How to Become a Fitness Professional
For some people, fitness is more than just hobby, it’s a way of life. If spending time in a gym, or yoga studio seems a more appealing way to spend your time than sitting behind a desk, you might have thought about retraining to work in the fitness industry.
There are so many different types of careers in fitness. Generally a good place to start is with the governing body for the sport or activity that you’re interested in. They’ll have a ‘coaching pathway’ in place and information on the qualifications you need to make your plans a reality.
So, for example, if you’re into football and want to start coaching the local juniors who dream of being the next David Beckham, you’ll want to start with the FA’s coaching information.
My own journey to becoming a fitness professional started with becoming an England Athletics run leader. Run England offer one-day Leadership in Running Fitness (LiRF) training courses that will give you the skills and knowledge to lead a fun and safe session for a group of runners. The course costs £155 and there are several venues around London. If you want to take it further and become a running coach, the LiRF course is a good stepping stone onto a more in-depth coaching qualification with Run England.
I’ve been leading running groups for the past couple of years, and I really enjoy it. So much so that I wanted to expand my knowledge and skills so that I can help my runners even further. I’ve been working towards a Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification with BodyAid. To gain entry to a personal training course, you’ll need a preliminary qualification such as a Gym Instructor certificate. There are lots of providers around offering personal training courses, but when looking for a course, make sure it’s approved by the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs).
The British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) offers a nationally recognised teacher training diploma in yoga. This 500 hour qualification can take between two and four hours to complete - so it’s quite an investment of time and money (around £4000). You’ll need to have been practicing yoga for a minimum of two years to qualify for the course, and some courses will want you to have done a Foundation Course (also certified by the BWY) first. In London, Triyoga and Yoga Junction both run BWY certified training courses.
There’s a lot more to be gained from instructing people in an activity than cold hard cash. It’s really rewarding to help people do things they thought they couldn’t. If cycling is your thing, and you want to share your love of it British Cycling can help you train to do just that. The Breeze Network is designed to get more women into cycling. They’ll provide you with the training to become a Breeze Ambassador in return for your time in volunteering to lead rides.
If you want to get qualified to lead a sport or activity in your spare time, or are looking to change career and do the sport you love full-time, the best place to start is with people who are already doing what you want to do. So if you’re a regular yogi looking to become a teacher - stay behind after class and ask some questions. If you have a PT, ask them about how they started out while you do your burpees.
Laura Fountain is a writer and running coach living in London. She’s run 15 marathons, a couple of ultra marathons and a few triathlons, but not that long ago she couldn't run 400 meters. She's the author of two books 'The Lazy Runner' and 'Tricurious', and the blog Lazy Girl Running. Laura is a qualified running coach and personal trainer, and uses her experience to help beginner runners work towards their goals.