Episode 27. The Business of Personal Training and Personal Training Certification
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You see personal training and personal trainers in just about every gym you go to. That’s the model. And many fitness enthusiasts view personal training as a potential career path. But there are some realities to consider before doing so.
In this episode we talk about what clients or consumers should look for in personal trainers, what should change in the personal training industry, and what personal trainers themselves should be thinking about in terms of their own career and some of the trends that are going on.
The Trade or Craft of Personal Training
To be blunt: Scott thinks a lot of personal trainers are not very good, and that is based partly on how the industry is built. Personal trainers are “certified” by gyms who don’t need “good trainers”; they just need bodies on the floor selling programs.
Kevin told an anecdote of a friend’s daughter who signed up to get certified, but she ended up only getting a few days of relevant training… and then several weeks of sales training.
Kevin referenced his work with cars, before he became a personal trainer. When he worked there, the system was under an apprenticeship and mentorship model. You didn’t do a 2-day weekend course. First you spent time doing such-and-such a course, then you worked in a shop for year, then you went to school, and then you needed 1,500-2000 hours of experience before you were put under a mentor. This meant you got actual hands-on experience, and it’s not all theory.
This is the basic model for a lot of trades. Mike would argue that this is precisely how a lot of personal training certification program position themselves, even though what they are providing is really not the same thing.
Part of describing what could or should be improved about “personal training” is defining our terms. What should a personal trainer be involved in? There is a difference between being hired, specifically, to show someone how to do X, Y, and Z exercises, versus being hired to (for example) help someone lose weight… which just happens to involve doing X, Y, and Z exercises. Where does the personal trainer come into play here? Does nutrition come in? What does the consultation involve? What should it involve?
For Scott it should always be about the client. Look for trainers who don’t use the pronoun “I,” but instead talk about you, the client, the client’s needs. Pay attention also to word choice. The words “get jacked” will resonate with one client, and not so much with many others!
Mike adds, though, that he learns a lot by learning from people who are just open and honest about what works for them. Sometimes you don’t want any “Well, you should do this” kind of advice. It’s very easy for personal trainers to say, “Well, you should do X because of principle Y.” When in reality, a simple, “Oh, for a bicep curl, I do this and that tends to help” might be more useful. (Especially if the person listening can ask a few other people, then make the decision for him or herself.)
Scott gives the example of Fred Hatfield who’d basically say “shut up and lift the weight.” From there he could correct you.
Personal Training as a Potential Career
Kevin built his own business with simple word-of-mouth. He’s won contests and powerlifting championships, and in his opinion, that might have given a bit more credibility, but it’s not the foundation for how how build his reputation and his business.
Scott thinks the market is way over-saturated. Scott prides himself on being ahead of the curve, he quotes Wayne Gretzky, who is often quoted as saying he doesn’t go where the puck is, but where it’s going to be. If Scott were just starting out today, he would do things very different because of how saturated it has become. When he started, he was one of the first in his local town to simply… charge for a program or a diet.
The “riches are in the niches.” Mike isn’t sure who said it first, but he heard the phrase first from Pat Flynn. Niching down means drilling down, and defining a niche based on an unfulfilled need or burning pain.