The Future of Personal Training


You are the future of personal training. Sounds cliche, I know. But seriously, what direction would you like to see the health and fitness industry go?

To find out the future of fitness, observe what’s happening right now. The future is truly just a series of present moments – leading us to the next step.

We can stride into the future by following the 2018 trends of fitness which are factors outside of our control to an extent.

However, it’s what you do today as a fitness professional that determines what can and will happen tomorrow. This is where you have control and influence.

Explore the possibilities for change now.

Exercise as medicine

“I see the future of personal training becoming a sort of preventative medicine. I see physicians recognizing personal trainers as health professionals and colleagues to refer their clients to when they could prevent or treat chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, etc.” says Hanna Danielson, a recent college graduate, and certified personal trainer. It’s trainers like Danielson that can and need to make this dream a reality.

Erin Nitschke, an educator, and writer on the front lines of our fitness future reminds us that “advocating for the industry is a big part of determining what’s to come in the future”. Personal trainers like Danielson need to get out in their communities and spread the word to both medical providers and the public about fitness being a path to lifelong health.

Norm Cates, the owner of Club Insider Magazine and 15th recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from Club Industry says, “Exercise is Medicine”. This is, in fact, a current initiative of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Each individual trainer needs to be on board with the larger mission of our industry and advocate within their own community. Doctors have influence over consumer decisions. When they support what we do as personal trainers and refer clients to us, it helps us and our clients get started (and continue) on a positive and successful path. Doctors in each community need to know the local personal trainers to develop rapport and trust with them.

Fortunately, there is a movement currently happening in the medical field called Medical Fitness. Keep up to date with this model so you can shape its future and become a part of it. Get involved by building relationships with your local medical practitioners this year.


A shifting scope of expectations

“Today’s trainers need to keep up with current trends such as CrossFit and unique combination concepts: yoga-meets-Pilates, cardio-meets-boxing, Tai-Chi-meets-aquatics” says Cathleen Kronemnemer who has been in the industry for almost three decades. She believes that diversity in training abilities is key, especially with the growing population of teenagers entering in as clientele. She also says, “male trainers to know proper conduct when working with teenage female clients.”

Personal trainers are expected to be a jack of all trades AND a master of one. They are told to have a wide range of skills AND find a niche. Clients expect them to help with making major lifestyle changes during only 1-2 short hours of contact a week for sometimes lower pay than that of a fast food burger flipper. Find a niche but stay open-minded and multi-skilled is the message being delivered to aspiring personal trainers from marketing and business experts.

Personal trainers are accountable for more than helping people build muscle and lose weight. A personal trainer’s scope of expectations has continuously broadened during its official lifespan, of about 35 years. Trainers are expected to understand the many mechanisms of the human body that influence and are impacted by exercise. Research continues to demonstrate that there is a lot more to being healthy than cardio and weightlifting. It’s not as simple as calories in and calories out for many folks.

Nitschke says, “It’s no longer about being fit – it’s about overall lifestyle management and to do that, people need tools and resources that help them achieve that balance and that happens outside of the gym. There also needs to be greater emphasis on holistic training – not just the physical side of fitness.”

One of the tools to pay attention to is genetic testing. It’s not something within the scope of practice of a personal trainer. But, encouraging clients to dig a little deeper with their doctor, naturopath or nutritionist can help lead the way with fitness programming.

Continuing education is key when it comes to this component of the future. Perhaps it’s time for you to take a new course. Or….design one?

Technology as a threat or ally?

techWith technology moving at the pace it does, some personal trainers wonder if there is a future at all. Others know that there will always be people who value in-person coaching to virtual or robotic options. The key is to work with technology instead of fighting it or letting it get you down.

Mike Kneuer believes that going online and virtual reality are part of the future of personal training. He says, “I think soon we’ll be able to train people anywhere in the world and it will actually look like we are physically there with them.”

Danielson agrees that technology can be hugely beneficial. She uses FitBits and MyFitnessPal as examples of tools to keep track of clients more effectively.

Working together for the future of fitness

Three parts compile the potential here.

1. The more we lean on each other the better results people can get in their health journeys. Pairing fitness with mental health and nutrition seems to yield optimal results. Personal trainers ought to take that first step and reach out to complementary providers. Someone has to and truth be told most trainers need the referrals from dieticians, physical therapists, primary care physicians and other folks who get a steady stream of new clients from insurance companies.

2. We also need to link clients up with other people that are similar to themselves. We know the advantages that social support provides for behavior change. With social media, we have no excuse not to gather our clients into virtual communities that meet both on and offline.

3. Trainers also need to collaborate with one another. There are many peers to link up with as accountability partners, education partners and to find as mentors. Certification companies like NFPT will happily connect you with other trainers in your area. Just ask!

Financial influence

Kneuer says, “Trainers need to consider the expanding income gap and the disappearance of the middle class. I’d suggest thinking about either an ultra-premium concierge-type service or aim low-cost high volume and do group training.”

Danielson feels that personal trainers will likely have a majority of their clients in the “older adult” population. As Kneuer points out, this population is split between those with expendable income and those living off very little. And those are often the ones who need support the most.

The future is in your hands. What direction would you like to see the career of personal training go? Take steps today that ensure you a satisfying job tomorrow. Tell us what you’re up to and how we can help.

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Beverly Hosford, MA teaches anatomy and body awareness using a skeleton named Andy, balloons, play-doh, ribbons, guided visualizations, and corrective exercises. She is an instructor, author, and a business coach for fitness professionals. Learn how to help your clients sleep better with in Bev's NFPT Sleep Coach Program and dive deeper into anatomy in her NFPT Fundamentals of Anatomy Course.