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How to Become a Fitness Trainer in Florida

With flourishing fitness culture, Florida is an ideal place to begin your career in personal training. Whether you teach popular workout classes in Pilates, Barre or TRX Suspension Training or choose to work with older adults to maintain long-term balance and core strength, you’ll be making a positive impact on the state’s overall health and well being.

Florida’s sunny skies, outdoor recreation opportunities and ample beaches mean many clients will look to you to tone up and get in shape both to look good and to be achieve peak performance for their favorite pastimes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly two-thirds of the state’s residents are overweight, so you’ll likely work with some of these clients to improve dietary choices and create achievable fitness goals. In Florida’s diverse personal fitness industry, you’ll just as often find yourself working with young athletes looking to hone their skills and achieve peak performance.

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You’ll also have the opportunity to train Florida residents in some the country’s hottest fitness trends. North Florida’s Void Magazine notes that studio workouts, High Intensity Interval Training and small group personal training are the American Council on Exercise’s top picks for 2015. As a personal trainer you might choose to work at one of these studios, lead interval workouts or organize small group training sessions to capitalize on these trends.

Becoming a Personal Trainer in Florida

As Florida’s gym goers seek specialized, effective training experiences, club owners are looking for highly trained candidates to fill personal training positions. As such, education and national certification are crucial steps in pursuing your career in personal training.

Advantages of Education and Training

Graduates of associate and bachelor’s degree programs in a relevant major are a step ahead when it comes to specialized training in nutrition, fitness theory, physiology, the science of body movement and interpersonal communication.

As preparation for a career in personal training, you can pursue a degree program in one of the following areas:

Associate’s degree program in:

  • Fitness and Health
  • Exercise Science

Bachelor’s degree program in:

  • Kinesiology
    • Including courses in Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries, Physiology of Exercise and Training and Principles of Strength and Conditioning

  • Exercise Science
    • Including courses in Coaching Theory, Fitness and Weight Management and Physical Activity & Preventative Medicine

  • Nutrition
    • Including courses in Community Nutrition, Lifespan Nutrition and Food Science and Composition
  • Human Biology
  • Exercise Physiology
  • Sports Medicine
  • Physical Education

At a broader level, coursework in many of the above programs will have in common the following topics:

  • Anatomy
  • Sports and fitness nutrition
  • Exercise theory
  • Analysis of health and fitness
  • Biomechanics
  • Weight management
  • Strength and conditioning

After graduating from one of these programs, you’ll feel well-equipped to handle a variety of client needs. Whether an older adult needs joint-friendly workout options to preserve muscle tone and balance or a young athlete needs a tapered fitness program in preparation for a competition, you’ll be able to confidently assess needs and create tailored programs to match.

A degree program also provides ample opportunity for training in interpersonal communication, a skill that will be key to performing at the top of your career. Most personal trainers are responsible for keeping readable, detailed client progress records, and so club owners seek trainers with high-level writing skills. In addition, clubs are looking for personal trainers who can deliver workout and nutrition advice in a friendly and accessible way. With a relevant degree, you’ll be able to exceed these standards and provide friendly, professional personal training that has your clients returning again and again.

National Certification for Personal Trainers

Employers will nearly all require you hold a national certification in personal training through a national credentialing organization. These organizations maintain their own set of standards and exams, and some require undergraduate education, making a degree program a wise choice.

The following national organizations provide certification accepted by fitness club owners in Florida:

  • 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)

The Livestrong Foundation recognizes these organizations for their widespread acceptance among personal training employers and the fact that they’re accredited through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

Specialty Certification

You may choose to pursue additional experiences or specialized certification in preparation for your career as well. If you’re interested in mindfulness practices, certifications in various styles of yoga are available, or you might pursue certification in cycling instruction if you like higher intensity workouts. You could also work at a fitness product or supplement retailer or coach a sport for additional experience.

The following are a few specialty certifications you might consider from the above named certifying agencies:

  • Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant Certification
  • Post-Rehab Conditioning Specialist
  • Functional Training Specialist
  • Cycle Instructor Certification
  • Certified Health Fitness Specialist
    • Requires a 4-year degree

Beginning a Rewarding Career as a Personal Trainer in Florida

To further prepare for your career, you might consider what current employers look for in ideal personal training job candidates. The following postings are shown as examples of some of the common qualifications that employers in Florida look for in a job candidate (March 2015):

  • The Harbour Island Athletic Club in Tampa looks for personal trainers with a national certification and prefers those with a four-year degree in exercise physiology or a related area. Trainers here enjoy benefits including professional development training, a retirement plan and an earnings potential of over $50,000.
  • Personal trainers at LifeTime Fitness in Boca Raton are expected to perform comprehensive assessments, give personalized nutrition and fitness advice and create customized workouts for clients. Trainers must hold one national certification at minimum and those with four-year degrees in kinesiology, sports medicine or a related field are preferred

As you consider where you might like to work, it’s important to choose a place that offers classes you feel you’d enjoy teaching and are qualified to lead. Some facilities offer a broad range of classes that include everything from yoga to high-intensity fitness ‘bootcamp,’ while others specialize primarily in a single type of workout like CrossFit or TRX. In either case, you’ll want to make sure a gym’s classes suit your style and interests.

The following rotation of classes at the YMCA of Northwest Florida offer a sampling of classes you might lead:

  • Barre Method: a class featuring strength exercises that use the ballet barre to sculpt long, lean muscles
  • Boot Camp: pegged “recess for grown-ups,” Boot Camp combines a variety of drills to work on speed, balance and agility
  • Body Sculpt: a full body workout using hand-held weights
  • Pilates: mat exercises emphasize core training and proper breathing techniques
  • Zumba: a popular, upbeat dance workout to Latin music
  • Senior Fit: a class for clients 65 and older featuring strength training, yoga, balance and flexibility
  • Pound: a full-body cardio workout that fuses cardio, isometric movements, Pilates and plyometrics
  • Spinning: a high-intensity indoor cycling class that boosts heart rate and endurance

As one of Florida’s fitness professionals, you’ll lead classes like these, create custom workout programs for a variety of clientele and help improve the state’s health and well-being. Supported by your specialized training and education, you’ll be an integral part of Florida’s health and fitness community.

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