Every year, thousands of people consider starting a career in fitness and health. But most have no idea how to make their dream a reality. This article—written for both new and experienced fitness professionals—outlines a new curriculum for building a successful career.
Change your body, change your… career?
Becoming passionate about health and fitness put the rest of my life into perspective.
I caught the fitness bug early. I started working out and reading articles about nutrition and fitness when I was in high school. By the time I was 21, I’d put on 30 pounds of muscle, felt awesome, and vanquished my skinny guy genetics.
Like many people who start living the “healthy lifestyle”, I quickly became the go-to fitness and nutrition expert for my friends and family, a position and responsibility I enjoyed and cherished.
My new-found love for exercising and eating healthy—coupled with the results I saw in the mirror and my ability to help others get in shape—made me feel like a brand new person.
Because even though I looked and felt different, the rest of my life seemed tethered to the “old me”. I’d transformed my mind and body… but I was still doing the same old stuff.
Working the same unsatisfying job. Going through the motions at my local community college. Following the same routines.
Taking control of my own health and fitness had shown me how much potential I had to change things in my life. To become happier. To find meaning and purpose. To make a difference.
So why the hell was I doing all the boring stuff I was “supposed” to do when I could do something that actually mattered?
A crazy idea popped into my head: What if I became a personal trainer and tried helping others transform their bodies? What if that was my job?
As I thought about the possibilities, I got excited. And then reality slapped me in the face. The way I saw it, I had one huge problem:
I had no formal education, no certification, and worse… absolutely no idea where to start.
How do you become successful in the fitness industry?
I wasn’t alone. And I’m still not.
There are thousands of people who are passionate about health and fitness and considering a career change. But like me back then, they don’t know where to start.
Should they go back to school for a new degree? Get certified as a personal trainer? Or maybe something else entirely?
I remember thinking through the positives and negatives of each before deciding on a course of action.
Option : Get certified as a personal trainer.
- Faster than going back to school (Usually self-study, so I could go at my own pace.)
- Costs way less money.
- Learn enough anatomy and physiology to feel semi-competent.
- The certificate I earned after taking the test would make me seem more credible to potential clients.
- Doesn’t seem as “credible” as a degree.
- I don’t know which certification is “good” and which certification is “bad”.
- Still doesn’t teach me much about change psychology or business development.
So what did I do?
I got a crappy personal training certification, sweet-talked my way into a job as a “fitness assistant” at a local gym, and started training clients. (I eventually earned a better certification.)
At times, I felt like I was on top of the world. I had gamed the system! Here I was working with people, building my business, reading nutrition and exercise text books, and attending seminars. I felt like I had a big head-start.
But at other times, I felt like a fraud. I worried that everyone would look at my lack of formal education and know I was unfit to work with people, even if I was a certified trainer.
I worried that because I didn’t follow any sort of “path”, my new career in fitness was a joke. It was debilitating and even a little depressing.
But as I would later learn, my lack of a formal fitness and nutrition education put me in good company.
Be a world-class strength coach in 3 easy steps
When people ask renowned strength coach Dan John what they should do to become a successful trainer or coach, here’s what he tells them:
Step 1: Get a degree in English, study Theology, score a job as a high school teacher.
Step 2: Spend evenings teaching an online religious studies course.
Step 3: Volunteer as a strength coach with your high school track team.
Unlike in certain fields like law and medicine, there are no clear, predetermined paths in fitness.
In other words, there is no single—or obvious—path to becoming a successful health and fitness coach.
When I realized that, I felt a huge burden lift off me. I wasn’t a fraud. I was just a guy who wanted to help people get in good shape. And, like Dan, I had simply taken an “unconventional” path to get there.
What does that mean for you?
It means that you can find the path that suits you. The path that matches your
experience, personality, character, and principles.
You can create your own unique path to the dream job you want.