How to Become a Fitness Trainer in Arizona

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Arizona’s personal trainers are critical in helping its residents meet 2011 physical activity recommendations of 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity for promotion of their long-term health and well-being.

If you’re considering a career in personal training, you’ll have the opportunity to help clients from all backgrounds and walks of life improve their health and quality of life. You might work at a high end fitness club helping young athletes stay fit and look sharp, or you may choose to use your skills to help older adults age well and avoid injury. As the popularity of ‘fusion’ workouts like Yogalates and Brazilian Barre skyrockets according to Arizona Foothills Magazine, you’ll likely find yourself teaching classes in these areas.

In addition to teaching classes in group settings, however, you  might also train clients in small, semi-private sessions or one-on-one consultations. A 2011 Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance Survey in Arizona notes that 47.4% of the state’s population is insufficiently active, so your positive attitude and fitness expertise will be crucial in helping many clients like these work toward and achieve fitness goals.

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You’ll also join a promising career field with opportunities for advancement and pay increase. A 2012 analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows that personal trainers in Arizona made an average of $36,640 per year, and a 2014 analysis by notes that the top 10% in the field made $73,833 or more per year.

Becoming a Personal Trainer in Arizona

As group fitness options like High Intensity Interval Training grow more and more popular, gyms and fitness clubs are seeking increasingly high caliber candidates for personal training positions. As such, education and national certification will set you apart as a highly qualified personal training hire.

Formal Education and Training

As a result of their rigorous training in exercise science and fitness strategies, graduates of undergraduate degree programs are preferred candidates for many personal training positions. These programs will provide you with evidence-based health and wellness strategies in addition to resume-building opportunities to teach group fitness classes or shadow working personal trainers. Many prospective employers require prior fitness experience, so these programs are essential in preparing you to join the workforce.

As you consider personal training education options, outlines the following general education options:

Two-year associate’s degree program in:

  • Exercise Science
  • Fitness and Health
  • Health and Physical Education
  • Sports Studies

Four-year bachelor’s degree program in:

  • Exercise Science
    • including courses in Physiological Foundations of Movement, Physical Activity in Health and Disease and Stress Management for Wellness

  • Nutrition
    • including courses in Applied Food Principles, Introduction to Planning Therapeutic Diets and Advanced Human Nutrition
  • Sports Medicine
  • Kinesiology
  • Physical Education/Coaching
  • Human Biology
  • Physiology

Coursework in many of the programs will likely cover the following topics:

  • Strength and conditioning
  • Sports and fitness nutrition
  • Exercise theory
  • Anatomy
  • Weight management
  • Biomechanics
  • Health analysis

After taking classes in these areas you’ll  be highly trained to assist clients across a wide range of fitness needs and abilities. Whether priming athletes for peak performance or helping adults set attainable weight loss goals, your knowledge will help you make decisions to best suit each client’s unique goals.

These programs do more than just provide fitness knowledge, however. You’ll also graduate with the interpersonal and communication skills to succeed in an extremely people-oriented profession. Future employers are looking for more than just fitness skills, they’re also looking for personal trainers who can encourage participants and create positive experiences that will keep them coming back. As a college-educated trainer, you’ll have the communication skills you need to deliver these kind of results.

Personal Training Certification

Nearly every employer will also require you hold national certification in personal training, so acquiring one through a national credentialing organization is crucial. Some even require undergraduate preparation, so education is an important step in the process.

These ten organizations have been highlighted by the Livestrong Foundation as the most widely recognized among employers and are accredited by 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

If you choose to specialize further as a personal trainer, you may want to obtain additional specialized certifications in a specific area of fitness. As these certifications get more specific, their educational requirements often get more rigorous, so it is wise to pursue a relevant degree program. Such additional certifications are:

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

Personal Training Careers in Arizona

Future employers are looking for personal training candidates who set themselves apart by pursuing training and education. The following March 2015 employments postings give you a peek at what fitness centers are looking for in ideal candidates:

  • Lifetime Fitness in the Phoenix area requires its trainers hold a four year degree and have at least one national certification before applying. They also prefer candidates with two years of fitness experience, so graduates of a degree program are at a significant advantage
  • With locations throughout Arizona, YouFit Health Clubs looks for candidates with at least two years of personal training experience and prefer candidates with four-year degrees. Their trainers are expected to lead classes and create plans to help clients meet individual fitness goals
  • Freedom Fitness in Cave Creek needs trainers who specialize in one-on-one training, group training, kettlebell, TRX, CrossFit, plyometrics and boxing. Their trainers receive a free membership and competitive compensation beginning at $25 per hour

As you consider the requirements and benefits of working for a particular gym or fitness club, you’ll also want to consider the establishment’s goals and workout culture. A great way to do this is to talk with personal trainers at the club or look at the types of equipment and classes a particular facility offers. If a gym offers a significant number of High Intensity Interval Training or Pilates classes, you’ll want to make sure you’re equipped to lead them, as gyms look for trainers who can cater to their specific clientele.

The follow class rotation at Summit Health and Fitness in Flagstaff gives you a great idea of what some of your responsibilities might be like:

  • Cycle and Spin: an high-intensity class that combines indoor cycling with an interval-style workout
  • Yoga: The classic mindfulness practice combining various poses to improve strength and flexibility
  • Gentle Yoga: a version of the mindfulness practice just for beginners
  • Pilates & Pilates Express: a series of body-weight bearing movements to develop core control and build strength
  • Ultimate Conditioning: develop strength as you learn proper form and technique for weights, bands and free weights
  • Urban Rebounding: a joint-friendly trampoline workout to develop balance and improve strength, agility, and endurance
  • Step: Step up and down at various heights to work legs and develop cardiovascular endurance
  • Boot Camp: A combination of sports drills and calisthenics to build strength and endurance
  • Zumba: a popular dance workout to Latin music
  • Silver Sneakers®: a low-impact workout experience for older adults

As a personal trainer, you’ll lead classes like these and help individual clients create meaningful and achievable fitness goals. Whether you’re working with a group or doing an individual consultation, you’ll be an integral part of helping Arizona’s fitness club members reach their fitness potential and improve their quality of life.

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