JOB NOT FOR YOU?
YOU'RE THINKING YOU MIGHT WANT TO BE A PERSONAL
My name is Mark Bostrom and I have been
a Personal Trainer for over 20 years.
me: how to become a personal trainer, or what are the disadvantages of being a personal trainer. Instead of
giving a long, boring answer in person, I created be-a-trainer.com to
recommend some books, discuss the type of education
you might need and give a little advice on how to
... and so, here is 'Be-A-Trainer.com.'
BECOME A PERSONAL TRAINER
A lot of people decide to be a personal trainer
because fitness is a personal priority that they would like to share with others. That's true with me, but it might help if I
tell you a little more about what motivated me to become
a Personal Trainer. I grew up with a very high
interest in medicine, physiology, and chemistry. I
was athletic and kept in shape, too. I didn't want
to end up in a job with little physical activity. I
wanted to help people, but I was also fairly
selfish because I wanted the time to keep my own
body in shape.
Shrugs? I realized I wasn't quite
sure which direction I wanted to take my
career. I was interested in prevention in
I became a dedicated paramedic
while studying to get into medical school and found that I was fascinated by the physiological processes that occur during shock and trauma or low oxygen conditions. I compared this physiology to the physiology under stressful conditions of intense exercise. During
those hard years of studying, some physicians
warned me that the field of medicine was changing
and that insurance companies were taking greater
control of decisions for patients. They complained that
there wasn't as much satisfaction and gratification
while practicing medicine — especially with loss of
control of making medical decisions subordinated to insurance companies. No lack of respect to physicians who have
excellent careers, but I thought that maybe the medical profession didn't fit my
career goals ... that maybe I would end up bitter
and frustrated about my career choice in medicine.
Also, while working as a paramedic, I noticed that
many of the emergency calls were preventable,
either through better concern for safety or better
self-care and prevention with regard to health. In school I was learning how in other countries, citizens with better diets and more active lifestyles were living longer lives. I
became motivated to study ways to stay healthy --
this was in the 1980's when the whole fitness & health
promotion concept was just starting to expand.
I applied for only one medical school -- the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because there was a medical scholars program for students who
wanted to combine another scholarly discipline with
medicine. I chose Exercise Physiology with
Medicine. I was rejected by the medical school, but
I was accepted by the graduate school to begin
studying Exercise Physiology. I graduated with a
Master of Science Degree from the Kinesiology
Department at the University of Illinois.
My first job was in Cardiac Rehabilitation.
Personal Training was not really popular at the
time ... at least not in the midwest ... maybe just
in Hollywood. I loved studying physiology, but I
surprised myself because I wasn't satisfied working in Cardiac Rehabilitation. The cardiologist made all
the decisions. And at my career level, I just
followed protocols. Personal Training was starting
to gain momentum, and I saw the opportunity to take
more control. You still might work closely with a
physician, such as an orthopedic specialist. But,
as a Personal Trainer, you are able to make a lot
more decisions in the field while you report back
and offer suggestions to the orthopedic specialist
or physical therapist. I was lucky because my
next job at an orthopedic sports
medicine clinic with orthopedic specialists and
physical therapists gave me a lot of responsiblity, free reign on creativity and the ability to make decisions.
was able to come up with modified
exercises, like this Abdominal Curl for
people who strained too hard doing regular
situps flat on the
I eventually worked on my own as a Personal
Trainer, and have watched the field grow
tremendously. While many people didn't know what a
personal trainer was in the 1980's, there are few
people who don't know what a personal trainer is
MAKES A GREAT TRAINER
The key is to distinguish yourself as a
knowledgeable and interactive Personal Trainer. You have to give off good energy. Not perky energy, but energy that helps people believe in themselves and become self-reliant, fit and strong.
the Top 10 Qualities of a Personal
What causes new trainers to fail?
Lack of education and lack of a sustainable client
base are the top reasons for failure to thrive as a
Your Time and Your Career
The good and the bad about being a trainer is all
in the schedule. One of the great things about
being a trainer is scheduling your own hours, but
you can become a slave to your schedule.
certain markets, you tend to work early and late --
around people's 9-5 jobs. If you are working with
athletes you may be busy during practice
Cancellations are fairly predictable during
specific seasons, but are pretty unpredictable
Bad Economy Doesn't Necessarily Hurt a Personal
When the economy goes bad, many wealthy clients
tend to look inward and look to rebuild their
personal strength. A trip to Europe might be
cancelled, but a trip to the gym will be a top
The Disadvantages of Being a Personal
Hours can be very irregular. Sometimes you may find
yourself working very early and very late. Then the
next week you can have a normal 9-to-5.
