Hi everyone. Early this year I made the unlikely decision to become a personal trainer. I say “unlikely,” because I didn’t think of myself as the ideal candidate for the job: I’m in my 50s, I don’t like gyms, and I’ve never been a competitive athlete. But I’ve been a regular exerciser my whole life, have tried lots of different fitness methods, and have enjoyed experimenting with different movement disciplines. As I looked around, I noticed a lot of people my age and older who seemed to have given up on their physical health, and I thought it would be worthwhile to try to help some of them get back into functionality. I decided my target market would be people like me: boomer adults who may not be gym goers.
Last week I completed the first step: I passed my NASM exam. But I’m uncertain what’s the next best move. As I want to work with older adults, I was thinking about taking NASM’s course for senior clients. I’m also very interested in NASM’s Corrective Exercise certification.
But I’m wondering if I should stop with the “book learning” for now and just start getting some practical experience under my belt. I’ve done only a few assessments as part of my studies, and I’m pretty far from feeling competent/confident in performing them. I was thinking of approaching some gyms like the local Y and the JCC to see about volunteering there, but again, my interest is in not working in a gym. (Or should that matter at this point?)
Any thoughts, insights, suggestions? Thanks everyone.
First, it’s never too late to get into this field. Our industry keeps evolving everyday so never feel like you are not ready to do this job. Older population in our country is growing and the need for trainers to help them becomes larger each year.
Getting all of the above certifications (by the way you have chosen wisely) is the first step to the right direction but you will need practical experience to get your feet “wet” in this industry. Training people is the best way not only to learn how to train, but most importantly to learn how to talk and interact with them. I can’t tell you how many trainers I know who are book smart but have no idea how to talk to clients/members. Yes, the more people you can train the more you will learn of how to incorporate progressions and modified exercises. Also all that book information will make more sense to you.
Starting at a local Y or a Community Center is an excellent idea. They are not in the business of pushing aggressive sales or trying to hit a certain $$ number each month, so starting in places like these will help you learn the basics first and selling second. When the sales stress level is not there, you can concentrate in learning how to train and interact with people which is the most important part of our job. Another option for you would be to volunteer in Senior Living Communities. There you will be exposed to large number of seniors, but keep in mind of knowing their medical history and any other issues they might have as well. You can ask their activities directors if you can participate in any of their classes so you can also learn form their fitness instructors.
I hope this gives you some direction or new ideas. I wish you the best.
I agree with all that Harris says.
I just want to add that you these things might not be mutually exclusive. The thing about working at some sort of fitness center is that you will get real world experience. It is really helpful to see how much of what you have read and studied you can bring up on the spot for the person in front of you, and how comfortable you can be modifying and individualizing on the spot. I think this is particularly helpful when dealing with an older clientele. There are more conditions, more medications, more combinations of modifications needed.
And of course, there is no reason you cannot be studying the course materials for your next ‘book learning’ at the same time.
Given that you want to work exclusively with an older population looking for opportunities outside of a standard gym might be more helpful. A lot of towns have senior centers, and they often operate on a shoestring. You might be able to volunteer there, and even if it is not specifically fitness related it would give you a window into how such programs are implemented and run, and let you start to make some contacts. At our local senior center the fitness classes are run by the Y, who send instructors to the center. So if you approach you local Y you could inquire as to whether there are specialty programs like that.
Hello Tom Borromeo,
Congratulations and welcome to a rewarding career. Working in a gym would give you the experience and confidence to do assessments and training; there is no reason you can’t work while studying, either.
The 50 plus crowd has the time and money for training; so, you are in the right age range to fully understand them. You could start a neighborhood movement, pun intended, group exercise class which would help with word of mouth advertising.
Good luck to you,
Natalie aka NAPS 2 B Fit.
Congratulations on passing your exam! That is very exciting and rewarding (and a little bit of a relief!).
I also agree with Harris about looking to your local Y or community center. I train/teach a few hours a week at my local rec center, and they have a senior center there. Great opportunity for you to gain some experience. And, just like Harris mentioned, there is no sales pressure (which is why I really enjoy it). You are there to help people with their program–period. No sales pressure.
You may want to find another trainer/mentor that you can shadow to learn the ropes.
As for your age, you will find it will be a benefit to you and those you train. The age of my own clientele is growing–and many are baby-boomers wanting to now take care of themselves. It is a wonderful population to work with (but don’t let age fool you–many will defy their age!)
Best wishes to you,
Any opportunity you can create that will get you hands-on experience will be valuable to you.
Some gyms have a shadow program where you can watch existing trainers train for a few hours and then discuss how they planned that workout and why.
Ask friends and family if you can practice your assessment skills on them, for free. Get used to finding key landmarks on people of all shapes and sizes.