personal training goes global
From India, Italy and Israel to South Africa, China and Venezuela, personal trainers boost fitness worldwide. By April Durrett
ersonal trainers across the globe share some familiar and common goals. As fitness professionals, they are dedicated to helping clients experience safe and effective workouts. As promoters of healthy living, they diligently find ways to help people enjoy exercise for a lifetime. While the majority of their objec-
tives remain the same, the state of personal training from nation to nation is
often quite different. In some countries, personal training has already arrived-- consumers understand its benefits and fully respect its practitioners. In other countries, it's still very much the new kid on the block--sometimes viewed as a welcomed guest, yet also seen as a suspicious stranger. For a glimpse into the world of training far and wide, dozens of IDEA members were contacted via e-mail and asked about their careers, businesses and fellow countryman's regard for their services. We know much about the fitness industry in the United States, but have you ever wondered what it's like to work out in the rolling plains of Malawi? This article is a snapshot of personal training worldwide. Granted, much more can be written about the global business of exercise and health, and many more countries could be included. Space limitations, however, preclude us from covering every nuance and territory. Check out how your colleagues are doing in the following lands.
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Population: 19.1 million Annual Purchasing Power Per Person: US$22,200 Location: Oceania Size: 4.77 million square miles (sq mi); 7.68 million square kilometers (sq km)
"We try to promote a `get out and smell the roses' attitude toward fitness," says Darren Burgess, owner of Oracle Health and Fitness Consultants in Sydney, New South Wales. A certified exercise physiologist with the Australian Association of Exercise and Sports Scientists, he holds a master's degree in sports science and has been a personal trainer for seven years. Burgess was the strength and conditioning coach of the Sydney Swans Australian Football Club, which regularly draws some 30,000 spectators at each game. After three years with the Swans, he decided to strike out on his own. "I had worked closely with elite athletes," Burgess explains, "and wanted a new challenge." Today, Oracle's trainers work with 30-plus regular clients. Serving men and women ages 15 to 50 years old, the business charges Aus$45 to $75 (US$24-$41) per session, depending on the services. Besides one-to-one training, Oracle offers fitness assessments, nutrition analysis, group training, massage, yoga and health seminars. So far, Burgess' sports background has proved helpful in his training career. "My business partner is a Swans player," he says. "Having him and other elite athletes available to make presentations at some of our corporate health seminars enables us to attract large audiences." In addition, Burgess has complimentary access to the Swans' fitness gym for his strength training clients, but most sessions take place where clients can appreciate those roses: outdoors. How do most Aussies view personal training? "I believe they view it as a rich
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person's activity--until they try it themselves." His biggest mistake so far? "Not employing university-qualified people." South of Sydney in Melbourne, Victoria, City Personal Training owners Nikki and Andrew Ellis operate out of two area fitness facilities, Melbourne City Baths and Melbourne City Club. "We have about 100 clients," says Nikki, a trainer for six years. "Mainly they are city workers ranging in age from 18 to 65 years." Managing a staff of 12 trainers, including two postrehabilitation specialists and a sports psychologist, both husband and wife are certified by the Australian Fitness Accreditation Council and the Victorian Fitness Accreditation Council. Andrew has a bachelor's degree in physical education and a master's degree in human nutrition; Nikki also has a bachelor's in physical education as well as a master's in sports sociology. One-to-one session fees at City Personal Training are similar to those at Oracle, ranging from Aus$46 to $75 (US$25-$41). In addition to multiple session purchases, clients can receive discounts for one-to-two and group training formats. For access to all the equipment as well as the private studios, the Ellises pass along about 25 percent of their client fees to the two fitness facilities. Thanks to some clever marketing tactics, the owners say business is booming. "We learned that relying on passive word of mouth is not enough," Nikki explains. "When our staff members began wearing bright red windcheaters with our company name and logo on them, our client base increased dramatically. No matter how terrific you are as trainers, you need to advertise." How does she view the future of personal training Down Under? "I see it becoming bigger and bigger as more people realize it's affordable--and a great investment. There will be an increasingly holistic approach, with more trainers branching into yoga, Pilates and life coaching."
Population: 31.2 million Annual Purchasing Power Per Person: US$23,300 Location: North America Size: 6.19 million sq mi; 9.97 million sq km
Andrea MounceHalasz of Marriotts Cove, Nova Scotia, has been in the fitness industry since 1978 and became a certified personal trainer in 1997. Now owner of Activate Health, Fitness & Wellness Services in a town of 1,500 residents, she trains 47 clients in her home, which features a 1,000square-foot studio. Most of her customers are female, ranging in age from 15 to 68. "I have never advertised," MounceHalasz says. "It has all happened from word of mouth." She charges clients Can$38 (US$25) for each single session. For a package of 10 sessions, the per session fee is discounted to Can$28 (US$18), and depending on the size of the group being trained, Can$10 to $17 (US$7-$11) per person per hour. Mounce-Halasz holds a bachelor's degree in recreation and physical education as well as certifications from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) as a health fitness instructor, the Canadian Fitness Professional as a personal trainer specialist, and the Nova Scotia Fitness & Lifestyle Leaders Association as a wellness and strength fitness instructor. She also has taken exercise therapy courses, enabling her to serve clients with special medical conditions or undergoing postrehab work. "I'm so glad I started with a degree," Mounce-Halasz says. "It gave me a baseline of credibility. However, if I had it to do over again, I would have learned more about the business side of training first. I learned through trial and error, with many errors." How does Mounce-Halasz view the future of the industry in Canada? "I see personal training growing a great deal
in the next five years. It's had a surge lately, especially in the cities. In rural Nova Scotia, people are still unsure of the services offered, but many are beginning to see the benefits. I especially see growth in small group training." On the opposite coast of Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia, Kathryn Palumbo owns The Movement Studio, where she specializes in Pilates, Gyrokinesis and reiki. A personal trainer for 12 years and business owner for one, she is certified by ACSM and the American Council on Exercise (ACE). In addition, she has taken university and independent courses in her specialized areas as well as in kinesiology and craniosacral therapy. Palumbo's clients are mostly females ages 14 to 17. She charges Can$50 to $75 (US$33-$49) for one-to-one sessions, and Can$17 to $30 (US$11$20) per person for small group classes. "Most of my business is through word of mouth," Palumbo explains. "I have under 100 clients right now. Some with special medical conditions come my way through referrals by physiotherapists, medical doctors, osteopaths and chiropractors." Her biggest success: "Listening to my clients." Her view for the industry's future: "A move away from intense weight training to more sophisticated body awareness training."
