Interview: Fitness Trainer

Name: Imari
Industry: Fitness Training
Position: Certified Fitness Trainer
Experience: 2 years
Education: High School
Length of Job Search: N/A


  • GPA: Not important.
  • Experience: Prior experience is not necessary.
  • Networking: Not important.
  • Internships:  Not Important.
  • Certifications: Extremely important. You need to get certified as a National Academy of Sports and Medicine Certified Personal Trainer, which is the main, base certification. Then, you can choose specialties such as pilates, martial arts, etc. The more certifications you have, the more valuable you are and the higher your earning potential is.
  • Interview: Very important. Enunciate your words, articulate clearly, speak slowly, dress well, be on time, and be yourself.
  • Skills: Interpersonal skills, sales/ lead generation, the ability to manage yourself.
  • Advancing: Certifications, education, and trailing average (the average sales, usually in a 3 month period) are looked at for getting promoted. Entry level is level 1 and the highest level with the highest salary and benefits is level 5.


Table of Contents:

A. Introduction
B. Certifications
C. Corporate Structure and Lead Generation
D. Getting a Job
E. A Typical Day


A. Introduction


  1. What is your job?

Imari: I am a personal trainer. I teach a variety of classes including martial arts and pilates.


  1. What is the story behind you getting a job at Life Time Fitness?


Imari: I started martial arts at a very young age and became a martial arts professional. I started traveling the country when I was 14 and would attend seminars, getting my name known throughout the martial arts community. When I was about 16, I decided that I wanted to turn martial arts into my career by opening up a martial arts academy once I had enough money to do so.


  1. Did you open a Martial Arts Academy right away?


No, to get the money needed to open my own martial arts academy, I decided to become a fitness trainer. I decided to get nationally certified as a personal trainer and certified to teach pilates to broaden my training expertise. While training and getting certified, I did some odd jobs, such as acting and doing theatre in Little Hollywood.


  1. So how did you get a position at Lifetime Fitness?


Once I turned 17, the personal trainer who was coaching me, encouraged me to become a trainer in a corporate setting because she knew that I wanted to open my own martial arts academy, and working at a large fitness institution would give me the knowledge and skills needed to run my own academy. So I applied to Lifetime and around that time, Lifetime was starting a new kickboxing program and needed instructors that knew martial arts. My background in martial arts made me very desirable and I ended up talking to the VP at Life Time in Atlanta who was training at the same martial arts academy and knew who I was. We hit it off and I got the job.


  1. What was it like to work in a corporate setting at such a young age?


Imari: It was extremely difficult and I had to learn to adapt very quickly. I was only a little high schooler and I was working next to people twice my age with college degrees. I had to prove that I had the knowledge, skills, and professionalism needed to be working next to my co-workers. I also had to pass the tough evaluations of corporate, which would analyze me to make sure that I am still qualified to maintain my job.


I was successful and in 9 months, I was promoted me to a higher position where I was a leader and had management responsibilities. I went from making $20 an hour to $40 and I was working 44 hours a week. I gained the respect of my co-workers and overall it was quite a journey.


  1. So you mentioned doing odd jobs as a part of your journey to get to where you are, where those odd jobs simply a way of funding what you were doing or did they help get you to where you are?


Imari: They were definitely important. The odd jobs came from my martial arts because I was well connected to different groups of people. I had a lot of hobbies and one of my hobbies was film acting, which was great for me because Atlanta (where I grew up) is one of the fastest growing spots for acting and film making.


In the film industry, reputation is everything. You have to be very punctual and bring your “A” game every time. If you ever slip into a sub-par performance, then you quickly become irrelevant. I learned that and some other great skills about professionalism.


  1. What advice do you have for someone who is pursuing a similar career path?


Imari: First, master your craft (pilaties, martial arts, etc). Then, try to network with as many people in your field as you can to increase the opportunities available to you.


B. Certifications


  1. How important are certifications?


Imari: Very important. First, you need to get certified as a National Academy of Sports and Medicine Certified Personal Trainer, which is the main, base certification. Then, you can choose specialties (such as pilaties) to make you more desirable. I got certified in Power Pilates Mat (levels one and two) and then I got certified in Peak Pilates Reformer and Equipment Certified, even though that certification was very expensive, because it is such a lucrative field.


  1. Pilates sounds like a great field to focus in, would you recommend it to people looking to become personal trainers?


Imari: It certainly is lucrative, there are not enough pilates trainers and it can be expensive to get certified, but it is most important to choose a field that you are passionate about. The core of a personal trainer’s business is interacting with people, so if you are unhappy teaching pilaties, it will show during your classes and it will be harder to keep and attract clients. If you are passionate about the field you are in, people will want to take your classes and the money will follow. The bottom-line is, the more certifications you have, the more valuable you are, and that means you can charge more money for your services. Overall, you need to be patient and like dealing with people.


  1. How did you get your certifications?


Imari: My personal trainer is the spokesperson for Nasum (National Academy of Sports and Medicine) and told me what I had to do to get certified with them and recommended people for me to study under. The Power Pilates was a little harder. I had to sign with the Pilates Studios in Atlanta. I felt that the teachers there were very knowledgeable, so I had to go to the studio and learn from the teachers. I got certified in Peak Pilates (which is actually a competitor of Power Pilaties) while I was working at Life Time and they paid for a portion of my education.


