The good news is the path to becoming one is relatively straightforward. However, first you need to assess if a career in personal training is the right one for you. Obviously, a strong interest in health and fitness is essential for this line of work. Since you will have extensive, in person client contact, an extroverted personality is generally helpful. You will also be dealing with something that many of your clients find sensitive in nature and may have been struggling with for some time, so it will help your career to be warm, caring, and empathetic and to be able to convey that to your clients. Other personality traits that can prove to be extremely effective in the career of personal training include strong communication skills, particularly verbal communication skills, patience, highly sharpened listening skills (you sometimes need to be able to figure out what your client IS NOT saying, as well as what he or she IS saying), and the ability to motivate and nurture others. A personal trainer can sometimes walk a very fine line. You need to be able to know when to push your clients to be their best (when to be tough) and when your client is genuinely struggling and needs encouragement (when to be nurturing).
One other piece of good news is that you do not necessarily have to be a body builder or a fitness guru to become a successful personal trainer. While you obviously want to be in good physical shape to maintain credibility with your clients, having the knowledge to establish a realistic physical fitness regimen and being a good role model usually go a long way towards earning a client’s trust.
If possible, the next step in your career as a personal trainer is to find an employment opportunity at a local gym. Some potential places of employment require certification before they will hire you. Be sure to look at postings carefully to determine if certification is required or preferred for employment. If you would like to establish your own practice as a personal trainer, certification is a virtual prerequisite to starting your own business in this field.
Which certification you choose to obtain will be one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your career as a personal trainer. Certification from the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) is one of the most popular and prestigious certifications that you can obtain. The AFAA is the world’s largest fitness educator. Over three hundred thousand people from seventy-three countries have become certified with the AFAA since 1983. It has affiliate status with the National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE), so it is relatively easy to gain membership in this organization once you are certified by the AFAA, if you would like to do so.
One other thing that you will need to do to become certified by the AFAA that is not covered as part of the AFAA certified personal trainer exam is to become certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, more commonly known as CPR. CPR certification classes are offered regularly by fire departments, hospitals, and occasionally, schools and park districts. Check with these organizations to see when a CPR certification class will be offered near you.
Becoming A Member of The AFAA
The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) has issued more certifications than any other organization of its type worldwide. It has issued more than three hundred thousand certifications in seventy-three countries worldwide since 1983. Its far-reaching influence makes it one of the most influential associations of its type in the world. If you are considering obtaining personal trainer certification through the AFAA, you have probably at least considered becoming a member, if you are not already a member.
Membership dues are sixty-eight dollars a year. Membership benefits include:
- An automatic subscription to the official magazine of the AFAA, American Fitness. It is viewed as a leading magazine in the industry by fitness professionals and enthusiasts. The magazine boasts more than one hundred thousand readers each and every month. Articles discuss health-related fitness research, current trends, advances in equipment, and training applications.
- Ten per cent off selected AFAA workshop registrations ordered online
- Ten per cent off selected AFAA study materials and products ordered online
- Discounted fees on job posting on the AFAA’s Web site
- Access to other members only areas of the AFAA’s Web site
- Eligibility for discounted liability insurance from Elite Risk Insurance Solutions. Elite Risk Insurance Solutions has professional liability insurance in place that meets the unique needs of personal trainers, aerobics instructors, and health club owners. It may be difficult for personal trainers, aerobics instructors, and health club owners to obtain professional and general liability insurance through more traditional (i.e., better known) insurance companies because of the increased risk of injury (and thus potential liability) that these professions carry with them. Elite Risk Insurance Solutions is the official insurance carrier of the AFAA.
Perhaps the greatest benefit to organization membership such as the AFAA, however, is the ability that it affords you to network with fellow members. In an independent profession such as personal training, it can be very easy to become isolated and insular. Because you may not see fellow personal trainers every day, particularly if you are self employed and an independent personal trainer (as in not working with a local health club or a gym), you may not have exposure to other ways to motivate clients, market your services, and you may not easily become aware of new trends in your industry. Do not fall into this trap! Networking is invaluable in a profession like personal training. Who better to bounce ideas off of and discuss what worked for you and your clients versus what did not than other personal trainers? Only other personal trainers can truly understand what you have been through, the challenges you have faced and the struggles and adversities that you have overcome, just to be able to get to where you are today. In other words, only other personal trainers can truly understand what it is like to be, well, you.
