainer with aspirations of being an underwear model, but what we’re really about is taking you from where you are now trying to get a little bit better when it comes to physical fitness, nutrition and lifestyle, habits, and those kinds of things. So it is a very people-oriented business.

What makes a good personal trainer?


what makes a good personal trainer?

If you are considering getting into the personal training field, here are some of the characteristics that will define a good personal trainer:

  • A personal trainer is driven primarily by wanting to help people, and for them to really become their best. If you are in the mindset of “I just want to get a job for a while until I figure out what I want to do,” don’t be in a people business. Pick something else, because personal training has personal right in the name, right? It is a people business.
  • If you are going to be good at this, you need to be properly educated and skilled at what you do. There a lot of terrible trainers out there. I am sorry to say this. I am one of the guys who used to go around the country and do educational workshops for personal fitness trainers in their continuing education, and I can say with confidence, most personal trainers are terrible. I hate to say it but that is the truth. There is a lot of lack of education and skill around how to actually teach exercise. I want to talk about that, and how important that is a little bit later.
  • A good personal trainer needs to have a professional approach and a professional demeanor. How you comport yourself and how you carry yourself. How you interact with people, how you communicate with people. We are talking about changing people’s lives. Now everybody’s got a different personality for sure, but a lot of the nonsense that you see on the biggest loser shows and things like that are not really good ways to connect with people. You know, screaming at somebody in their face until they cry — not a great motivation for a vast majority of the population. So being able to conduct yourself in a professional manner, simple stuff like returning phone calls and texts and messages, being on time, being present and connected with somebody while you are actually talking with them and working with them. These kinds of things are really important, and not everybody does that. If you are interested in fitness as a career especially coaching one-on-one you’re going to have very in tune with people, and communication, and being present, and paying attention, and those kinds of things. If not, maybe something more in the desk job field would be better.
  • Lastly, personal trainers are really coaches about self-improvement, and it just so happens that we use exercise and nutrition as the main modalities. But the concepts of empathy, and motivation, and being understanding of where people are in their own personal journey — these are really, really important. If you don’t care about people, if you don’t give a crap about how upset Mrs. Burkowitz is about what’s going on with her day, you are not going to do well in this field because even though we do our work in the confines of a fitness facility and we use exercise and we use nutrition coaching as the methodology, it is really about meeting people where they are. So it is a people business. You got to have this at your core to be good at coaching anything really, whether it is exercise or not.

The day-to-day life of a personal trainer

being a personal trainer

So the day to day life of a personal trainer. Once again, what you see on TV, what you see on the YouTube videos, is not really what it’s like. What it really looks like on a day-to-day basis is you’ll have some long hours especially in the beginning. Fortunately, after 26 years of this I’ve gotten to the point in my career where I can pretty much set my own schedule and do what I want. But in the beginning, you’re going to have to take whatever you can get. If somebody wants to work out at 5 o’clock in the morning, you’re there 5 o’clock in the morning with a smile on your face! So you’re going to have some long hours. You’re going to start early, you’re going to end late. A lot of times you’ve got to go back and forth, because your schedule is not full, especially in the middle of the day. Everybody wants to work out before work or after work, so a lot of times you get this big chunk of empty time in the middle of the day until you get your practice full.

What we do with people is a lot more than just leading exercise sessions. You know, if you’re going to teach group exercise that’s great. There is nothing wrong with that. You get up in front of the class, you put your microphone on, you start the music, you tell everybody what to do, everybody has a great time and you’re done, and that’s fine. There is nothing wrong with that. But if you are going to do one-on-one personal fitness coaching or nutrition coaching, or health coaching, or any kind of one-on-one coaching, you’ll be dealing with a lot of people’s baggage. Did I mention a lot of people’s baggage? We have people’s emotional stuff, their histories, traumas, life challenges that come up all the time. Coaching people is really about strategies and problem solving, right? It is a given that you understand how you put together exercise programming. It is a given that you know how to help somebody put together sensible healthy meals. Everybody has got that. What is going to set you apart in this field is how you can come up with ways for poor Mrs. Burkowitz to figure out how she is going to get her lunch prep done when she’s got this litany of things that are going on in her life. So we really end up almost becoming amateur psychologists. I’ll talk about that too.

