The following is an excerpt from the new book "Business Strategies for Personal Training" by Persad and Lee.
Personal Training is a success story of the fitness industry; in demand by consumers, popularized by fitness facilities and written about by the media. Although it appears to have emerged as a new branch of practice for the fitness professional, personal training, and more importantly, the need for personal trainers has existed for some time.
Indeed individuals who could have been considered personal trainers have been around since the time of antiquity (7).
In Ancient Greece people exercised in places called palaestras and the supervisors who were very much like personal trainers of today were called paidotribe (7).
The evolution of need for personal trainers may have begun just after World War II, as times of war generally outline the fitness level of those serving (7, 27). However, it should be considered that the evolution of need potentially began as a result of society’s growing industrialization and the decrease in physical labour as a means of necessity during our daily lives.
There is no question that such a decrease in physical labour promoted the need for structured physical activity and in turn eventually spawned the need and growth for personal trainers.
On a global scale, the industrial revolution began in England during the 18th century and in North America 50 to 100 years later, during the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. Generally, it was during this time that production of products made by hand decreased while urbanization and machine use increased.
During the 20th century, inventions such as the television and the computer further increased the level of inactivity.
The idea of a computer actually first occurred during the industrial revolution. An English mathematician, Charles Babbage (1791-1871), noticed machines continued repetition of work without error and theorized that a machine could be built to perform calculations that involved repetition. Although never actually built, Babbage’s steam-powered machine was the basic prototype for a computer (28).
Moreover, during the end of the century, methods of conveniences were prevalent. One could withdraw money, drop clothes off at the dry cleaner, order breakfast, lunch and dinner all without leaving the car.
The result in the 21st century is that health conscious people must find time for physical activity beyond working hours. Furthermore, the cost of living has contributed to people working longer hours, with decreasing leisure time and an increasing obsession with not wanting to waste time.
The obsession with time is of great importance and is another contributing factor in the popularity of using a personal trainer. People who want to be fit also want to spend quality time in such a pursuit. A competent, certified personal trainer could monitor clients as they work towards attaining goals, ensure exercises are performed properly and aid in creating effective programs that will not waste clients’ time.
Notable Pioneers of the Fitness Industry
- Jack LaLanne - considered the Godfather of physical fitness, started in the industry in 1936
- Vic Tanny - fitness club owner in the 1940s
- Bill Pearl - author, speaker, developer of equipment and former body builder
- Joe and Ben Weider - contributed to resistance training becoming mainstream
- Dr. Kenneth Cooper - leader of the international physical fitness movement since 1960s
THE FUTURE OF PERSONAL TRAINING
Choosing a profession is often based on your personal interest in the chosen field. In this case, personal trainers generally have a personal interest in fitness and health. Whether you choose personal training as a part-time or full-time position, identification of the prevailing trends will highlight the need for personal training, and the resultant demand for new trainers coming into the field.
Here is a brief overview of the prevailing trends that have boosted personal training to the levels of a coveted fitness profession.
TOP TEN TRENDS
Baby boomers represent one third of the North American population, and the trend is towards a growing number of aging baby boomers. Adults between 50-64 years control 45% of the country’s wealth and many have above average household incomes. With the aging population comes a growing concern about looking healthy and feeling good. In fact, they spend 40% more than the national average on health and personal care products. Incidentally, there has been a 50% increase in the purchase of home exercise equipment. Personal trainers can address health and fitness needs of a growing older population.
2. Medical Research
Research studies point to the health benefits of physical activity for many health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and obesity. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, physical inactivity has been cited as a risk factor for heart disease, along with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and smoking. Physical activity can be a preventative measure for diabetes and obesity. Weight bearing exercise is promoted for osteoporosis prevention and treatment especially with the controversy and potential risks of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) (9, 22).
