Training Kids & Adolescents
If you have a passion for promoting fun and fitness in children and teens, the time may be right to break into the burgeoning youth market.
From Dallas to Montreal, from Chicago to Los Angeles, youth-based personal training and group classes are hot. The burst in popularity may be due to growing concern about the epidemic of childhood inactivity and obesity, a stronger push to groom athletes from a young age, greater scientific acceptance of resistance training for children, or other motivations—and pressures—to get kids and teens moving. Whatever the reasons, youth training and coaching have evolved into a $4 billion industry reaching thousands of youngsters (McWilliams 2004). If you are thinking about starting—or growing—a youth-based personal training business, read on for a primer on this emerging trend.
The benefits of affecting a child’s or teen’s life are innumerable. With 9 million overweight youth in the United States and the number increasing each year (Lobstein, Baur & Uauy 2004), personal fitness trainers (PFTs) specializing in youth fitness have a major task ahead of them. But experts say the rewards make the effort worthwhile.
With any business, the key to success is understanding potential clients’ expectations and providing a service that exceeds those expectations. With youth-based personal training, there is an extra twist: You have to satisfy two sets of clients with very different needs and wants. One set consists of the true clients—the children, and the other of the bankrollers—the parents or guardians.
While personal training can turn children and teens on to fitness and physical activity, it is not the best answer for all youth. The rising popularity of youth personal training has many concerned that children may be pushed too hard to lose weight or to excel at sports. As a trainer, you need to be aware of these possibilities and avoid contributing to an unhealthy frenzy.
The Child. To ensure that your services will provide more help and motivation than harm and disinterest, you can take a few steps before agreeing to train a preadolescent client.
When training youth, rule #1 is that, above all else, activities must be fun. Rule #2 is that programs should be geared to helping clients become successful independent exercisers. Finally, rule #3 is that you must always remember that children are not “mini-adults” and should not be trained as if they were. They will not fit into the mold of the traditional exercise program for adults, because they have different needs.
Clearly, resistance training is only one piece of a well-rounded physical activity program for children and teens. Historically, however, it has been the most controversial and thus warrants special consideration when integrated into a youth fitness program.
Although youth may benefit from fitness programs that resemble those designed for adults—the typical warm-up followed by aerobic conditioning, resistance training and a cool-down, for example—youth’s wants and needs are different. “Trainers need to understand how children move,” says Faigenbaum. “Kids like intervals and short bursts of exercise.” A continuous program, or moving from one machine to the next for 20 minutes, will not be successful with kids.
If you’re sold on kids’ fitness and want to grow your youthful personal training clientele, here are some tips to help you develop a thriving business.
Once upon a time, most health clubs and personal trainers catered to adults only. A young child’s experience at a fitness center was often limited to the confines of the club-sponsored baby-sitting service. Teens, though often welcome to participate in the facility’s many adult-driven activities, had access to few programs tailored just for them.
Make Your Youth Training Program Stand Out
Checklist for Parents Hiring a Trainer for Their Child
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