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7 min read

How to become a personal trainer

If health, fitness and exercise is your passion and you fancy a career change, then starting a business as a personal trainer makes a lot of sense. With 1 in 7 people in the UK a member of a gym and millennials spending more and more on health and fitness, the market demand for this job role is definitely there too.

What do personal trainers do?

Personal trainers help people to achieve their fitness goals related to getting fitter and healthier by supporting them with exercise, giving advice and writing plans for training and nutrition. Often they will take clients for one-to-one exercise and fitness sessions either in the gym or a studio, at home or outside. They may also run group exercise classes.

The clients’ goal could be to lose weight, gain muscle, or train to compete in a particular sport or event. Personal trainers should help clients ascertain and focus on what the aim of their training is. They should be fully committed to helping and educating people and really care about them gaining the desired results.

What do I need to do to become a personal trainer?

The qualifications to become a personal trainer are fairly easy to start and complete which means there are quite a lot of trainers in the marketplace.

There are approximately 14,000 registered personal trainers in the UK…

…but the fitness industry is still one of the fastest growing markets. Statistica.com estimates a £23 billion growth from 2010-2020.

There are many personal training courses, including the Active IQ Level 3 in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training. It covers all aspects of fitness instructing, allows you to become internationally recognised amongst the health and fitness industry, and enables you to register on the Register of Exercise Professionals. 
 
Instructor qualifications, and training provider courses are available through colleges and private providers, and some require little experience or only a few entry requirements. 
 
It is also recommended that those training to be a fitness trainer take nutrition courses also. 
 
For your business to stand out from other qualified personal trainers; you will need more than just the right qualifications however. You’ll be rewarded with helping people change their lives.
 

Qualifications

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Premier Global and YMCAfit are two of the biggest training providers that offer a range of qualification options in fitness instructing, personal training, anatomy and physiology, first aid, nutrition and other specialisms. Course prices start at around £1500 and typically take a few months to complete.

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CIMSPA or REPs industry association membership

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Often your first-year industry body membership will be included with your qualification (it’s worth asking). REPs membership is £40 a year and you’ll need to complete extra training over time for CPD (continued professional development) points to maintain membership.

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A passion for health and fitness

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People are fit in different ways and you won’t be expected to take part in every session with your clients or be absolutely perfect but you will need to be looked up to as someone who leads by example and has a passion for health and fitness.   

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People skills

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Clients will work with personal trainers that they get on with so you’ll need to be a real people person – friendly and engaging. It might be your sixth session of the day but it’s there only one with you so you need to give them the same level of commitment as you did your first.

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Somewhere to train people

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You’ll need permission from a gym to train people there and might need to pay them a fee. You could also rent another space, train clients in their own houses or outside (weather permitting).

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Equipment

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There’s plenty you can do without equipment and if you have access to a gym you can use theirs but if not you’re likely to need a few bits that are easily transportable like a medicine ball, resistance bands, a skipping rope, foam roller and mat.

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Business skills

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Even if it’s just you, you’ll essentially be running your own business so you need to be prepared to look after the sales, marketing and accounts.

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Time management

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Personal training is not a 9 to 5 job – often people will want training before or after work so you’ll need to be a morning and evening person. Invest in a good watch with a timer because being on time is a must, as is being good at counting – reps, sets and circuits

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11:21

Video: Being a personal trainer – how, why and what it takes

by Fit With El

When it comes to personal training, there are many success stories that you can learn from. Personal Trainer El explains what’s involved if you want to follow in her footsteps. 

How much should I charge as a personal trainer?

As a personal trainer, success will come when you focus on the clients, not the money. But, we all need to make a living. Personal trainers charge on average between £30 and £70 for a 45 or 60-minute session. Your rate will depend on:

  • your level of instructing and personal training qualifications
  • number of years experience
  • the area you work in – average income, demand and how much competition there is
  • the services you offer and where you train people.

Consider offering a discount for a block of bookings, for example, £60 a session or five sessions for £250. It might be tempting to price yourself low when you first start out but people will have more confidence in you if you have confidence in yourself and you might find it hard to ever rise your prices. Try to raise your prices slightly every year but justify this to your clients by offering new services or equipment at the same time.

Should I be a sole trader or register as a limited company?

This is the question that many people who work for themselves ponder. Although there will be a slight difference in the way you pay tax and the amount you pay, you’ll probably need an accountant to work this out for you for your individual case. Generally, the difference in income will be marginal and it will come down to personal preference.

Benefits of being a sole trader

Benefits of being a limited company

Setting up and winding up the business is a bit simpler. You won’t need to register for Corporation Tax or with HMRC as an employer.

You and the business are legally separate entities and you have limited liability on debts.

It’s unlikely to affect your ability to get clients.

It can give the perception of being a bigger company and/or more professional.

You can always change your legal entity later if you choose.

The structure is already there if you want to expand and take on employees.

Checklist: Finding your first clients

The most daunting thing for any business is usually finding new clients. Take a look at these ideas for getting new customers for personal trainers just starting out or those wanting to grow their business…

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Do I need insurance?

The short answer is yes.

Even though your job is trying to keep people safe and healthy things can always go wrong. Personal trainers should have public liability insurance as a minimum and then also buildings/contents insurance, business equipment insurance and employers’ liability insurance if required. Public liability insurance will cover you if any claims are made against you by a customer or other members of the public for injury or damage to their property.

Personal trainers should get clients to complete a physical activity readiness questionnaire (PAR-Q) to screen them before starting any form of training or giving advice. This will ensure the trainer has informed consent and has checked if the person should seek medical advice before embarking on a new programme of fitness and exercise.

 

There are many successful personal trainers out there, and you can easily be one of them. It’s a rewarding career path with lots of flexibility, as you’ll be making a change within your clients’ lives. 
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