Looking for a career change? Thinking that life as a fitness professional may be the change you need?
Be sure to do your homework first.
Not all personal training courses are created equal, unfortunately.
What course you take is a very important financial and career decision and in making the right call you will need to cut through all the ‘noise’ that can clutter your reasoning.
Do your homework, undertake some research and be an informed shopper.
Some of the ‘noise’ you’ll have to deal with in choosing a PT course wil be:
- Huge discounts
- Cheap online courses
- Free business diplomas
- Celebrity endorsements
All of these sales pitches can ‘dirty the water’ and make hard to know what’s actually important when deciding upon the best personal training course for you.
So, to help you filter out the irrelevant from the required, here are seven probing (and illuminating) questions you should get satisfactory answers to before signing up for any personal training course.
1. What are the PT course customers saying?
This is a big one.
In all likelihood, it is probably the most telling piece of information you need to help you choose a quality personal training course.
If the students (customers) are happy and satisfied with their course and ongoing support, it’s an excellent sign that you could be onto a winner.
However, on the flip side if students (past and present) are dissatisfied and ill-prepared for life as a fitness coach/ personal trainer after graduating it is a massive red flag.
Generally, the advice here is to turn around and walk away.
How to find out if students are satisfied with a personal training course:
- Look for public reviews of the course provider through social media/ Facebook
- Look for student testimonials on the course providers website. Video testimonials are even better as you’ll hear directly from the student rather than rely on an ‘edited’ snippet of text and a tiny photo
- Ask the course provider to show you some reviews or feedback from happy, satisfied students and graduates
If social media reviews and video testimonials on a course provider are hard (or impossible) to find and the provider can’t (or won’t) show you student feedback when requested, then feel free to walk away.
Also look at articles and blogs on personal training course websites. If there is not an option available to leave a comment then it would suggest that there may be a reason for this. Remember, feedback is a gift after all.
Social proof via testimonials and product reviews is essential for most consumers these days and if there is no place on a website or blog to leave feedback indicates that there could be disgruntled customers out there.
My mum always used to say ‘the proof is in the pudding‘. She’s right with this one.
2. How is the PT course delivered?
Is it an online or face-to-face course?
An online course may seem like a fast and convenient way to get your ‘ticket’ into the fitness industry, however it does have its drawbacks.
It is a ‘short cut’ that could leave you a little short of real-world experience and under-prepared when it comes time to hit the gym floor and start working with real clients.
Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to learn all of the practical and interpersonal skills you’ll need to be a successful personal trainer by only studying online.
I’m referring to skills like:
- Safely performing, demonstrating and instructing weight training exercises – particularly ‘the big lifts’ like Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press etc.
- Conducting thorough client interviews, needs analysis, exercise planning and programming
- Delivering high quality, effective and enjoyable personal training sessions that your clients will want to come back and repeat
- Keeping clients on board through personalised motivation and ongoing support.
It is problematic and risky to attempt to learn these highly practical, hands-on, interactive skills, with all of the different types of people you’ll encounter as a personal trainer if you’ve only ever studied remotely on your laptop and ‘practiced’ with a couple of mates!
As a personal trainer you’ll need to be very confident with your practical skills in the gym. Safely demonstrating and instructing all of the major weight training exercises, delivering high quality training sessions and customised client support is minimum standard.
You want customers (your clients) to feel comfortable and safe in the control of an experienced, confident and competent trainer.
This is not a time to ‘fake it until you make it‘. It’s not fair on your clients and it puts undue stress and risk on you.
Online personal training courses make it harder (but not impossible) to build these crucial skill sets.
3. Where is the PT course being delivered?
When looking at face-to-face (on campus) personal training courses there are some things to note.
As a personal trainer you’ll spend the majority of your career in an exercise environment, most likely a gym, full of exercise equipment that you’ll need to know how to use.
So, ideally a personal training course campus should accurately reflect the environment you’ll be working in. It should be set up so you can spend the majority of your time practically applying what you learn on your course.
This enables the freedom and confidence to build your skills in a fully equipped gym without worrying about making mistakes in front of potential clients.
4. Who will be delivering the PT course?
You need to learn a considerable (and worthwhile) amount of theory to become a personal trainer. This is a fact.
However, that theory is less useful when it is has not been applied in real situations with real clients.
Tutors that have real-world (not only classroom) experience, ideally with many years of practical and successful personal training behind them, should be able to make your studies closer to ‘real’.
