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Do I Have To Be Very Fit to be a Personal Trainer?

28-10-2015

A lot of people who consider training to become a personal trainer wonder whether they're in good enough physical shape for the job, largely owing to the stereotypical image of personal trainers as good looking young men and women with taut muscles. Here we explain what sort of condition you should be in as a personal trainer...

How fit does one have to be to work as a personal trainer?

People often think that to be a personal trainer, you have to look like a fitness model, be able to run as fast as Usain Bolt or lift as much as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Whilst some personal trainers may be exceptionally fit, this does not mean that is a requirement for the job. In fact, the percentage of personal trainers who are extremely fit with ‘ripped’ bodies is lower than you might think.

Does one need to have a perfectly ripped body?

To put it simply, no, you do not. For some trainers, it may help with their image and reputation, and will help them to get the clients they want. For example, if someone is looking to get in shape and achieve a ripped body, then they are more likely to choose a trainer who looks the way they want to, because they will think that trainer will be able to help them get in the same kind of shape. On the other hand, if someone is overweight, isn’t used to doing much exercise and is trying to lose some excess pounds, a personal trainer who has big, ripped muscles may be more likely to intimidate them.

Keeping this chiseled body all year round would be almost impossible anyway as it requires you to have a very low body fat percentage. Fitness models and bodybuilders only look at their best right before a competition when they have probably been cutting calories and drinking less fluids in order to show off their muscle definition as much as possible.

However, both being and looking fit is recommended for personal trainers for a number of reasons, but ‘fit’ comes in all different shapes and sizes. Long distance runners are normally very slim and don’t want to develop big muscles because it would likely slow them down. Ballerinas wouldn’t want big muscles, as it would affect their flexibility. Rugby players are big but not always defined. All of these athletes would be considered fit and will definitely be muscular, even though they have very different body shapes.

Being fit adds credibility to you as a trainer, because if people perceive you as being in shape then they will assume that you know what you are talking about. If you are overweight or out of shape and you’re telling someone how to be healthy, then it could come across as hypocritical and make them less likely to trust your authority. Imagine going into a hairdressers and getting your hair done by someone who has dirty or untidy hair. It many sound superficial, but people can’t help but make snap judgments based on what they see.

The importance of this will change based on the type of client you are aiming your services at. If you are working with athletes who are already very fit, training them to help improve their performance, then being in good shape will add a lot of credibility to the role. Whereas, if you are training someone of average fitness who doesn’t exercise much, then this won’t be as fundamental. People’s perceptions of a ‘fit’ individual will vary depending on their own fitness level, so it depends on the physical ability of your clients. For example, if you are working with overweight or obese people, then they will perceive you to be in good shape even if you don’t have muscles bursting out of your shirt.

It will also help you to be in good physical shape because the job can be physically demanding. You will often have to demonstrate an exercise for your client, so if you can’t lift the weight, for example, then you won’t be able to do the job properly. Being able to run or cycle alongside them may be useful as well, as a motivating technique.

However, there are more important skills required to being a personal trainer than just being physically fit. Good communication skills are very important so that you can clearly explain to them different exercises, how to do them and the benefits they will have. Your personality and how you present yourself will make a big difference for many clients; some people may have a perception of personal trainers being like army drill sergeants yelling at their clients and pushing them to exhaustion, but in reality, most people wouldn’t put up with that. If someone doesn’t like their trainer then they are not going to feel motivated to go to the gym and train with them.

You also need some aspect of sales skills, as you need to ultimately be able to close a deal and get clients through the door and signed up for regular sessions. Again, your personality will help you here as well as your confidence, and your persuasiveness. You can also get new clients through marketing methods such as social media, print media such as flyers and posters, and other advertising means. Basically, it is not all about you and how you look; there are many other aspects that will help you to sell the service that you are offering. Check 5 things that will make you succeed as a personal trainer.

Can you be a successful personal trainer if you are out of shape?

Yes, it is possible. Not all personal trainers out there have perfect bodies, far from it! Ultimately, people pay you so that you can help them to achieve their goals, not because of the way you look. Your confidence, motivational skills and ability to coach are the main things that are going to help your clients get the body they want or achieve the level of fitness they are after.

To sum it up, no, I do not think that you need to be extremely fit to be a personal trainer; you do not need to have a perfectly chiselled body or be able to run a marathon all year round. A handful of potential clients may want to choose their trainer based on the way that they look, but the majority of people simply don’t care; they want someone who is good at their job, and the job of a personal trainer is to help others to get into shape, not to exercise 9-5. But bear in mind, having a certain level of fitness would help you out, as it will allow you to properly demonstrate exercises to your clients and train alongside them when necessary, as well as giving yourself an extra degree of credibility.

Remember, nobody’s perfect, even personal trainers!

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