Many people enter this field with great intentions. They love exercise and they welcome the opportunity to help others improve their lives and reach their fitness goals. However, not long into actually working as a trainer do they realize that it's not necessarily an easy way to make a living.

People do not flock to you if you hold the title of "personal trainer," and let's face it, these days trainers are a dime a dozen. You can walk into almost any gym and find anywhere from two to 10 trainers on staff, and in some of the bigger gyms with affluent members, the numbers can go from 20 to 50 trainers on staff. But just because there might be 50 trainers on staff doesn't mean that all 50 are busy, have a full schedule and are living comfortably. That is why, in order to make a living as a personal trainer, you need to be much more than just a personal trainer - you must be a fitness professional.

True fitness professionals make up less than 20% of any gyms personal training staff, and some gyms and health clubs don't have any. In a gym with 10 trainers, the true pros are the two who have 80% of the entire personal training client base.

What Is a "Fitness Professional," and What Separates Him/Her from Any Other Personal Trainer? For starters, the fitness pro has more to offer than just a workout and some basic advice. They have specialized knowledge that allows them to assess each individual's current situation and devise a rational plan of action based on this person's needs, abilities, limitations, goals and preferences and then implement that plan with precision and care.

When people observe you training someone, they pick up very quickly on whether you are just another trainer or a true professional. The difference is unmistakable even to the casual observer. They see your body language, your mannerisms, your enthusiasm, your sternness, your procedures and most importantly, your attention to the trainee.

7.5 Ways to Distinguish Yourself as a Fitness Professional

1. Only talk training when training - During a session, most of your time spent talking should be on the muscles, exercises, the way you are doing them and why as well as how this will help your client reach his/her goals. Leave the small talk for after the session. They're paying you for training, not socializing, even if they want to engage in it.

2. Focus completely on your client - Don't get distracted by what others around you are doing. Leave your cell phone off the training floor, and don't engage in conversations with other members or trainers when working with your client.

3. Record everything - Take notes during the workout. Other than having a means of looking back on progress and determining where to go in the future this - in the eyes of your client - shows you that you care and take their training seriously and that you have attention to detail.

4. Develop your own system - Trends will come and go, but having your own system of training that has been proven to work time after time will make you sought after, regardless of what's "hot." When a trend dies, so too does your business. Don't be a trend - be timeless.

5. Have the answers - People will come to you only if you can explain to them rationally and in detail how you can help them reach their optimal level of health and fitness. Specify the process of how your system of training gets them from where they are now to where they want to be.

6. Look the part - Like it or not, consumers will judge your health and fitness by the way you look and not what your yearly physical exam states. They feel that if you're going to hold them to a higher standard, then you better look as though you hold yourself to a higher standard.

7. Give it away - One of the easiest ways to build a solid reputation as fitness pro is to freely give away information. The only way people will know whether or not you know your stuff and are worth working with is if they receive intelligent and practical information from you. This could come in the form of a one-on-one conversation, presentation, article, newsletter or various other forms of communication.

7.5 Exceed expectations - You hear this one all the time, but what does it really mean?

How You Can Exceed Expectations
Being a fitness professional extends well beyond what you do when actually training someone. In fact, it could be argued that what you do when not in-session will be the true determinant of whether others see you as a professional in this field or just another trainer. To be viewed as a pro, you must exceed people's expectations of what a personal trainer is and does.

Let me say that again. You must exceed people's expectations of what a personal trainer is and does. Sounds simple right!? Well, it is! But it's not easy. And therein lies the reason why few become fitness professionals, while the rest - even the very good instructors - remain "just another trainer" and have trouble making a living in this most rewarding profession. It takes a certain level of time and effort, of which you will not be paid for, directly or immediately. That turns off about 60% of the trainers out there who believe that being certified is all that's required to be considered an expert and paid for every morsel of information they divulge. Then there will be the 20-30% who understand the importance of exceeding expectations but ultimately will not take action out of sheer laziness. But for the 10-20% that make the decision to do the things which will put them on a pedal stool in the eyes of others, a wonderful and lucrative life as a fitness professional awaits.

6.5 Extra Things the Top 10-20% Do

1. Articles - What's great about writing articles is that it's free advertising. Although we're taught not to believe everything we read, we still do! So when you're the author of an article that provides valuable information to help others improve their fitness, you automatically get deemed as the "expert" in their minds.

2. Books - The same applies here as it did in #1, except that a book carries much more weight in the eyes of a consumer/client. These days, with so many print-on-demand and self-publishing companies out there, it's easy to produce a book and get it out there or at the very least have it on display at your gym or studio.

3. E-Newsletter - If you're not already doing this, you need to get going right away. An e-newsletter is a very simple, cost-effective means of delivering extra value to your clients and potential clients. You can produce one weekly or monthly, whatever fits your preference, but be sure not to overtly market your services. Instead, provide useful information, hints and tips and keep the newsletter short. Just think of what you do when you see a long-winded email. If you're like me, you save it for later or disregard it altogether.

4. Presentations/seminars - While this may not be for everyone, there are not many other ways that are more effective in singling you out as an expert and professional.

5. Blog - Much like an e-newsletter, this also is a very cost-effective means of delivering information and providing value. And the best part is the number of people you can reach is unlimited!

6. DVDs, CDs, mp3s - Again, informational products which can be sold or given away will always put you in a different class.

6.5 YouTube - This is a great way to reach out to those 35 and younger, who tend to spend more of their time on the Internet than they do reading newspapers or books. This can come in the form of a short informative piece that you can even load onto your own website.

Seeing that you do more than train and are out there educating people will go a very long way in how consumers perceive you. They view these types of things as major accomplishments, and they are! But what they really do is put you in another class, separate from everyone else. Think about it: How many authors do you meet each day? How many stars of a show or video do you meet each day? How many speakers? Not many, I'm sure, and neither does everyone else around you, which means if you become the author or the video star you instantly gain a level of credibility and status reserved for but a few.

Michael Lipowski is president of the International Association of Resistance Trainers (IART) ( and is the author of PURE PHYSIQUE: How to Maximize Fat-Loss and Muscular Development, in addition to being a contributing writer for several health and fitness publications and books. Contact Michael at 914.740.1008 or