I talk to a lot of people who are interested in becoming personal trainers. In this article, I will briefly share some thoughts on motives, attitudes and resources if you are thinking of becoming a personal trainer. I would recommend that you start by getting a legitimate certification. You can research the internet or talk to personal trainers at health clubs or private studios. As a suggestion, you could check out the International Association of Resistance Trainers, ISSA or ACE. These three certification organizations can be found on the internet and have several areas for you to consider. When considering a legitimate certification program, check out personal training / liability insurance.
Be sure that the certificate you earn will have clear guidelines on how to purchase insurance once you actually start to train clients. There are many fitness certifications that are not recognized by any insurance companies, stay away from these. If you choose to train without insurance, you are taking a big risk. Depending on the physical location of where you will train your clients (club, private training studio, corporate fitness center) you will need to check with their individual requirements regarding acceptable certifications and insurance policies.
After you have done your research on the above issues, if you are still interested, get started today! Whether you remain interested (out of the people who go into fitness training, many more drop out than stick with it) you can always use the information to further your own personal fitness programming. I believe that your initial training / certification will never be a waste. You will want to check out other certification programs later (may be required based on place of employment) in order to get plenty of exposure to all the different training methodologies.
Try to stay grounded – many programs are not that reality based. With any training information, ask yourself the question: How will I use this for my own, as well as my clients, fitness program? I have many doctors, other trainers and people with sports / human performance degrees who hire me to help with training issues. The rubber hits the road when you have a client who is depending on you to give them a cardio, strength training, eating, supplementation, injury recovery and / or flexibility program complete with personalized scheduling. You do not need to have all the answers but try to establish your own process for giving them the answers or effective referrals for what they need.
Not knowing what your previous experience is regarding working with people in general, I would suggest that you assess what your tolerance is for complainers and whiners as there are so many issues for so many people that you will need to address at some level (as a fitness professional). If you want to be a good trainer, you need to commit to the total client. I think too many trainers end up wanting to legitimize their own training priorities and believe that by becoming a personal trainer / fitness professional, they can focus all their time on themselves (not an acceptable mindset). They should stay out of personal training if they are not ready to commit to their clients. Do not fall prey to canned programs or using a cookie cutter approach for everyone you will train.
I come from a human service background (double major in Social Work / Criminal Justice) and worked my way up to manager in a juvenile diversion program over a period of 10 years before getting into personal training. BUT, in the first three years of being a personal trainer, I placed in three international personal trainer contests. These were great experiences but in all three instances, success was based on the commitment to the client more than caring about winning any contests.