  1. If I am not in Atlanta, say California or New York, do I have to go to a nearby pilates studio to get certified?


Imari: You have to become a pilates practitioner first and condition your body (it’s an exercise so you have to be strong!) After learning about the different styles (and there are so many, each with their own twist,  Lolalita, Mind and Body, Peak, Power to name a few),it is easier to think about which style you like and then find a trainer for you to study under. It is really important that you make sure that the trainer you choose to study from knows their stuff and studies the material well. Spend time with them and see how their clients progress. Ask to shadow their lessons, to try their lessons, to talk to their clients.


C.  Corporate Structure and Lead Generation


  1. What is the advancement system at Life Time?


Imari: They are very smart. They have the combination of a recreational facility and corporate backbone. When you start working there as a trainer, you start at level 1 and the highest, most well paid position is level 5. In order to advance to higher levels, you need a combination of more certifications and education and trailing average (the average sales, usually in a 3 month period). So you have to market yourself because you are your own business within a corporation. We charge an hourly fee, but we are 100% commission based. I got promoted to service commission, which is practically getting paid hourly, but you have to be with clients during the hour to get paid. If you aren’t doing anything during that hour, that you don’t get paid. In regards to getting promoted, it is important to note that you have to understand how the business you are working for is structured in order to make the most out of the opportunities available there and get promoted. Try to learn what it takes to get promoted.


  1. Since your job is commissioned based anyway, wouldn’t it make sense to just work for yourself?


Imari: Well, that was the thing. I joined Lifetime to learn how a big company is structured and runs its business, so that I can learn how to start my own business. Also, there are many benefits to working with Life Time. They teach us all the time. We have learning modules and online lectures, and tests that we have to pass to continue working there. You also do not have to worry about liability or insurance, in case there is a lawsuit. Not to mention that you get dental, eye care, insurance, stock options, and bunch of other benefits. So it is sort of a hybrid of working for a company full-time and working for yourself.


If you have the resources to manage liability and other things, then it might make sense to move on and do your own thing. That is what some people do, they work at Life Time for an extended period of time, and when they are ready they start their own business. That way they can start out in a smaller setting without the risk of failing.


  1. What do you do to get clients?


Imari: That is where many people fail. However, there are so many ways to do it. Some people are great at just walking throughout the gym, talking to people, and then signing them up. Some people are shy and would rather setup a table, give nutrition samples, and then talk to them about training. It is a very strategic setup.


For me, I would make sure that whenever a trainer was sick, that I was there to cover their clients. I talk to people casually—not with the intention to sell them anything. I got to know people and their needs and it allowed people to get to know me. That way, when someone is ready to sign up for a trainer, they know me and they are more likely to come to me. People don’t want take classes from someone who is trying to sell them something—they want to take classes from someone they trust and can relate to.


D. Getting the Job


  1. You mentioned that you interviewed well, what tips do you have for someone going on a job interview?


Imari: Sure, I think that there are a few golden rules to follow whether it is a job interview or you a meeting someone who holds a higher title than you. First rule, always go in confident. No matter how nervous you are, you have to hold yourself like you are awesome because if you do, they will respect you. Second, always enunciate your words, articulate clearly, and speak slowly. There is a psychological study that most corporate businessman have a poor view of those who speak fast. I am not saying speak ridiculously slowly, but if you speak slower you will come across as more confident and in control. Third, be on time. If you are on time, you are late, if you are early, you are on time. A good thing to know is that most corporate meetings operate on central time. Fourth, dress well no matter what the job is. For this gym job interview, I came suited and with makeup.  Last, think before you speak. Don’t feel bad if you have to think before answering a question because they will respect you for it because it shows that you are strategic and not just going to say whatever comes to your head. That being said, don’t be afraid to be yourself. Your personality is what makes you likable and someone they will want to work with.


  1. Was your high school GPA important in getting your job?


Imari: No, it was not important, but I was very focused on my studies and had great grades. In this industry, if you can prove you are qualified with a certification or a degree, you have a good chance at getting the job.


  1. At the time you applied to Lifetime, they were expanding their kickboxing program and needed martial arts instructors, but what if you had applied without knowing martial arts? Do you think you still would have gotten that job?


Imari: Totally, because they were also short pilates instructors. I had all the things they were lacking. They needed martial arts trainers, pilates trainers, and personal trainers in general. So just with my personal training certificate, it would have worked out.


  1. Does it depend which Life Time you go to or will these types of instructors be in high demand at any Life Time?


Imari: They will be in high demand at any Life Time.


E. Typical Day


  1. What is a typical day at your job?


Imari: My typical day differs because I am a personal trainer, biking instructor, and a pilates instructor, and an onboarding specialist.


I may have a session with a client within my first hour at maybe 9am or 10am and I can have back to back clients throughout the day. At 1pm, I have my first corporate meeting where usually talking about how to increase lead generation. At 2pm, I meet with my team and we discuss our performance at our jobs and how to improve. At 3pm, I might meet with my boss and my specialist. At 4pm, I might do emails, update notes, call people, and work on my program design. 5pm is usually training time again and meeting more clients. I teach pilates classes until 8pm or 9pm.

Developement, Job Search

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