The short answer: in many countries, including the United States, you can become a personal trainer instantly. The fitness industry is largely unregulated, so to be a personal trainer you can simply call yourself one and start charging people money for workouts.
It’s fair to say that this is a problem.
Now, let’s assume you’re going about it the right way and getting some kind of formal fitness education. If you want to work for a gym it is typically important to have at least one fitness certification to your name.
To get a fitness trainer certificate and work as a personal trainer in a studio gym, boutique gym or group fitness gym can take as little as a weekend seminar. To receive a personal trainer certificate through bodies like ISSA, NASM or ACE and work in a globo gym takes on average 3-6 months to study the course materials and pass the test. To study and pass the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program quizzes and case studies takes most fitness coaches 6-12 months.
As you can see, there is no one timeline to become a personal trainer. You’re looking at anywhere from two days to a year.
Now, having the title “personal trainer” is not the same as being a great personal trainer who gets their client’s results, makes a good living and experiences daily job fulfillment.
OPEX takes the approach that every personal trainer and fitness coach is forever a student of their craft. Our mission is to develop professional coaches and help them grow for the rest of their career, not to hand out meaningless titles.
We break the development of a personal trainer or coach into three stages: technician, craftsperson and master.
Being a technician is the first stage in any coach or personal trainer’s development. The technician is hungry for knowledge and will seek it out through courses, books, articles, forums, podcasts, seminars and wherever information is found. They need to learn sound coaching principles to expand their toolkit and benefit from learning from the words and experiences of others. (This Free Course is perfect for the technician coach.) We find that technician trainers are especially preoccupied with learning movement, anatomy and program design principles–fitness is their primary occupation, after all!
Being a wide-eyed technician can be overwhelming sometimes and this initial learning curve is steep. We break down 5 common mistakes made by the technician coach in this free download and accompanying video–if you’re in this phase of learning we highly recommend learning from our mistakes! Watch it now.
Technician trainers benefit the most from the fitness, nutrition, business, assessment, and consultation principles and knowledge contained in our online lectures and notes for the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP).
The craftsperson coach has gotten over the initial learning curve of becoming a fitness expert and is now learning predominantly through doing. It is time spent in the trenches with clients that helps the craftsperson see how the principles they’ve learned as a technician actually play out when applied.
The craftsperson trainer is learning how things work together (or don’t!) through experience. They spend less time reading books and more time actually coaching. Through experience, they start to understand all the components that go into creating long-term results for their clients, and know that they must also learn how to help their clients beyond the gym.
The craftsperson coaches we work with really shine in the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program case studies, where they can apply the principles they’ve learned and receive feedback from our team of instructors.
To be a master coach is not to be an indisputable expert and it is not an end goal. Rather, for a personal trainer to become a master coach, they must recognize how much they don’t know, but still be committed to curiosity and learning.
The master coach recognizes that all systems are integrated and works to understand how. There is an infinite number of tools that must be combined and it is the relentless pursuit of understanding how they all play in to coaching that makes a master.
Master coaches in the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program thrive interacting in the forums, on calls, and in webinars, where they can ‘play’ and question their knowledge and bounce ideas off other coaches and instructors, including our master-coach founder, James Fitzgerald.
Every fitness professional is on a different path and how long it takes to reach each stage of development will depend on the individual and what they are exposed to.
A fitness trainer may be a technician for 1 year or 5 years. It is not right or wrong to be a craftsperson at 6 months or 10 years. And to be a master is a lifelong journey.
What is important to remember is that a technician, craftsperson and master coach are at very different stages of development, and like a beginner, intermediate or advanced client in the gym, will need different education for professional growth.
Becoming a personal trainer is so much more than a name. To truly be a personal trainer, you must be on a lifelong pursuit on deeper knowledge and refined implementation.
Get a free introduction to our system of coaching by signing up for the Free Professional Coaching Blueprint.