Maintaining enthusiasm can be difficult at times.
Occasionally clients may be going through very
tough times, so there will be some emotional strain
to keep things positive.
You may find yourself as a low priority for some
people. People know they should exercise every day,
but they might find that real world stressors cause
them to cancel their training sessions. Therefore,
your income may fluctuate.
Mark Bostrom, Personal Trainer
126 East Wing Street #220
Arlington Heights, IL 60004
Advanced degree with Master of Science in
Exercise Physiology and certification from the
National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Northwest Suburban Chicago. Call or e-mail for
appointments and availability.
20 years experience
Medical background (former paramedic)
Computer records and data gathering
MORE WEBSITES ...
is a privately held
Illinois corporation located in
Arlignton Heights, Illinois.
from our home town of
Arlington Heights, Illinois.
How You Might Help People ...
Here is a list of favorite goals that motivates
people to call for help from a Personal
Cardiovascular System and reduce risk of
appearance (for a wedding, new job,
to stop being a slouch for your
and feel more energy
(for sport or work)
stronger and faster or regain
quickness and power after an injury
ability to handle life's stresses
and gain health benefits
muscle for stability,
shape and strength
Over a period of time a Personal Trainer can help
clients discover their capabilities and work around
limitations. Goals are reached efficiently and with
PERSONAL TRAINING CATEGORIES
Core & Stability Training
Low Back School
Shaping aka Sculpting, Toning, Trimming
METHODS OF TRAINING
Here are my outlined methods of training -- a
scientific approach to Human Performance in sports,
work, recreation and daily activities. Programs are
designed with a variety of these methods.
Workout Phases. Personal touch guides
clients to exercise at their current physical
condition. Workouts are offered in phases to match
physical fitness and goals. Phases include the
Corrective exercises to help correct
postural problems and muscle imbalances that could
otherwise cause injuries.
Stability and flexibility exercises to help
develop muscles that optimize joint range of motion
and stabilize the body's core -- the spine and
abdominal muscles -- the basis of all other
activity of the body.
Muscular development exercises for body
shaping and weight management.
Muscular strength exercises to improve
Power exercises to develop power in
Cardiovascular exercises to develop
endurance for athletics or help with weight
Goals are evaluated and documented.
Exercises are documented for accountability. An
Exercise Reports database helps a trainer select
from thousands of exercises clients can use in a
health club, fitness center, at home, on vacation
Energy balance documents monitor activity and food
Experience in fitness brings
greater cooperation of
mind and body.
-- Mark Bostrom
Books from Amazon.com under the Exercise
Adaptation The response of the body to
stress that involves systems of the body growing or
modifying to perform more efficiently while under a
future similar stress.
Agonist The muscle or muscles that are doing
the work to move bones in a specific motion that
are coordinated with the antagonist(s), which
perform the opposite motion. The agonists and
antagonists are coordinated in the sense that the
antagonist decelerates or controls agonist action.
Also sensors in agonists and antagonists feedback
information to the nervous system that helps
control speed, force of contraction and flexibility
of the muscles. When this coordinated system is
well-trained and functioning well, performance is
enhanced and injuries, such as muscle strains are
Antagonist The muscle or muscles that
perform the opposite motion of the agonist(s). See
Cool Down The process of slowing down the
physiological processes after physical activity.
This is especially important for the heart after
endurance activity. Sudden decrease in activity or
lying down immediately after intense activity
causes a strain on the heart because of sudden
decrease in blood flow return to the heart.
Exercise Physiology The science of the
processes of body chemistry, function, anatomy and
body systems as they affect and are modified by
Endurance The ability to perform muscular
work for extended periods (e.g., running,
Failure The application of work of a muscle
until it can't contract. The purpose of bringing a
muscle to failure is to bring adaptation for better
performance in the future.
Oxygen Consumption The body's use of oxygen,
especially by the muscles while working or
Progressive Resistance Exercise or PRE
Working a muscle to failure by gradually increasing
the intensity or the resistance of the
Repetition or Rep One full range of motion of
an action that is repeated in an exercise.
Set A group of repetitions of an
Speed The ability to quickly move the body
or a part of the body, as in swimming, running,
throwing, kicking, swinging, etc.
Sports Specific Training An exercise program
that is designed to condition the body specifically
for a chosen sport.
Strength The body's ability to overcome a
force in order to move an object.
Superset The combination of two or more
exercises in series. Instead of doing sets of the
same exercise in series, you do a different
exercise as the second or third set. You can do the
same muscles and agonists or you can work
antagonists in the combination. If you do the same
muscles and agonists, you will really feel the
fatigue and failure of the muscle. Same
muscle/agonist example: Close grip lat
pulldown/wide grip lat pulldown. Antogonist
example: biceps curl from low pulley (elbow
flexion)/triceps pressdown from high pulley (elbow
VO2 Max or Maximal Oxygen
The maximum work or exercise intensity a person can
achieve while still using oxygen in steady state.
When intensity exceeds the Maximal Oxygen
Consumption level, the body uses alternate
metabolic pathways (such as anaerobic glycolysis)
that perform for a limited time.
Warm-up The process of getting the brain,
nerves, muscles, tendons, ligaments, lungs, heart
and blood vessels and the body as a whole ready for
an increase in activity. Generally thought to be
safer for the heart, joints and muscles for
FOR PERSONAL TRAINERS ...
EDUCATION AND CERTIFICATION
The best reason for education and certification is
to gain confidence that the information and
training that you provide is safe and effective.
There is nothing worse than going to an appointment
feeling like you don't have anything worthy to
offer to your client ... or worse, that you might
even harm a client. An education gives you
confidence, even if you don't have a good solution
or program right away ... you know with research
and planning you can find a good solution and
develop a good program for your client.
I have seen a lot of trainers lack confidence
because they don't have a college degree in a
fitness-related track. So, I will have to say it
certainly helps to have a Bachelor of Science or
Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology or
Kinesiology. But, there are a lot of trainers that
don't have these type of degrees. Some are good,
and some are not so good.
Certification gives you confidence that you meet
safety and performance standards. If you are
athletic and have worked out for years and you get
a certfication from a respected organization, you
can probably turn yourself into an excellent
Personal Trainer. But think about this ... there is
no way a two-day seminar or a study-at-home program
can match four years of college education. Without
a college education, you need to work hard, study
hard, and develop patiently as a trainer. I have
been to some seminars where I could not believe
what was being presented. The presenter did not
understand how muscles, motor control and nervous
system control of muscles worked! In another
example, I was cringing as I was being taught a
'new' technique for bench press that was actually
harmful to the shoulder joint. The organization
changed the recommmendation a few years later.
Know the difference between education and
certification. An advanced degree indicates that a
Personal Trainer is capable of taking initiative to
develop programs and understand methods of research
and investigation. A certification indicates that a
Personal Trainer is keeping current with trends in
the fitness industry and meets necessary safety and
efficiency standards that organizations have
Here are the top organizations to pursue for
-- American Council on Exercise
-- American College of Sports Medicine
-- National Academy of Sports Medicine
-- National Strength & Conditioning
Here's the breakdown of facts for decision-making
process on what certification to choose.
Reputation. Is the certification respected
and universally recognized by employers?
Practical. Is the certification practical to
the real world of personal training and to
understanding fitness and exercise? Does the club
where you want to work require a specific
Pre-requisites. Is a college education in a
fitness field required.?
PERSONALITY COUNTS, TOO
If you are interactive, you have a great asset as a
personal trainer. You need to perceive what your
client needs and be a good teacher, especially
during initial appointments. Some days, clients
aren't that receptive to new techniques. They just
want to 'veg out' and enjoy the workout without
thinking. Those days your role as Personal Trainer
is to see if you can engage them to focus or to
distract them from the actual workout and help them
just get through it. You still watch out for safety
and performance issues, but you might be talking
about news stories, entertainment, sports or family
or work stress. A lot of clients like to air things
out while they workout. In many situations, you
start out as a teacher and evolve into a motivator
first, and teacher second.
Bottom line is that most trainers need an outgoing
personality, although some get away with elitist
attitudes or just on charisma. Yes, some clients go
for that elitist 'treat me bad' style. Patience is
another necessity, especially for cancellations and
poor client performances and poor lifestyle
decisions (like too much drinking or eating over
the weekend or while on vacation). Confidence is
very important and comes with experience and
knowledge -- both booksmart and practical.
