So, you want to become a super successful personal trainer, you’ve already passed your exams and got your certification, but you don’t feel like you’re quite ready to start charging people because you need a little extra confidence.
The question is “How can you get personal trainer experience?“, and in this article, I’m not just going to show you how you can easily get high-quality experience that will set you up for a prosperous career.
I’m going to show you how to do it for free!
Not everyone that gets their qualifications feels ready to jump straight into working full-time as a trainer. A lot of people feel like they need a little more experience before they start charging people money for their sessions.
Chances are, you are probably already a great trainer, and possibly even a lot better than some trainers that have been charging people for years.
Either way, if you want to dip your toes into the industry rather than plunging in head first, I’m going to outline the best ways you can do that below. I’ve even made sure that every way that I list is free, so you won’t have to fork out a fortune just to get a little experience.
What experience is needed to become a personal trainer?
Before we dive into how to start getting training experience for free, let’s quickly talk about what experience you need as a trainer, as in, what are the bare essentials that you’ll need?
Training – It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), that one of the main areas you want to get experience in is training people. And yes, of course, you can train your friends and family, but it’s not the same as training strangers, and these are the people you are going to be working with when you’re training people for a living, so the more experience you can get with interacting with people you’ve only just met, the better.
During your training courses, everything goes nice and smoothly, people do as they are asked, they perform the exercises well and everything is just great. In real life, this isn’t at all what happens. Training real people in real life is a completely different ball game, so stop yourself being surprised by trying it out before you start properly.
Sales – Learning how to sell your services is almost as important as knowing how to perform exercises when it comes to personal training. If you can’t sell, you can’t succeed, simple as that. Read books/blogs, listen to podcasts, watch videos and use any other methods you can think of to understand how the sales process works.
Learn how to overcome common objections, sell your services effectively, how to feel confident in your pricing, and how to retain clients once you have them.
Selling personal training in a gym or online can be tough, so sales skills are the bedrock of your training business, so don’t skimp on learning as much as possible. Even once you are confident in your skills, keep up to date with any new information that comes out, stay up to date, and never stop learning about new sales techniques.
Rapport building – You might think that this just boils down to talking to people, but it’s much more than that. Learning how to establish and build rapport with strangers is seriously important to your success as a trainer, as people only buy from people they like and trust. If you have never deliberately tried to make friends with people before, it’s time to get out there and start learning some rapport-building techniques.
Confidence building – Some people are naturally gifted when it comes down to self-confidence, (It could be nurture too, but let’s not get into that debate today). However, a lot of people who have recently qualified will be a little nervous when it comes down to approaching people to book into sessions, and certainly when it comes to giving their first training session.
Spend some time building your confidence by training as many people as you possibly can before you start your career. Prospective clients will never give you a chance if they think you don’t have confidence in your own training abilities. Get out there, train people, know that you’re great, and then show your prospects just what you can do.
Now let’s get onto the free ways that you can get experience.
Top FREE ways to get personal trainer work experience
- Train your family and friends
- Ask independent training studios for work experience
- Work for free for council gyms
- Practise your sales techniques
- Practise building rapport with people
- Imagine you are training people during your own workouts
- Give people advice in your local gyms whilst training
- Look for internships or apprenticeships
Train your family and friends
I know what you’re thinking, you’re probably thinking “training my family is going to be really awkward and cringy”. Well, the good news is, that it absolutely is, it’s completely cringy, but only when you first start.
After a little while, things start to feel a bit more comfortable, and even when I was a full-time employed trainer, I would still train my friends in parks and my family at their homes.
The reason it’s so great to get experience with family members and friends is that you can get honest feedback about your training style. Are you going too easy, too hard or do you look like you lack confidence? These are questions they will be able to answer that you really wouldn’t want to be asking a paying client.
It gives you a chance to hone your skills and develop your personality as a trainer. If you forget how to perform an exercise correctly, there’s no problem, learn from it and keep improving until you feel confident to go out and start training people for money.
Ask independent training studios for work experience
This is the method I used to gain my experience in a top personal training studio in a very prestigious area of London. Now, I didn’t know that before I got there, but it was a pretty nice surprise in the end.
I’m not suggesting that this will always be the case, but it really was pretty easy to do.
All I did was search on Google for independent personal training studios in London, then wrote an email to each company I found explaining that I had recently got my certification, but was looking to get a little experience training people before I properly went into the business.
You’ll need to send plenty of emails because a lot of them won’t reply, but, if you do get a positive response, I totally suggest you go for it. I learned so much about the industry and what it took to be a successful trainer in just two weeks.
I know to some people it will be difficult to give two weeks of your time for free, but these gyms are full of highly experienced trainers and the advice and knowledge you will gain from them will easily pay for itself in the long run.
Work for free for council gyms
Counsel-run gyms (or community gyms in the USA), are chronically understaffed and are always looking for additional help.
They will not usually have personal trainers working in the gyms themselves, but they do have fitness staff.
If you offer to work as an instructor as work experience or even asked for work experience for a personal trainer, I would be very surprised if they turned you down. It’s a really great way to learn how to interact with lots of different people from varying backgrounds, which is exactly what you’ll need to get really good at if you want to be a successful PT.
You’ll also get the opportunity to give 1-2-1 tuition in the form of fitness assessments, program design, and some nutritional advice too. These are all excellent skills to develop for your future training career.
