Whether helping ordinary people develop healthy exercise habits that are long overdue, or train fitness fanatics looking to improve their athletic performance, a career in personal training offers opportunities to work with diverse clientele in a positive, high-energy environment. Some clients may be interested in High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) programs like CrossFit, the biggest fitness trend of 2014 according to WSFA Montgomery, while others may need your expertise and encouragement to begin a regular strength-training regimen.
Your training and expertise will be essential in working with clients across a range of age groups and demographics. Younger gym goers may be interested in group fitness classes or more social workout opportunities, while older clients may choose to schedule a one-on-one appointment for specialized training in a comfortable setting.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than two-thirds of the state’s population was overweight as of 2012, so becoming a personal trainer in Alabama also often means playing a crucial role in helping adults set and achieve their personal weight loss goals.
Becoming a Personal Trainer in Alabama
As national figures like Michelle Obama champion health and fitness by bringing the conversation into the public arena, clubs and gyms are more often seeking qualified personal trainers to cater to the demands of a growing number of clients looking for personalized fitness services. These employers typically prefer or require training, education and national certification from prospective employees.
Personal trainers with associate and bachelor’s level education are the most competitive applicants for personal training jobs because of their specialized knowledge of fitness, nutrition and the science of body movement. Students in these programs do more than simply study, however. Many of these programs include opportunities for students to teach classes, try out best practices and take on student leadership positions at fitness facilities. These kinds of immersive programs offer a realistic look at the career, and an opportunity to build up a healthy resume that you can present to future employers.
Post-Secondary Personal Training Education
Should you decide to pursue one of Alabama’s formal education programs related to personal fitness, you would find the following degree options available:
Two-year associate’s degree in:
- Exercise Science
- Fitness and Health
Four-year bachelor’s degree in:
- Exercise Science
- Including courses in Stress Management, Applied Biomechanics and Dynamics of Weight Control
- Exercise Science
- Physical Education
- Including courses in Physiology of Exercise, Stress Testing and Exercise Prescription and Exercise Management of Chronic Diseases
- Physical Education
- Including courses in Nutritional Biochemistry, Medical Nutrition Therapy, and Nutrition Counseling and Education
- Human Biology or Physiology
- Sports Medicine
More generally, coursework in all of these programs will typically cover the following areas in order to adequately prepare graduates for a personal training career:
- Strength and conditioning
- Sports and fitness nutrition
- Exercise theory
- Health and fitness analytics
- Weight management
Graduates of these programs are well-equipped to meet the needs of a variety of client types. From older adults looking to manage their weight and maintain heart health, to younger clients looking to prime their bodies for peak performance, as a properly educated personal trainer you will be able to guide clients in making nutritional and exercise decisions designed to best suit their unique goals.
These programs also develop communication and interpersonal skills in such a way that you’ll feel confident no matter what individuals or groups you end up training. Students frequently have opportunities to work with individuals in guided settings before gradution, and many programs also include opportunities to teach group fitness classes and learn the dynamics of guiding multiple people at once.
National Certification for Personal Trainers
You’ll find employers often require national certification. Some certifications are so rigorous they require undergraduate education or prior fitness experience, making degree programs like those named above a wise choice. Many also require you to achieve CPR certification before taking the certification exam.
The following are major personal training certification agencies acknowledged by employers in Alabama:
- National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA-CSCS)
- 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)
- National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT)
- National Endurance and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA)
- International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA)
- The Cooper Institute
The Livestrong Foundation recognizes these ten organizations as the certification bodies most widely recognized among employers. All of these agencies have earned accreditation through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.
Most employers prefer job candidates with prior client experience, so if you’re considering a future as a personal trainer there are a variety of additional ways you might prepare. On top of CPR certification, you might consider water safety or lifeguarding certifications if you plan to teach water aerobics or other aquatic fitness classes. You could also coach a sport, lead fitness classes on a part-time basis, or shadow a current personal trainer to gain additional experience.
Personal Trainer Careers in Alabama
To give you a better picture of what many top employers are looking for in the personal trainers they hire, review some of the qualifications specifically outlined in recent job ads (as of March 2015 and shown for illustrative purposes):
Gold’s Gym in Birmingham asks that all personal trainers provide clients with guidance in proper nutrition, cardiovascular health and resistance training. National certification is required and a college degree in fitness or a related field is preferred.
Personal trainers at Lifetime Fitness in Vestavia Hills enjoy a complete employee benefits package in addition to discounts at LifeCafé, LifeSpa and Salon, and on Life Time nutritional products. The company prefers those with four-year degrees in kinesiology, sports medicine, or a related field, and requires applicants hold at least one national certification in personal training.
Elite Fitness and Body in Hoover, named the #1 Fitness Business in North America in 2014, offers personal trainers a salary of up to $55,000 per year. Trainers are expected to train clients in one-on-one, semi private and group settings, develop nutrition plans and make monthly reports on client progress. They even offer a 60-day apprenticeship process and will pay for necessary national certifications.
Whether you’re passionate about strength training or value mindfulness practices like yoga, you may be called on to lead a variety of group fitness classes for a range of clients with a range of ability levels.
The following classes found at OneNineteen Fitness in Hoover give you a great picture of the kinds of classes you might lead:
- Active Yoga – flow through several Hatha Flow yoga poses
- Aqua Zumba – the popular dance workout done in the pool
- Chair Yogalates – integrates the fundamentals of Pilates and Yoga while seated
- Power Hour – boot camp style class incorporating cardio and strength
- SAIL (Stay Active and Independent for Life) a strength training class for older adults
- Spinning – a high intensity cycling workout on stationary bicycles
- H.I.I.T. – High Intensity Interval Training combining weightlifting and cardio movement
Between teaching classes like these, working with individual clients to improve nutrition and exercise habits, or creating personalized fitness programs for talented athletes, pursuing education and certification as a personal trainer in Alabama allows you to promote physical activity and healthy lifestyles for residents across the state.