The weird thing about personal trainer courses is that they don’t really prepare you for life as a personal trainer.

things i wish my personal trainer course taught me

Written by Russ Howe PTI, and most recently updated 1 day ago.

9 min read

The weird thing about personal trainer courses is that they don’t really prepare you for life as a personal trainer.


I type this as a veteran of the fitness industry, having spent the last 20+ years working with people in the gym, and I can honestly say that the majority of the knowledge which helped me to create this long-term business was not taught in the classroom.

It seems nothing has change over the years, either, because PT courses continue to set people up for failure (over 80% of new personal trainers leave the industry within one year).

I believe one of the biggest reasons for this high turnover rate is that these courses, while good for teaching fitness and nutrition information, totally fail in regard to preparing PTs for the business side of things. Let’s face it, being self-employed in a competitive market isn’t exactly a walk in the park!

I spoke about this in a recent article where I covered the reality of being a personal trainer, and today I’d like to expand on that some more, so here’s five things I wish my PT course taught me back in the day…

Table of Contents
are people skills important for a personal trainer

If you go to your local gym right now, I guarantee you’ll see two things:

  1. A client-free PT at the front desk with the personality of a wet fish.
  2. A friendlier and busier PT on the gym floor who seems to have an endless line of customers.

Being a PT is a people business, so your ability to communicate with others plays a pivotal role in your success.

Honestly, some of the best, most knowledgeable PTs I’ve met over the years have struggled to find clients because they have no communication skills whatsoever.

So remember this:

personal trainer course

The first time I went to a business convention, a lecturer asked us all to write a short sales pitch describing what we do.

Mine looked like this:

Fucking kill me now.

Because even though this is an accurate description of what I do, I was basically just trying to say all the right things in order to attract as many clients as I could (cuz money).

The lecturer explained that the this was a fucking massive mistake, and over time I realized he was dead right.

You see, customers couldn’t give a damn about all the different feathers I had in my cap, they just wanted to know how I could help them.

That’s when I decided that I should learn more about sales, rather than just continually adding more fitness qualifications.

It was on the sales course which followed this meeting that I learned about the importance of an elevator pitch.

Suddenly I was no longer “Russ who sounds the same as every other trainer in 180 characters or less”, I became Russ Howe PTI: The Fat Loss Guy. Holy flaps. This change revolutionized my sales figures – not because I was any better at my job, but because I could more easily convey the benefits of working with me to the public, and the icing on the cake is that it fucking rhymed.

So my advice to you is to work on your sales skills.

Your PT course will barely mention this aspect of the job, but as a self-employed businessman (or businesswoman) the success of your company literally hinges on your ability to sell your product.

Lots of PTs fall into the bad habit of charging less than they should.

Don’t do this.

Sure, it can be a quick way to find clients, but it usually just leaves you feeling physically drained, undervalued, and unappreciated. As Derek Halpern (one of my business mentors) likes to say:

I like to be very firm with potential clients:

  • My price is my price. If you don’t like it, go elsewhere, there are other trainers.
  • If you cancel a session with less than 12 hours notice, you will still be billed.

That’s it.

These two simple rules have saved me from so much bullshit over the years.

Another aspect, which kinda ties into the same point here, is that you’re gonna have to get tough if you want to be taken seriously.

People are dicks, and if you’re not used to dealing with people face-to-face it can feel quite daunting when someone tries to haggle your hourly rate, or even worse, they ask you to train them for free in exchange for social media posts, and don’t even get me started on those folks who cancel sessions at the last minute.

It requires a toughness, and a willingness to turn away customers, that you have probably not had to use in previous jobs.

As soon as you set up your PT packages, take the time to set up a few ground rules designed to stop this kind of shithousery, and it’ll make your life so much easier going forward.

Let’s be honest here, the fitness industry is superficial.

We all want chiselled abs. We all want buns of steel. We all want biceps with peaks so big they have snow on them.

