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So, You Want to Be a… Personal Trainer

A personal trainer helps clients achieve their health and fitness goals

What will I be doing all day?

A personal trainer helps clients achieve their health and fitness goals by designing individualized workout regimens; instructing, guiding, and motivating clients through the exercises to prevent injury and produce maximal results; and educating them about health and wellness.

Do I have the personality for it?

Good personal trainers are excellent communicators and motivators, empathetic, upbeat, positive, and good at connecting with people. They are good at problem-solving and can improvise programs on the spot based on client feedback. Of course, they must also be in excellent physical shape.

What kind of training do I need?

In order to work in a public setting like a gym, one must have a nationally recognized certification. There are several professional certification options out there, which range from six months to a year of study and entail passing an exam. Certification must be renewed every two years by taking continuing education courses. In addition, a personal trainer must have CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) certification.

While no college degree is necessary, a degree in an associated field such as exercise science, kinesiology, or physical education can be helpful.

What kind of career options do I have?

Personal trainers can work with both individuals and groups, in a variety of settings, such as their or their client’s home studio, gyms, resorts, or in a corporate setting as part of a company’s wellness program for employees.

Here are some of the common types of personal trainers:

  • Fitness trainers help people achieve goals such as weight loss, muscle building or cardiovascular health.
  • Rehabilitation trainers work with clients who require muscle rehabilitation due to injury or other medical conditions.
  • Sports trainers help athletes improve their performance in a specific sport.
  • Nutrition coaches guide clients in healthy eating and create meal plans along with exercise plans as a means to reach their fitness goals.
What can I expect to make?

The average US salary is $40,470, but as most personal trainers work as independent contractors, income varies greatly — sessions can cost between $50 and $250, and yearly income can be anywhere from $20,000 to $150,000 and beyond.





My Typical Workday

My day starts very early; I often get up as early as 5:25 a.m. to go to shul. My sessions used to take place primarily in my clients’ prework and post-work hours, early in the morning and late at night. Since Covid, with the popularity of flexible work hours, I’m now able to work all day. My first session of the day can be as early as 7 a.m. Some of my sessions take place in my fully stocked home gym, while for others I travel to the client’s chosen location.

My job is to motivate, instruct, and keep my clients accountable through regimented workouts. Sessions range from 30 to 60 minutes, though the workout routines I create are particularly efficient and can usually be done in 30 minutes. While the routine is very individualized, in general I use a circuit-style program that contains 6–12 exercises, and I do them with limited rest to utilize the time efficiently. I’m also responsible for scheduling, payments, and the actual training.

Of course, as an avid “daffer,” my day also includes Daf Yomi. I’m a huge Mercaz Daf Yomi chassid, and my gym equipment is plastered with MDY magnets!

I train men and boys only. In July 2017 I made up my mind to leave the mixed gym I was working in to lead a more kosher lifestyle. While that was a difficult decision, it’s the best career decision I ever made.

How I Chose the Profession

I was overweight as a kid, until the age of 16. That’s when my neighbor convinced me to go to the gym, and I was hooked. By 2009, I was in school and on track to becoming a police officer, having received an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Rockland Community College. But Hashem had other plans.

I was about to apply to John Jay College of Criminal Justice when I came down with mono and was sick for about a month. At the time I was still unsure if I really wanted to be a police officer. Once I had time to think, it hit me: I should become a personal trainer. By then I’d been working out religiously for years and I was a competitive bodybuilder — the only bodybuilder at the time to wear a yarmulke in competition. In 2010 I became a certified personal trainer through NASM. I subsequently got a degree in nutrition and dietetics from Queens College.

How I Chose My Specialty

I have several specialties: fitness nutrition specialist, behavioral change specialist, senior fitness specialist, youth exercise specialist, and performance enhancement specialist.

In my training, I specialized in bodybuilding contest prep, and in my earlier years I used that to assist others in reaching their desired physique through hard training, diet and supplementation.

Given that most of my work is with the frum community, I’ve leveraged my knowledge to help get your “average Yanky” in shape for his daughter’s wedding.

