My journey to becoming a personal trainer…
On New Years Eve 2015, I was writing down my goals and aspirations for the year. Passing my medical finals, getting a job as a doctor, and moving to London, were top of my list and I didn’t think twice about putting them down on paper. However, I hesitated at my next goal – my dream to become qualified as a personal trainer. I didn’t want to write it down because I didn’t think it was realistic. I’m about to graduate as a doctor after 7 years of University, is another qualification really necessary? Do I really want to put myself through more exams and coursework? Is it even possible to squeeze it into my already jam packed schedule?
I hastily wrote it down and closed my journal before changing my mind.
It was a brave move, and very ambitious of me, but I am very excited to say that I am now a fully qualified gym instructor and personal trainer! I am over the moon to have the full qualification, and as much as I enjoyed the course, it is such a relief to have the coursework and assessments over and done with. I now have a whole new level of respect for personal trainers! Prior to the course, I had no idea what a personal training course entailed, and the effort and learning that is required in order to succeed. I feel like I went into all of this a little bit blind – I didn’t know where to start, what to expect, and how I would manage it around my other commitments. I tried to do some research online but I struggled to find any blogs or articles answering my questions! So now that I’m out on the other side, I decided to write a blog post to address those questions for any of you guys considering becoming personal trainers.
Why are you doing it?
I don’t intend to use my personal training qualification to work as a personal trainer. The main purpose of becoming qualified is so that I can expand my knowledge and offer my readers advice in this area.
As a blogger and social media influencer, I am in a position of power and great responsibility which is even greater now that I am about to qualify as a doctor. I never offer any medical advice on social media, and the same goes for personal training advice. I use my social media platforms as a place for people to be motivated, to find inspiration, and to pick up healthy ideas. Despite having a wealth of knowledge in training and nutrition through my own research and experience, without appropriate qualifications I don’t feel comfortable offering advice or services in those areas.
Health and fitness bloggers, and social media accounts, are getting a lot of negative press at the moment. It’s a very grey area because, unlike dieticians or doctors, bloggers are not technically regulated and can say what they want. This includes offering their opinion, or advice, on their area of interest.
I believe that the rise of healthy eating and active living is overall a very positive movement. However, because social media is so accessible to people of all age groups there are many impressionable young people who may take the opinion of someone they follow on social media as textbook advice. This is why it is so important for everyone to be accountable for what they say on social media. Whether you have 5 followers or 5000 followers, you still have an audience so use your voice wisely. I’m very cautious with what I say or write on social media, and on my website. I always make sure that i’m getting my advice from reliable, research based sources and my background in education gives me the ability to read articles, and basically tell the ‘good’ science from the ‘bad’ science.
How did you decide where to do it?
Whilst researching, I stumbled across The Fitness Factory Training Academy online. I used to train at The Fitness Factory a couple of years back when I first moved to Cardiff so I was friendly with the owner, Mike, and with the personal trainers who worked there. After I discovered that they were running a training academy for qualifications in personal training, I was automatically keen to find out more.
I contacted the course trainers, Leigh and Mike, and explained my situation and the concerns I had about my time constraints and other commitments. They instantly put my mind at rest and explained that the courses are part-time, consisting of several weekend workshops and online distance learning. It didn’t take much persuasion, and after meeting with the guys, I was soon signed up to do my level 2 Gym Instructor and level 3 Personal training certificates.
The FFTAcademy is a Welsh company, who are very passionate about raising the standards of the industry in Wales, and the rest of the UK. The tutors themselves are both very experienced PT’s still working in the industry, with different areas of interest and expertise.
The qualifications offered by The FFTAcademy are nationally accredited through the awarding body Active IQ and are fully recognised by employers and the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs). A number of training providers across the UK offer these qualifications but It’s so important to research the centre before you sign up to make sure it’s right for you.
What’s the difference between a level 2 Gym instructor qualification and a level 3 personal training qualification? (and can I just skip to level 3?)
I wanted to be a personal trainer, not a gym instructor, so one of my first questions was can I just skip level 2 and do level 3? Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that.
The level 2 Gym instructor is the first step to becoming a personal trainer. It offers you the basics of planning and delivering training sessions safely within a gym or health club environment. On this course you cover things like; how to take a basic health screen using the PAR-Q, how to write a training programme, and how to correctly, and safely, instruct the use of cardiovascular machines, resistance machines, and free weights. The FFTAcademy also offered an extra ‘Squat and Deadlift’ workshop where we were coached through the correct technique, something which other courses tend not to focus on. This was a huge highlight for me as I managed to hit a PB in both my squat and deadlift on the day!