That’s why looking the part can dramatically boost your chances of success as a PT.

I’ve met countless trainers who I consider to be super-knowledgeable, without really being in shape. I’m not saying you can’t be a good PT if you’re out of shape. Heck, we know that Usain Bolt’s coach cannot run the 100 meters faster than Usain Bolt, and we know that The Rock’s trainer isn’t more muscular than The Rock, and we know that in both of those cases their trainers’ knowledge is off the fucking chart – but the public doesn’t work this way. The public mostly makes decisions solely on appearance, because it’s the fastest way to show them that you can help them get the results they want.

Seriously, do you know how many people have asked me about my fitness qualifications?


Seriously, none in twenty years! It hurts my feelings! Some of those courses were long and arduous!

Of course, I’m not saying that qualifications are a waste of time and you should just be in shape. We nee qualifications to safely and legally run a business, and the more knowledge you acquire, the better coach you will become.

I’m just saying the general public doesn’t give a fuck.

how to become a personal trainer

The vast majority of new personal trainers are broke and struggling to attract clients.

This is not the lifestyle they were promised on the course, and they often make knee-jerk financial decisions during the first couple of months of owning their own business, which come back to haunt them in the future.

For example, many PTs commit to expensive partnerships with commercial gyms, whereby in exchange for paying them an absolute fuck-tonne of cash, they get to walk around the gym floor and advertise themselves. Most new PTs do not have that kind of money, so they ask their bank or credit card providers for a lump sum, in the hope that they’ll make it back before the payment is due.

Seriously, don’t do that.

Most PTs never make the money back, and end up quitting their business altogether, and the big commercial gym just spins its revolving doors and brings in a bunch of unsuspecting new PTs to replace them.

Fuck that shit.

You have to protect the future of your business, and I believe one of the best ways to do this is the side hustle method.

I used this method myself when I was building my own business, and it’s a lesson which I have passed on to several ex-clients who have transitioned to becoming trainers themselves over the years.

The side hustle method is where you pick up a simple part-time job to ease the pressure on yourself in the early days of being a new business owner.

The job should be something really straightforward, purely to give you piece of mind and help you pay the bills while you take the time to grow your business.

Mine was at a local supermarket.

I can still remember it very well. On my first day the boss gave me a florescent green t-shirt to wear, and it was so tight it looked like it had been sprayed on my body. I worked in the fruit and veg section, performing the straightforward (but physically challenging) task of carrying crates of fruit and veg out of the warehouse freezer, and placing them into position on the shop floor for customers to buy. I met some great people at this job, and even picked up a few future PT clients (no doubt the t-shirt helped), but the biggest benefit is that it afforded me the luxury of working on my PT business without financial worries.

When I started to build a substantial client base, I decreased my hours at the store, and eventually I left it entirely and went full-time on my own.

how to become a successful personal trainer

Here’s something I hate myself for.

During my first year as a PT, I spent thousands of pounds (earned at my side hustle) on gym equipment, a laptop, training gear with my logo on, and other things to help me get started in my new business, and I felt great. I just loved being a coach, and I thought it was awesome that I could help people in the gym all day and get paid for it.

What a fucking dick.

When the end of the first year arrived, I received an email from HMRC asking me to complete my self-employment tax return, and on there I noticed that could actually write off all of the things I had spent my savings on as business expenses – but I didn’t keep the receipts, because I didn’t know this was a thing!

Oh, man, I was more frustrated than a dwarf with a yo-yo.

My PT course didn’t even mention this shit. So from day one, you should be keeping your receipts for everything relating to your new business (that includes equipment, training gear, work lunches, travel expenses, fucking everything) and then check the eligibility list on your end-of-year tax return. You’ll save yourself a lot of money on things which you were gonna need anyway.

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I’m Russ. I’ve been a personal trainer since 2002, and I own

My job is to simplify fitness for my readers.

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