Population: 1.26 billion Annual Purchasing Power Per Person: US$3,800 (Shanghai); US$23,100 (Hong Kong) Location: Asia Size: 5.96 million sq mi; 9.59 million sq km
Eleanor Ferguson has lived in Scotland, Vietnam and Egypt. Originally from Scotland, she spent 20 years practicing law but always had an interest in sports and fitness. "With my husband's job relocating--this time to China--I
decided not to learn a fourth legal system, and instead set up my own personal training business, called TBC." Based in Shanghai, Ferguson has been a personal trainer for three years and is certified by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA). TBC serves mostly female clients ages 25 to 65, who pay 250 to 300 renminbi (US$31-$37) per session for one-to-one training. "About half of my clients are expatriates," Ferguson explains. "Most live in apartment buildings that have small gyms and pool facilities, so that's where I work with them. For those without facilities, I use The Spa at the Hilton, a fitness/wellness center in Shanghai where I work part-time. I also conduct outdoor cardiovascular conditioning." What's the outlook for personal training in China? "It's in its infancy here," she says. "Only in the last year have modern gym facilities begun to appear. Personal training will grow as the fitness industry grows, especially given the potential market size. Right now, a fitness club membership is considered something for the rich." South of Shanghai in Hong Kong, Sharona Hurmuses owns Body by Sharona, which caters to men and women ages eight to 65. "I only train in the mornings so I can spend time in the afternoons with my two daughters," she says. "This arrangement limits me to two to three clients a day, but I train five days a week." Hurmuses charges HK$700 (US$100) per single session and offers discounts for multiple session purchases. She mostly trains in her clients' homes, offering an array of services besides one-to-one work, including pre- and postnatal exercise programs, nutrition and lifestyle management sessions, health talks, corporate training seminars and an interactive Web site (Body BySharona.com). A trainer for seven years, Hurmuses is certified with ACE; ACSM; and the Federation of International Sports, Aerobics and Fitness. "Personal training is very popular
here," she notes. "However, there are not many trainers who will travel to clients' homes due to transportation difficulties and time constraints. So, there is a demand for qualified trainers."
Population: 5.33 million Annual Purchasing Power Per Person: US$23,800 Location: Europe Size: 26,779 sq mi; 43,094 sq km
On the Danish island of Sjaelland in the Copenhagen suburb of Gentofte, Berit Bai recalls her first encounter with the profession she soon would call a career. "I was traveling in the United States during the late 1980s and heard about something called `personal training.' I went back to Denmark and started working as a fitness instructor and, later, as manager of a facility. I was frustrated, though: I had all this knowledge about personal training but never got to use it. It was like working at an assembly line." Armed with two ACE certifications (personal trainer; lifestyle and weight management consultant) and various university course work, Bai started FitnessPlus four years ago. Primarily serving overweight and obese clients 25 to 60 years old, FitnessPlus also works with individuals who have high blood pressure, diabetes and back problems. Bai personally trains about 10 clients approximately 20 hours a week, then spends another 20 to 30 hours assisting her two parttime trainer employees and working on special projects. One project involves aiding a group of health professionals in bettering the lives of 30 obese men and women. FitnessPlus clients pay 400 to 500 Danish kroner (US$45-$55) per session; those who train with Bai pay about 25 percent more. Through an "agreement on cooperation," FitnessPlus passes on a percentage of client fees to
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SportsClub, the local fitness facility where Bai and her colleagues train clients. Bai believes personal training is becoming more popular in Denmark: "The number of trainers and clients has increased rapidly in the past two years. One obstacle to growth is our health care system--people are not used to paying for health services. Danes also have the view, `We have to see it to believe it,' so it takes awhile for something new to enter the market."
Population: 1.01 billion Annual Purchasing Power Per Person: US$1,800 Location: Asia Size: 2.04 million sq mi; 3.28 million sq km
Population: 5.84 million Annual Purchasing Power Per Person: US$18,300 Location: Asia Size: 12,906 sq mi; 20,770 sq km
Population: 68.3 million Annual Purchasing Power Per Person: US$3,000 Location: Africa Size: 622,300 sq mi; 1 million sq km
After graduating with a degree in economics, Nevine Nour went to work as an investment analyst in Egypt's thriving capital, Cairo, while working part-time as a group fitness instructor. Three years later, she left her job as an analyst for a full-time career as a personal trainer. To make ends meet, she continues to teach group exercise. "I just started, so I only have six clients--five females ages 23 to 55 and one 27-year-old male," Nour explains. "I train them at two area clubs, Sacha and the Guezirah Sporting Club." When Nour lands a client on her own, she keeps 60 percent of the E
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