Personal Trainer Career Guide: Beyond Your CPT

personal training career
8 Ways to Jumpstart Your Personal Training Career (infographic)
April 20, 2015

Whether you work in a commercial facility, within a CrossFit-like gym, conduct group fitness classes outdoors or work in a private studio, this guide is for you.

No matter what type of personal training environment you are in, marketing yourself and your brand after you get your CPT is challenging. With the help of this guide, you will be able to learn about how to be a successful personal trainer based on your individual or company goals.

Keep in mind that some sections may or may not pertain to your career specifically so feel free to skip around the sections that do.

Beyond the PT Certification

Let’s assume that you already have your personal training certification with some central authority such as NASM, ACE, ACSM or the like. As you are likely aware, this is just the ticket to entry and does not really influence your potential clients’ decision in working with you or some other personal trainer. When was the last time someone approached you and asked you what personal trainer certification you had? Probably never.

That said, what really matters to potential clients and for your own personal advancement are your extra credentials beyond the standard PT certification. When we train personal trainers to get their NASM-CPT and start to talk about advancing their careers and gaining a competitive edge, we recommend that they stick within the NASM certification authority for two main reasons:

  1. They are already familiar with the accrediting authority;
  2. The additional certs transfer towards the continuing education credits (CEUs) needed to recertify.

Of course this train of thought – maintaining familiarity and working towards CE – can be applied to any authority, not just NASM.

In terms of picking additional credentials, you should consider them based on what is going to make you the most valuable to the type of clients you want to serve. In sticking with the NASM example, two of the most popular additional, or add-on, certifications are the Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES) and Fitness Nutrition Specialist (FNS) certifications. As mentioned above, these certifications, or at least variations of them, are available through most of the accreditation bodies. If your goals are to help clients overcome pain or help clients formulate diet plans along with fitness regimens, then the CES and FNS (or equivalent) certifications would be a good tool to have under your belt.

If you want to look like a real badass (who doesn’t?), consider getting a Mixed Martial Arts Specialist (MMAS) or Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES) certification (or equivalent) to showcase to your potential clients that you have sick ninja skills and that you can help them elevate their hoop dreams to a whole other level. Bottom line is get some certifications that help you improve your offerings as a professional and as a resource to your clients.

Selling Your Fitness Theory

What the @#$% is a “fitness theory” you ask? A fitness theory is your core belief about what true health really is. Think of a major brand like Coca-Cola for example. They aren’t selling deliciously (unhealthy) soda, they are selling happiness in a bottle. For the fitness professional, you aren’t selling sweat and muscles, you’re selling the confidence, self-esteem and attractiveness that comes with being in shape. Your fitness theory will define you as a trainer and at the same time become your sales pitch.

Maybe you can relate to my story; as I began my career in fitness I didn’t really know what my fitness theory was, I just sold someone else’s theory and was sort of this pawn. After I gained some confidence in my training style and approach I soon began to realize I didn’t really believe what I was selling, I was just piggybacking off what some other respectable trainers had done. Well screw that, you are your own brand and you have to believe in what you are promoting and selling otherwise your clients won’t.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you recognize your fitness theory:

  1. What is health to me?
  2. What is my daily routine to promote health?
  3. What are the best types of exercises I used to get in the best shape?
  4. What do I eat and why?
  5. What is the best way to create a new habit or behavior?

Take a moment to write down your answers to these questions. I’ll wait here, maybe do a pushup or two. All done? Great!

Do you believe in what you wrote down? You should, here’s why. You are the prime example your clients are looking at to give them an idea if your theory – albeit adapted – will work for them. If your idea of health is an alignment of physical, mental and nutritional wellbeing, do you think your clients can identify with that? Does your diet consist of lots of healthy proteins, fruits and vegetables and healthy fats? Great! Unlike the overweight doctor who tells his patients they need to “watch what they eat,” you are the end-result of your fitness theory and are the image your clients can emulate.

Documenting Your Fitness Theory

Now that you have identified clear and objectionable actions that can be emulated to live a life of fitness you should document your approach so that you can provide it to your clients. It’s one thing to tell your clients a nutritional plan they should follow and then another to provide them with a nutrition document that outlines it for them. Other documents you should create to help you promote your fitness theory and keep your clients aligned with their goals can include:

  • Fitness programs
  • Meal plans
  • Behavioral change strategies
  • Exercise charts

Keep in mind that if you put enough time and effort in these documents you can sell them to your clients or the general public. You are in business to monetize yourself right? Base your documents on research, data and your expertise. They will form the template in which you train and help to keep you consistent – just xenical purchase like a Big Mac in Miami and a Big Mac in Spain. Not that you eat Big Mac’s.