WHERE TO GET WORK
There are several different types of locations
where you can train. There are four main types of
locations: Fitness Centers (greater than 3000 sq
ft), Personal Training studios (usually less than
3000 sq ft), Residential Home Gyms, and the Great
Outdoors. You can find yourself working as an
employee or working for yourself with your own
business. Most trainers start out working at a club
and go independent later. Here is a rundown of
types of facilities:
Athletic Clubs These are large facilities
(greater than 100K sq ft) that usually hire
trainers that are responsible for maintaining a
client list. The trainers are viewed as a great
asset to the facility. Most facilities hire
trainers as employees. The facility usually has
athletic amenities, such as basketball, tennis or
swimming. They may have a high quality group
exercise program. To boost their reputation they
will often associate with medical and physical
therapy practices. These facilities can be open
longer hours -- even 24 hours.
Fitness Centers These are large facilities
(usually in the 20K to 60K sq ft range) that are
often occupying retail space in a shopping center.
They may have aggressive sales techniques and
usually attract a younger crowd. These centers are
more likely to have tanning facilities, busy group
exercise programs, and high energy areas with lots
of cardio equipment. Some have busy personal
training departments, but some members are just
there to workout (with no trainer). These
facilities can be open longer hours -- even 24
hours. Most facilities hire trainers as employees.
These usually have quite a variety of progams,
methods of sales and quality of facilities and
Hospital Wellness Centers These are large,
well-designed facilities (usually about 50K to 80K
sq ft) with physical therapy, wellness classrooms
and cardiac rehabiliitation facilities built in.
There tends to be an older membership. Many may
have cardiac problems and/or orthopedic problems
associated with aging. But the membership usually
also has a lot of members of all ages who work or
live nearby. Many members may be medical personnel
who are interesting to train because they know a
lot about the body already. Most facilities hire
trainers as employees. These facilities tend to
have shorter hours.
Personal Training Studios These are smaller
facilities (less than 3K sq ft) often owned by a
trainer or a group of trainers. You may find work
as an employee or as an independent. These
facilities may have limited access to expensive
progressive resistance exercise equipment. Some
training studios are specifically oriented toward
athletics performance and may specialize in speed
work and acceleration.
Spas, Resorts and Local Hotels
Many spas and resorts have great outdoor
opportunities for trainers. And many clients love
their experiences at spas with hiking and
weightlifting mixed in with the spa luxuries. Major
hotels near big cities often have excellent fitness
centers with personal trainers.
Cruise Ships Many cruise ships offer
personal training, group personal training or group
Many people invest in excellent facilities in their
own homes. Many include a commercial grade
elliptical machine and treadmill or stationary
cycle. Most buy a multi-station machine designed
for the home, but some families have commercial
grade individual selectorized station machines.
Dumbbell racks and mirrored walls are also common.
You might also look for opportunities at large
apartment complexes with fitness centers.
The Great Outdoors
A hill, and open field, or a patio or backyard
provide plenty of room to include portable
equipment for use in a motivating and inspiring
place to be ... the great outdoors. Somewhat
limited in Chicago, of course, but those San Diego
Personal Trainers have it made year round!
Online Personal Training
Another area of training is via the Internet. You
can use technology, such as web pages, e-mail and
even phone text messages to send out information or
respond to questions. The online service can also
serve as an adjunct service to the people that you
already meet in person.
Some people aren't interested in meeting with a
trainer on a regular basis, but they are interested
in tapping their minds for ideas and advice on
workout programs. Of course there is a disadvantage
of not being able to observe form and intensity
WORKING FOR YOURSELF
OR FOR A FITNESS COMPANY
Working for another company has its advantages and
disadvantages. Paid expenses for continuing
education is one advantage. Some clubs do an
excellent job at marketing and sales, so you don't
have to work on advertising, logos, or brochures or
Internet presence. Marketing can be the fun part,
though, since you are promoting fitness,
There are many good learning opportunities as you
see and experience a lot more activity in a large
fitness center. However, you often learn a lot of
superficial stuff about training, but don't learn
the 'secrets' from other trainers because they are
generally competing for the same client base. In
health clubs you will find competition between
trainers and even other programs (e.g., swimming
lessons, group exercise, nutritional product sales,
and social events) that the club may want you to
promote (in conflict with your own training). This
is usually manageable, but it can take away energy
from your main goal to learn about exercise
physiology and train your clients to the best of
Many clubs are in saturated markets and use
trainers to maximize their profits. If your
priority is to know the body and avoid the
commercial extras and hype, you'll probably be
happiest to set your goals on working for yourself
and your clients directly and blaze your own trail
to your success and your client's success.