ACE Insights | 5 “Must Dos” in Your First Year as a Health and Exercise Professional


You passed your certification exam and are now ready for a long and rewarding career as a health and exercise professional. To establish a strong foundation for personal and professional growth in the coming years, there are several essential actions you should considering taking during your first year in the field. These steps or “must dos” help create the experience, knowledge and mindset needed to become a high-level fitness influencer. Read on to learn how five of these “first steps” of career development can set you up for future success as a professional.

#1. Train and coach. A lot.

Education and certification are a must. However, nothing replaces actual “in the trenches” experience with training and coaching clients. The intricacies of navigating human emotions, motivations and other unique aspects of personal training and health coaching must be learned in practice. Training a large number of diverse populations allows new professionals to find the clients with which they have the greatest ability to connect.

Many new health and exercise professionals have preconceived notions about the type of clients with which they want to work, when they want to train and how many hours per week they want to work. If becoming a health and exercise professional is a hobby or “side hustle,” this is fine. However, to truly learn about how to positively impact people and create a long-term career, making yourself available to serve your clients is invaluable. Saying “yes” as often as possible will help in this regard.

Early mornings? Yes. Weekends? Yes. Difficult clients? Yes. Groups? Yes. Challenges create expedited growth. Record programs and progress while beginning to understand what makes different people tick. During this early phase of career exploration, you have the opportunity to gain insight on who you want to help and how you want to help them. With this experience, you can set an intentional course for a long and successful career.

#2. Listen

Health and exercise professionals are always excited to share their knowledge, expertise and insight. After all, this is the “product” that clients are purchasing when they retain the services of a trainer or health coach. That said, it’s important to realize that clients are people first. While they want input, they also want to know that their ideas and concerns are being heard.

During an initial consultation, new clients may be in a vulnerable place. They might feel intimidated by the extremely fit trainer in front of them. In this dynamic, they may feel compelled to regurgitate whatever their doctor/spouse/magazine article told them to say in this situation. (Lose weight. Improve health. Get stronger.) While these statements may be part of the reason why they are seeking your services, they might not be comfortable sharing more personal insights about why engaging in a lifestyle change is important. What they say they want may not tell the story of what they really want out of their relationship with you as their trainer or health coach.

A health and exercise professional who perennially sets aside personal opinions and judgement while focusing on listening to their clients throughout the relationship has an opportunity to make a tremendous impact. Once the initial insecurities fade and trust is established, clients will share more personal details about what scares, motivates and inspires them. Professionals who learn to listen can quickly pick up these clues and slowly mold their service approach to maximize long-term success.

#3. Attend a conference or workshop.

Fitness conferences and workshops provide an opportunity for professionals to gain new knowledge, perspectives and a network of like-minded pros. During these events, industry veterans share their challenges and successes, often helping shorten the learning curve for new pros.

Spending hours and hours on the training floor can be make it easy to fall into a single training dogma. While this single approach may initially be helpful to a few clients, a plateau of knowledge and progression creates apathy for both the client and trainer. Conferences and workshops help broaden a professional’s toolbox, offering a multitude of approaches and solutions for solving client challenges.

Additionally, fitness conferences and workshops bring like-minded professionals together, offering opportunities for networking and collaboration. Over time, new health and exercise professionals learn that to accomplish lofty goals, they can’t do it alone. Finding others that share a mindset or mission early in your career is a powerful step for creating future opportunities.

#4. Seek continuous education.

While most universities and certification programs provide an adequate base of knowledge to get started in a professional fitness career, this knowledge should continuoully grow. During your first year, develop the habit of constantly seeking knowledge. Reading and/or listening to at least one book or seeking another long-form educational resource (DVD series, webinars, etc.) every month is a good start.

With the Internet age, information is plentiful. Daily information is available in a variety of short-form educational formats such as blogs, research articles, YouTube videos and more. After finding a credible source of information, develop a daily routine of consuming this type of education as well.

#5. Find a mentor.

A knowledgeable and experienced mentor is an unmatched valuable asset for a beginning health and exercise professional. Navigating the first few years in the industry can be overwhelming. A trusted professional who has had experience and success in the fitness world can provide valuable advice and insight on training, business and even personal matters.

Creating this relationship early is a significant advantage to your ability to grow both personally and professionally. Mentorship can be done online or in person; it can be formal (paid consultation) or informal. Either way, a guiding hand helps establish a path to success during your first years in the field.

These five must dos provide the initial fuel for education, experience, and inspiration in the fitness field. Professionals that create these habits during their first year can create a long and rewarding career helping people live their best lives.

For more tips on on what to expect as a newly certified professional and how to apply the knowledge you acquired from your certification and continued education in your work with your clients, take the ACE Personal Trainers: Tools for setting up your career and clients for success online course!



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