Of course, my primarily training goals for my clients are focused on health and longevity rather than superficial appearance. It’s important to look good, but more important to feel good. My knowledge of bodybuilding and degree in nutrition help me counsel and motivate others to stay on target with their training and diet.

What I Love Most about the Field

I love seeing my clients’ improvements, whether in strength, stamina, or bloodwork results.

When a client goes from not being able to do a single pull-up or push-up to getting down on the floor and doing 20, that puts a smile on my face!

What I Find Most Challenging about the Field

Scheduling sessions can be tough, because everyone wants the same limited hours. However, the biggest challenge is when a client has no interest in putting in effort. The cliché that you can only bring the horse to the water but you can’t make it drink is true. When a wife or mother calls because she wants her husband or son to get in shape, the first thing I ask is, “Is this what your husband/son wants, or what you want?” The desire needs to come from the person himself.

I’ll Never Forget When

I had a person ask me to train him for two hours a day for four weeks to get him in shape for his son’s wedding. I just laughed to myself; goals need to be realistic and attainable or they won’t work.

Then there was the time someone once called the police on me because one of my clients was yelling in pain from a workout and a passerby thought I was beating the client up! The police were laughing when they realized what happened.

Another time, in the middle of a training session, someone started banging frantically on my front door, which I’d left slightly ajar. It turned out to be my neighbor, who was choking. I quickly did the Heimlich maneuver and that person was saved. It was Hashgachah pratis that I was at home at that odd hour, as my client had begged me to change our regular slot.

Something I Wish People Knew about Personal Trainers

We’re not miracle workers; you can’t call me and say “get me into shape.” The hard work needs to come from the client. My job is to help you realize that you can make it happen.

How I’ve Seen the Field Change over the Years

Like so much else during Covid, physical training sessions moved online, and this is a convenience that many people are still taking advantage of. I still offer online training sessions, but of course, in-person one-on-one sessions are most effective.

My Advice for People Starting Out

Don’t be afraid to learn from others and change your methods if the current ones aren’t working. At the same time, own your training; don’t be afraid to be different. Your workouts don’t have to be perfect; the most important rule is to keep it safe. Better to do less with a client than overdo it. Focus on long-term rather than quick results.




My Typical Workday

I start most days with a workout to keep myself fit, which is crucial for a trainer. After finishing carpool at 9 a.m., I get ready for my first client by reviewing my client notes and setting up my studio, which is in my den. (Before Shabbos, I remove all my equipment, including the suspension equipment hanging from my ceiling, and it magically turns back into a large den.) I try to limit my working hours to when my children are in school, aside from a few evening and Sunday exercise classes.

Each session is 50 minutes long, and I try to schedule 15-minute intervals between sessions for taking notes and sanitizing the equipment. A typical session starts with upbeat Jewish music and usually begins with warm-up exercises with dynamic stretching (stretching while moving). Since fitness starts in the feet, I’ll sometimes have the client remove her shoes to stimulate the central nervous system with foot stimulus and walking/balance drills.

During the warm-up, I’ll ask the client how she’s doing, if she had aches or soreness from last workout, what activities she’s been doing, etc. This information helps me tailor the day’s workout. I already know about her general preferences, needs and abilities from our initial intake. For example, some people are simply not coordinated and don’t want choreography. Some need sequences to initiate cognitive skills with musculoskeletal conditioning.

Next is usually cardiovascular exercises in intervals, coupled with weight training. We may use dumbbells, a BOSU ball (a half-ball), a 55cm stability ball, TRX (suspension equipment), resistance bands and tubes which hang at all different levels, sliders, a countertop for support, battle ropes, or assist stretching cords.

Afterward, we’ll do corrective exercises for her weak areas and stretching for areas that are tight. Static stretches and light massage (myofascial rolling) are saved for the end of the workout since the muscles have more extensibility when they’re warm.

The exercise options with all that equipment are endless, so I’m often changing up the plan to keep it interesting, and taking note of where the client sees success, because the enjoyment factor is important.

