There is a relatively new trend in fitness especially in the UK.
That trend is future Personal Trainers apprenticing at a big gym franchise for a couple of years as a gym instructor/glorified cleaner before they become a fully qualified self-employed Personal Trainer in the same establishment.
In theory they are taken under the wing of a more experienced PT and shown the ropes of how to sell PT, how to perform sessions and how to build A PT business.
Unfortunately these people often become unpaid cleaners and aren't really shown the ropes at all.
After 2 years (or any other amount of time depending on the gym, country and about a million other things) they get qualified. They then immediately start working at the same gym and try to make a business.
Annnnnnnd no-one comes to them for business, training or making improvements in their life.
Because for 2 years they have been the apprentice.
The one people have had a laugh with for a couple of years.
They are rarely suddenly an expert in someone's eye.
People will pay for expertise, someone who gives them value and shows caring.
It can be very difficult for an apprentice to put themselves in this position once they are qualified.
I call this THE PERSONAL TRAINER APPRENTICE SYNDROME.
The apprentice turned Personal Trainer is often just too much of a familiar face to most of the client base. It's very hard for them to be taken seriously especially as many of the Personal Trainer's and staff will still treat them as if they are still an apprentice.
Unless you are a Personal Trainer working out of somewhere which has a fantastic apprentice scheme that actually gives you a chance to form a business when you qualify you need a plan of action so you don't just get stuck once you've finished your apprenticeship.
Once you've done the apprenticeship find a big commercial gym opening near you and get a job there as soon as you can preferably starting on the day it opens so you are a new, freshly qualified trainer ready to meet new people and start training them with enthusiasm and empathy.
It will be a place where you aren't seen as just the apprentice, or the cleaner or the person who gets made to do all the dirty jobs (there's nothing wrong with doing that stuff, it's just not good for business on the gym floor.)
It will be somewhere you get the chance to showcase your talents rather than being hamstrung by your apprenticeship. Your apprenticeship and training should help you not hinder you.
Usually its best for you to leave the gym you did your apprenticeship with. Don't feel bad and thank them if they did a great job with your training. If you worked hard you earned your right to go and work wherever you want.
Leave on great terms and you never know, you might end up back there at some point.
Many Personal Trainers have to leave the industry because of where they choose to set up their business. Don't choose wrongly!
What if there isn't a gym opening nearby though Chris?
If you HAVE to work in the gym where you do your apprenticeship and you are destined to be self-employed in there you have to be incredibly proactive.
You should be working on your business throughout the qualification process not just when you're qualified like I did.
You should be following the work of THEPTDC, Tony Gentilcore, Coach Brett Bartholomew and Nick Tumminello just to name a couple of sources.
You should be following successful PT's turned businessmen like Mark Coles.
You should be talking to the members like you are there to help them with their fitness needs right from the start.
It's all about the value that you can add to their life and training experience.
You might not be allowed to train people on the gym floor but nothing stops you from practicing writing programmes until they are literally coming out of your ears.
Make sure you are training regularly throughout the apprenticeship and don't just perform the stupid gym challenges that people put on, make sure you are following a structured plan so you can relate to clients more and understand what it is like to strive for a physical goal.
Never be seen as unprofessional on the gym floor. By this I mean don't be late, don't appear flustered and help people where you can and be one of the people who create an amazing atmosphere on the gym floor by constantly helping people.
Ask to train people constantly.
Ask to do classes.
Cover people while they are on holiday.
If a PT is going on holiday ask them if they'd like you to train their clients while they are away and things like that to really set you apart from any other apprentice or coach in the building.
Don't just tell people you are an apprentice. Don't lie but tell them you are in training to be a Personal Trainer. As you are getting close to qualifying let people know that your services will be available and hit the ground running.
Once again this is far easier at a new gym once you've qualified but potentially not impossible at a gym where you've done your entire apprenticeship.
At the end of the day the biggest transition will be your own. Many a trainee PT will qualify and will expect clients to come flocking but it doesn't work like that.
Be prepared to do the work in order to expose yourself to enough people who will value your services enough to give you enough money to first pay the bills and then eventually pay you enough to give you options and having options is the best way towards a happy, sustainable career that you can scale along with your success.
Don't catch the PT apprentice syndrome.
Work on your business before you even have one. Help as many people as you can. Train loads of people for free if that's what you have to do in order to look busy enough to appear to be an expert to the layman.
If you have to stay at the same gym where you did the apprenticeship be prepared to have to work even harder to make things work.
Be prepared to not make any money for a couple of years and have to rely on the support of others or having to have another job to make ends meet.
If you can start at a new gym so there are lots of leads for you to work through.
Avoid just being seen as just another apprentice and you could have a job that's amazing where you get to wear shorts and help people be stronger in some way all day every day.
It's hard but it's worth it.
If you have any questions you can reach me through instagram over at chris_kershaw_strength or the email address email@example.com. Thank you for reading!
By Chris Kershaw
Chris is a Personal Trainer, Strength Coach, Writer and man of small stature and reader of The Discworld Series with a decade in the industry. He trains everyone from beginners to high level athletes. His favourite clients are people getting into the gym for the first time because they can make the biggest changes in their life