3. Obesity Epidemic
North American trends show a growing sector of overweight and obese adults and children, with children being the faster growing segment of the obese population (31). General epidemiological studies have not identified the causes for this trend yet, but tendencies such as an interest in the internet, home theatre, and loss of physical education hours in schools are potential culprits contributing to physical inactivity. Personal trainers with interest in weight management issues can direct their expertise to this potential cohort of clients.
John McCarthy, Executive Director, International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) reflects on the future of fitness: “The Surgeon General’s recent call to action on obesity will have an enormous impact on the fitness industry. Being overweight or obese is being redefined by the health care system – a body mass index of 25 or higher increases the risk for every chronic illness. What was an appearance issue is now a health issue. Another big issue is reaching out to Generation Y, also known as the echo boomers. They’re children of the baby boomers. They range in age from 6 to 22, and they number 72 million. What we have to do with this generation is to find a way to make exercise fun, hip, cool, challenging and interesting (6).”
4. Sedentary Population
Even after 20 years of promoting the benefits of exercising in the target zone three to five times per week, only 20% of the population fulfills this fitness prescription. With research supporting the health benefits of moderate exercise such as a brisk walk for 30 minutes and a prevailing “active living” campaign, there is hope in motivating sedentary individuals to add physical activity to their lifestyles. Personal trainers can conduct walking seminars and neighbourhood tours to attract sedentary individuals to an easy and fun form of active living. The release of the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report has stimulated many media people as well as fitness club owners to spread the word on the health benefits of moderate physical activity and hopefully, the messages will move sedentary populations to a more active lifestyle.
5. Stress Management at Work and in Home Offices
Stress is the heavy cloud that hangs over corporations in the midst of downsizing and streamlining their budgets and resources. Being aggressive, hardworking and ambitious is no longer the guarantee for corporate promotion. The individuals who have narrowly missed the corporate cuts end up doing a greater share of the jobs. Their ‘rewards’: unprecedented workloads and uncontrollable work environments. As a coping mechanism for stress, personal trainers can provide exercise programs for these individuals in the boardrooms or gyms in workplace environments.
Advancing technology such as fax machines, internet and e-mail coupled with family responsibilities have contributed to the rise in home based entrepreneurs. Middle managers in their 40s and 50s who have been downsized from corporations or baby boomers who want to be presidents of their own company will be marketing their skills from their home offices. Trainers can target small businesses and promote in-home personal training for the home-based business executive.
6. International influence
The 80s hailed the personal trainers of Hollywood stars as exercise gurus. The aura of glamour, recognition and potential financial gains has attracted people from all professions to become personal trainers.
In the 90s, associations developed to meet the growing demands for education and certification for personal trainers. The associations built the awareness and potential of personal training and helped bring personal training to the doorsteps of the general population.
Into the new millennium, individual trainers are on the international conference and speaking circuits to promote training techniques, products and best practices for the industry. Personal trainers are also marketing their services to the global market with professional web sites.
7. Media Coverage
Newspapers, magazines, radio and television have used the term “personal trainer” in their coverage of fitness and lifestyle issues. Features in the media often asked the presidents and CEOs of corporations to review the benefits of having a personal trainer. The benefits include time-savings, effective programs and valued motivation. Media coverage brings the term “personal trainer” to the forefront of consumer awareness. The power of the media has facilitated the demand of consumers for personal trainers for similar benefits.
8. Fitness Club Profit Centres
Personal training is a profit resource, which generates additional income for new and thriving fitness clubs. Package rates for personal training sessions are being promoted by clubs to generate repeat business. With multiple sessions being substantially lower than single sessions, the general public can afford a personal trainer. When adding this new breed of fitness professional to the regular staff, a club already has members as potential clients and equipment readily available. An additional source of revenue without further outlay for capital expenditures (i.e. cardio and weight machines) makes smart business sense for club owners and managers. A fee for service brings personalized attention and motivation to focus on individual results.
Personal training can add a new dimension to the fitness scene for professional development. Job titles such as Personal Trainer “Coordinator,” “Manager,” “Director” and “Regional Manager” have been created by fitness facilities for an individual to train and manage a group of personal trainers. This role also provides growth potential for the current staff.
