Skip to content

Why and How-To Become a Certified Personal Trainer

For the longest time, I just wanted to run without getting injured. I’d make it a few months and then something would feel off and I’d go to physical therapy to get some help. The physical therapist would usually assess me and then give me strengthening exercises. I always seemed to have issues with my hips, so I did a lot of core and glute work. During this time, I also started doing my own online research about how to gain strength for running without getting bulky. Everything I read said that almost all of us have weak glutes and our hip flexors are tight. And, it’s not just the glute maximus that needs strengthening, it’s also the glute medius…the side butt…the muscle that keeps our legs from bending inwards. This happens from sitting all day and just using the front side of our body in day-to-day life. Plus, I’d been road cycling a lot, which is pretty much the seated position. Anyway, I started incorporating glute bridges, banded monster walks, banded lateral walks, hamstring curls, deadlifts and clamshells into my regular routine and felt so much better on my runs. I felt like I could stay upright and like my trunk was more stable. If I was dealing with these issues, other runners had to be too and were probably just as clueless about strength training as I was…or dreaded it just as much. I thought I might be able to help runners, and non-runners, prevent injuries and just feel stronger, but first I wanted to have some credentials.

A strong butt will help you run further, farther and safer!
A strong butt will help you run further, farther and safer!

I started looking up options for getting a personal trainer certification. There are a couple of main credentialing groups, which include ACE, NASM and ACSM. All of these are about the same cost and have a similar program, where you study on your own and then go to a computer lab to take the test…and then that’s it, you’re certified and can start taking clients. Wait, what? I just had to study a textbook, pass a multiple choice test and then I could start telling people how to use their most valuable thing, their body? Seemed sketchy and now I can see why there are so many personal trainer horror stories. I don’t know, maybe it’s imposter syndrome or just a fear of causing someone pain, but I wanted more experience and to be able to ask questions and get some practice.

And then I found the University of Texas’ Personal Trainer Certificate Program. I looked up the info online and it seemed like a good match. The program would last six weeks, with weekly 3-hour long classroom lectures and then we’d also have weekly “lab” sessions, where we’d meet a gym and learn about warming up clients, measuring their current fitness levels, explaining exercises, using motivational queues and more. I liked the idea of classroom and hands-on, so I went to an info session and met the instructor. He was super charismatic and had owned his own facility for years with a growing list of clients. I decided that I’d try the program. It was about twice as much as the other certifications with a cost of about $1,000, but that also included the exam. I figured it was worth the investment to have a solid foundation if this was a path I actually wanted to pursues. Also, it was a lot cheaper than going back for a grad degree in kinesiology or going to physical therapy school.

UT’s program offers a World Instructor Training Schools (W.I.T.S.) certification, which is not as popular as ACE, NASM, etc., but it’s growing in popularity because the curriculum is so good and yields good trainers. I enjoyed the Thursday night lectures and learned a ton. I had a textbook which I fully read and made flash cards to learn all of the different muscles, fitness recommendations, bones, etc. The lab was also great because it was good to practice being assertive and confident in my recommendations and to get form critiques from the instructor. Our main goal, of course, was to keep clients safe…help push themselves, but do no harm.

With my pretend client at a Saturday lab session at 24-hour fitness.
With my pretend client at a Saturday lab session at 24-hour fitness.

After all of the classes and lots of studying, I passed my exam and got my personal trainer certificate in the mail. Yay! I was ready to get out there and work. UT organized a career fair for the new personal trainers and we got to meet a handful of gym managers, fitness group instructors and other folks looking to hire personal trainers. I wasn’t really sure yet what I wanted to do with my certification, but I didn’t think I wanted to work in a big box gym. I thought about trying to work at an elderly home, because strength is such an important component of maintaining balance and preventing falls. Then I also interviewed to be a trainer at a luxury apartment gym, which would’ve been cool, but I was being asked to pay upfront to rent the space, whether I had clients or not. Seemed to risky for a beginner. So I decided to venture out on my own and start my own personal training business to help people gain strength so they can start, or continue, to do cool things, like hike, run trails, bike ride up mountains, or just go on trips at an older age. I created a website for my business, named it Borne Active and recruited my mom and sister to be models for a photo shoot that Jason generously offered to do for me.

Cheering for my clients after their hard workout! :)
Cheering for my clients after their hard workout! 🙂
Teaching proper plank form.
Teaching proper plank form.
Helping my client feel her muscles engage.
Helping my client feel her muscles engage.
Learning how to properly do a bicep curl.
Learning how to properly do a bicep curl.

And then I had two friends start coming over to my apartment complex for a workout and we did some circuit work. Since we were only meeting once per week (if our schedules aligned), I made the workouts full-body and pretty fast-paced, to ensure their heart rates were elevated. We’d start with a warmup and then do a variety of moves with dumbbells, medicine balls, weight plates, resistance bands, and just bodyweight. It was so fun to see them push themselves and feel good, and I know that my WITS personal training education was definitely super helpful in each session.

Example workout for training my two friends. A mix of moves that added up to full-body.
Example workout for training my two friends. A mix of moves that added up to full-body.

I kept applying for full-time trainer jobs and lucked out and got a call from a corporate wellness program. They needed someone to teach a weekly bootcamp class at their client’s campus…the client turned out to be VISA, as in the credit card company and I got to work in their fancy on-campus gym. It was a blast! My regulars would show up and I’d have a workout written on the board. I’d demo the moves and then ensure everyone was using good form. By the end, we all called each other by first name and I looked forward to the class. It was also great because the time was very regimented and if they weren’t on time, I could still start. And, we had a strict cut-off, so that they could go do their work.

I haven’t done any personal training since we’ve moved to Chattanooga, but I did join the local YMCA and have been trying out their different classes. If my schedule allows, I might see if I can teach a class, or somehow get involved with their fitness program on a very low-key basis. We’ll see!

Categories

Living

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: