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The Mindset of a Successful Certified Personal Fitness Trainer 


How Can You Become a Highly Successful Trainer or Coach?

NESTA and the Spencer Institute have come together to create a system that is designed to maximize your success. The first thing you will want to do is start asking yourself a few important questions. 

What’s your vision? 

In the world of fitness, there are no guarantees. There is no way to eliminate all of the risks associated with starting a fitness practice. Whether you work as an independent contractor, an employee for a gym/club, or you own your own fitness practice, the success of your fitness practice is always up to you, and no one else. Some trainers judge their success by the frequency of mistakes they have to overcome whereas others, judge themselves only by their clients’ successes. You can increase your chances of success by visualizing success. A vision is a vivid mental image of your fitness practice and your successes in clear detail. Why is visualization important? It separates trainers who have not taken the time to know their vision in detail and end up setting themselves up to fail (or fall short). Don’t let this happen! You can do better. Read on… 

  • Why do you want to become a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer? 
  • What does this mean to your life? Can you see the “big picture”? 
  • How will your new profession impact others? How will they benefit from you? 
  • What do you hope to accomplish? Why is this important? 

You will want to take the time to answer these questions and return to them often. Over the first few months as a NESTA Certified Personal Fitness Trainer, you will continuously evolve and change your fitness practice. Your vision should be so clear, that you will never have to alter it. Once you have created a vision for yourself, you will have a clear purpose and a reason for doing what you do with passion. 

This is not something that needs to be shared with others (unless you want to), this vision and a sense of purpose are the things that will keep you motivated while giving you a reason to get out of bed every morning (for most successful trainers, this means before the sun). It’s your personal vision and purpose which will help you get through the challenging times in your life and your business. When things seem difficult, you will always know what you want and stay committed to getting there. After all, if you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you are there? Think about it. 

Once you have a vision, what’s next? 

Create a plan. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it should be a road map outlining where you are going and how you plan to get there. Whether you plan on working in a health club or want to train people on your own, successful fitness professionals know what they want and have a plan for getting there.

Some questions to consider as you develop your plan are: 

  • What are your financial goals? How much money do you want and expect to make? 
  • Do you have any additional tools available to help achieve your financial goals? 
  • What is your timeline for achieving those financial goals? Is it realistic? 
  • How many clients do you need to train each week to get there? 
  • Does your club have a minimum number of clients you need to train to keep your job? 

If you plan on training people outside of a club or want to open your own gym, how many clients or members do you need to attract and retain to break even? Have you accounted for no-shows and cancellations? Break-even numbers give us a good place to start, however, very few small businesses can operate for extended periods of time on break-even numbers. Consider that element when you outline your goals. 

Let’s say you want to make $50,000 your first year as a personal fitness trainer while working for a gym, and you start out at $20/session. $50,000 a year equates to about $1000/week and $4000/month. If you want to make $1000/ week at $20/session, how many clients will you need to train? That’s 50 sessions a week! And that’s when every one of them shows up! You will need to work very hard and very smart. If you don’t take the time to plan and figure out what you must do to earn what you need, you may receive a lot less than you want. Make a pact with yourself to plan your work and work your plan. Make a plan, and act on it. 

REMEMBER: Your earning potential is much higher.  This was used as an example.


Would you expect to run your fastest time without knowing your previous best time? You must build upon what you have done, not continue to start over.

Now that you have a vision, a purpose, and a plan, what’s next?

There is no way to eliminate all risks associated with starting your own fitness practice but you can improve your chances for success with a vision, proper planning, and good preparation.

Start by evaluating your strengths and weaknesses as a potential fitness instructor, employee, or small business owner. Consider the following questions:

Are you self-motivated?

It is up to you to develop your client base, organize your time and follow through on all facets of your fitness practice.

This includes:

  • Getting new clients
  • Creating plans for their success
  • Filing all necessary paperwork
  • Billing for your time
  • Following up with clients between sessions
  • Marketing and advertising to attract new clients
  • Attending networking mixers where you will meet potential clients
  • “Working” the gym floor
  • Staying fit

How well do you relate to different personality types?

Fitness professionals need to develop working relationships with many different people. Some people will help you grow your fitness practice, while others may try to undermine your efforts. Ask yourself if you can professionally handle a demanding/flaky client or a negative/unsupportive manager if the success of your fitness practice/vision depends on those people?

How well do you make decisions? What’s involved in that process for you? 

Fitness professionals must make a variety of decisions all day long. Some are snap decisions while others require more thought. 

Do you have the endurance and emotional capacity to have your own fitness practice? 

