How to Become a Fitness Trainer in Connecticut

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With one of the lowest obesity rates in the nation according to the Trust for America’s Health, Connecticut is an ideal place to begin your personal training career. Whether you work with fit gym goers or those trying get in better shape, you’ll play a crucial role in maintaining and improving state residents’ overall health and well-being.

As a personal trainer, you’ll have the opportunity to work with a wide range of clients in a setting that suits your personal style and interests. If you’re into high performance athletics, you might choose to work at a specialized gym catering to highly motivated, younger clients. According to the New Haven Register, smaller boutique gyms that might focus exclusively on CrossFit or cycling, for example, are becoming more popular among young athletes looking for a community environment.

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Your first job opportunity might be in a larger gym that serves clients with a wide range of interests and abilities. At these gyms you’ll find yourself doing everything from teaching group fitness classes to meeting individual clients for one-on-one consultations. Whether you’re interested in helping older adults enjoy an active retirement or assist clients with weight management, these gyms provide the perfect environment to develop your expertise. The Register also notes that group personal training classes, where you meet with two or three clients at a time, are growing in popularity throughout the state.

In addition, you’ll enjoy competitive salaries, benefits and opportunities for professional development and career advancement. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, personal trainers made an average of $42,210 per year in Connecticut. This figure doesn’t include self-employed trainers, and boutique facility owners who typically earn much more.

Becoming a Personal Trainer in Connecticut

Gym memberships in Connecticut have grown 6% annually in the past five years according to industry research group, IBISWorld. In response to this demand, employers are looking for highly qualified personal trainers to meet the needs of a growing client base. In light of this, education and national certification are important steps on the path to your personal training career.

Education and Training

Personal trainers with associate or bachelor-level education are more attractive job candidates due to their specialized training in nutrition, body mechanics and fitness theory. In addition, education programs provide unparalleled opportunities for field experience before graduation. At some schools you might shadow a working personal trainer or even teach student-led group fitness classes, while others might provide student personal training opportunities in community gyms or recreation centers. In either case, you’ll build up a healthy knowledge base and have a solid resume you can present to future employers.

If you choose to pursue one of Connecticut’s personal training programs in preparation for your career as a personal trainer, you’ll encounter degree options such as the following:

Two-year associate degree programs in:

  • Exercise Science
  • Fitness and Health
  • Sports Studies

Four-year bachelor’s degree programs in:

  • Exercise Science
    • including courses in Sport and Exercise Psychology, Physiological Systems in Human Performance and Fundamentals of Strength and Conditioning
  • Physical Education or Coaching
    • including courses in Physiology of Exercise, Motor Learning and Development and Instructional Strategies for Physical Education

  • Nutrition
    • including courses in Biochemistry, Nutrition for Exercise & Sport and Medical Nutrition Therapy
  • Sports Medicine
  • Kinesiology
  • Biology
  • Exercise Physiology

While each program will vary in focus, many will cover some of the following general topics:

  • Anatomy
  • Sports Nutrition
  • Exercise principles
  • Health/fitness analysis
  • Strength and conditioning
  • Biomechanics
  • Weight management

Whether you find yourself leading a group of Connecticut’s senior citizens in joint-friendly exercises or helping CrossFit fanatics perfect their squats, the expertise you’ll have after one of these programs will be essential in keeping clients fit and preventing injury.

You’ll also develop indispensable interpersonal communication skills that pave the way for effective and enjoyable client interactions. Fitness clubs are looking for more than just knowledgeable trainers – they’re also looking for those who can communicate complex fitness concepts in a friendly and easily understandable way. Your expertise in this area will ensure clients enjoy their workout experience and come back eager for more.

National Certification for Personal Trainers

Nearly all employers will require you to hold national certification prior to hire, so obtaining one through a national certification agency is key. Some of these certifications are so rigorous they require a degree. As a result, many personal trainers choose to pursue certification after completing a degree program like those named above.

The following are among the most respected personal trainer certification organizations:

  • 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)

These organizations were highlighted by the Livestrong Foundation in 2014 for their widespread acceptance by personal training employers and because each is vetted by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

Many certifications will also require you obtain CPR certification, and you may choose to pursue additional certifications in your areas of interest to further round out your personal training resume. For example, if you enjoy High Intensity Interval Training, you may choose to pursue CrossFit certification. If you’re more into mindfulness practices, there are also a variety of yoga certifications you might choose from.

The following are a few such specialty certifications offered by the organizations named above:

  • Post-Rehab Conditioning Specialist
  • Certified Pilates Fitness Instructor
  • Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist
  • Flexibility Coach
  • Certified Health Fitness Specialist
    • Requires a 4-year degree

Personal Trainer Careers in Connecticut

If a personal training career sounds appealing, postings by current employers can give you a glimpse of what fitness clubs and gyms are looking for in ideal candidates. These postings from March 2015 illustrate just a few qualifications facilities typically desire:

  • The Edge Fitness Clubs in Fairfield County look for personal trainers who are nationally certified and/or hold a degree in Exercise Science, Sports Medicine, Nutrition or a related field. Their trainers are expected to design safe, effective workout and nutrition programs for training clients and demonstrate proper form on equipment. In addition, these trainers receive medical insurance and a retirement plan, and can take advantage of two weeks paid vacation and two free club memberships
  • Personal trainers at BDX Fitness in Shelton must have at least a two year degree in Exercise Science and hold a national personal training certification. They are responsible for developing comprehensive training programs, promoting personal training to potential clients and educating clients on proper technique

In addition to designing individual workout programs, you’ll likely lead some of the group fitness classes offered at the gym or health club where you work. Since class rotations can vary widely from gym to gym, it’s important to consider those offered at a particular club you’d like to work. Once you know the type of clientele and people these classes cater to, you may choose to pursue training and certification to match.

The following rotation of classes at Healthtrax Fitness & Wellness in North Haven show you what a class lineup might look like:

  • Aqua Kick: takes a traditional kickboxing workout and combines it with water resistance to challenge muscles and increase strength and endurance
  • Silver Sneakers Splash: Fun, shallow water movement with a kickboard to improve strength, balance and coordination in senior citizens
  • Pilates Fusion: combines elements of yoga and Pilates for a comprehensive mat workout
  • Power Yoga: a class featuring a flow of poses to challenge your muscles while building stamina and strength
  • Cycle: a 30, 45, 60, 75 or 90 minute cycling workout to energetic music
  • Boot Camp: a circuit style class focusing on speed, agility featuring strength and agility drills to build muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance
  • Cardio Contact: uses classic boxing techniques fused with Boot Camp cardio and martial arts moves for a total body workout

Whether you’re teaching classes like these, instructing individual clients on nutrition and proper form or designing workout plans, your education and training will pave the way for a rewarding career as one of Connecticut’s personal training experts.

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