Motivation and encouragement is something that you probably have instinctively. If you are trying to help somebody, how you go about doing that and leading them down the path really depends on whom you are dealing with. Different people have different methods of how they like to learn, how they like to be taught, how they get or don’t get things. So as you get into this field and you start to get a few dozen, a few hundred, a few thousand clients under your belt, you’re going to really start to get a feel for how to best communicate with an individual. And it varies a lot. You probably recognize that already just in your day-to-day lives. Everybody has different friends, different family members, different acquaintances, and how you communicate with each individual really varies.

Our #1 job is to make the client feel good. We need to make their day brighter, and give them what they need in that moment — whether that’s having a great workout and you feel good physically when you walk out of the door with a smile on your face. That’s great. Some days it’s somebody comes in and needs to lie on the stretching table and get the hamstrings loosened up while they basically sob about all the things that are going wrong in their life. That’s a lot of this too. Whatever the person needs you’ve got to get them to a place where they feel like, “Wow! I’m really glad I came to see you today.” And it looks different every day for every different person, but this is it right here, making somebody really feel good. You will have bonds professionally and personally with your clients when you do that. You will feel like you are making a difference in people’s lives when you make their day better and when you give them what they need, whatever that is. That’s it right there. Underline that one.

Pros and cons of being a personal trainer

pros and cons of being a personal trainer

The personal training field can be great, and it can also be terrible and a real headache. There are pros and cons to being a personal trainer, just like there are to any field. I want to go over some of these kinds of things. My main purpose for you guys here is to give you some insight into what it’s really like to work in personal fitness, so you got an idea what you may or may not be getting into if you choose this path.

Plusses of being a personal trainer

  • So on the pros side, if you work for yourself you’ve got a flexible schedule, you set your own hours. Personal fitness training is perfect for part-time work or a side hustle. A lot of people have a regular 9-to-5 job, and they have a couple of clients that they train after work for some extra money, or on the weekends. And that works great. If that’s how you want to go about it, fantastic. That makes everybody happy.
  • If you over time develop a good reputation and build a successful practice you came some nice money. I must admit it is nice not to have to worry about paying the bills, and where is the next mortgage payment is coming from. It is not easy but you can do it. There is money to be made in fitness if you do it right.
  • We get to work in a healthy environment both in the space and also in the culture, right? It is different than slinging drinks in a smoky bar, a whole different lifestyle culture that we are talking about. So if you are working in the fitness field, generally, everybody is aiming for more positivity with their health and self-care, so that’s a plus in my mind.
  • And the biggest thing as I mentioned earlier, this is really gratifying work. When you get to serve people and help lead them, and role model them and guide them to becoming better and more empowered is really, really gratifying work. So this is very special and I wanted to honor that.

