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Fitness trainers lead, instruct, and motivate individuals or groups in exercise activities, including cardiovascular exercise (exercises for the heart and blood system), strength training, and stretching. They work with people of all ages and skill levels. Fitness trainers work in health clubs, country clubs, fitness or recreation centers, gyms, hospitals, universities, yoga and Pilates studios, resorts, and clients' homes.
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Both group and specialized fitness instructors often plan or choreograph their own classes. They choose music that is appropriate for their exercise class and create a routine or a set of moves for a class to follow. Some may teach pre-choreographed routines that were originally created by fitness companies or other organizations. Fitness trainers typically do the following:
Personal fitness trainers design and carry out workout routines specific to the needs of their clients. In larger facilities, personal trainers must often sell their training sessions to members. They start by evaluating their clients' current fitness level, personal goals, and skills. Then, they develop personalized training programs for their clients to follow, and they monitor the clients’ progress. Fitness trainers in smaller facilities often do a variety of tasks in addition to their fitness duties, such as tending the front desk, signing up new members, giving tours of the fitness center, writing newsletter articles, creating posters and flyers, and supervising the weight-training and cardiovascular equipment areas. In some facilities, a single trainer or instructor may provide individual sessions and teach group classes. Gyms and other types of health clubs offer many different activities for clients. However, trainers and instructors often specialize in only a few areas. The following are some types of fitness trainers:
Personal fitness trainers work with a single client or a small group. They may train in a gym or in the clients’ homes. Personal fitness trainers assess the clients’ level of physical fitness and help them set and reach their fitness goals.
Group fitness instructors organize and lead group exercise sessions, which can include aerobic exercise, stretching, muscle conditioning, or meditation. Some classes are set to music. In these classes, instructors may select the music and choreograph an exercise sequence.
Specialized fitness instructors teach popular conditioning methods such as Pilates or yoga. In these classes, instructors show the different moves and positions of the particular method. They also watch students and correct those who are doing the exercises improperly.
Fitness directors oversee the fitness-related aspects of a gym or other type of health club. They often handle administrative duties, such as scheduling personal training sessions for clients or creating workout incentive programs. They often select and order fitness equipment for their facility.
The education and training required for fitness trainers vary by type of specialty, and employers often hire those with certification. Personal fitness trainers, group fitness instructors, and specialized fitness instructors each need different preparation. Requirements vary by facility. Personal fitness trainers often start out by taking classes to become certified. Then they work alongside an experienced trainer before being allowed to train clients alone. Many group fitness instructors often take training and become certified, and then they must audition for instructor positions. If they succeed at the audition, they may begin teaching classes.
Almost all trainers and instructors have at least a high school diploma before entering the occupation. An increasing number of employers require fitness workers to have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree related to a health or fitness field, such as exercise science, kinesiology, or physical education. Programs often include courses in nutrition, exercise techniques, and group fitness. Many fitness trainers must sell their services, motivating clients to hire them as personal trainers or to sign up for the classes they lead. Therefore, fitness trainers must be polite, friendly, and encouraging to get and keep their clients. Fitness trainers must be able to listen carefully to what clients tell them to determine the client's fitness levels and desired fitness goals.
Getting fit and staying fit takes a lot of work for many clients. To keep clients coming back for more classes or to continue personal training, fitness trainers must be able to keep their clients motivated. Fitness trainers need to be physically fit because their job requires a considerable amount of exercise. Group instructors often participate in classes, and personal trainers often need to show exercises to their clients. Fitness trainers must evaluate each client’s level of fitness and create an appropriate fitness plan to meet the client’s individual needs. Fitness trainers must be able to communicate well because they need to be able to explain exercises and movements to clients, as well as motivate them verbally during exercises.
Fitness trainers who are interested in management positions should get a bachelor's degree in exercise science, physical education, kinesiology, or a related area. Experience is often required to advance to management positions in a health club or fitness center. Some organizations require a master's degree. Personal trainers may eventually advance to a head trainer position and become responsible for hiring and overseeing the personal training staff or for bringing in new personal training clients. Some fitness trainers go into business for themselves and open their own fitness centers. Group fitness instructors may be promoted to group exercise director, a position responsible for hiring instructors and coordinating exercise classes. Trainers and instructors may eventually become a fitness director or general manager.
Fitness trainers work in health clubs, fitness or recreation centers, gyms, country clubs, hospitals, universities, yoga and Pilates studios, resorts, and clients' homes. Some fitness trainers also work in offices, where they organize and direct health and fitness programs for employees.