These gyms are often underfunded as well as understaffed, so the chances of being able to get paid for your time is unlikely, however, it can happen, so if you keep at it for a while you might be able to draw a small amount of money as a salary, but value it more for the experience you are gaining rather than the money.
Practise your sales techniques
Being a great trainer is one thing, but if all being a successful PT was about was being great at training people, we would have a lot of very successful and very wealthy trainers in the world.
The fact is, being good at sales is incredibly important.
Honestly, if you can’t get good at closing sales and convincing people that you are exactly the trainer they need, you will really struggle, or even fail pretty hard when you start training people for real.
My advice is to get good at it before you go anywhere near a gym. It’s a vital skill that doesn’t get taught in most training courses, so you’ll need to teach yourself.
There are some great books out there on sales techniques for PTs including one I will link to below. Study these books and practice using the tips and scripts they provide on your friends, family, dog, cat, or just yourself in the mirror, whatever works for you.
If you get your dog to sign up for sessions with you, you’ll know you’ve really nailed it!
The book below is the one that I personally used and really found useful.
(Link takes you to Amazon)
Selling Personal Training: How To Make the Most of Your Personal Training Business
Practise building rapport with people
Being able to build rapport with people you have never met before isn’t important to your success as a trainer, it is vital!
You will need to be able to get to the point where you can walk up to a complete stranger, start a conversation with them and have the confidence to book them into a complimentary session with you.
To some, this will come naturally, but to others (me included) it was completely alien.
To gain your experience, you’ll need to practice your conversation skills at every opportunity you get. The cool thing is, you won’t always need to talk to strangers to do this. Your friends and family are again a great resource (although they probably wouldn’t appreciate being called resources), for you to hone your conversational skills.
Once you are comfortable starting and maintaining conversation with people you already know, start trying it with people you don’t. Hairdressers, barbers, grocery store assistants, anyone you can think of that you might be able to strike up a conversation with will be excellent practice for you.
Even if these conversations don’t go perfectly the first time, use it as a learning experience, what went wrong? what could you improve for next time etc?
I’ll leave a link for another book that I used to learn how to feel more comfortable with talking to strangers because this was one aspect of the role that really worried me when I first started. It does get much better very quickly, as long as you practice as often as you can.
(Link takes you to Amazon)
It’s Not All About Me: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone
Imagine you are training people during your own workouts
This one may be a little “out there” for some people, but it’s really easy and it’s totally free of course.
All you need to do the next time you train yourself in the gym is imagine you are training a client. When you move onto each exercise, imagine how you would explain to a client the movement, which muscle they should feel working, how long to perform each section of the movement, and the benefits of the exercise.
These are all the technical points of exercises that you will need to get used to explaining to people that are new to training, so you might as well get used to doing it. When you are completing your exercises, imagine what you would be saying to your clients when they start to look tired, encourage yourself as you would encourage them, congratulate yourself as if your client had just finished a great set.
An additional perk of this method is that you will probably end up pushing yourself harder than you usually do in the gym, so you’ll get a much better workout too.
Benefits all around!
Give people advice in your local gyms whilst training
The next step from the previous tip is to actually start approaching people in your local gym and giving them tips on their exercise techniques.
They may be a little confused if you are not wearing a trainers uniform, and you may also start to get a few looks from the trainers in your gym (if there are any) as they might think you are trying to poach clients, so use this technique sparingly.
The idea behind this is that you are approaching real people in a real gym context and giving advice. This improves your confidence in approaching strangers and knowing that you are giving out great advice that can help someone with their training.
You will essentially be doing what a personal trainer does, you just won’t have the benefit of getting paid for the advice you give, but that will be coming shortly.
Look for internships or apprenticeships
Last, but by no means least, you can look for apprenticeships.
Not getting paid whilst training people doesn’t sit too well with some people, and I can understand that. You’ve just paid a lot of money for a training course, you’re all skilled up and now you have to train people for free?
I know that sucks, but I really didn’t mind doing it because of how much knowledge I was getting, but if you would rather get paid at least something, apprenticeships may offer you a small salary whilst you gain your confidence.
There are a lot of paid and unpaid apprenticeships out there, but because they can pay, they get snapped up pretty quick. This means you will need to be on the lookout almost daily, to find any that become available as soon as they are listed to be in with a chance of being taken on board.
Another option is to find companies that offer them, hand them your CV with your qualifications and make up a covering letter that explains just how much passion you have for training and why you would love to work for them.
Hopefully, with you on their list of applicants, you should be one of the first people in line when an opportunity comes up. You will almost certainly not be the only person trying this though, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket, contact as many companies as possible to give yourself the best chance possible.
Getting experience isn’t always necessary, most trainers would be absolutely fine walking into a gym and building their business, however, even for people with a ton of self-confidence, I would suggest that getting some additional experience before you begin your business is never a bad idea.
Remember, you are starting a business by becoming a trainer, this will be your income, it’ll pay your rent, pay for your food and help you buy things you don’t really need.
If you are serious about making yourself a successful trainer, getting some experience before you start paying hundreds of pounds or dollars a month to gyms for rent is probably a good idea.
Good luck with whichever option you choose, or even if you decide to jump right in.
Go get ’em!
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