Downsides of being a personal trainer

  • On the downside — because there are downsides to everything — these are some things you may want to think about. When you are a fitness trainer, unless you are hired as a staff person at a big box gym and you have a shift, you’re going to have a very variable and unreliable schedule. And if you are paid hourly, like most of us are, that means you’re going to have an unreliable paycheck, so be prepared for that. There is not much ‘salary’ going on in fitness. It is pretty much hourly, so if you’re working you’re getting paid, and if you’re not working, you’re not.
  • One of the things that’s hard about being a personal trainer is that you always have to be “on”, no matter what kind of a day you are having. No matter who died this week, no matter how bad you’re feeling, or how much your wife is yelling at you or whatever, you’ve got to show up with a smile on your face and with high energy and positivity. It is all about them 100% of the time — which is nice to do. But if you do that for 10 hours a day, it is exhausting. Being ‘on’ all the time is hard. And if you are not, you’re not going to be successful in this field, because people don’t want to come see somebody who is moping. People don’t want to come see somebody who is rubbing their eyes and not high-energy and motivating. People are not going to come back to see you if you sit there and complain about your own problems the whole time during their session. So you’ve got to put on the ‘on face’ and keep it all day. That can be hard.
  • Speaking of being hard, the hours are tough as I mentioned before. You’re going to be up early, you’re going to have some gaps in your day, you’re going to work late, you’re going to be working around people’s schedules. You’re going to be dealing with their cancellations, their requests, especially in the beginning when you have to pretty much take whatever you can get. You’re going to be at the mercy of what your clients are asking you to do, or what your boss is asking you to do, so that could be hard too. But suck it up, it gets better.
  • I made a note here that caretaking is fatiguing. As I talk about being ‘on’ as fatiguing, taking care of people all day is tiresome also. Anybody here who’s done physical therapy, occupational therapy, home health care, that kind of stuff? It can take a lot out of you, taking care of people all day. If you know that you are the kind of person who has the patience and the love for that type of work, then good. And if you know that you’re not that person, you probably want to start looking at some other options, because caretaking can be tiring.
  • One of the things I want to put out for you is that I notice as a fitness trainer of 20-some years, you hear a lot of the same stuff from people. A lot of the same problems. I would say 80% or 85% of the stuff that people come to you with as far as their lifestyle, struggles, or their pains or how they think they can or they cannot do certain things is almost all the same. On one hand that’s good, because you have a toolbox ready to go for this common problem. But on the other hand, it is a little bit of a challenge once you’ve heard the same pain literally a thousand times. You talk with Mrs. Johnson like this is the first time you’ve heard this.

Questions about some of the plusses or some of the minuses about working in the personal training and fitness field?

Audience 1:     I have a question.

Dan:                Yes sir.

Audience 1:     So this caretaking that’s fatiguing. I don’t know how long you’ve been with your wife, but I mean, has that taken an emotional toll of being at home or, like, your communication with friends and stuff like that?

Dan:                This is a superb question.

Dan:                The question is basically “how does your emotional exhaustion for taking care of people all day affect your relationship at home?” I am married, I am fortunate to have a fantastic wife, like I’m on video. I have a fantastic wife. Noted. Recorded. 🙂 And she is very supportive which is really nice, and one of the great blessings in my life. But to answer your question, she also works in the wellness field. She runs the Integrative Medicine Center at Vanderbilt, so both of us have people in our face all day and we’re taking care of people all day. So when we get home, we don’t want to take care of each other, right? We are kind of tired of that. And also we don’t necessarily go out and socialize, because we had people in our face all day. So for us, home is quiet and an escape from having people around and having to do a lot of stuff for other people. So it is not really a trouble spot, but it is definitely something that changes our home dynamic. Does that make sense?

Audience 1:     It does.

Dan:                Thanks for an excellent question. What else? Who’s got thoughts about things? Sir?

Audience 2:     When you first started as a personal trainer, how long did it take you to build that communication skill with your clients?

Dan:                Good question. The question is “when I first started working as a personal trainer, how long did it take to start building communication skills”. And the answer to that question is: I am still building them. After 26 years, I am still learning how to talk with people, how to deal with people. It is an ongoing thing. Can you dial in that question a little bit more specifically about what you might be specifically asking about? To say “how long does it take to get good at talking to people” is a little bit broad, let’s dial that in.

Audience 2:     Well, just kind of that ‘on’ face, just like being that person that’s having a high energy and pretty much is getting used to a job.