9. Entrepreneurial Instincts
Being entrepreneurial can be the antidote to unemployment for new graduates and seasoned professionals. A strong and relevant physical education background and a persistence to succeed can bode well for the novice personal trainer who can develop a business from one client to one with a waiting list. Meeting needs and getting results can generate the best free advertising; word-of-mouth testimonials from satisfied clients will directly impact the success of a budding personal training service.
Recent graduates of various programs may not be able to land employment too readily. Perhaps, while they are looking for the ideal job, personal training, on a part-time basis, can provide opportunities to practice their newly acquired skills and knowledge from the school setting. Contract work is a growing option for young individuals entering the workplace, and personal training is one option for the entrepreneur with fitness knowledge and communication skills.
10. Growing Professionalism
Personal trainers are seeking ways to distinguish themselves and reach excellent standards for practice. Currently, trainers use their degrees, diplomas and certifications to build upon their credibility and experience.
Physical activity is recognized in current position papers, which extend beyond the boundaries of the fitness industry. The Heart & Stroke Foundation has declared physical inactivity as a modifiable risk factor in coronary heart disease. With the research supporting the value of physical activity, personal trainers can carry the themes of these messages to their potential clients.
Look in your community for evidence of the prevailing trends. Is there a way for you to make a difference in the lives of others?
Dream about the opportunities. Start small and take a step towards your goal.
“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”
- Joel Arthur Barker
Personal training is truly well positioned for the world of today and the future.
DEMOGRAPHICS CAN IMPACT THE FUTURE OF PERSONAL TRAINING
Tip #1: Understand the Impact of the Baby Boom
The baby boom population, which includes individuals born between 1947 and 1966, is the single largest population group born in the past century. According to economist David Foot: “Fully one-third of the population today are boomers, for that reason alone, when they get interested in a particular product or idea we all have to sit up and notice. (12). If there is a trend, two-thirds of it can be explained by the shifts in the life changes of the baby boomer. For example, the peak in real estate prices matched the baby boomer’s demand for housing for their new families.
Every personal trainer is predicted to work with individuals born in this age group now and in the future. Personal trainers need to prepare for this bulge of baby boomers who are concerned about their health. Generally, individuals become more health conscious as they become older. In contrast, individuals in their ‘20’s and ‘30’s are more interested in buying manufactured goods such as automobiles and homes. We need not wait until a client turns 60 years old before they become interested in health, individuals in their 40’s and 50’s are interested in services ranging from travel to leisure to health care. Fitness pursuits logically fit into this category and personal training is a health and fitness oriented service.
Adventure travel packages are being marketed to affluent older adults. You can become a personal trainer to one of these travellers to condition them to trek in Nepal, dig for dinosaurs in Alberta or snorkel in the South Pacific.
Tip #2: Create Programs to Match Age Related Activities
The ageing baby boomer is not going into sports, and will participate in more recreational activities. For example, busy individuals will find it difficult to schedule court time if they want to play singles or doubles tennis. Individual activities will be chosen over partner and team sports.
Walking can be one of the best individual forms of exercise. An activity such as bird watching, which has grown tremendously in popularity, can only enhance walking pleasure. The lure of the outdoors, the escape to the suburbs and the countryside, is another explanation for the rapid growth in bird watching and the purchase of birdfeeders and birdseed. Recreational activities such as curling and swimming for pleasure are also popular options for individuals as they become older adults.
To market yourself as a personal trainer to this group, you can work on ideas and programs to increase a client’s cardiovascular endurance for bird watching, strength for golf swings and flexibility for cross-country skiing and swimming. You can learn about these activities and use them in your conversations with this age group when you are marketing your services or training them to build rapport and share their personal interests.
