How to Become a Fitness Trainer in Washington, D.C.

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In 2014, Washington D.C. claimed the top spot in the American Fitness Index’s list of Fittest Cities. Measuring a combination of preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions, and community resources and policies that support physical activity, the index gave the D.C. area the highest score in the nation, making it an ideal place to start your personal training career.

As a personal trainer in Washington D.C., you’ll have the opportunity to work with a wide range of clients, from young parents and university athletes to working professionals that call the nation’s capital home. Each client you meet with will have a unique set of interests, goals and needs, and your expertise in fitness and nutrition will be essential to helping them enjoy a positive and productive personal training experience.

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As a personal trainer in the Washington D.C. area, you’ll be able to lead clients through some of today’s hottest workouts, as the city is at the forefront of the latest fitness trends like CrossFit, High Intensity Interval Training and Barre Fitness, as highlighted in the Washington Post.

You’ll also enjoy a team-driven work environment, benefits and competitive pay. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics in 2012, trainers in the nation’s capital made an average of $43,120 annually, not including self-employed trainers who frequently earn even more.

Becoming a Personal Trainer in Washington D.C.

As influential D.C. residents like first lady Michelle Obama champion issues related to health and fitness, personal trainers find themselves in a position to help Americans achieve health and wellness goals. Gym owners are looking for highly trained, expert trainers to meet their clients’ needs, so education and national certification are important steps on the way to your future career.

Personal Training Degree Program Options

Employers seek personal trainers who hold two or four year degrees in relevant majors for their expertise in workout design, nutrition and coaching. Many of these programs include student personal training experiences in which you shadow a working personal trainer out in the field. As a result, you’ll gain unparalleled hands-on experience and build up an impressive personal training resume to present to future employers.

If you decide a career in personal training is right for you, the following degree programs are available to prepare you:

Two-year associate’s degree program in:

  • Exercise Science
  • Fitness and Health
  • Sports Studies

Four-year bachelor’s degree program in:

  • Biology
    • Including courses in Structure and Function of the Human Body, Cell Biology and Developmental Biology

  • Nutrition
    • Including courses in Clinical Nutritional Care, Community Nutrition and Food Science

  • Exercise Science
    • Including courses in Anatomy & Physiology, Nutrition and Exercise Psychology and Behavior Change
  • Kinesiology
  • Sports Medicine
  • Physical Education/Coaching
  • Exercise Physiology

Although each has a unique focus, many of the above programs will incorporate coursework in the following areas:

  • Human anatomy
  • Nutrition for sports and fitness
  • Exercise theory
  • Health analysis
  • Weight management
  • Strength and conditioning
  • Biomechanics

The expertise you’ll have as a result will prepare you to confidently work with clients of all ages, backgrounds and ability levels. Whether you’re designing a nutrition program for a client looking to lose weight or crafting a workout plan for a high-performing D.C. athlete, you’ll have the skills you need to provide effective, targeted personal training services wherever you work.

These programs also build skills in client motivation and interpersonal communication. These will be crucial as you begin your career because fitness clubs are looking for versatile, total-package personal trainers. Gone are the days of impersonal, one-size-fits all workouts. Personal trainers now are expected to communicate with clients, customize workouts and deliver complex health information in a friendly, understandable way. As a graduate, you’ll have the communication and coaching experience you need to deliver enjoyable personal training experiences that keep clients coming back.

National Certification in Personal Training

Nearly all employers require personal trainers hold at least one national certification, so you’ll want to obtain one through the following agencies after graduation. Some of these programs require undergraduate education, and nearly all include a challenging exam component, so a degree program is an excellent way to prepare.

The following major personal training certification organizations have been recognized by the Livestrong Foundation for their accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies and their widespread acceptance among employers:

  • 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)

Starting your Career as a Personal Trainer in Washington D.C.

As you consider your future career, it’s a great idea to look at what employers in the D.C. area are looking for in ideal personal training candidates. The following March 2015 employment postings give a few examples of the qualifications you might be expected to have:

  • Fitness Together in Central Georgetown was recently nominated as one of Washington D.C.’s Best Personal Trainers, and seeks trainers who hold or are working towards an undergraduate degree in Exercise Science or a related field. They also require at least one year of personal training experience and national certification. Their trainers enjoy competitive pay and the opportunity for advancement into ownership and management positions
  • Sport & Health Northwest prefers personal trainers who hold a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology or a related field, and who hold national certification. Their trainers are responsible for providing competent, professional fitness instruction and for building friendly relationships with members to create an enjoyable community environment

In addition to these duties, personal trainers typically lead group fitness classes in everything from yoga and tai chi to boxing and cardio boot camp. If you’re considering applying with a particular gym, you’ll want to look at their rotation of fitness classes to see if they line up with your own interests and skill sets. You might even choose to pursue additional group fitness certification in a class you know a club offers to further stand out to future employers.

The following rotation of classes offered at Balance Gym off Thomas Circle in D.C. give you an idea of what classes you might be called on to teach:

  • Spin: a high-intensity interval workout on stationary bikes to boost heart rate and increase endurance
  • Vinyasa Flow Yoga: participants flow through a series of yoga poses to improve strength and flexibility, while awareness of breath improves relaxation
  • Pilates Mat: the classic bodyweight bearing mat workout that strengthens core and targets individual muscle groups
  • Balance BootCamp: interval training using a variety of functional and athletic drills designed to boost heart rates and improve agility, endurance and body composition
  • Zumba: the hugely popular dance workout set to Latin music
  • BarreFit: concentrated exercises using the ballet barre to develop core strength and tone hips, arms and lower body
  • CrossFit Workout of the Day: part of a six-week intensive program, daily workouts including a warm up, skill practice/strength workout and cool-down are offered for long-term participants

As you lead group fitness classes like these, design comprehensive fitness and nutrition plans and motivate clients of all abilities, your education and training will be crucial in helping you keep Washington D.C.’s residents active and fit.

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