Considering becoming a Personal Trainer?

Do you think you have the right stuff?

Lets discuss the key attributes of what makes a good personal trainer; what are the keys to success; and are there certain personality types that lend themselves to personal training?


A personal trainer will always have to learn key skills and apply the knowledge they have acquired. Many personal trainers who work in fitness facilities have no formal qualification. While you often cannot fault these trainers on their years of experience in fitness, they may still have gaps in their knowledge and or skills. The fitness field is also a very dynamic field, and new approaches surface almost weekly. Therefore, even if an individual has vast amounts of experience, they are still encouraged, and ideally, required to gain a recognised qualification.


Further to this, in order to stay up to date, all fitness professionals are required to keep up to date. They do this by acquiring 24 Continued Professional Development (CPD) points per year. They can register with a professional body, like REPSSA (The Register of Exercise Professionals South Africa) to aid in their professioal development


Many personal trainers feel that they can rock up to a session, thumb suck a few exercises, and essentially “wing” a session. This will only be to the detriment of the client, as they are getting sub-standard care. It will also be evident to the client that their trainer is unprepared. Nothing says “unprofessional” more than being unprepared. A good trainer will carefully plan out their clients session beforehand. They should even go as far to have 5 to 12 weeks of prep-planned sessions mapped out. This is what sets a personal trainer apart from other fitness professionals. The ability carefully select specific exercises and to design a program strategy best suited to the clients needs. As the client adapts to the exercise strategy the personal trainer should modify the exercise program . Without this, its difficult to classify a fitness professional as a personal trainer.


A personal trainer contains a key word, “personal”. A trainer must be prepared to be hands-on. They must put their cell phone away and focus on their client. A personal trainer must be able to perform every exercise they prescribe and perform them well. They should also be able to pick up errors in their clients movement and apply a fix. A personal trainer must be able to aid their client in performing the exercise correctly. This may be in the form of clear instruction. However, more often then not, it involves physically guiding the clients movements. If you’re not comfortable with physical contact, personal training is not for you.


As with any career, its always good to be motivated to do your job. For a personal trainer, satisfaction comes from leading clients to their goals. The desire to see people change their lives. The desire to see people transform themselves. Personal trainers aren’t miracle workers. They apply their knowledge to a problem, motivate their clients to change and set an example. Personal trainers are essentially leaders in the field of fitness. They set the bar, and encourage their clients to reach it. There is a lot of work that goes into creating this. A personal trainer must be prepared to do the hard yards and train themselves to reach their own goals. They must be prepared to strive day and night with clients unwilling to change. They must be prepared to put on a smile, even if the situation inst great.


One of the most important attributes that sets a successful personal trainer apart is personal management. This is where almost all new personal trainers fail initially. The ability to manage yourself. This involves discipline. Working hours are to 9 to 5. Personal trainers start a 5 in the morning and finish at 9 at night. Before and after clients working hours are when personal trainers need to be available. Yes, there will be free time during the day. Yet in this free time, a personal trainer must design programs, market their business, train themselves, and if time allows, rest.

A second aspect of personal management is punctuality. Sessions must run on time. A personal trainer must arrive well before a session and start the session on time. A session must also not run over time, as this will negatively impact the next client. A lack of punctuality is an instant killer of professionalism.

The final point related to personal management, is financial management. New personal trainers will start their business with only a few clients. Yet, they will suddenly get money in their bank account and they will get cash. How they manage their income will determine whether their business succeeds or fails. Many personal trainer make the mistake of not considering their business expenses before spending their “hard-earned” money. There will be rent, clothing, petrol, business cards, website hosting, social media marketing, and that’s just the business expenses. Then there’s bringing home a salary. Lights and water, home rental, groceries, medical aid, the list goes on ….

Its not easy starting a successful personal training business. Yet, with good personal management and discipline, a personal trainer can, and most often, will suceeed.


The final aspect related to becoming a successful personal trainer relates to personality. Although this can be developed in some individuals, most of the times its a natural trait. A personal trainer must be outgoing. They must be charismatic. They must be seen by gym members as someone energetic and exciting to be around. Yes, a client will want to achieve their goals, but, if they’re not having fun, they’re not going to hang around.


There is a lot more to discuss related to becoming a successful personal trainer. Yet, if you are contemplating choosing or changing to this career, consider the above points first.

Its an exciting, dynamic and entertaining field. You’re your own boss. You can live out your passion.