How to Become a Fitness Trainer in Ohio

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fWorking with clients one-on-one as a personal trainer is as rewarding as it is challenging. In Ohio’s personal fitness industry, you may find yourself helping a client train for the Cincinnati Heart Mini Marathon, or you might work with a young athlete to develop a long-term fitness plan with the goal of one day playing for the Bengals or Browns.

According to the US Department of Labor, Ohio’s rural areas employ the third-highest number of personal trainers of all non-metropolitan areas in the nation. The most recent figures from the Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 490 personal trainers work in Ohio’s rural areas. Combined with their counterparts in Ohio’s urban centers, there are some 7,740 fitness trainers statewide.

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Even with some of the highest employment numbers in the nation, jobs in Ohio’s personal fitness industry can be competitive. This means it is important that you obtain an education that will provide you with the foundational skills and competitive qualifications you need to be successful.

Becoming a Personal Trainer in Ohio

There are two main qualifications to consider when becoming a qualified personal trainer. The first is a traditional education in the form of an associate’s or bachelor’s degree with a major in a relevant field of study. The second is personal trainer certification from a nationally recognized certification agency. Employers often require either one or both of these qualifications.

Traditional Personal Trainer College Education

You will find that a relevant college education is often the qualification that employers prefer. This is out of recognition of the fact that a strong foundation in a field related to health promotion and fitness is an irreplaceable attribute. The skills and theoretical knowledge you gain through college courses are directly applicable to helping clients achieve their fitness goals safely and effectively.

Colleges and universities throughout Ohio offer a number of majors that are relevant to personal training. These schools will often include an online education option for students with busy work and training schedules

  • Bachelor’s or Associate’s Degree in Exercise Science with a concentration in Human Performance and Fitness Promotion – for this major you will take classes that include:
    • Exercise evaluation and testing
    • Health, aging, and exercise
    • Cardiopulmonary pathophysiology
    • Exercise and sports pharmacology
    • Principles of endurance training
  • Bachelor’s or Associate’s Degree in Kinesiology with a major as a Physical Activity Specialist – as part of this program you will study courses such as:
    • Promotion of behavior change leisure, sport, and exercise
    • Applied exercise physiology
    • Musculoskeletal system and its mechanics
    • Human body composition
    • Anaerobic power testing and muscular strength
  • Bachelor’s or Associate’s Degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics – this course of study will cover subjects that include:
    • Food, culture, and global nutrition
    • Nutrition for the human lifespan
    • Metabolism of micro and macro-nutrients
    • Medical nutritional therapy
    • Nutritional assessments

Professional Personal Trainer Certifications

Employers will commonly require you to have at least one nationally-recognized personal trainer certification. The following is a list of some of the organizations that sponsor popular personal trainer certifications:

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

Each of these organizations has its own certification eligibility requirements. Some agencies require you to have already completed a college degree program before pursuing certification.

Working as a Personal Trainer in Ohio

The rubber will hit the road once you start working with your first client. This will be the point where you translate the theoretical knowledge you have learned in college or through a certification program into real results for your clients. Your workday may involve:

  • Applying what you have learned as part of an Exercise Science degree by counseling a middle-aged client on a behavior modification and exercise plan to lose weight. Some of your clients will be part of Ohio’s 65.1 percent of adults who are overweight or obese, and you can play an instrumental role in turning this statistic around by promoting healthy habits.
  • Helping an elderly woman prepare for Kettering’s 5k Saint Patrick’s Day Run by offering jogging posture pointers based on what you have learned while studying for a degree in Kinesiology.
  • Offering advice to a young woman athlete who is borderline anemic and preparing to run the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati. In this instance you could draw on what you have learned as part of a Human Nutrition and Dietetics degree program.

As a personal trainer in Ohio you can work in a gym or health club as well as in the great outdoors, as the demand grows for personal training outside of the confines of the fitness club setting. This may mean advising your clients while you participate in activities like:

  • Canoeing around South Bass Island State Park
  • Cycling along the Emerald Necklace Trail near Cleveland
  • Participating in the Hocking Hills Winter Hike, part of the beautiful Allegheny Plateau
  • Cross-country skiing at Paint Creek State Park
  • Teaching Pilates classes in Toledo’s Detwiler Park

What Ohio’s Employers are Looking For

Looking through the classifieds is a good way of getting a sense of the actual job qualifications today’s employers are searching for. The following vacancies for personal trainers were observed during a statewide survey completed in March of 2015. These qualification examples are what you might expect to encounter as you enter the job market in Ohio:

  • The YMCA of Greater Cleveland was advertising for a personal trainer who at minimum had a nationally recognized certification, with a preference for applicants with a college degree.
  • Gold’s Gym in Akron was looking for a personal trainer who had a professional certification or could obtain one within 90 days of being hired. Candidates with a college degree in a field related to personal fitness would be shown preference.
  • Life Time Fitness in the Columbus metro area (Dublin) was looking for a personal trainer who at minimum had a nationally-recognized certification. Having a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, Sports Medicine, or any other related field was a preferred qualification.
  • Centers in Cleveland was searching for a personal trainer who had a certification issued by any of the following organizations: ACE, ACSM, NASM, or NSCA.
  • TriHealth in Cincinnati was looking to fill a Personal Trainer II position with a candidate who could meet these qualifications:
    • Bachelor’s degree in a health or fitness field
    • Professional certification from a nationally-recognized organization
    • At least six months of professional experience

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