Your Career in Fitness: A Guide to Professional Success
I get asked all the time from new and incoming trainers and coaches what they can do to better position themselves for (long-term) success in the fitness industry.
Statistics show that most trainers burn out within a year and a half to two years. Granted there are many, many trainers who have long, prosperous, and fruitful careers teeming with PRs, inches melted away, pounds lost, boundless interpersonal relationships, and client success stories. And maybe, just maybe a 401K or SEP IRA you can brag about.
In the fitness industry, however, that tends to be the exception and not the rule.
I don’t feel many people enter this industry under the impression they’ll make a ton of money and that they’ll end up living an MTV Cribs lifestyle. I’m sure they’re out there, but it’s rare.
Rather, most dive in because 1) pretty much anyone can become a personal trainer, so why not? 2) they’ve always been passionate about health and fitness and have a genuine interest in helping others OR 3) they’ve always been passionate about health and fitness and have a genuine interest in helping others. Oh, and they hate their current job and are thiiiiiiis close to grabbing a brick and knocking their boss’s teeth out.
To Point #1: It is what it is. For better or worse the barrier to entry into the fitness industry is low. You don’t need a four-year degree to train someone, and you could make the argument that taking the time to do so does nothing but teach one to get really good at memorizing answers and not preparing him/her for any application of “real-world” skills like movement assessment, coaching, and writing a competent training program that makes sense and doesn’t require a drunk pirate to decipher.
There’s that and the whole thousands of dollars of debt thing.
This isn’t to say I don’t advocate one get a degree, but in this day and age it’s definitely a discussion worth having and weighing one’s options.
To Points #2 & 3: I’m lucky in that I know dozens – if not hundreds – of top notch trainers and coaches who are really good at what they do, and have been doing it for a long time. Likewise, I’m also friends with a know of several people who started off in one career only to perform a 180, take a real risk, and enter fitness.
My good friend Roger Lawson (Rog Law) comes to mind first. He was living in Michigan back in 2008-2009 and graduated school with an English degree, only to realize that that wasn’t what he wanted to do.
Instead he took a chance and applied for an internship at Cressey Sports Performance. Admittedly we were skeptical, but he was persistent (even making the trip from Michigan to Massachusetts just to introduce himself), and we accepted.
The rest, as they say, is history. To this day he’s still considered one of our most popular interns/coaches we’ve ever had. And, to top it all off, he’s amassed his own cult-following and successful fitness career since leaving.
He didn’t take the traditional route, but he’s done a litany of things right which has allowed him to become successful.
Look, anyone with biceps, a cute smile, a casual interest in fitness, or six-pack abzzz (<— 3 z’s for emphasis) can sign up for a weekend personal training course and become certified.
That’s all fine and dandy, but unless you arm yourself with the tools necessary to separate yourself from the masses – a competent understanding of anatomy, nutrition, business, and even psychology (how to deal with and motivate people to change) – like I said, statistics prove most trainers burn out within a year and a half to two years.
At best, taking the time to implement the steps necessary to actually have a fitness career – and a successful one at that – is hard, takes effort, and isn’t for everyone.
At worse, you take the easy route, embrace your overwhelming sense of entitlement, putter out like I said you would, and end up living in your parent’s basement managing all your different Fantasy Football teams while working at Applebee’s.
So What Can You Do?
I don’t do this often. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever done it – link to a singular article. But if any of what I said above strikes a chord with anyone reading, I’d HIGHLY encourage you to read the article below written by Nate Green for Precision Nutrition.
I read it this morning and felt compelled to showcase it on my site today because I think the information provided is priceless.
There are no gimmicks. You don’t need to sign up for anything. It’s just an article. A really good one that provides a ton of direction and resources. Enjoy!