Dan:                Yeah. I think a lot of that is innate. If you are excited about what you are doing, if you are passionate about helping people, you’re glad to be able to do what you’re doing, even be excited about it. Now, I still love what I’m doing every day 26 years later. If I were independently wealthy and ready to retire, I would probably still do this. I wouldn’t do as many hours a week as I do it, but I would still do it because I love it. So getting excited about what you are doing and being ‘on’ and being passionate about like, “yeah we get to do this”, isn’t something that you learn. You either have that or you don’t have that.

Now what you can learn are ways to talk about that, or methods of helping to coach someone and show them the way to get them to open their eyes, to explain things in a way that puts the light bulb on. And in the beginning, you might only have one way to explain something, and if Mrs. Burkowitz is not getting it then you are out of tools. But the more you know and the more experience you have and the more problems you solve over time, the more tools you have in your toolbox. So pretty soon, you know, if I’m working on a spine stabilization thing with somebody and they are not getting it, I’ve got 15 other ways I can approach it that are going to put the light bulb on. They are going to get it because I’ve been around and I’ve got a lot of different tools. So it’s really this constant accumulation of stuff and experience that you can use in the future, so it is an ongoing process. Does that answer the question?

Audience 2:     Yeah.

Dan:                Are you sure? I don’t think so. Hit me with one more. What else you’ve got?

Audience 2:     Are you ever faking it?

Dan:                Yeah, sometimes when you are kind of emotionally drained and exhausted. Okay, one thing I want to talk about is getting emotionally barfed on by your clients. Can I say that in class?

Audience 3:     Yes, we’ve said much worse.

Dan:                Okay, that’s good, just in case.

Let’s say you just went through 45 minutes of somebody just like totally barfing on you. It is hard to stay present and focus and connected with somebody, and then shift gears literally one minute later and be like, “Okay, here we are, we are excited”, you know, that kind of thing. So that can be the ‘faking it’ that you are talking about. You can’t go to your next appointment after being drained and exhausted and barfed on by your former clients. You have to sort of mentally and emotionally wash your hands real fast and just start over. And that’s kind of what can get tiring, as I mentioned as some of the negatives, but you’ve got to do it. Remember your #1 mission is to make Mrs. and Mr. So-and-so feel like they are the only person in the world right now for the next 30 minutes or 60 minutes, and it’s all about them and you’ve been looking forward to this all freaking day — whether you have or you have not.

And you have that, actually. Since I’m talking freely about what it’s like to have a large clientele, just like with your friends and your social circle, you’ve got people that you love to be around, you have people that you don’t love to be around, right? Every client that you have on your roster is not going to be like, “Woohoo! I can’t wait to see so and so!” A lot of people are great, and lot of people you look in your schedule book and you’re like, “Hmm. Yeah…” You’ve got to be ready for that mentally. It’s a rollercoaster. But that’s a superb questions and perspective. Thank you for that.

Niches in the fitness field

All right, let’s move on. I want to talk briefly about some niches in the fitness field. If you are going to get into teaching fitness or teaching nutrition there are a lot of different ways to go about it. Most of what you’ll probably do in the beginning is just what we call general fitness and weight loss. People who want to get in shape, people who want to lose weight, people who want to ‘tone up’ (whatever the hell that means). So general fitness population is a big part of this market. There is also senior fitness, right, if you want to work with older folks, retirees, home health, that all is all good. Working with athletes is another niche — people who want to work on primarily sports performance, work with high school, or college or professional athletes. Youth, doing youth fitness for little kids’ sports. That’s a niche. If you love to be around kids, you might think about that. I have fallen into mostly the corrective exercise, rehabilitative exercise, post injury stuff. I am not a licensed physical therapist but I do a lot of work with people who are broken and people who have a lot of physical problems, so that’s a niche too. I don’t do a lot of get-in-shape workouts with my own personal clientele. I have a different population.

Speaking of different populations, there are specialties in special populations: diabetes, pre- and post-natal fitness, MS, Parkinson’s, other neurological disorders. People do specialties in that kind of stuff. There are lots of cancer patients, lots of different kinds of specialty niches that you can fall into in your fitness career.