In addition to my private clients, I teach physical education to high school girls at Yeshivas Darchei Torah twice a week and also lead classes for women in the community, including a balance and posture program for ladies in their sixties and seventies and summer aqua workouts.

How I Chose the Profession

My family has always been active; my mother walked like lightning every morning for 55 years. I always enjoyed exercising, so when my parents suggested becoming a personal trainer, it resonated with me. I completed a 12-week online course and obtained certification from NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine). I chose this program because I found it to be more refined and tzanua than some of the other CPT programs, with the instructors wearing professional uniforms.

The Populations I Work With

I specialize in working with the average healthy adult, teens, neonatal/postpartum women, seniors and all types in between. Occasionally, I’ll accompany clients to a physical or occupational therapy session so I can assist in maintaining the exercises after the therapy prescription runs out.

What I Love Most about the Field

Bumping into a client in the store and seeing her with better posture, function, and stride is so rewarding. My program is designed to produce incremental results right away, whether it be in stamina, balance, posture or diminishing chronic pain. During a single-leg balance exercise, if a client comments, “My right hip hurts when I extend my left leg,” and I then show her how she can avoid that by slightly bending her right knee, I whisper thanks to Hashem Who allowed me to help her.

I also feel privileged to recognize the way Hashem created our amazing muscles and the incredible way they work to hold us together and assist us in moving. I’m so fortunate to experience the miracle of our musculoskeletal system every time I go to work!

What I Find Most Challenging about the Field

A challenge that many people who work in a service industry deal with is confronting clients about price. The brachah of a trainer-client relationship is that we often become friends. Certain clients feel free to unburden themselves in a way that they wouldn’t dare outside of my studio.

It can get very tricky to charge a client for a canceled workout session after she tells me her son was up the whole night with a stomachache or her daughter-in-law’s in labor and she needs to care for the other children. Even though I’m entitled to a cancelation fee, I feel like asking for payment will strain the relationship. Sometimes I manage to find another client to fill the empty slot but I often don’t have enough advance notice to do so.

Another challenge is holding myself back from giving unsolicited advice. If I see someone walking (or shuffling, swaggering, or dragging) with poor form, it takes restraint for me not to blurt out my expert pearls of wisdom — especially if that person is someone I know and love. I desperately want to suggest, “Straighten up and lead with your chest,” or let them know that they are a fall risk — “For goodness’ sake, stretch your quads and hip flexors!” But I learned a long time ago that people don’t want to hear advice without asking for it.

I’ll Never Forget When

One of the blessings of my job is having the opportunity to work with women whom I greatly admire. Our community has some great role models, and I’m fortunate to be able to help them become more fit and functional.

Recently, a young mother approached me to request that I work with her and her friend at the same time. I agreed on a trial basis. What do you know, not only was it doable but all three of us had a blast! Thanks to her, I now offer “dual training” as a more affordable option.

Something I Wish People Knew about Personal Trainers

I know everyone has busy lives, but when you cancel on your personal trainer, she loses out… and so do the potential clients she could have scheduled.

How I’ve Seen the Field Change over the Years

Research is constantly yielding new developments in the field of fitness, and I frequently learn new skills to make my workouts more effective and interesting. The only downside of change in my field is the same as in any service industry: cost. Since I have rising expenses, my prices unfortunately occasionally increase, too.

My Advice for People Starting Out

Exercise regularly. You shouldn’t be working in this field unless you believe in it, which means you’re working out, too.

Second, if you come across something you don’t know, go online and research. For example, if you discover during an assessment that your client has scoliosis, find out what degree the curve is and look it up. You may need to avoid quadruped deep spinal flexion/extension (cycling through bending and extending the spine) for example.

Third, I suggest you perform all the exercises you’re recommending. See how doable it is, where and when to load, progress, or regress. And make sure your knowledge of muscles and their functions is up to date.

