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How to Become a Fitness Trainer in Iowa

Working as a personal trainer can be varied and excitingly challenging. One day you may be helping a middle-aged client prepare for the Des Moines marathon, while the next day you can find yourself assisting a high school football student with preparations for the state championship. Your clients can include everyone from new mothers who want to lose their baby fat to county folk who want to rehabilitate a lower back injury caused by lifting heavy farm equipment.

As a personal trainer in Iowa you will be involved with youth, adults, and the elderly. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 49 percent of Iowa adults participate in at least moderate physical activities, while 51 percent of the state’s high school students either meet or exceed recommended levels of physical activities.

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You can be a part of promoting health and fitness in Iowa working at any number of health and fitness clubs or doing independent contract work with residents at a place of their choosing. You may find yourself giving pointers on hiking posture in the Loess Hills, offering kayaking techniques to your clients on Clear Lake, cycling along the High Trestle Trail, or leading a spelunker class in the Maquoketa Caves.

The Iowa Workforce Information Network projects that personal trainer jobs throughout the state will grow between 12.7 to 22.2 percent over the decade leading up to 2022. This stands in contrast to Iowa’s general job growth rate for the same period, projected at just 11 percent. Not only can working as a personal trainer be rewarding, it is also a relatively stable job field you can count on for steady employment in the future.

Becoming a Personal Trainer in Iowa

Whether you are striving to work in a fitness club or as an independent contractor, having valued and competitive qualifications is essential to paving your way to a successful career.

Getting a Formal Education

Employers in Iowa prefer or require that you have either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a field that is directly related to personal training. Aside from this reason, having a relevant formal education will also ensure you apply the latest theory and techniques with your clients. This will help to keep you free from liability claims and leave your clients feeling satisfied, healthy, and happy.

Iowa colleges and universities offer a range of academic programs that are related to personal training. You can find relevant classes in the major you choose offered online, allowing you to keep up with your other fitness training obligations. Programs offered in Iowa include:

  • Exercise Science – this program of study includes classes like:
    • Principles, evaluations, and programs of fitness
    • Physiology of exercise
    • Exercise and its medical ramifications
    • Conditioning and fitness
  • Kinesiology – as part of this major you will study:
    • Orientation in health and kinesiology
    • Health promotion
    • Physical activity epidemiology
    • Exercise psychology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics – a degree in this field will include the study of courses like:
    • Nutrition and health assessment
    • World food topics
    • Nutrition education and counseling
    • Food ingredient formulations and interactions

This is not an exhaustive list of relevant majors you can study to become a personal trainer in Iowa. You can also consider a degree in subjects like Physical Education, Physical Therapy, or other related fields.

Nationally Recognized Professional Certifications

Each individual health or fitness club has its own requirements when it comes to earning a particular nationally recognized personal trainer certification. This is often a required – and almost always a preferred – qualification. You can choose among a number of different organizations that all offer their own personal trainer certifications:

  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  • National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA)
  • International Fitness Association (IFA)
  • National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT)
  • The Cooper Institute (CI)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • Professional Personal Trainers Association (PROPTA)
  • International Sports Science Association (ISSA)
  • National Personal Training Institute (NPTI)
  • Lifetime (LT) Academy
  • American Council of Exercise (ACE)

Each of these organizations has its own certification requirements. Some agencies require that you already have a college degree to be eligible for certification.

Iowa’s Personal Trainers

Studying current employment vacancies in Iowa is one of the surest ways you can make an accurate assessment of the qualifications you will need to pursue your dream of becoming a personal trainer. The following opening were surveyed in March of 2015 and represent an example of what you face as a new personal assistant in Iowa:

  • Life Time Fitness in Des Moines was looking for a personal trainer who either had a professional certification or could earn one within six months of hire. The club prefers to hire candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics, Nutrition, Exercise Science, Kinesiology, or another related field.
  • Anytime Fitness in Marion was advertising for a personal trainer who had both a relevant degree and experience.
  • Performance Health and Fitness in Coralville was searching for a personal trainer who had a degree in a fitness-related field plus the preferred qualification of a certification issued by one of these agencies: ACSM, ACE, NASM, or NSCA.
  • Two branches of the YMCA were looking to fill the following positions:
    • Personal Trainer with the YMCA in Council Bluffs – background in fitness and current CPR certification required; preferred qualifications include a college degree in a health-related plus professional certification.
    • Boot Camp Personal Trainer with the YMCA of Greater Des Moines – requires a bachelor’s degree in a health or fitness field, or a professional certification from one of the following: ACE, ACSM, CI, NASM, NSCA, NETA, or AFAA.

The Performance Health and Fitness center in Coralville provides a good example of what you can expect working for a health club in Iowa. This is a 25,000-square-foot facility that employs a staff of six general personal trainers as well as over a dozen more specialized fitness and health professionals. As a personal trainer at this location you have the potential of working your way up the ranks by accumulating experience, education, and additional certifications. You can work with clients who have a variety of health and fitness goals, and you can also be involved in fitness classes the club offers, including:

  • Weight training
  • Body Training Combat – includes elements of Karate, boxing, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, and Tai Chi
  • Body Flow Training – includes fitness aspects taken from Tai Chi, yoga, and Pilates
  • Kick Butt Step Training
  • Zumba
  • Zumba and Spinning designed for older clients
  • Body Vive Training – a fitness regimen that incorporates VIVE balls, body weight, and tubes to boost core strength

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