How to Become a Fitness Trainer in Illinois

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Illinois ranks second of all states in the nation for having the highest concentration of personal trainers as well as the highest total number of personal trainers. Working as such, you will be among a friendly team of colleagues who share the ultimate goal of giving Illinois residents one of the most sought-after goals: health.

Illinois residents will depend on you for a long life and well-being. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 44 percent of Illinois adults participate in at least moderate physical activity, while 35 percent have a healthy weight level. As an Illinois personal trainer you will play an instrumental role in increasing both these figures. This could be by leading Tai Chi classes in Chicago’s Millenium Park, by taking seniors on kayaking excursions in the Chicago Harbor, or by helping your younger clients get toned in preparation for a backpacking adventure in Starved Rock State Park near Utica.

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While you will undoubtedly be enthusiastic about promoting fitness among the population of Illinois, you can also rest assured that you are pursuing a stable career path. The Illinois Department of Employment Security projects that during the decade leading up to the year 2022, personal trainers across the state will see their overall numbers increase by over 1,000.

Working in one of the top-ranking states for the total number of personal trainers also means that your competition will be particularly stiff. You can turn this challenge into an opportunity to develop strong skills and qualifications in the field of personal training to rise above your competitors. Education and personal trainer certification are two key aspects that make a strong candidate.

Steps to Become a Personal Trainer in Illinois

Illinois offers its prospective personal trainers a number of opportunities when it comes to earning a competitive education and certification.

Personal Trainer Schools in Illinois

One of the best ways you can prepare to be a competitive personal trainer is to earn a relevant education. This will lay a strong foundation in your field and give you an in-depth level of understanding that you can apply everyday with your clients.

Illinois colleges and universities offer two and four-year degree programs with associated courses in topics like:

  • Kinesiology
    • Anatomy and physiology
    • Biomechanics
    • Kinesiology and health
  • Exercise Science
    • Physics for life sciences
    • Physiology of exercise
    • Physical fitness and education
  • Physical Education
    • Fitness testing and health assessment
    • Physical fitness and conditioning
    • Epidemiology and physical activity
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
    • Personal and consumer health
    • Nutrition for population segments: youth, adult, elderly, and pregnancy
    • Nutrition and diet as therapeutic treatments

To accommodate the busy training and work schedule of the state’s personal trainers, many colleges also offer degree programs and courses online.

If you choose to pursue personal trainer certification, you should also be aware that some organizations require that you have a college degree in a related subject.

Options for Personal Trainer Certification

Illinois residents have a number of personal trainer certification options. There are many nationally-recognized organizations that sponsor certification programs. If you already have a few potential employers in mind it is a good idea to check with them to see which personal trainer certifications they prefer.

These are some of the organizations you can choose from to earn a personal trainer certification:

  • The Cooper Institute
  • American Council of Exercise (ACE)
  • International Fitness Association (IFA)
  • National Personal Training Institute (NPTI)
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT)
  • Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

Most fitness and health clubs also require their personal trainers to have CPR, first aid, and AED certification.

Fitness Center and Health Club Requirements in Illinois

Each fitness club will have its own preferences and hiring requirements for personal trainers. Having an idea of what these are can help you to be a successful job candidate. A recent survey of vacant personal trainer positions across Illinois was taken in March of 2015. The following are the results of this survey, which show employment examples and found that the majority of fitness centers are looking for educated and certified personal trainers:

  • YMCA of Metro Chicago was searching for a personal trainer with strong communication skills, while candidates who possessed a national certification would receive preferential consideration.
  • Charter Fitness was recently looking to hire personal trainers for its locations in Park Ridge and Beverly. These professionals would also serve as a group fitness instructors. Requirements for these positions included certification from a nationally-recognized personal trainer organization or a related college degree, plus CPR and AED certification.
  • Health Bridge Fitness, with two locations in Illinois, was seeking a personal trainer who had the minimum qualifications of a bachelor’s degree in a fitness-related field, plus personal trainer certification issued by ACSM, NASM, ACE, or NSCA.
  • Life Time Training – currently with 111 locations throughout the nation including 9 in Chicago – was recently searching for a personal trainer who had at least one professional certification, with candidates who possessed a four-year college degree in a related field preferred.
  • Cadence Fitness and Health Center in Geneva was advertising for a personal trainer who could meet all of these qualifications:
    • Bachelor’s degree in a health or exercise-related field
    • Current approved personal trainer certification
    • CPR, AED, and first aid certifications
    • Prior related work experience

Health and fitness clubs are the largest employers of personal trainers in Illinois. Working in this kind of environment can be a fun and rewarding experience with many opportunities. Take the example of Centegra Health Bridge Fitness Center, a club with two locations in Crystal lake and Huntley. Altogether this center employs 18 personal trainers who specialize in a wide range of areas such as:

  • Aquatics training including hydro-Pilates
  • Muscle activation techniques
  • Youth fitness
  • Nutrition
  • Ai Chi and Tai Chi
  • Barre Method
  • TRN
  • Cardioblast
  • GRIT
  • Zumba
  • Pilates
  • Cycling

Personal trainers do not have to be specifically confined to an indoor environment and can work with clients at a mutually agreeable location. With the help of a personal trainer, Illinois residents will be able to more fully enjoy being healthy in locations that encourage fitness.

Illinois is home to some great places where people can find opportunities to get fit:

  • Swim training at Montrose Beach or Lane Beach Park in Chicago
  • Hiking in the Shawnee National Forest near Harrisburg
  • Biking along the Tunnel Hill State Trail
  • Kayaking down the Illinois River
  • Canoeing in the Cache River State Natural Area
  • Mountain biking in the Little Grand Canyon near Murphysboro

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