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Being a personal trainer carries much responsibility. More than most realize.

I get a few blog responses from people who have recently become trainers or are about to become trainers.

If you don't look like you just stepped out a fake tanning booth after not eating for 3 weeks, don't worry. You don't need to look like this to become a personal trainer. In fact, it can be intimidating to others if you do.

If you are considering becoming a trainer, know that it is NOT anything like you see on TV. It can be a thankless and frustrating occupation. Or it can be the best thing you have ever done. The choice will be up to you. But in the name of having full disclosure, allow me to talk you out of this supposed ‘occupation’.

Reasons NOT to become a Personal Trainer:

You won’t get a full workout in ever again. People will want to talk to you in the middle of sets.

They will ask you questions and blab on about their new Ipod playlist while you nervously eye the clock, wishing you could go back to the days of anonymity when people had no idea who you were.

Then, after a 10 hour day of having clients, the last thing you will want is to work out at the same place you train.

You will work from 5-9 – not 9-5. Erratically At 5am you will have clients, at 7 and 8pm you will have people that want to train. Why? Because the people that want to train with you also have jobs so they can afford to train with you.

Your clients will have important jobs then they probably start early and/or work late. So they need you to fit their schedule. You will have busy days and quiet days. You will also have big gaps in the middle of your day that will leave you unsure of what to do or how to fill them before your next client (possibly if they don’t no-show) arrives.

It’s hard work

75% of trainers quit after 3 months because they do not make enough to pay their own bills.

To be a Personal Trainer is to always be ‘on’, always be helping people, to be a walking advertisement that is dedicated to helping others achieve more out of their workouts – and their life. To not be afraid to ask people to shell out thousands of dollars for the honor of training with you.

Most Trainers cannot handle the fact that people do not automatically line up to be trained by them. This is a job that requires you to build a customer base. Once built, you have the opportunity to live an amazing life surrounded by amazing clients that will teach you amazing things.

But until then, you better get used to filling cups of water and walking aimlessly through the gym with a permasmile locked on your face.

If you are thinking of becoming a personal trainer, know this:

You have the opportunity to change people’s lives. In ways they never imagined possible.

After his client snapped, Jake the trainer used everything at hand to defend himself.

I’m not saying that your clients will one day sit around the campfire and sing songs of your body-transforming workouts. But fame or no fame, being a personal trainer is one of the most important jobs you will ever have.

Still feel the desire to help others in a way that no other occupation can?

So if that didn’t scare you off, congratulations, and what is wrong with you, you sick puppy!?

If you are still interested and know the sacrifices involved, here are some more real (but slightly more positive) things you need to know before becoming a Personal Trainer.

Sometimes you are the last chance a person has before they give up on being healthy altogether.

The Doctor is ‘out’

The doctor wont help them get to optimal health (not trying to rip on doctors, just saying that they don’t learn how to be superhealthy, they learn how to stop you from being unhealthy. There IS a difference).

With friends like these… Who needs enemies?

Sometimes our friends help us. Sometimes they drag us down. Sometimes they don’t know what they are talking about and recommend you to do the MegaCleanse 7000 because they heard about it watching the E channel and it totally worked for some random celebrity. They might be right. But they haven’t been trained to give honest, tough love advice. Nor should they. Thats the job of someone who cares enough to tell the truth about the problem but also have the knowledge to provide the answer.

Think personal training is all about carrying a fancy clipboard and shouting at people for ‘just one more’?

Think again.

The client sees their Personal Trainer as all of the following:

  • a confidant
  • a listening ear
  • a person to remind the client of what is really important
  • the voice in their head next time they want a donut
  • the person that keeps them accountable
  • the reason they show up
  • the one who will help change their world
  • the boss of the workout

Knowing that you have many hats to wear on top of being able to count to 12 and give high fives, you should also know that people have tried almost everything else before they decided to spend big money on you.

See pt 2 of this article to see why people are scared to death of personal trainers and the hurdles you must overcome to win their trust.

Jamie Atlas


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  • Sarah T Aug 7, 2008 Reply

    Thanks Jamie! I appreciate the honest look at the job. Do you ever worry about eating in public and being scrutinized? Oh and is there a certification you would recommend over the others?

    Thanks for all the info in this post and part 2 🙂

  • fitglam Aug 10, 2008 Reply

    This was great. I agree with all of this times 10! I wish I was more aware of some of this before I started…. like… the money part, but I’ve hung in there and I do really love my job. Your blog is awesome, I just found it today! Cheers!

  • jamieatlas Aug 10, 2008 Reply

    Hey Sarah T – I agree that eating in public can be a dodgy proposition. Even what you wear can make it tricky – I have a Krispy Kreme t-shirt that I just love for its sarcasm factor, but my clients don’t always appreciate the humor 🙂

    For a certification, I would say that I don’t have a favorite (although some are better than others. I DO think that the certification qualifies us to get to the starting point and is something we MUST build on every chance we get. Unfortunately, some trainer can feel that that cert is the end point. Which means we miss opportunities to help people with a well-rounded knowledge base.

    Thanks for visiting FitGlam! If there is anything you would like to see posted please let me know! Thanks for commenting on the money challenge – as trainers we all walk into a new job with zero clients – which makes it hard to pay the bills with the first paycheck, that is for sure.

  • Amanda Dolan Aug 21, 2009 Reply

    Hey Jamie,
    Thanks for the great articles.
    I completely agree with everything you said.
    Personally, one of the most gratifying experiences being a personal trainer was at my baby shower. There I was huge and not feelings so fit and sexy myself. But my friends and coworkers decided to invite most of my past and present clients. For a couple of hours, I was surrounded by all these amazing women (who looked so great all dressed up with makeup – definately a change from their sweaty gym gear!). I was so proud to see how many people’s lives I had helped change and that they wanted to come help me celebrate and prepare for my son.
    It was a nice opportunity for them to share workout stories and their accomplishments. (Even though they all agreed that my pregnancy had affected my ability to talk and count reps at the same time!)
    I hope your articles help others decided if personal training is the job for them. It certainly is for me!
    -Amanda Dolan

  • chantel addison May 15, 2010 Reply

    lose weight, tone up. Fitness Personal Trainers.

  • Jamie,

    Thank you for this post. People here in Austin ask me about being a personal trainer all the time. I always try to tell them that it requires more devotion than most people would dare consider. Even my bank teller recently became a “certified personal trainer,” but he has no idea what he is getting himself into. Anyway, great post and keep on blogging.

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