Unless you know right out of the gate, like “Man, I want to work with 10-year old track athletes because that’s my thing.” And if you know that then go for it. If you are not sure, you’ll probably start in the general fitness population. You know, basic consumer health working in a gym or working in a studio for people to help lose weight and get in better shape, that kind of stuff. And then as time goes on you will probably be drawn to and start getting led down the path of certain specialties that I have spoke about before. So don’t think that you have to have it all figured out in the beginning at whatever, 22 years old, when you graduate that you know exactly what you are going to do because it’s probably going to change.

health coaching vs personal training

Health coaching and personal training are pretty similar in a lot of ways. So health coaching is a big picture about the client’s whole wellness. Exercise is a piece of that. Health coaches will do health screening and risk assessments, talk about a lot of nutrition stuff, a lot of lifestyle habits, deal with ways to get better sleep and better sleep hygiene. Stress management, having family emotional support systems, and also ways to be accountable and help to do these baby steps for habit building. So the health coach role is really looking at the client’s entire wellness and we do put exercise in that mix.

personal trainer vs health coach

As compared to the personal trainer who will do some of that, but the primary focus for the personal trainer is really on the exercise coaching. The primary focus of the personal trainer is designing an exercise program, teaching the executions of said exercise program, and helping to hold people accountable to that. Personal training will involve some basic risk screening up front, do some assessments and some physical testing to sort of see where people are and what they need help with, then figure out what to do about those problems. That’s your programing, then you teach them how to do it. Personal training has a lot of hands-on help; let me show you how to do that, let me put you on the table and stretch this for you, let me move your spine into the right shape, you know, that kind of stuff. Health coaching is not generally very hands-on like personal training is. And then the recovery techniques with the stretching, with the cool down, with the post exercise nutrition that kind of stuff. It is all more about the exercise component although we do definitely touch on a lot of the other lifestyle issues too.

understanding the personal training client

If you are working with general fitness clients, here is where they are coming from. See, you and I, if you’re in this room as an exercise science major you probably work out, right? So fitness and exercise and working out is normal for us, right? For your clients this is not normal and it is not the most important thing in their day. It is something they have to squeeze in if they can, because they know they should.

Your clients are going to have a lot of emotional and self-image issues, body image stuff. You’re going to touch on eating disorder or you’re going to see signs of eating disorders, body dysmorphia. All these fancy names for people feeling bad about themselves. While it is not within the scope of practice for the fitness trainer to deal with eating disorders or severe psychological issues around self-esteem, you cannot completely ignore and avoid these problems that people have, and they all have them. Everybody’s got some version of something, right? So you’re going to get it is what I’m saying. Be prepared for people’s image problems.

The client has a lack, a remarkable lack, of what we would consider to be very basic and obvious knowledge. People need to be told exactly what to do. If you are working on a rehab thing for yourself, you’ve got this because you’ve been working out. You know what it feels like. You have a sense of what to do so you’re like, “Okay, that’s kind of easy. I’m going to make it a little harder”, or, “Whoah! That’s enough. Okay, I got that. I’m sore the next day from this.” We know what that’s like. These people don’t know what that’s like, so you can’t assume that Mrs. Burkowitz is going to understand that when she is doing her exercise then she’s got 25 or 30 reps under her belt and it’s still easy, to change and make it harder. She needs you to tell her that. Do this many repetitions — as if there are some magic in 20, but they need a number, so give them a number. If you laugh you know exactly what I’m talking about, right? You’ve coached people before? You know what I mean?

Audience 3:     I mean, like they don’t have a good sense of something like that.

Dan:                Right, they don’t have a good sense of like what is hard, what is easy, what is enough, what’s not, so you’ve got to tell them something until they learn on their own. Your average fitness client who comes to see you is completely stressed and overwhelmed with life. They can’t manage anything. They are going to come 10 minutes late, they are going to have one brown sock and one white sock on, and they forgot their shoes and this has been the worst day ever. So be prepared for that because that’s life, right? This is not high on their priority list. Working out regularly is normal for us. It is not normal for them, so keep that in mind.