Personal and Product Branding

Remember when you answered the question above “What is my daily routine to promote health?” This is essentially your own personal version of branding. Personal branding is a fairly easy concept to grasp but one that you should be conscious of and evoke in your day-to-day life. For example, people in your local community that see you at the grocery or health foods market will see the food choices you make. They’ll notice that you make healthy food choices and that McD’s isn’t part of your diet. They’ll also notice, if you’re anything like 90 percent of the personal trainers out there, that you are always wearing fitness clothes, probably because you just got out of the gym or engaged in some type of training. With all this healthy eating and training you are doing you are probably looking pretty good. You know what, people who look good get a lot of attention and your attractiveness has a lot to do with your personal brand. Extend your personal brand to your clients and encourage them to eat like you, workout like you and let their friends know what they are doing to live this great life of health and fitness.

Product Branding

Product branding is equally as important to personal branding but will take a bit more consideration and implementation. Above we mentioned that you’re selling the confidence, self-esteem and attractiveness that comes with being in shape in your personal brand. Let’s think about some ways that can translate into selling your product.

First, let’s consider what a personal trainer’s product could look like. Again, keeping in mind that what you are really selling is a lifestyle change, let’s look at what the tangible objects are that will get you there. What better place to look than what the 10 highest paid personal trainers are selling. Here’s some examples of what a few of these personal trainers “sell” to get the reputation they have (based on an article from WeightTraining.com).

Bernardo Coppola– along with training celebrities, Coppola is known for challenging his clients to eat less sugar, processed foods, avoid caffeine, alcohol and sodium and has even developed a catering company and restaurant around this product.

Tracy Anderson– creator of the “Tracy Anderson Method,” a Pilates-style program that introduces members to new exercises, stretches and lots of reps.

David Buer– often recognized for selling his story of being bullied for being fat as a boy, Buer now has his own fitness blog in the Huffington Post. He is also known for helping clients with injuries and post-surgical rehab.

Can you see how these famous personal trainers sell not only their personal brands but also their own product based on their beliefs and expertise? How can you incorporate your interests, certifications and desires of your clients into a product brand that is targeted and desirable? Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Define Your Brand
    • Use your fitness theory to clearly define what it is that can help make a difference in people’s fitness and health. Above, Coppola’s brand involved a clearly defined way of eating or put another way, not eating.
  • Define Your Audience
    • Who are the types of people who would benefit from your fitness theory? What demographic research can you find on them that is quantifiable? Address specific ages, incomes, occupations, personality types and any other data you can get your hands on to learn about who you will be appealing to.
  • Create Your Brand Name
    • Will it be like the “Tracy Anderson Method,” the “Booty Fit Club,” “Five Minute Abs” or some other type or personal name? Keep it simple and use your fitness theory as a basis.
  • Tell Your Story
    • Were you once a chubby little kid with an accent that got picked on like Buer? What is it that motivated you to create your product?
  • Create a Logo and Tagline
    • Keep it simple here too. Hire a professional graphic designer and pay attention to color schemes and psychology.
  • Create Your Image
    • Your branding should be consistent across all mediums so that you become instantly recognizable. Use the same color schemes, fonts and layouts whenever possible. In the design world this is called a “style guide.” Use a graphic designer who understands this.

Personal Trainer Career Guide Conclusion

Once you begin a career in personal training your certification is only the beginning. This really only makes you par for the course and doesn’t really distinguish you from the pack or help you market yourself. This is why advanced certifications are so important. When progressing your education and obtaining mandatory CEUs, you should consider the certifications that going to make you the most valuable to the type of clients you want to serve. Once you start to get some expertise in specific areas, the next thing you’ll want to think about investing in is your fitness theory or your core beliefs about what true health really is. You’ll be relating to this again and again as you build your personal and product brands and help your clients identify with your health and fitness beliefs. Your personal brand is showcased in how you live according to what you preach and your product brand by your promotion of very specific services. This could be your bodyweight exercise regimen or your personal training namesake, “Body’s by Jason.” Think about how some of the more well-known personal trainers have evolved their product brands and how much thinking they have put into telling their story, defining their audience and promoting their branding.

Using these tips will help you grow your business and meet your personal training career goals. Like turning a coach potato into a chiseled specimen of human, it will take time, dedication and perseverance, all things that you are ready for.

 

Eddie Lester is a personal trainer from Los Angeles and the Founder and CEO of Fitness Mentors. With over 10 years experience and 8 different certifications and specializations, as well as multiple years teaching training at a vocational college, Lester loves sharing his knowledge of practical training experience as well as how to study for PT exams. Lester is the author of Business and Sales: The Guide to Success as a Personal Trainer.

2 Comments

  1. […] your personal brand: when building your client-facing site, you’ll have to consider how you’ll sell your fitness theory. This means having your website describe the following items so that clients know what to expect […]

  2. […] in selling sessions at $85/hour as I only thought myself to be a $25/hour trainer. I was great at building value and selling benefits but lacked confidence in discussing […]

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