Hello everyone. I stumbled upon your forum and am impressed by the knowledgeable and respectful sharing of information. So much so that I joined just to ask a few questions. I’m a guy in his 50s who’s physically active and who enjoys trying out different workout regimens. I have no formal education in exercise science or physiology. I’ve been told I’m a natural teacher in that I like helping other people learn new things and am good at explaining unfamiliar concepts; it’s a role I fell into in all of my day jobs. I just empathize with people when they’re unclear on a concept. Putting this all together, I’m thinking that I would like to explore being a fitness trainer. I’m most interested in working with people my age and older who are trying to regain or maintain fitness. After perusing various certification programs and lots of online forums, I’m leaning toward the NASM certificate. OK, here are the questions: NASM offers a program that promises to place newly minted trainers in a non-paid eight-week internship with a gym somewhere within a 25-mile radius. This program adds significantly to the NASM cost. Do you think this is a wise investment? I’m thinking that hands-on work is where I’ll get my real-world education, but I’m wondering if it would be easier/cheaper to just find a gym and start volunteering. Or is that done? Next question: Even though I work out regularly, I’ve never been much of a gym-goer. Except for a stint in CrossFit and several years studying martial arts, I’ve done all my workouts at home by myself. Do you think that is a liability for an aspiring trainer? Thanks for your help … and for reading this long-winded post!
It seems that you have done a lot of up-front research and self assessment. You know what you’re interested in (Boomers) and you’ve chosen a great certification. I love the NASM OPT model, very comprehensive and elegantly designed.
If I were you, I’d call and talk to NASM and ask them if there really is a gym that’s within 25 miles of you, and if so, what gym it is. I’d also ask what the hiring percentage is from that internship program.
Interning and shadowing are good things. It’s great to learn how to train from an experienced trainer. You also need to learn how to sell (nobody tells you that, but selling’s a big part of the job). You might approach a few gyms before purchasing your NASM materials and see whether they are willing to hire you as a beginning trainer or let your shadow. Lots of places have multiple levels (Level one, level two, level three) of trainers, so you might find it relatively easy to get a job as a level one trainer and work your way up.
I am also an advocate for NASM. They have a very comprehensive program, and if you ever contemplate to add one of their specialty certifications, you will encounter the same philosophy based on the OPT model.
I do not know of anybody who has gone through their internship program and would second Nancy’s advice to call NASM to discuss it.
The fact that you are not a gym-goer is not a liability but it can put you at a disadvantage when you have clients who are asking for a workout which they can do at their gym. It helps to be familiar with the current gym equipment so you can discuss the pros and cons of them for a client. I have never heard of a volunteer program at commercial gyms. It may raise liability issues, and they are usually not set up for it. You could always join a gym, if only for a few months, to make yourself familiar with the who atmosphere.
You also do not need to make the assumption that gyms are the only place where you can work. Many trainers go to people’s homes, and your expertise with in-home equipment may be quite valuable there.
Whatever you decide, I wish you best of luck.
Before I invested in the extra money to have NASM set you up with an internship, I would check out a few gyms nearby to see if they or any of the local trainers would be interested in allowing you to shadow a few workouts. It would give you two things for you to consider when answering your first question. First, how much do you think you will get out of a mentoring/intern program? And second, are there gyms/trainers nearby that might allow you to intern there without NASM. NASM is a very good certification, but it is also one of the more costly programs.
And your second question can also be easily be overcome as well. It is helpful to spend time in the gym environment. You can’t really get that experience in a book or on a video. While all gyms are slightly different (some are very different) from each other, all tend to have cardio areas, resistance machine areas, free weight areas, and even class areas. When you are training in a gym (as an exerciser or personal trainer), you can’t always get to each thing you want to use. You need to know how to adjust your plan as things come up. And you need to experience working in an enviroment where other people are also working out. To learn how to flow throught the gym. And some other nuances of a gym environment can only be gained in that setting.
I recommend joining a local gym and getting familiar with all the various areas, equipment, activities, etc. This will also come in handy as you learn the NASM materials. You could even try to find a workout buddy to role play as you learn.
These are just a few ideas for you to consider. I do teach a complete course for prospective personal trainers in Hawaii. It is more expensive that just buying materials from a cert organization, but it is also much more indepth. There may be a personal trainer school near where you live as well. Good luck.
Thank you all for the very thoughtful answers and for taking the time to share your expertise. You’ve given me a lot to think about and a clearer path of action. I think I’ll start exploring the gyms in my area and gathering more information about my options locally. I’ll also follow up with NASM to get more specifics about their internship program. I’m very happy to have found this site; what a supportive community you have here.
Informational interviews are a great idea. If you can get 15 minutes with the personal training manager just to talk about their gym and their training programs, their typical clientele, and the kinds of skills they like to see in their employees, that will be a big help.
The best time of day to schedule an interview like this is during the hours after lunch and before the after-work crowd. It’s usually the quietest in the gym between 1:30pm and 4:00. That way, you can get in touch with someone without cutting into client time.