By Jonathan Ross
A career in fitness is full of rewarding challenges and opportunities. The expansion of the fitness industry has provided many new ways to pursue a career beyond the roles of personal trainer or group fitness instructor. Okay, the warm-up is over – it’s time to give you the tips you need to get started!
1. Fitness Isn’t About Exercise
The sooner you realize that fitness isn’t about exercise, the more enjoyable your career will be. The “how” of fitness is available everywhere, at all times – books, websites, magazines, and smartphone apps all can provide great exercises and routines. They can provide what to do to get in shape, but they cannot make someone want to exercise; you can. When you deliver exercise inspiration in such a way that you enhance someone’s desire to be more physically active, they begin to seek healthy behaviors on their own rather than feeling forced.
This powerful shift in someone’s feelings, attitude and thoughts about exercise is only possible through the understanding that comes from a connection to a real human – you. A caring and competent fitness professional will never be replicated by anything paper or electronic.
2. Specialize the Right Way
It’s important to figure out the kind of person you want to work with. You want to be narrow enough to provide clarity for you and potential clients but broad enough to draw the number of clients you need of two major markets the fitness industry has historically done a poor job of reaching: those impacted by weight issues and obesity, and older adults. Neither of those markets is best served by excessively high-intensity or gimmicky fitness offerings that many people are drawn to, which presents a terrific opportunity for you.
Next, look for overlap between those two underserved markets and the types of people you are drawn to work with and pursue intermediate education to better serve those markets. Specifically, consider pursuing a specialty certification to give you the skills and confidence you need in areas like Weight Management, Sports Conditioning, Functional Training, Senior Fitness, and more such as those offered by American Council on Exercise (ACE).
3. Decide: Entrepreneur, Infopreneur or Employee?
How will you make your place in the fitness industry long-term– as an employee, an entrepreneur or an “infopreneur?” Life as an employee comes with the comfort of having benefits and stability with typically fewer opportunities for financial growth. An entrepreneurial fitness professional can focus on either owning their own physical activity space or a fitness company that provides services like training or group fitness classes in a variety of locations. An “infopreneur” (the path I’ve taken in the fitness industry) is typically very independent and sells ideas, usually after spending a few years “in the trenches.” Those ideas can be in the form or articles or books, or through public speaking. It can also include specialized training sessions or classes you may teach.
Any of those three arrangements can work well, but it is best to decide on the one that’s right for you. Deciding simply comes down to how much uncertainty you can embrace – both financially and in your career.
4. Bring All Your Skills
The great thing about the fitness industry is that every person can pursue fitness in a way that works for them. That means whichever path you choose you are certain to encounter people with similar careers or life experiences. Everything you’ve ever done professionally and everyone you’ve ever known personally can provide valuable experience in the delivery of fitness.
Clients and customers of the fitness industry are tremendously diverse, which is simply another way of saying there is “someone for everyone.” Whatever you bring to your fitness career from your previous interests and experiences, I am absolutely certain you can find a way to make them useful. When I graduated with an astronomy degree, I knew I wasn’t going to work in the field, which made me feel I had wasted my college education. But in fitness, I use my physics and general ability to understand science almost every day. My book, “800 Pounds of Parents,” that details my personal history with obesity has tremendously helped me connect with clients who struggle with their weight. Bring who you are and what you’ve done fully into your fitness career and you will shine.
Jonathan Ross serves as a Senior Fitness Consultant for Personal Training for American Council on Exercise (ACE®), and is the author of the book Abs Revealed, which delivers a modern, intelligent approach to ab training. Ross, a two-time Personal Trainer of the Year award-winner, an ACE-certified Personal Trainer, former master trainer for TRX, and a Discovery Health Fitness Expert, hosting their series “Everyday Fitness.”