Tip #3: Bridge the Age Gap Through Education & Professional Development
Foot states that there is a “huge future for personal trainers if they understand the needs of the marketplace (11).” Specifically, he is concerned that a 25-year-old personal trainer does not understand the needs of a 50-year-old client. The 50-year-old requires time effective activities to optimise health and is willing to pay for knowledge and expertise. Foot writes: “More than ever, people are willing to pay to get the knowledge and expertise they want when they want it. They will pay an expert to advise them on their physical health. The future will bring a growing demand for the services of people who know how to deliver these precious commodities.”
The personal trainer is advised to educate himself / herself on the physiological changes of the ageing body, nutritional needs of the older adult and the impact of various pharmaceuticals. Ongoing professional development through workshops, conferences, journals, books and various communications will provide the personal trainer with the tools to work with a discerning clientele.
The older adult does not have time to queue up. Consequently, the personal trainer who can provide one-stop shopping and sound advice on fitness, backcare, nutrition, holiday planning, maintenance programs and healthy ageing is greatly appreciated. Personal trainers need to acquire these knowledge bases or develop a network of professionals for specific advice or for referrals.
Foot’s advice to personal trainers is: “Focus on health first and fitness second.” Think about working the abdominals and back for a healthy back, rather than for aesthetic reasons.
Tip #4: Market Your In-Home Personal Training Service
Time conscious clients want their services delivered. Changes in the corporate structure have paved the way for middle managers to transform their skills into consulting services, which operate from their home-based offices. Both situations combine to impact on the rising popularity of personal training in clients’ homes. Therefore, the personal trainer must be willing to travel to service home-based clients. The client will pay for the personal trainer’s travel time just as the client generally pays for travel time for trade services from electricians and plumbers.
In this home-based scenario, the client will often require advice on purchases for his/her new home gym. Personal trainers need to be knowledgeable and critical of the various lines of home equipment on the market. Being able to list the features and benefits of quality fitness equipment and select the right pieces for the client’s home is perceived as a value added service. Foot poses an idea for personal trainers: “If you are in a neighbourhood where you are training a few clients, you may investigate the possibility of small group training. If you work with a group of three clients, each client can invest in a high-end piece of equipment rather than have each client spend the same amount on more equipment. Each client will then own one piece of high quality equipment as opposed to owning a greater number of pieces, which may be cheaper in both price and quality. You can then rotate the workouts from one home to another to use the various pieces of equipment and add variety to the program design.
Dr. Kenneth Cooper, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cooper Aerobics Center provides his perspectives: “Baby boomers were the ones that led the first fitness boom back in the 1980s. Then they burned out or gave up. In 1996, we saw the first crop of boomers turn 50. We need to reach out to this group again. We need to get the message out that fitness is a journey, not a destination. You should change your focus on exercise as you age – you need to save those joints – but you can’t give up. Concentrate more on building muscle and less on aerobics
– that’s what we need to tell people who have stopped exercising and may be afraid to start up again because they’ve gotten older (5).”
Tip #5: Expand Your Repertoire to Include Mind-Body Activities
Baby boomers who will be experiencing their 50’s and 60’s over the next decade will heighten the public’s awareness of women’s health issues such as menopause, osteoporosis and breast cancer and men’s issues such as prostate cancer. Learning about the stages and symptoms of these health conditions will enhance your ability to empathise with clients. During mid-life, numerous life changes can happen to add to the stresses of life: children may be leaving home, friends may have heart conditions and parents may be dying. Mind-body activities such as tai chi, yoga and relaxation methods will be valuable to learn to help clients manage their day-to-day stress and their growing sense of mortality as mid-life issues approach.
Some final words of wisdom from Foot: “Until you make the headset change from a fitness business to one of good health you will not have a successful home based business in an ageing population. Personal trainers have a tremendous opportunity if they provide quality, well-integrated services and act as professionals.
Part 2 of this article will explore the roles and responsibilities of the personal trainer, offers a valuable Personal Trainer Self Assessment Tool and helps you create a powerful vision for your business!