Do I Have a Good Enough Body to be a Personal Trainer?

“What do you think…should I wait ’til I’m ripped before I pursue my trainer career?” “Does this bod make me look like a trainer?” These are a couple of the FACs (Frequently Asked Curiosities) that I and other NFPT reps have heard over the years. We get it. It makes sense (especially in this profession). Just remember, no matter the profession, our human tendency is to question if we’re GOOD enough – or, in this case, ‘BIG’ or ‘PRETTY’ or ‘RIPPED’ enough. On one hand, I could say that, “yes, big muscles matter if you want the ultimate respect as a fitness guru”. Perhaps that answer would be more motivating to your training goals. Workout harder because the trainer stereotype says you gotta be ripped. But, to me, that’s all superficial stuff (and you’ll find that this is also the case for most clients as well). Being ripped doesn’t speak to the heart of training, at all.
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The majority of clients aren’t looking at how perfect your body is and thinking ‘now that’s a smart trainer’ (notice that I didn’t say “all”, I said “majority”, because maybe some of them really do look at those bulging biceps as an indicator of smarts). Considering two ends of the surface spectrum, one end being the well built, super lean and attractive trainer and the other end being the much less put together, sloppy trainer who takes on an appearance of not caring…then it’s obvious who the client is going to choose. What’s on the surface will win out every time when you’re looking at completely opposite extremes. No one wants to pay someone who doesn’t look or act like they care about their own health and, yes, their appearance too (which includes a good smell, or at least the lack of a bad smell). BUT, the idea that you have to have the biggest, most sculpted physique in the gym to be “attractive” to a prospective client is not the case at all.

At the end of the day, being a good trainer is about how well you know your stuff, how effective you are to the goal, and how well you work with others.
CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 80You’ve got to know how to put together a fitness program that gets results for your clients. You’ve got to know how to inspire, motivate, be a friend and a professional – it’s all about how to keep your clients coming back because they genuinely want to. Now, don’t get me wrong, I see physical appeal, self-control and ultimate will power in the finely crafted. NFPT’s founder was a competitive bodybuilder, and thousands of NFPT certified trainers are athletes of all kinds … from competitive team sports, to bodybuilders, runners, swimmers, fitness models, dancers and more – they’re the trainers that you might say ‘look the part’. The shear will and dedication in that level of athleticism is amazing and inspiring. These type of trainers represent a niche that not every trainer can jump into, and that niche (which subsequently includes their outward appearance) keeps them in high demand, for sure. There’s no ‘ripped shaming’ going on here folks … some people are blessed with the right genes and the strong will to have that seemingly perfect physique, and their gains are not our short comings.

We work with just as many trainers that come to the table just like their clients do, wanting to be fit and maintain a healthy weight, but, more importantly, a healthy lifestyle. The difference being, between client and trainer, is that the trainer developed a passion for it that went over and beyond. In large part, that passion is ingrown and stems from a place of excitement for teaching and a desire to inspire others with knowledge – not everybody has the knack for this, and that’s what sets a good trainer apart. You don’t have to be at the level of a competitive athlete to set yourself apart – so don’t beat yourself up for not looking like the grandiose vision in your head, or for not being as ‘pretty’ as those you see in the magazines. We are all aware of what Photoshop can do and also what the commercial world works so hard to display – it’s crap.

“Practice what you preach” because it’s the ultimate judge of character. If you have a love for something, then show it! We all start off with a passion for something and then we feel the need, and the pull, to pursue it; we don’t start out by just knowing everything there is to know. In the context of personal training, it starts with a passion for fitness and a desire to stay active and healthy. It grows from there into wanting to learn more about the human body and how it all works. Then it becomes something that you want to teach to others – you find fulfillment and joy in helping others to achieve their health and fitness goals; it makes you happy to see them happy. But before all of that happiness happens, you have to make sure that you’re knowledgeable on the subjects, that you have the skills to reach goals and that you can hold your own among other trainers who have been doing this awhile. None of this happens overnight, but none of this requires the largest biceps in the room, either.

You can be the best looking, most well-built guy or gal around and still be a horrible trainer. You have to cultivate your new career from the seed of something meaningful, the rest will fall in line. I guess the same is true for the passion you may have to get bigger and stronger…the longer and harder you train, the more fit you get (if you’re built for it. if you’re doing it properly. if you have the self discipline for nutrition. and more.); but your clients aren’t paying to feel your muscles, and, if they are, then you need to evaluate where your head’s at, professionally speaking.

You’ll make it farther in this industry with strength of mind and body, endurance, and careful service to others. These come more from a mental, not physical, place. Just know that this industry is filled with all kinds of physiques – endurance athletes, nutrition buffs, thin and thick trainers. Does outward appearance matter? Yes, but only to a certain extent; you can’t be a sloppy trainer or not take care of yourself and still make it in this business. Hold your head high. Care, and look like you care. Pursue skills in education, communication and organization. Your clients will appreciate your good nature, your attention to detail and that they can relate to you, more than they will appreciate your six pack.

Don’t stop pursuing your goals because you’re not built like a brick house. Do it because it’s in your nature. Do it because you want to help people to live better lives through fitness. Do it because it’s YOU.

STILL THINKING ABOUT A CAREER AS A PERSONAL TRAINER?

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About the Author:

Angie Pattengale has been with the National Federation of Professional Trainers, NFPT, since 1994. Currently, she serves in the capacity of Certification Director. Angie received her professional degree from Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management in 2002, and now she oversees the coordination of NFPT’s certification related activities. Angie manages efforts to assure legal defensibility of test development and delivery, as well as coordinates and maintains NFPT Certification functions related to industry accreditation and best practice standards. Angie also serves the NFPT organization and its members by maintaining accessible certification processes and recertification requirements while promoting NFPT certified trainers for their skills, hard work and dedication to the fitness profession which betters people's lives, every day.