Too many Americans are in a cycle of overeating and whatever-it-takes workout regiments. Innumerable fast food and delivery options coupled with overscheduled lifestyles makes poor dieting and infrequent exercise seems almost inevitable. According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, more than one-third of US adults are obese creating a huge market for a vast array of health gurus. It’s no wonder that the personal training industry is now a $10 billion business. Yes, obesity is a problem but, luckily, it’s one that no longer lives in the shadows. Government awareness campaigns, company-sponsored wellness programs, nutrition experts and personal fitness trainers are all doing their part to make a difference. If you love to workout and want to be part of the solution it’s time to look for a job as a personal trainer!

Fitness trainers are teachers, advisors and coaches. They’re mentors, energizers and positive figures in our lives. Constant forces that meet us at our lowest point, challenge us to care more and push us to lift another set and run another mile. They help make Americans healthier, happier people.

As a personal fitness trainer you’ll work with individuals and small groups, often at a local gym. You’ll lead others in strength training, cardiovascular exercise and stretches, teaching students proper technique and keeping them motivated and on task. You’re also charged with crafting workout routines specific to each trainee’s needs. Are you assisting someone that wants to increase muscle mass? Or are you developing a plan to help someone lose weight? Personal trainers tend to the needs of each individual they work with making every relationship unique. It’s that personal touch and exclusive time that workout goers pay a premium price for.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the top ten percent of fitness trainers and instructors earned more than $66,000 in mid-2012 while the median annual wage was just over $30,000. Those dollar figures don’t tell the complete story because some personal trainers do the job as a part-time gig. If you work hard, build relationships and help change lives you’ll do just fine in a career that comes with tremendous growth potential. More employers are offering their employees incentives to get healthy—gym memberships, wellness programs and even company-owned onsite gyms. And a growing number of retired baby boomers are remaining active, staving off injury and illness by joining gyms and working with personal trainers. People are more incentivized than ever to exercise; instructors are stepping up to teach new entrants about the world of fitness. How do you step into the industry? Easy, kind of.

Do you need a college diploma to become a personal fitness instructor? Not necessarily but an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in physical education, kinesiology or exercise science sure helps. You’ll learn proper exercise techniques, how to lead group fitness classes as well as the basics of nutrition and wellness programs. Your resume will look better and your knowledge will be more polished too. Beyond classroom experience what traits make up a superb personal trainer? Customer service is important so friendliness and an encouraging spirit are both must-haves. Empathy and listening skills are valuable too. Your clients will spell out their goals so take notice and develop a system that meets their needs while responsibly challenging them. Can you motivate others? A monotone, quiet talker won’t bring the level of energy a bold, big-time personality will. And be fit too, something that probably didn’t need mentioning. The desire to outsource some of our challenges is becoming commonplace for those of us with even minimal disposable incomes. House cleaners, babysitters, delivered groceries, fast food and restaurant takeout make it easier to work more hours and enjoy more free time. Personal trainers and fitness instructors fit well into this mix. These trainers are using statistical-based research, new motivational techniques and better equipment to get the rest of us in shape for our next marathon, half marathon, 5K or climb up the office staircase.

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