Personal training

Top 5 Things You Should NOT do as a Personal Trainer

By Joe Talarico on Oct 22, 2020 11:30:00 AM
6 Minutes Reading Time


At first glance, becoming a personal trainer sounds like the dream. You make your own hours, you can be at the gym or on the beach, and you can make a ton of money doing it. I’m assuming working out is already something you enjoy very much as well, which makes all previous points even sweeter.

However, becoming a trainer is more than just working out and making money. There’s a process that comes with all of that glory. In fact, if I had to quickly summarize everything I’m about to say in one sentence it would be that you better ENJOY the PROCESS more than the money and fitness that comes with it.

5 Things You Should Know

1. No One Size Fits All

I shouldn’t even have to write this one down, but it bears mentioning. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! So many trainers are more focused on the end result of making money, that they don’t bother to make programs unique to their clients. Your 75 year old client with hip surgery shouldn’t be doing box jumps, and kettlebell swings because it makes you look cool as a trainer! Assess them properly!

Every client you pick up should be spending their entire first session being assessed for injuries, imbalances, and weaknesses. You should also be asking them their overall goal. Maybe your 75 year old just wants to be able to maximize her health. She’s not trying to max out her weights like you are.

2. Not Knowing How to Communicate

Now that you’ve gotten rid of cookie cutter programs, are you able to coherently convey what program you have built for them? I can unfortunately admit, I had several times when I first started out, where I built what were amazing programs, and my clients not only didn’t follow them, but I lost them as clients shortly after. Why? Because while yes, I had a great program for them, I never clearly explain how it catered to THEM. That’s added value! Clients want to know that their money is being spent well and that their program feels individualized.

You can’t be afraid to talk to your clients. There will come a point where what they “want” is different from what you know they “need”. This is murky waters. This can be the difference of having career longevity vs not. Learn how to communicate their needs in relation to their wants so that they don’t feel unheard.

3. No Willingness to Learn

You got your certification. Fantastic. Now what? All that means is you're competent enough (hopefully), not to injure your client. What are you furthering to better yourself?

I find myself every single day, continuing to learn. From listening to other fitness podcasts, reading research articles, or learning about the trends that come and go. I genuinely enjoy taking my free time to learn more about what's going on in my field. Shouldn’t you? That’s why you decided to become a trainer after all right? It doesn’t have to be something you jump into right away, but if this truly is a career you want, you should find yourself over time wanting to learn from those you look up to.

You might even find yourself applying for extra certifications to round out your skillset, as your experience with clients increases, and you find holes in your game that need tightening up. It’s totally okay not knowing everything, but it’s NOT okay, doing nothing about it.

4. Not Putting in the Work

A lot of trainers think you can just get hired at a gym, and start rolling in the clients. Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that most chain gyms will focus on filling your schedule up. But it’s up to YOU to maintain those clients. And that’s IF the gym assists you. Other gyms don’t hand you a single client, and it’s your job to spend 60-80 hours a week (yes, 80), walking the floor and picking up clients. There is nothing glorious about having to walk up to person after to person half of which don’t want to be interrupted. But this is what gets you good as a trainer. 

You learn how to approach people, and provide advice without being overbearing. You realize quickly, it’s not about selling but establishing relationships so people can come to trust you as a source of help (and eventually training should you provide enough value).

5. Chasing the Money

This is where you lose a lot of people. I’ve done private training and working in corporate gyms. In a way, I have to admit, I almost always recommend people starting at a chain gym to start. Why? It allows you to learn at an accelerated pace, and fail safely. These gym’s have already spent a tremendous amount of marketing dollars, and effort, on getting people TO the gym in the first place. Their being in business for decades, has allowed them to fine tune every single process from selling memberships, to onboarding trainers, and how to bring on new clients every single step of the way. This information is priceless and you now have FULL access to as much of it as you want.

Sure, the pay sucks at most chain gyms. But we’re not in this just for the money right? And again, I’m mostly recommending this for novice trainers. Most trainers will complain you’re doing all the work and getting less than half the money in return. If you feel that way, then try doing all of the marketing, and selling by yourself and let me know how much money you make starting out.

It gives you training wheels to take advantage of all their tactics that you will no doubt need should you ever decide to go private (which is the eventual goal). Trust me. I’ve had too many coworkers think they can do better alone (solely because they were mad about pay), only to find them a year later trying to crawl back because they had no idea how to market their services once they were alone.

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Joe Talarico

Joe is a certified Precision Nutrition and strength & conditioning coach. He assisted the UCLA Women’s Tennis team in winning their 2014 NCAA Championship Title, as well as study under the great strength coaches at Pepperdine University. He was a collegiate rower at the University of Rhode Island (where he got his Kinesiology degree) as well as an amateur physique competitor. He is currently the master trainer at Upgrade Labs in Santa Monica where he is combining his years of training clients in the gym with newer technology to optimize their performance and recovery. He also cohosts The RelationSH*T Show Podcast with his fiancée where they discuss all relationship topics unfiltered from who pays on dates, to open relationships.

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