For Maria Keller, teenagers are always the hardest.
Keller, a personal trainer at the gym Fit Happens in Gloversville, spent an hour Thursday evening training two high school student-athletes in a range of fitness activities that included work with resistance bands, medicine balls and abdominal exercises.
“They have a lot of enthusiasm at first but then it can get challenging,” Keller said.
Keller’s personal training clients range in ages from young teenagers to the elderly. She has been making money part-time as a trainer for eight years.
“I always worked out and I decided to get into training after I was approached by a gym owner who saw that I was always at his gym. He said, ‘Why don’t you go back to school, and become a trainer?’ So I did,” she said.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics there were 267,000 people employed as personal trainers in the U.S. in 2012, making a median income level of $31,720 per year, or about $15.25 per hour. Employment in the profession is expected to grow by 13 percent over the next 10 years. Personal trainers typically need to earn a personal training certificate from any one of a number of personal training programs in order to attract clients.
Keller, a 1978 graduate of Johnstown High School, earned her personal training certificate from the International Sports Science association, a program available online. With her ISSA certificate Keller was able to establish her personal training business as an independent subcontractor working at Fit Happens. She’s also a certified spin class instructor. She said she has about eight clients who hired her to train them. She says she could probably train more, if she had the time.
“Most of my clients are women, most of them are training for weight loss,” she said. “I think the key to being a good personal trainer is establishing trust with your clients.”
Keller said some of her female clients are intimidated by weightlifting and fear that they will become “bulky,” if they lift heavy weights.
“It’s just the opposite,” she said.
Keller explained that women’s bodies won’t develop muscles in the same way that a man’s body would because women don’t produce enough testosterone for that kind of growth.
Finding a gym
Unlike Keller, Fonda resident Jeremiah Nare, makes a living as a trainer. Nare is the full-time “certified trainer” at Planet Fitness in Amsterdam. Nare earned his training certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. He said he paid about $700 for his NASM training course and certification test. He said the program paid off when he landed the job with Planet Fitness.
“I heard there was an opening and I applied and they pretty much hired me on the spot,” he said. “It’s nice, it’s giving me a lot of experience, but eventually I want to branch into personal training.”
Nare said his job at Planet Fitness includes teaching classes to groups of gym members and helping individual members create personal work-out programs, but he doesn’t often get to work one-on-one with members. He said he has the benefit of health insurance working for Planet Fitness, but he would probably make more money as an independent personal trainer.
“I have looked into doing it on my own, obviously I have to do some marketing and get my name out there. The hardest part is just finding a gym that would let you do it,” he said. “A lot of gyms want the trainer to work for them; they don’t want people to just come in freelance and train people.”
Nare said the policy at Planet Fitness is to cancel the membership of any personal trainer who tries to train clients at the gym after receiving a warning to stop, which is typical of many corporate chain gyms.
Making a living
Keller said she estimates it would take about 30 clients for a personal trainer in the local area to make a living as a personal trainer.
Keller and fellow trainer Stelianos Canallatos both give a percentage of their client fees to Fit Happens in exchange for use of the gym. Canallatos, who has his certification through the American Council on Exercise, said the number of clients is less important than the types of training he’s providing his clients. He said he offers a range of different training packages, some more expensive than others. He also teaches martial arts.
“You need to build up your clients at first with lower prices and then as you get better at it you can boost up your prices a little bit and have fewer clients but still make the same living,” he said. “If a client wants something more then the cost goes up. I have one package that offers more sessions and puts me a little more into their lives, with me emailing them and checking up on their eating and providing them daily coaching. It really depends on how often you’re seeing your clients, not how many clients you have.”