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Ask fitness trainers what they like about the job, and they typically will respond "helping people." So it is with Jose Martinez, a personal trainer at 24-Hour Fitness in Citrus Heights.
"Most people who come in are overweight or a doctor says they have high blood pressure or high cholesterol," he relates. In a matter of weeks, Martinez has his clients on their way to achieving their goals – whether it’s weight loss, improved lab results, or physical rehabilitation.
Judging by the continuing growth of exercise classes and health clubs employing trainers like Martinez, the business of fitness is booming. That means jobs at fitness centers are growing at a healthy clip as well.
According to the US Dept of Labor, the overall employment of fitness workers is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2012, as an aging population fights the sagging effects of time.
That means it will be no sweat to find a job as a physical fitness instructor, aerobics teacher or personal trainer. Physical fitness instructors and aerobics teachers often work in organized settings (schools, hospitals) and typically earn less than personal trainers, who can work in health clubs, at community centers, hospital fitness facilities, universities and colleges.
Being a personal trainer offers some of the best opportunities for financial and personal growth.
According to Becoming a Personal Trainer for Dummies, 88 percent of personal trainers are like Martinez – satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs. So if helping people achieve their physical fitness goals via working out in a gym sounds appealing, being a personal trainer may be for you.
The book outlines what you can expect to do on the job: conduct in-depth physical evaluations of clients; design a fitness program for each of them; instruct clients on doing exercises and using the equipment; and monitor their progress, making adjustments as necessary.
As for the personal qualities that are necessary, those planning fitness careers should be outgoing, good at motivating people, and sensitive to the needs of others. In addition, Becoming a Personal Trainer points out that you must be accountable (punctual, for example), mentally and physically agile (to alter a training regimen on the fly), able to teach (and instill excitement), able to lead by example (demonstrating the healthy eating and exercise habits you expect from your clients), a good listener, knowledgeable (about the latest exercise and health trends), and lastly, you need to be likeable (since your business is based solely on customer satisfaction).
Generally, fitness trainers and aerobics instructors must obtain a certification in the fitness field to qualify for employment. Certification can be earned in various areas of exercise, such as personal training, weight training, aerobics, Pilates, and children’s fitness. Individual courses teach you how to develop and implement personalized fitness programs that are safe and effective.
Many organizations offer certification testing in the fitness field, some of which are listed in the FYI section accompanying this article. Certification generally is good for two years, after which workers must
become recertified by attending continuing education classes. Most fitness workers are required to maintain a CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification. Some employers also require workers to be certified in first aid.
A typical certification program will cover these topics: cardiovascular health, anatomy, exercises for special populations (seniors, children, etc), exercises to counter specific diseases, flexibility training, strength training, post rehab exercises, first aid and emergency protocols, and nutrition research.
Martinez got his certification online in two weeks from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. At first, he thought the training sounded like it would be difficult, but the fact that he once took paramedic training helped him ace the anatomy section. Before settling on a particular certification, it is probably best to check with the health club where you work to see what their preferences are in applicant credentials.
An increasing number of employers require fitness workers to have a bachelor’s degree in a field related to health or fitness, such as exercise science or physical education. Some employers allow workers to substitute a college degree for certification, while others require both a degree and certification. A bachelor’s degree and, in some cases, a master’s degree in exercise science, physical education, or a related area, along with experience, usually is required to advance to management positions in a health club or fitness center. Many fitness workers become personal trainers, in addition to their main job in a fitness center, or as a full-time job. Some workers go into business for themselves and open up their own fitness centers.
As for Martinez, his next goal is to become a fitness manager at the 24-Hour Fitness chain where he works. When that happens, he will be in charge of a team of fitness trainers, and be responsible for helping the group achieve sales and performance goals.
The most important thing to Martinez, though, is that he will still be out on the floor, helping his clients achieve their goals as well.
For more information on fitness careers, visit these websites:
AFPAfitness.com - Website of the American Fitness Professionals & Associates organization offers home-study courses for certification and continuing education. Also provides a monthly newsletter and job listings in the training/fitness marketplace.
ActiveCareers.com - Search jobs, post your resume and find career development resources.
CollegeSurfing.com - Find courses in fitness instruction and search for schools near you.
FitnessJobs.com - Search jobs and post your resume for free.