All the better if your PT tutors have run their own successful personal training businesses, ideally for upwards of 3 years, as they will be able to draw down on a huge amount of real life scenarios and practical experience to bring alive your learning.
Making a career in personal training is a dream lifestyle for many, but it is no walk in the park and you will need to operate yourself and your time efficiently and commercially.
Learning from tutors who have previoulsy been successful trainers is likely to give you the best shot at success.
5. How will this PT course equip me for success?
In Australia you need Certificates III and IV in Fitness to work as a personal trainer.
When these qualifications are delivered effectively they should provide you with the knowledge and practical skills you require to become a successful fitness professional.
- A solid understanding of anatomy and physiology (how the body works)
- How to demonstrate and instruct the most effective weight training, cardio and flexibility exercises
- How to provide nutritional guidance and support
- How to help people to make positive changes (human behaviour)
- How to conduct consultations with clients
- How to prescribe effective exercise programs
- How to support and manage clients
- How to deliver high quality, customised personal training sessions that keep clients coming back
- How to build, run and sustain a satisfying and financially rewarding personal training business
If a prospective course does not offer this in its basic Cert III and IV curriculum, then it’s hard to see how it will prepare you to become a successful fitness professsional.
No amount of glossy brochures or smooth talking gorgeous salespeople will make up for a personal training course that is seriously lacking in core skills. Make sure you check more than the brochure and the dazzling smile.
6. How will the course provider help me get work as a Personal Trainer?
A personal training course and the people behind it should not become strangers on the completion of your course.
Becoming qualified doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically become a successful personal fitness coach. It is one major step in the journey completed but there are still many more steps to come.
The next stage of the journey will require you to:
- Find an excellent fitness club or gym to work at, and
- Find supportive and friendly shoulders to lean on whilst you overcome nerves (and, potentially, ‘imposter syndrome’) as you take on your first few clients.
Your personal training course will ideally have a network of fitness professionals, experienced trainers, managers and fitness club operators available for you to get to know.
This can be an extremely valuable resource to tap into so that you can ask questions, seek advice and build a network of contacts for future opportunities.
7. Who will I be studying with?
It can be very useful to get some insight into who you will be undertaking your personal training course with.
Ideally, you will be surrounded with like-minded people: students committed to the journey, eager to learn, prepared to study hard and serious about becoming successful personal trainers.
However, some course providers are rather slack in who they enroll. The worst operators will take in virtually anybody who expresses an interest, with little regard to their mindset or motivations.
Let’s not kid ourselves, personal training is a calling and a vocation for the best fitness professionals. They have what it takes to make themselves the best they can be in their chosen profession and the commitment and personality to drive their clients to achieve their own personal fitness goals.
The reality is that personal training isn’t right for everyone
You will not, most likely, be training glamorous Hollywood celebrities, rock stars, famous sporting identities.
Certainly not in the short-term and certainly not until you have build up an impressive bank of testimonials, references and a consistent track record of client delight.
Let’s be clear here: no personal training client will continually part with their hard earned dollars unless they receive value that meets and exceeds their expectations.
The fitness industry doesn’t need another egocentric individual in a singlet who thinks that personal training is an easy way to earn big dollars by hanging around in a gym and barking orders at people.
We see this cliche play out too often on TV reality shows (and in the movies) and it simply isn’t what good personal training should be, or should aspire to be.
So surround yourself with like-minded people and throw yourself into becoming a fitness professional from the top shelf.
And the right personal training course should start you on that journey by ensuring that you get all the support you need whilst limiting class sizes to small groups (16 or so).
Your PT course provider should also provide you with the opportunity for one-on-one personal mentoring to help guide your studies, foster a learning environment and go a long way to ensuring your success.
Being around like-minded fitness enthusiasts makes for an enjoyable, productive learning experience. So you your best to check out who will be in the class alongside you.
To recap our seven questions:
Seven questions you must ask any personal training course provider before signing on the dotted line:
- What are their customers saying?
- How is the course delivered? (online or face-to-face)
- Where is the course being delivered?
- Who will be delivering the course?
- How will the course equip me to become a successful personal trainer?
- How will they help me gain work as a personal trainer?
- Who will I be studying with?
Hopefully, you ask these questions and, equally hopefully, you get a satisfactory response to all of them.
If you do then you’ve got a pretty good chance of choosing an excellent PT course.
And then the real fun begins…