Do not let this opportunity to further your career pass you by. Please consider becoming a member of the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America today.
Continuing Education Requirements To Maintain AFAA Certified Personal Fitness Trainer Certification
Preparing for the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) Certified Personal Fitness Trainer Exam is a challenge and you may be feeling somewhat overwhelmed. However, in the spirit of optimism, this article discusses what will be expected of you to maintain your certification as a personal trainer with the AFAA after you pass the exam.
Your AFAA personal trainer certification is good for a period of two years. However, the AFAA would not be doing you or itself any favors if you did not continue learning about fitness trends and developments once your certification was obtained. To keep the certification you worked so hard to attain as prestigious as you deserve it to be, the AFAA requires that certified personal trainers complete a minimum of fifteen continuing education units (CEUs) every two years in order to keep their certifications current.
You can earn these credits by attending workshops sponsored by the AFAA, home study courses approved by the AFAA, or workshops sponsored by other organizations that are approved by the AFAA. Before you sign up for a home study course or workshop that is not sponsored by the AFAA, check VERY carefully to make sure that it is approved by the AFAA. Home study courses, workshops, or other learning opportunities NOT approved by the AFAA will NOT count towards your continuing education certification requirement.
In addition to AFAA workshops and home study courses, approved courses offered by authorized AFAA Continuing Education Providers, courses approved for Continuing Education credits by the American College of Sports Medicine, and accredited college and university courses in the AFAA’s approved subject areas can also be used for Continuing Education credit that applies to maintaining certification. If you opt to take a college or university course, the AFAA Continuing Education units earned will be twice the number of college credits offered. For example, a college course worth three semester hours will count for six Continuing Education credits toward your re-certification. A university course worth four semester hours will count for eight Continuing Education credits towards your re-certification.
A minimum of three of the following subject areas must be covered in the workshops and/or classes that you attend, per the AFAA’s Web site:
- Physical Therapy
- Exercise Physiology
- Sports Psychology
- Instructional Methods
- Business Management
- Special Populations
- Injury Prevention
- Step Training
- Body Composition
- Resistance Training
- Fitness Assessment
You must also keep your cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification current by re-certifying in adult CPR every two years. Re-certification in adult CPR will earn two Continuing Education credits toward your re-certification as a certified personal trainer with the AFAA.
Maintaining AFAA certification by completing continuing education requirements may be time consuming on your part, but it is well worth the effort and can only be to your benefit. Keeping current with the happenings in your industry will enhance your value to your clients and keep you from getting stuck in “been there, done that” mode.
How To Prepare For The AFAA Certified Personal Fitness Trainer Exam
The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) Exam consists of a written portion and a practical exam portion. The written exam contains seventy-five multiple choice questions. The practical exam will show you “in action” in a personal training setting to give the examiner a first hand look at how you will respond to certain situations as a personal trainer.
One of the most popular ways to prepare for the exam is to take a three day certification workshop sponsored by the AFAA. While completing this workshop does not guarantee that you will pass the exam, it makes sense to take a workshop designed to prepare you for the exam that is sponsored by the organization that puts the exam together. The workshop consists of lectures, practical demonstrations, and both written and practical practice exams.
Per the AFAA’s Web site, the curriculum at this workshop typically includes, but is not limited to:
- Anatomy and kinesiology
- Fitness assessment testing procedures for the three minute Step test, sit and reach, push-up, abdominal crunch, and body
composition screening with a skin fold caliper measurement
- Nutrition fundamentals and weight management
- Special populations and medical considerations
- Listening, leadership, and motivational skills
- Exercise programming in the weight room, and
- Wellness programming and screening guidelines
You will be required to complete some pre-study assignments prior to attending the workshop, so early registration will be necessary. In addition, weight room and weight training experience is highly recommended prior to beginning the workshop program.
