A personal trainer is a fitness professional who helps clients achieve increased fitness and health. Personal trainers can assist clients in reaching a number of physical fitness goals, ranging from weight loss to cardiovascular strength to muscle gain. These services are typically offered in settings such as recreation centres, gyms, corporate wellness centres, yoga studios, resorts and clients’ homes. Personal trainers often work one-to-one with clients, but they can also take on group fitness classes and semi-private training sessions.
Personal trainers may perform the following tasks:
- assess the needs and capabilities of clients through weighing, measuring and conducting fitness tests
- set realistic short-term and long-term goals, and plan programmes for reaching them
- provide training, assistance, education and motivation to clients to help them follow their programmes safely and effectively
- give clients advice on health, nutrition and lifestyle changes
- check and record clients’ progress
- assist in the general maintenance of the centre, and make sure that equipment is correctly set up.
FIRST STOP FOR FITNESS FANATICS
Why did you choose this profession? I have played sport all my life and decided that I would like to work with the human body to help other sportspeople (and other people in general).
What training did you undergo? I kicked off with a course in fitness and nutrition; then exercise science and personal fitness training; followed by a Bachelor’s in Human Movement Sciences. I have also done other courses along the way.
What type of personality makes a good personal trainer? You need to be quite sociable, but not necessarily an extrovert. In saying that, we have trained a lot of personal trainers that were introverted to start out with, but because they were enjoying what they were doing their true personality came out.
Is experience as important as formal training? Formal training is crucial and experience may be considered as continuing education. However, it is important that the experience occurs in an environment where there are people to act as mentors and where the practices are correct.
Describe a typical day You start at 5am with your first client and, generally, take a client every hour until the evening (7pm or 8pm). This does not mean that you actually train with each client – although you may have to go out and run or cycle with a few. This is the actual supervising of the clients’ workout. It requires a lot of preparation, which is usually done the day before or in your breaks. You also need to ensure that you have enough time for your own training.
What do you like the most about your job? Every day is different: people’s needs change from day to day, so you need to be able to adapt and think on your feet. Also, watching clients and athletes achieve their goals is amazing.
Which aspects are you least enthusiastic about? Firstly, the fact that there are unqualified people working in our industry who give our occupation a bad name. Secondly, some people do not want to share vital information as they think that doing so will be assisting their ‘competition’. Meanwhile, the goal should be to uplift the entire industry and provide a better service to our clients.
Share some of your career highlights I did the strength training for Moroka Swallows for four years, and they won the ABSA Cup in 2004; taking over the Institute of Fitness Professionals in 2006; training in Italy as a technogym master trainer so that we could run the Technogym Wellness Institute in South Africa.
What are your future goals? I’d like to open our institute in other provinces. I’d also like to get back into training athletes.
What advice would you give to someone starting out? Education is KING. Make sure you choose the institution that you study at very carefully and put maximum effort into your studies. Remember that we are dealing with an informed public, so you always need to be one step ahead. Lastly, always remember that each client is an individual, so be mindful and treat them accordingly.
Technically, there are no legal requirements for working in the personal training profession. However, industry employers typically expect certification along with practical experience and/or formal education before they hire trainers. Plus, clients tend to look for certified professionals since it’s important that they can trust their trainer’s expertise. Most gyms will not hire or admit personal trainers who do not possess at least one accredited certification credential. Make sure that the personal training qualification is from a SAQA-accredited training institution. It is important to keep skills and knowledge up to date by completing continuous professional development courses, workshops and seminars.
WHERE CAN I STUDY?
Exercise Teachers Academy
Diploma Fitness: NQF level 5
Health and Fitness Professionals Academy
Diploma: Personal Fitness Trainer/Sport Conditioning and Coaching Science
Institute of Fitness Professionals
Personal Fitness Training Course
International College of Kinesis
Personal Training Certificate
Trifocus Fitness Academy
Personal Training Courses
WHAT SUBJECTS DO I NEED?
Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended:
• Life Sciences