How to Become a Fitness Trainer in Alaska

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Whether working with the state’s avid outdoor athletes, or ordinary people just looking to lose weight, personal trainers play a key role in keeping Alaska’s population fit and healthy. Working as a personal trainer means using your expertise in physiology, weight management and the science of body movement in combination with communication and coaching skills to make a truly measurable difference in clients’ lives.

If you’re considering a career as a personal trainer in Alaska, you’ll enjoy lots of freedom to choose from a variety of work environments and all kinds of different clients. Alaska’s popular cruise tourism industry opens the door to employment opportunities as a personal trainer serving tourists as they cruise up and down the coast off the Gulf of Alaska. You might also choose to work in a gym or fitness center in one of the state’s major cities, or at a medical facility or senior-oriented fitness club. Each of these environments offers exciting new opportunities to teach classes or offer one-on-one consultations.

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Your expertise will also be crucial in addressing Alaska’s pressing health concerns. According to the Alaska Division of Public Health, 65% of the state’s adults were overweight or obese and at risk for health problems and a reduced quality of life. With training and education in the field, you’ll be able to help your clients set reasonable goals and encourage them as they begin to improve their health and fitness.

Becoming a Personal Trainer in Alaska

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there was 560 personal trainers were working at fitness facilities across the state as of 2013. These facilities seek highly motivated, well-educated individuals, and as such they typically prefer applicants with a relevant degree, national certification and experience.

In light of these preferences, competitive candidates are wise to seek post-secondary education in relevant areas of study and obtain national certification. As a result of their training in body mechanics, nutrition, sports psychology and exercise theory, graduates of associate or baccalaureate programs are best qualified to work with clients with diverse fitness needs. In addition, many programs offer guided opportunities to shadow personal trainers or teach group fitness classes, so graduates come away with a resume that is attractive to future employers.

Post-Secondary Education and Formal Training

The following are some degree options you might choose from as a prospective personal trainer in Alaska:

Associate degree (two-year):

  • Fitness and Health
  • Exercise Science

Bachelor’s degree (four-year):

  • Exercise Science
    • Including courses in Resistive Training, Fundamentals of Cardiovascular Training and Analysis of Human Movement
  • Physical Education, Teaching and Coaching
    • Including courses in Concepts and Design of Physical Fitness Activities, Adapted Programs of Physical Activity and Fundamentals of Aquatics
  • Biology or Physiology
    • Including courses in Human Anatomy and Physiology, Fundamentals of Cell Biology and Immunochemistry
  • Kinesiology
  • Nutrition
  • Sports Medicine

As a general outline, you can expect to encounter coursework that will cover these key areas in any one of these degree programs:

  • Strength and conditioning theory
  • Weight management
  • Health and fitness analysis
  • Biomechanics
  • Nutrition for fitness
  • Biology
  • Human Anatomy

After completing one of these programs, you’ll have the skills and expertise to meet the needs of a wide variety of clients, which is a quality both clients and employers value. Whether one of Alaska’s many outdoor enthusiasts needs strength exercises for hiking or mountaineering, or an older adult wants joint-friendly workout ideas, you’ll be able to assess their progress and help them reach their unique fitness goals.

You’ll also come away with demonstrated skills in coaching, goal-setting and interpersonal communication. Employers in the field are looking for trainers that not only have knowledge, but also have the people skills to give clients an encouraging and enjoyable training experience. Whether in coaching theory courses or through leading a fitness class, the experiences you’ll gain as part of your education will set you apart as someone who can truly create an unforgettable client experience.

Personal Training Certification

Employers also typically require that personal trainers hold one or more national certifications through one of the following organizations. Recognized as the top ten personal training certification bodies by the Livestrong Foundation, these agencies each maintain an exam and a specific set of requirements for certification. Some are so comprehensive, in fact, that they require you to obtain an undergraduate degree before applying for certification.

  • 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
  • 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 Endurance and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA)
  • International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA)
  • The Cooper Institute

Additional Preparation

Many of these agencies also require future personal trainers to obtain CPR certification before taking exams. Many trainers don’t stop there, however. If you’re considering a job with a specific athletic population, it may be a good idea to obtain further specialized certification in that specific area. Options that these certifying bodies recognize include:

  • Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant Certification (AFPA)
  • Group Fitness Instructor Certification (ACE)
  • Certified Health Fitness Specialist (ACSM)
    • Requires a 4-year degree

Career Opportunities for Personal Trainers in Alaska

A March 2015 job posting by the Alaska Club in Anchorage gives you a great look into what employers expect from prospective personal trainers. The club is a private social and athletic club and expects its team members to provide an outstanding training experience for new and existing clientele. Not only will you motivate future clients by setting goals, creating fitness plans and tracking results, you’ll also be expected to provide friendly and knowledgeable advice for members looking to achieve fitness goals.

Education is key to achieving such a position, as the posting requires applicants to have prior experience designing and implementing fitness regimens, in addition to a current national certification. Perks include a free membership and a salary of up to $60,000 per year.

You’ll have a variety of options when it comes to your work environment, so it’s a great idea to consider the style of fitness you’re passionate about as you consider employment options. You might be interested in High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) programs like Crossfit, the latest workout craze in 2014, or you may enjoy individual one-on-one meetings with older clients looking to improve their health. In either case, the rotation of classes at a local gym can give you a great idea for what types of settings you might be working in.

The following classes at the Alaska Club in Fairbanks give you a great look at what group fitness options are available:

  • Power Yoga
  • Mat Pilates
  • H20 Combo
  • H20 Cardio
  • Zumba
  • Glutes and Guts
  • Dance Cardio
  • Warm Flow Yoga

Between teaching classes like these, working with clients one-on-one or creating nutrition and personalized workout plans, education and certification will help you enjoy a rewarding career helping keep Alaska’s citizens happy, healthy and thriving.

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