The level 2 gym instructor qualification is basically the minimum that you need to work in a gym. However, with this qualification you are eligible progress onto the next step in becoming a personal trainer which is the Level 3 qualification. So just to be clear – to become a personal trainer you need to do both!
I found level 3 much more enjoyable than level 2 because it had a much more of a hands on, practical approach. The theory was a bit more challenging covering areas like; advanced training approaches, functional movement assessments, detailed anatomy and physiology, and a more in-depth approach to nutrition. We got to assess our own fitness levels through VO2 max testing on the treadmill and rower, vertical jump, long jump, and prowler tests. This is something we were all a bit hesitant to do to begin with, but once we started it was essentially like our own mini ‘FFT Academy olympics’ and we were fighting neck and neck to get the top result. I left the course feeling stronger and more athletic because it made me realise what my body was capable of when I pushed it outside of it’s comfort zone. Having coaches like Mike and Leigh who are incredibly passionate about providing next level education, and producing top class PT’s, is something that you unfortunately don’t come across very often in this industry. Although we have all finished our course, the guys are hosting an additional Business workshop in a couple of weeks, followed by a team BBQ to celebrate passing our exams! I can honestly say that I’ve made friends for life, not just with the coaches but with my team mates on the course also.
Is the course full time or part-time?
There are part-time and full-time courses available but I did a part-time course with The Fitness Factory because of my schedule. Most of the learning is at a distance with the odd practical weekend here and there. I managed to fit it in around my other commitments as a full-time medical student and full-time blogger!
How much time did you have to put into the course?
The level 2 is taught over 3 practical days with 1 further assessment day. It doesn’t sound like a lot but once you sign up you get access to all the online learning material which you can work through at your leisure for about 4-6 weeks before the actual practical days. The guided learning hours are 150 but I can tell you now that for level 2, you really won’t need to spend that much time revising! It depends on what background knowledge you have, if you’ve done a science degree like I have then you will know all of the anatomy and physiology already and it may just be a matter of refreshing yourself.
The level 3 course is a big step up from level 2 in terms of what you’re required to know. It takes a deeper looked at anatomy and physiology and also nutrition. The recommended study time for this is 360 hours over a period of about 6-8 weeks and it involves 3 practical weekends.
How much was it?
This varies from centre to centre so I can only advise you on what The FFTAcademy charge which is £500 for the level 2 gym instructor course and £1200 for the level 3 personal training qualification if you do it part-time. You can pay over 6 months at 0% interest so don’t worry about forking out all at once if you can’t afford it.
How fit do I need to be to become a personal trainer?
You don’t need to be an olympic athlete to be a personal trainer but you do need to have a moderate level of fitness. During our practical sessions we were doing fitness tests, lifting workshops, putting each other through workouts, and essentially playing around on the gym floor all day! So in order to take part fully, you need to be fairly active in your day to day life. However, in our group there was a quite a range in terms of gym experience and levels of fitness but it didn’t affect the dynamics of the group and everyone managed to keep up.
I also think that as a personal trainer you endorse yourself. If you look strong and healthy then people are going to want you to train them. Personal Trainers are not only coaches, but role models and motivators. A good PT is one who is passionate about health and fitness, and that includes looking after their own health.
How to pass your personal training exams?
Like any exam, there are no secrets or shortcuts to passing. Once you get your manual start straight away and try get into a routine where you do a little bit every night so that you’re not cramming it all in at the end. I find youtube videos, mock exam papers, and flash cards are really useful in helping to consolidate learning.
The coaches on my course were really supportive and kept in contact with us via Facebook, email and phone so I never felt on my own when it came to learning the material. My classmates and I also had a Facebook thread where we could bounce off one another, share learning resources and also have some banter when things got stressful!
So guys, hopefully you found this blog post informative and that it helped to answer some of your questions about becoming a PT!
Just to summarise, here are some important things you may want to consider when deciding where to do your course:
How flexible is the course?
Is the course part-time or full-time?
Who are the tutors? do they have a good reputation?
Is the course recognised by Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs)?
How much will it cost, and will I get value for my money?
Is it online based, or is it taught in a centre, or both?
To find out more about The Fitness Factory Training Academy, check out their social media channels below:
FB: Fitness Factory Training Academy
This blog post contains sponsored content. All opinions are my own.