The other big challenge that you will have with understanding your clients is they are generally are not terribly motivated to do what you tell them to do. I put “the other 166 hours.” There are 168 hours in a week. If you spent two hours a week with a client, there are 166 hours they’re on their own, right? Your two hours is not going to undo that 166 hours – ever – so they’ve got to do a little bit of something on their own. Generally the motivation or the attention to those other 166 hours are not very good, so you need to understand that. You need to be prepared for that as you approach how you try to make things better for the Mrs. Burkowitzes of the world. Once they are walking out the door and key is in the ignition, exercise and nutrition are out of their mind because they are done with you. They are onto the next thing.

Oh, this is a good point, I was talking about how you’re going to have long hours and long days and stuff like that and you end up learning how to really connect with people. Touching base when they are not in front of you is a really good way to help them long-term. Send them a text message or an email, “Hey, what you have for dinner?”, “Did you eat breakfast this morning?”, “Did you get your cardio in?” Whatever it was, just a 5-second thing to let them know, A, you’re thinking about them, and B, it is a reminder like oh yeah I said I was going to do that. You got to take care of it because it is not top of their mind.

personal trainer educaion

So I want to start complaining in a minute so I hope that’s okay. What you’re going to need to become a personal trainer or fitness professional as far as professional and educational development.

What you’re going to get from the basic personal training certification process:

So you know, if you go through some of the major certifying organizations, they do a pretty good job of teaching basic anatomy and physiology and you may have that under your belt already from college. They teach you how to do some risk screening and assessment, they go over scope of practice and legal guidelines so you have some ideas about where you have to draw the line between what you can and cannot do legally. How to put together exercise program, ACSM guidelines for exercise programming design. Do you guys have that under your belts already? Have you gone through those types of things?

Audience:        Some.

Dan:                Some. And then you get a handful of notes about special populations like working with a pregnant person, or working with somebody with osteoporosis or something like that. But there is a lot more to be learned than just what you get from the certification process. So here is my big rant:

personal trainer certification process

What’s missing from the personal training certification process

What is missing from the certification process, this is a huge thing right here, teaching strength training. What!? That is correct. When you get certified as a personal trainer, they do not do a good job teaching you how to teach exercise. My head explodes weekly about this concept for the last 20 years but that’s still the case. The organizations do okay with teaching the other stuff that I had on the list, but the big thing that’s missing is you as an instructor spend 95% of your time teaching exercise on a strength training floor. You’ve got to know how to do lunges right. You have to learn how to teach people how to do rows and scapular stuff right. You’ve got to know what to do when somebody’s shoulders are hurting. I consistently see bad trainers all the time. I told you I’ve been all over the country watching personal trainers in action, and I consistently see poor execution on basic moves, triple extension moves like lunges and step ups. I consistently see shoulder blasting moves like tricep bench dips and upright rows, and all this kind of stuff. Good strength training technique is not being taught to personal trainers, and I keep threatening that I’m going to put together my own education program for it. And I might actually just do it this year! But anyways, that’s my rant. Your takeaway here is just to make sure that if you go through the education process of becoming certified as a personal trainer, there is a lot of stuff about teaching exercise that you’re not being taught, so don’t think you know it all.

What is also missing from the certification process there is not much talk about how to build a practice; the business-building aspect of stuff is not really taught. Sort of like, “Okay, here’s your test paper. You are certified, have at it kid. Good luck.” So it takes time and it is a challenge to build a practice.

They don’t really teach you how to conduct yourself, not surprising, you can’t really teach that in an education certification. But there could be some coaching or some ideas, some guidelines about what you should or should not do when you are in public.

And the last thing is as I had mentioned to you, a lot of what we end up doing is kind of being an amateur psychologist with these folks. You know, I’m not a mental health professional but you simply cannot talk about someone’s behavior without talking about how they think. There is just no way around it. So that kind of stuff is going to come up, so be ready.

How to start personal training

how to start personal training

There are lots and lots of different ways that you can go about breaking in to the fitness field if you decide you might want to try this. One of my recommendations would be just get hired at a gym as a staff person. That way you’ll get paid a little bit hourly to be there. You’ll spend some time cleaning the machines and dumping the trash, but you’ll also spend some time working with gym members, teaching exercise, starting to develop your teaching chops, see if you like working with people in that regard. Most gyms will hire people who could just show up… If you have a certification and you could show up on time and not be an idiot then you probably going to not have a problem getting hired as a staff person. If you want to do something bigger than that as far as building a practice and a career, some of the staff that I look for personally in the people who work on my team:


  • You must have a service-oriented attitude. When we come to work to help people it is all about them. Nobody cares what kind of day you are having really, right. You got to really approach this with the attitude of helping people. You’ve got to be passionate about helping people improve. That has to excite you. Having people skills. You have to be able to communicate with people.
  • I cannot tell you how many people call me to talk about wanting a job on the Basics and Beyond Fitness team, and can’t have a good conversation on the phone. So do I want to bring this guy in for an interview if I’m getting one-word answers and like a lack of basical feel from just a phone call inquiry? I don’t think so. So communication skills and positive attitude are really important for me.
  • The ability to focus on something for an hour! If you cannot pay attention to your client for an hour without looking at your phone every two minutes, that’s unacceptable to me. So being able to be focus and present on what you’re doing for a reasonable length of time is important. And it is important to the client too! Just as an aside, I cannot tell you how many times this happened — the #1 thing that people use to tell me that they would come up. I used to work in sort of a commercial gym, and for years people would approach me to ask me to help them and start training with them and they will tell me this. They’ll say, “I’ve been watching you with people for years, and you are so focused on your people. You are not looking around. You are not chitchatting with people. You are really paying attention to your person.” I heard that more than any other thing that I heard from people for years. So if you are in a gym setting and you are working as a staff person or you want to become a personal trainer, people are always watching how you conduct yourself. Whether you think you are having a session or not, whether you think you are having an audition or not, people are watching what you do and how you do it, so conduct yourself accordingly.

Okay. I’m ready to wrap it up. I’m looking for people who want to work. If you want to build a career let’s do it. I am not really interested in having somebody who’s like, “Oh, well, I can work on Thursday afternoon from 2 until 4, and then Mondays before noon when I go pick up my kids.” That’s not going to help me much. As I mentioned earlier, fitness training can be a great part-time gig if you have those kinds of time constraints and you want to fill in a few hours with part-time fitness. It is fantastic. But for my team personally, I want full-time people who are all in, let’s do this, I got nothing else.

Okay, that is all I’m going to say and the floor is open for any questions, comments, anything.

Audience 3:     What did you mean by “long hours”, like 9 to 5?

Dan:                Sir, 9-5 is not a long day. A lot of times typically you’ll be out really early and start some before-work appointments. You know, a 5am work out is not unheard of. Definitely 6am if you want to do that in the morning, and then often there is a more of a hole in the middle of the day because it is hard to fill in the middle of the day. Your schedule between 11:00 and 3:00 for example is often empty. That’s when you do your own workout. That’s when you do your own education staff, run your errands, whatever. Then you come back for 4:00 until 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, depending on the schedule. So it is a long lengthy day, especially in the beginning. When you get to the point when you can set your own schedule business-wise, great. But in the beginning I will encourage you to just take what you can get, work around people’s schedules and make that sacrifice. It is worth it. That’s what I used to do. I don’t want to work out 5 o’clock in the morning anymore because I don’t have to. But I sure used to when I started as a trainer.