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How to Become a Fitness Trainer in Colorado

Called “the fittest state in the nation” by the Colorado Springs Gazette, there’s no better place to pursue your personal training career than in Colorado. With its active, health-conscious population, you’ll find your skills in high demand at gyms and fitness clubs throughout the state.

Home to the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Colorado boasts a long tradition of athleticism and a thriving outdoor fitness culture.  From elite athletes to your average enthusiast, many of the state’s residents mountain bike and rock climb on the weekends and need personal trainers to keep their routine strong during the week. Others participate in body weight and high intensity interval training, some of the latest fitness trends according to Colorado State University.

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CSU also puts personal trainers among the state’s top fitness trends for 2015 because, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, clients are looking for professional guidance more and more. As a personal trainer, you’ll be able to lead group fitness workouts and provide tailored consultations to a wide variety of Colorado’s residents, from older adults looking to age well to elite athletes looking to hone their performance.

Additionally, you’ll join a promising career field with promising earnings potential and opportunities for advancement. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, corporate-employed personal trainers made $42,410 on average in 2012, not including those employed independently who often make much more.

Becoming a Personal Trainer in Colorado

Employers in Colorado are looking for highly skilled professionals who can keep up with athletic clientele, making education and national certification imperative steps in pursuing your future career.

Education from an associate or baccalaureate degree program will set you apart from other prospective personal trainers. These programs provide specialized coaching, fitness and nutrition expertise that employers value, in addition to extracurricular training opportunities. Some programs may have you shadow a working personal trainer, while others allow you to work as a student personal trainer at their gym or rec center. These experiences will help you build a strong resume and give you the experience you need to begin your career.

Personal Training Degree Programs

Should you decide to pursue a career as a personal trainer in Colorado, you might enroll in one of the following programs:

Two-year associate degree program in:

  • Exercise Science
  • Fitness and Health
  • Sports Studies

Four-year bachelor’s degree program in:

  • Exercise Science
    • Including courses in Health and Wellness, Physical Activity Throughout the Lifespan and Advanced Wellness Programming
  • Kinesiology
    • Including courses in Physiological Basis of Resistance Training, Health and Fitness and Exercise Physiology
  • Sports Medicine
    • Including courses in Exercise Testing and Instrumentation, Exercise and Chronic Disease and Neuromuscular Aspects of Human Movement
  • Physical Education
  • Nutrition
  • Biology
  • Exercise Physiology

Generally speaking, these programs will include classes in the following range of subject areas:

  • Strength and conditioning
  • Fitness theory
  • Human anatomy
  • Weight management practices
  • Biomechanics
  • Health analysis
  • Sports nutrition

After taking classes in some of these areas, you’ll be capable and competent when assessing even the most complex client needs. Whether you work with senior citizens to maintain core strength and stability or train some of Colorado’s outdoor adventure sport elites, you’ll be able to design comprehensive and effective programming to meet each need.

You’ll also stand out to future employers because of your comprehensive training in written and interpersonal communication. Many jobs require progress tracking and goal management where writing skills are crucial, and your education experience will provide you a solid foundation for these tasks. In addition, employers are looking for personal trainers who are the total package. You can’t just be knowledgeable, you also need to present workouts to clients in a friendly and motivating way, and the coaching and training experiences a degree program provides will ensure proficiency in these areas.

National Certification for Personal Trainers

Employers typically prefer undergraduate education and require certification through a national credentialing agency. Testing for these agencies can be rigorous, and some even require your hold a degree before sitting for the exam. Most agencies require you obtain CPR certification beforehand as well.

The Livestrong Foundation highlights the following ten certification organizations for their recognition among employers and their accreditation status through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies:

  • National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA-CSCS)
    • requires a 4-year degree

  • National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT)
    • must have at least two years of fitness experience
  • National Endurance and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA)
  • International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA)
  • The Cooper Institute
  • The American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  • The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT)
  • American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA)

Additional Preparation

Since future employers typically value additional certifications, you might also consider further certification in a particular area of interest. If you’re interested in mindfulness practices, you might could be certified in yoga or Pilates, or you might choose to obtain lifeguard certification if you plan to teach water aerobics or other fitness classes in the pool.

The following are some additional certifications you might consider:

  • Cycle Instructor Certification
  • Clinical Exercise Specialist
  • Sports Nutrition Certification
  • Certified Health Fitness Specialist
    • Requires a 4-year degree

Starting a Career as a Personal Trainer in Colorado

Another helpful way to explore your career in personal training is to look at what top employers in the field require in an ideal candidate. The information below from various March 2015 employment postings provides some illustrative examples of what many fitness clubs look for:

  • Personal trainers at RockStar Fitness in Castle Rock conduct fitness assessments, develop individualized fitness programs and provide nutritional guidance for clientele. Trainers must be nationally certified and have three to five years personal training experience, and expertise in Spin, TRX and Circuit Training is preferred
  • Trainers at Colorado Athletic Club in Denver and Boulder must be certified by one of the ten organizations above and a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology or a related area is preferred. These fitness professionals enjoy earnings potentials of over $50,000 and can also participate in professional development programs

It’s also important to consider the types of classes offered at a gym you’re interested in. Because leading group fitness classes is a significant part personal training, you’ll want to choose a gym that suits your fitness skills and interests. The following rotation of classes at Old Town Athletic Club in Fort Collins provides an excellent example of the classes you might be called on to teach:

  • BarreFitness: the ballet barre is used for support while participants use balls and light weights to strengthen muscles
  • Body Sculpt: a weight training class using dumbbells, steps, mats and body bars
  • Full Body Circuit: a 60 minute, instructor-motivated weight training circuit that can be adapted to various levels of fitness
  • Hatha Yoga: a flowing sequence of poses synchronized with breathing
  • Boot Camp: a high-intensity cardio workout combining weight training and calisthenics
  • TRX Circuit: similar to Boot Camp, but cardio reps are replaced with intense, 30-second intervals
  • Cardio Interval: A class focusing on low and high intensity cardio intervals, followed by toning exercises for the core and lower body

Whether you encourage participants to maximize their fitness potential in group fitness classes like these, or motivate individual clients to set and meet exercise goals, your education and training will help you make competent and professional decisions as you help Colorado’s residents thrive.

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