While a career in the fitness industry can be exciting, it requires a lot of hard work. Can you work 7, 8, 12, or even 15-hour workdays? This includes the time that you spend training your clients, developing new relationships, and filing paperwork. This is also typical for a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer who is building their business. You cannot expect to “take-off” if you have not developed enough speed to get off the ground. The power and effort needed to fly an airplane is minimal once it has lifted off the runway. The power and effort needed to get off the ground are enormous. Building your business is no different. If you have laid the groundwork and worked your “tail” off, you will get off the ground, and you will be able to succeed with less long-term effort. But first, you must get off the ground. 

How well do you plan and execute your ideas? 

Poor planning is one of the main reasons why business practices fail. Organizing your time, and client records, managing your client base, and having a clear direction for getting new clients, will help you overcome many obstacles in your fitness practice. You must take time at the beginning and end of each day to go over your plan. The best Certified Personal Fitness Trainers have a plan, know it well, and adjust their plan when necessary. They may change their daily, weekly, or monthly plan, but they never work without one. 

Are you driven to succeed? 

Managing a fitness practice can be physically and emotionally demanding. Some fitness professionals burn out quickly because they literally feel like “the weight of the world is on their shoulders.” If you are driven to succeed in your fitness practice and you truly want to help your clients achieve their goals, you will overcome those challenging times when you are on the brink of throwing in the towel. 

How will your fitness practice affect your personal life? 

The first several months of any new career, business, or practice can present some challenges in your personal life. It’s important that your friends and family know what you are trying to accomplish so they can support you during this temporary phase in your life. You may need to take a pay cut for the first several months until you develop your fitness practice and find yourself having to spend less time on new client development. It all points back to your vision, purpose, and plan. Until you achieve the success you deserve, you may need to make some adjustments to your spending habits in order to achieve your short-term goals. There is no surer way to sabotage yourself than to spend more than what you have. 

Playing to Your Strengths 

OK, now what? You’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses. How will that knowledge help you develop and expand your client list? 

Imagine this…

You and five other trainers are hired to help open a gym in an area where there is little or no competition. Your employer has done his/her homework. The community has been crying out for a gym like the one in which you now work. You are one of five personal fitness trainers that were hired to train new members. 

All of you are eager to build your fitness practices. Every one of you has been given two new clients in an effort to launch your new fitness business. The rest is up to you. 

  • How do you differentiate yourself from the other trainers at your gym? Do you have an area of specialization? 
  • Why would a client want to work with you instead of the other four trainers? What would you tell them? 
  • What’s your niche? How will others be aware of your niche? 

Playing to your strengths involves developing your “story” or “elevator pitch.” If you were standing next to someone in an elevator and they asked you what you do for a living, you would have the remainder of the elevator ride to tell that person your story. Develop your pitch now. It may change, but you must develop one. Test it out on your friends, family, and other personal fitness trainers and ask for honest feedback. Were they sold on you? 

When you approach potential clients you need to be ready to tell them a quick, yet interesting story about what or why you do what you do. This is your chance to stand out from the rest of the trainers at your gym. 


My name is Ed Smythe. (Briefly pause so the other person can introduce themselves.) I’m a member of the fast fitness team who opened up the gym. Two years ago, I was an attorney with XYZ Company and realized there was more to life than depositions and courtroom appearances. When I left the firm, I lost 100 pounds and was so invigorated that I realized my true calling was to help others who weren’t happy with their personal appearances. That’s my story… Why did you decide to join our gym? 

You will need to give your “elevator pitch” many times before it will feel natural. Like anything, practice makes perfect. The more people you

talk to, the more comfortable you’ll be.

Take Your Strengths and Start Talking 

Here’s the hard reality. You won’t build your fitness business overnight. Unless you are Bill Gates and you are making a career move, it’s a tough bet to assume you’ll have your time slots filled in the first few days of your business. Building a fitness practice is a process that requires discipline, focus, and mental stamina. 

One of our favorite former fitness trainers, now a club owner, told us this when he started out: 

“It was tough. I wanted to build a big base of clients quickly. With no sales background to speak of, I bought some traditional Zig Ziglar books and pulled some nuggets from there. After landing my first client, I did the math. I needed to hear 60 no’s before someone would say yes to me. So, my reality was, I had to talk to 600 people before I would land 10 clients and make some headway 

in my business. The good news is, the more people I approached at and outside of the gym, the easier it became for me. At the end of the day, it is a numbers game.” 

Getting Started

Check out what it takes to start a career in personal fitness training. This is your most affordable and fastest way to become a highly qualified personal trainer.

Is your recertification coming up? Learn more about earning your CEU credits. You can find the full list of CEU courses here.

If you are ready to start your online personal training or coaching business, don’t forget to learn more about our online coaching course. You will also really enjoy this very comprehensive training course called Online Expert Empire.

There is always something exciting about earning a new training or coaching certification and applying that new knowledge of how you train your clients. This also helps you hit the reset button.

NESTA and Spencer Institute coaching programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.

That’s it for now.

Take action!

NESTA | Spencer Institute

PS: Click here to see many helpful business/career resources

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