Becoming A Personal Trainer

steps to becoming a personal trainerI get lots of questions and requests for shadowing or mentoring in regards to my Calgary personal training and online business. Maybe some of what is below will help you out as well if becoming a personal trainer is something that interests you. Here is a dialogue between me and a young fella just starting out on the journey of becoming a personal trainer.

Hey Ray,
My name is Ryan and I live in a small town in Alberta.  I was researching some ab routines today and I came across one of yours.  After I read it I noticed in the about the author section of the article that you are an ISSA certified personal trainer.  Just recently I have been toying with the idea of becoming a personal trainer and after researching through various different available online courses I felt that ISSA would probably be the best option for me if I were to go ahead and decide to get certified.  Since I don’t know anyone who is ISSA certified, and I want to make sure I’m making the right choice if I decide to take the course, I was wondering if you could maybe take the time to offer me some insight into the ISSA program and how it has benefited you.  In all honesty, is it a good way to get certified, and would you personally recommend it?  The truth is I love fitness, and I think I have the potential to be a good personal trainer, I’m just not entirely sure yet if it’s right for me.
If you could find the time to reply to this with any info or insight at all it would be very greatly appreciated!!  I’m at a crucial stage in my life where I soon need to take a big leap towards my future career, so really any kind of info at all would be extremely helpful!
Thanks regardless,

No problem at all Ryan. If you keep phrasing your requests in such a personal manner and with the same polite attitude, I have no doubt that you will do well at whatever you put your mind to… having said that…

The ISSA taught me what I needed to know to be a competent trainer at the basic level. But ISSA basic is still a lot better than most trainers you run into these days. The only thing is that in Alberta right now you need an AFLCA certification as well as a CPR to work. This is because the aflca is what insurance companies want to see as a cert in order to insure you. If you are ever going to work on your own you should have insurance and most gyms these days are requiring aflca at the minimum and most want a kinesiology degree as well. 

In my opinion, it does not make much sense to spend all that time in school to come out and work for someone else making half of what you should be making working for yourself. Having said that, even if you went to school and got a kinesiology degree, Alberta would still want you to take the aflca in order to be insured. Funny I know.

So what did I do?

I took the ISSA and worked that until the laws changed. Then I went and got my AFLCA and sitting through it was painful and boring but I had to do it. After the basic AFLCA you will have to choose a specialty. Yes another course…. This is where you decide if you are going to specialize in Resistance Training, Older Adults or Group Classes (there are several choices).

When it’s all said and done though you will be working for yourself, hopefully with a couple of trainers working under you. You’ll train a couple of hours a day, maybe write some papers to publish and otherwise…live the life happy and healthy.

It’s been really good to me.

Hope that helps you out a bit.

Ray Burton

Thanks a lot for the reply Ray.  It was very much appreciated and helpful!
Just wondering..  you say that ISSA will teach you what you need to know to be a competent trainer at the basic level.  Does this mean it isn’t as good for teaching people how to become a good trainer at a higher level?  If so, what did you do to get to the next level (ie, going from basic to more advanced)?
Interesting about the AFLCA stuff.  I wasn’t aware that you needed that as a minimum.  I also wasn’t aware that most gyms want a kinesiology degree as as well.  To be honest, I’m not sure I’m going to be staying here in Alberta much longer.  I am originally from Newfoundland and am considering moving back there, so I guess the AFLCA wouldn’t really apply to me so much.  Also, if I do this and decide that I’m going to try and become a personal trainer I think I would want to do it on my own.  I’m not sure I would enjoy working for a gym, the idea of running my own business/service appeals to me.  So if I were to get an ISSA certificate I think I would try to go on my own as soon as I could.  Any advice on that Ray?
It sounds like everything worked out really well for you man and I must congratulate you on your success.  I hope that one day I can be successful like that as well.  Health and happiness is all I really want in life, I just need to figure out if this is the right path to it.
Oh, and also, the whole idea of writing papers and getting them published is appealing to me as well.  I enjoy writing.
Have to go, back to work.  Thanks a lot again for the help!  Very much appreciated!

Ray Burton: The ‘Basic Trainer” comment didnt quite come out like it should have. It’s just that after you have been doing this for years, you start to see things that you didn’t in the beginning. Things like flexibility issues, mental and emotional damage, different views on nutrition. It’s stuff that the textbooks just cant cover all in one shot. So as you keep training you keep buying resources and doing research on things you run into and over time it makes you an “Advanced” trainer for lack of a better word.

The big thing is to get certified so you are legal, get out there and start training. From there you will pick a special population and because of this you will need to continue your own education not because you have to…but because you want to be able to fix people in the best way you can.

And you just never know where that road will lead. 

Ray Burton

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