5 Things You Need to Become a Personal Trainer

Of all the jobs and roles in the fitness industry that are available, there’s one that stands head and shoulders above and that’s the personal trainer. Once a luxury only afforded by the rich and famous, personal training is now for the masses and it’s really big business, bringing in gross revenues of well over £650m a year.


If you’re keen to know more and find how you can join the fitness elite and become a personal trainer, here are five essential things…


1 – You need to understand the role


Let’s start by clearing up the stereotype that refuses to go away… as a personal trainer your job isn’t to hold a stopwatch (or clipboard or both) and gently encourage a client while they run on a treadmill. Save that image for film and TV because as a personal trainer you are everything to the client. A motivator, confidant, coach, goal-setter… practically speaking, you’ll need all the tools at your disposal if you want to help the client achieve whatever it is they want to achieve.


In terms of specific duties, this is far from an exhaustive list of what you’ll be doing but it should give you a flavour. As a personal trainer you’ll be: setting goals and tracking clients’ progress; offering valuable nutrition advice and guidance; coaching safe exercise techniques; designing bespoke exercise plans for clients, and performing physical and functional tests and measurements.


2 – You need the right qualifications


Becoming a personal trainer isn’t just a case of putting on your kit, walking into a gym and showing a client how to do a deadlift, you need to have the proper qualifications first. Not only is this a way for you to become accustomed to the role and gain valuable knowledge and skills, but it’s also quite handy for credibility and avoiding any potential insurance issues. Nobody likes a cowboy.


Getting qualified is a simple, two-step process. You’ll first start by doing a vocational gym instructor course. Think of this as the on-ramp, it’s the entry-level stuff that will teach you the ropes about gym equipment, interacting with clients and how the body works and moves. The next step is Level 3 Personal Training and things get a little more advanced here. You’ll discover how to create in-depth programmes for clients, the ins and outs of nutrition, business and marketing skills, and much more.


3 – You need the right personal qualities


Personal trainers have that special something about them, something ingrained in their DNA. It’s one thing to enjoy healthy eating and exercise but something completely different to have a burning passion for it and the unwavering desire to help people, that’s PTs. It’s something that’s almost required, especially in the face of cold and dark 6 am starts and late-night finishes.


The personal trainers who have the potential to be truly great are themselves ambassadors for the fitness industry. They exercise regularly, they eat right and they constantly educate themselves. They’re incredibly organised, strong communicators and able to meet clients’ needs. These qualities have been echoed by some of the UK’s best personal trainers, including celebrity PT Scott Laidler. In a recent interview with HFE, he had this to say: “Becoming a successful trainer is about developing a good relationship with your client, and formulating the right blueprint for them as an individual. Remember there are several different ways to get to the same result and it’s the role of a coach to be able to make the call as to which route is best suited to their client.”


4 – You need a mindset for success


In the world of personal training, success can be defined in many ways. For some PTs it might be the number of clients they train, for others it might getting to open their own training space, launching their own supplement range, getting on TV… the list goes on. The success might not be directly attached to money, it may be more altruistic, like working within a local community to improve health and fitness, or helping people manage specific medical conditions. Regardless of how it’s defined, personal trainers have to cultivate success.


After all, this isn’t a casual hobby or pastime that you can just easily pick up and put down, it’s a job, a career, a livelihood. So, when you’re starting your personal training journey, have an idea of what success means to you and use that to propel you forward. Use it to create a business plan and set achievable goals for yourself.


5 – You need a ‘why’


It’s not a new concept by any means but the idea of having a ‘why’ has exploded in popularity in recent years. It’s largely thanks to the rise of self-help/motivation gurus, TED talks and our collective desire to look inwards to better ourselves. 


One of the more famous explanations of the ‘why’ comes from author Simon Sinek. His bestselling book ‘Start With Why’ challenges everyone to explore the purpose, belief or cause that truly drives us and this ties in nicely with the point above. He explains that in the grand scheme of things, what you do and how you do it pale in comparison to the ‘why’ in terms of gravitas. He uses many examples from notable companies and historical leaders to illustrate his point and it always circles back that people will listen to you and buy whatever it is you’re selling if your ‘why’ speaks to them on a fundamental level.


Ask yourself, what’s the reason you want to get into the fitness industry and become a personal trainer? What’s really driving you? How are you going to truly inspire others? It may take a bit of thought, you might even want to jot a few ideas down, but ultimately, once you know, it will underpin everything you stand to achieve in what will hopefully be a long, prosperous and worthwhile career in personal training. You don’t need to have the greatest luck in the world or even the most academic mind, what you need is to remain true to your ‘why’.


If you’re interested in challenging yourself, head over to HFE and have a look at their personal trainer courses, you’ll find plenty of information about the next steps and the various career options.


Article written by Josh Douglas-Walton. Josh is a writer for HFE and passionate about all things health and fitness. In his spare time, he’s a keen marathon runner, reader, traveller and he’s very partial to a green tea (or several).