In addition to the materials covered in the workshop, when you register, you will also receive a Personal Trainer Certification Study Guide, a one year membership in the AFAA, and a one year print or digital subscription to the official magazine of the AFAA, American Fitness.
For those aspiring personal fitness trainers who are unable to attend a three day workshop in person, the AFAA also offers online study materials to assist in preparation for the AFAA Certified Personal Fitness Trainer Exam. The online course will take twenty clock hours to complete and consists of material presented in twelve segments: Understanding Wellness, Human Physiology, Anatomy and Kinesiology, Industry Standards, Fitness Assessment, Exercise Program Design, Injury Prevention, Special Populations, Nutrition, Communication, Professional Skills, and Emergency Response. A practice exam is also available, both in print and online, through the AFAA’s Web site.
No matter what method of study you decide is best for you, advance preparation is crucial to passing the AFAA Certified Personal Fitness Trainer Exam. It may be more beneficial for this exam than for most to study as part of a group, if possible, particularly because of the practical exam. Perhaps you could take turns being the trainer vs. the trainee and receive valuable feedback on your training techniques from your peers as you all prepare for the examination. After all, you are all in this together! You will also gain very beneficial first hand knowledge of the human body in action and how it responds to various forms of exercise.
Possible Topics On The AFAA Certified Personal Fitness Trainer Exam
One of the more overwhelming aspects of trying to prepare for the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) Certified Personal Fitness Trainer Exam is the sheer number of topics that can appear on the test. Obviously, not all of the topics mentioned in this article will make an appearance within seventy-five multiple choice questions. However, by breaking potential topics down into categories, it may be easier to cover all your bases and use your study time to maximum advantage and be as well prepared for the exam as you can possibly be.
General Topics Some basic questions the written exam is likely to start off with may involve general topics such as overall wellness, the body mass index (BMI), cardiovascular fitness, the consequences of overtraining, developing flexibility, and nutrition.
Exercises For obvious reasons, exercises are a huge part of a personal trainer’s job, so understanding their benefits and risks is key to the personal trainer’s overall career success, as well as so that clients can avoid injury. Topics concerning specific types of exercises may include closed kinetic chain exercises, open kinetic chain exercises, isometric resistance training, different types of training and equipment available to you, how to properly position the body for various types of exercise, types of muscles, types of joints, front raises, lateral raises, overhead presses, quadruped exercises, exercises to tone the gluteus maximus (yes, that is the butt) and hamstrings, and stretching exercises.
Injuries and Illnesses While the old saying, “no pain, no gain” is not necessarily true, if you are going to exercise long term, injury is almost inevitable at some point, so personal trainers need to be able to advise their clients as to how to best deal with injury when it does occur. Injuries that have been covered on AFAA personal trainer certification written exams in the past include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, acute injury, chronic injury, stages of inflammation and repair, the RICE method for dealing with certain types of injuries (rest, ice, compression, and elevation); tennis elbow; carpal tunnel syndrome; back pain; Achilles tendinitis, arthritis, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, COPD (also known as chronic bronchitis); asthma, exercise induced asthma; and eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia.
Specialized Concerns Questions may also occur on more specialized topics, such as how to write a business plan (for those aspiring personal trainers that may be interested in one day branching out and starting their own business); exercising during pregnancy; developing exercise programs for children under age twelve; the MyPyramid system; the glycemic index; theories related to changing personal habits; and different sources of motivation and motivational techniques that work for varying personalities.
Rest assured that this list of potential exam topics is not meant to overwhelm you or to “psych you out” or discourage you in any way from wanting to obtain this certification. Do not try to become an expert on each individual topic listed here. You will only make yourself crazy. Rather, be aware of the different categories that may come up on the exam, know your strengths and weaknesses with regards to these categories, and allocate your study time accordingly. Because of both the vast number of topics potentially covered on the written exam and the interpersonal nature of the practical exam, it may be beneficial to study as part of a group rather than on your own. Good luck to you!