How to Become a Fitness Trainer in Montana

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According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, research in 2013 found that more than 60% of adults in Montana exercise three days a week for at least 30 minutes, making Montana the third most active state in the U.S.! With mountains and trails that are second to none for hiking, skiing, and extreme sports, it’s no wonder people in Montana are constantly moving.

Montana has a uniquely rugged athletic culture. Being surrounded by mountains and open terrain on a daily basis, the state’s active outdoor enthusiasts develop immense quad and calf strength, aerobic stamina, and an undeniable mental toughness. As a personal trainer, you may work with clients looking to prove themselves in the Reebok Spartan Race, which held several special “Founders’ Series” races in Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork, using the resort’s grounds to create “primal” obstacles for competitors. Naturally, thousands of Montana locals compete at the events, often blowing away visitors from other states.

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Over 3.7 million active outdoor enthusiasts vacationed in Montana in 2014, according to the Institute for Tourism & Recreation Research at the University of Montana. But while fitness buffs travel from around the world to ski, bike, kayak, and hike at spots like Big Sky National Resort and Glacier National Park, those activities seem like everyday walks in the park to Montana’s most active residents.

As a personal trainer in Montana, you will be working with a variety of clients, from hobby skiers looking to develop a proper mix of fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers, to everyday people looking to improve their health and become part of Montana’s growing fitness community. Thanks to the state’s vast landscape, you will have endless opportunities to develop creative outdoor exercises for clients.

Steps to Becoming a Personal Trainer in Montana

The journey to becoming a personal trainer can be just as exciting as whipping clients into shape. Whether enrolling in a two- or four-year school or going through one of several national certification processes, you will learn the ins and outs of the human body and how it responds to various forms of exercise and conditioning.

Degree Options for Personal Trainers in Montana

Having a college degree in an exercise- or health-related field will help you stand out among personal trainers in Montana. Useful degree options for aspiring personal trainers include, but are not limited to:

Associate’s Degree Programs in:

  • Fitness and Health
  • Exercise Science
  • Dietetics
  • Physical Education
  • Personal Training

Bachelor’s Degree Programs in:

  • Kinesiology
  • Exercise Science
  • Nutrition
  • Human Biology
  • Exercise Physiology
  • Sports Medicine
  • Physical Education

The benefits of studying the human body and how it responds to exercise at the college level extend well beyond establishing credentials for a job in personal training. Courses related to dietetics and nutrition, for example, allow you to learn which foods best fuel long workouts versus short, intense sessions. Courses related to physical education, exercise science and personal training will give you the added skills necessary to make client assessments before designing and implementing tailored programs for them to follow.

Understanding how the body moves, what governs energy pathways, and how to develop muscle to prevent injuries makes for an invaluable knowledge base that you will draw from throughout your career as a personal trainer.

Personal Trainer Certifications for Montana Residents

National certification is crucial for any aspiring personal trainer. Fortunately, some of the nation’s top certifying bodies offer certification tests at a variety of locations in Montana.

  • Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), with tests offered in:
    • Bozeman
    • Cheyenne
    • Preston
  • National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF), with tests offered in:
    • Billings
    • Helena
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), with tests offered in:
    • Billings
    • Butte Bozeman
    • Great Falls
    • Missoula
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), with tests offered in:
    • Billings
    • Butte Bozeman
    • Great Falls
    • Missoula
  • World Instructor Training Schools (WITS), with tests offered in:
    • Billings

Personal Training Careers in Montana

If you are interested in becoming a personal trainer and working with a diverse group of clients – from Montana’s most active, to those starting their first ever regimented exercise program – there are several career paths you can take. First, you can take the traditional path by working for a gym or health club. Alternatively, you can start your own personal training business by opening a studio of your own or using Montana’s diverse terrain as your office.

Gyms and Health Clubs

Gyms and health clubs employ qualified personal trainers to meet the demands of their expanding clientele. Among these is Gold’s Gym, which has locations in Missoula, Bozeman, and Great Falls.   To become a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym, you must receive national certification and pass Gold’s Fitness Personal Trainer Certification course and exam. According to the Gold’s Gym site, trainers must meet “high standards in exercise physiology, nutrition, anatomy, training program development, exercise application, health screening, and fitness assessments.” Taking exercise-related courses will help you prepare to meet these standards.

Additionally, smaller gyms and health clubs in Montana hire new trainers when their businesses begin to expand. For example, M Team Fitness in Kalispell posted an ad seeking a fitness trainer to join their team in April 2015.

Running your Own Personal Training Business

For entrepreneurial self starters, Montana is the perfect place to develop a creative personal training business. Because of the variety of outdoor activities Montana residents participate in, you will have the opportunity to specialize in many niche fitness areas, such as fitness for kayaking or fitness for trail running. Additionally, the Montana public mountains and trails give you plenty of space to train clients, potentially eliminating the need to rent or own a space.

In 2015, being a self-employed personal trainer has been made easier through online networking. Sites like, which allow self-employed personal trainers to build profiles and reach clients within days.

In developing your own personal training business, it is important to always seek new clients while maintaining existing ones. Word-of-mouth referrals are a great way to establish new business. When your existing clients vouch for your services to their friends and family, you gain the advantage of immediate trust with potential trainees. Additionally, because fitness is such a broad field, word-of-mouth referrals can lead to business from friends and family of clients who originally were not seeking personal training services. The most effective part of your resume is your client’s results.

Establishing your own website, whether through Wix, WordPress, or Blogger gives potential new clients the ability to see your background as a trainer. Your site can consist of testimonials from existing clients, your personal philosophy on health and exercise, and videos that demonstrate the types of training you offer. Using YouTube to market your services allows people to see your work in action. And if you develop a fitness routine unique to the Montana terrain, out-of-state fitness fanatics may drop in for personal sessions while on vacation.

Given the creative opportunity for personal trainers in a state filled with unique outdoor activity, choosing a career as a personal trainer in Montana is an exciting option with endless potential.

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