Fourth, I recommend finding a physical therapist you can address questions to. Physical therapists really understand musculature. I love going with clients to their PT appointments so I can ask questions and become a better trainer. I recently worked with a client who’s afraid to get up from a half-kneeling position. I called my PT contact, who suggested that she do drills using the second step of the staircase with deep flexions to get her joints accustomed to moving through a large range of motion in her knee/ankle/hip. While we’re still working on the end goal, the client texted me last week that getting up the stairs has become so much easier.





My Typical Workday

There are two primary jobs that I’m currently involved with: a large fitness company where I help bring people into the program and coach the trainers in how to get their clients results; and Shine Mama Fit, the business I founded to help pre-and postnatal women. While my job at the larger fitness company provides my primary parnassah, my work at Shine Mama Fit is my passion, and what I’d like to focus on here.

While I originally worked directly with clients at Shine Mama Fit, today my primary role is to prepare and teach the exercise and nutrition curriculum to our team of trainers. I still work directly with some of the mothers and am there to boost them emotionally. We also work with women who are past their childbearing years, helping them to age with grace and strength.

My responsibilities include monitoring to ensure the clients are making progress, that their programs are filling their nutrition needs and that they are executing exercises effectively to get results. I also meet with our team’s doctor/physical therapist and pelvic floor specialist to ensure that he’s seeing the desired results in our clients’ nutrition and exercise programs. We take a holistic approach to helping pre- and postnatal women and those past their childbearing years get in shape; we work on sleeping, calmness, hormonal issues, and other aspects that can affect a woman’s overall health.

Our goal at Shine Mama Fit is to get clients to stop dieting and get as fit as possible in a healthy, long-term way. Too many women have spent a lot of time in fruitless dieting that often backfired. I try to help women stop this cycle by working on their metabolism instead of against it, helping them build up their muscles and achieve homeostasis. Many women don’t realize that every time they diet, it actually reduces their muscle mass and decreases their body’s ability to digest food.

My approach is based on a lot of research I did after going through a personal experience with dieting. After I saw how this approach worked for me, I started helping new mothers as a chesed. The demand grew and I eventually pivoted into doing this work for parnassah.

Recently, as I saw what a toll the responsibility was taking on my time and family life, I made the decision to move back into doing this on a volunteer basis for a more limited number of clients, and let the program run more on a nonprofit model, with the income from the clients paying to keep the organization running on its own. (In the future, I may switch back to making this my parnassah.)

How I Chose the Profession

I entered the field because of my personal experience with failed dieting and the effect it had on my hormones. I started to do some research, and learned that eating very little coupled with too much exercise can, indeed, interfere with normal hormonal function.

The more I learned, the more I realized the terrible long-term health implications of dieting — how it makes a woman lose not just fat (which she often gains back) but important bodily tissue, and can cause osteoporosis and other serious medical issues. I wanted to help women get super-fit in a normal, healthy way, eating balanced meals with enough healthy fat, protein, and carbs and making sure that they are strength training and building up muscle slowly in a safe way. The more women I work with, the more passionate I become about this mission!

How I Chose My Specialty

I chose to focus on working with frum mothers who are pre- and postnatal and post-childbearing age, because from talking to other mothers and from my own observation, I saw what a need there was in this population. Many women feel pressured to lose their pregnancy weight quickly and don’t realize how unsafe extreme dieting can be. In fact, it isn’t healthy for a woman to diet within the first eight to 12 months after birth; it has a negative effect on her hormones. Often this hasty jump to diet after birth is what leads to the weight loss/gain cycle.

I obtained certifications in personal training and nutrition, and I also did a ton of my own research, and received hands-on training and coaching from many experienced personal trainers, physiotherapists, sports dieticians and nutritionists. I then fused all my knowledge to create my own program, focused on giving women a healthy body through muscle building, strength training, and nourishing themselves.

What I Love Most about the Field

I love helping frum mothers get strong and stop dieting! The feedback from the women is incredible — I’ve collected over a hundred stories. One woman told me that she was able to help build the succah this year. Another said, “Last year I had no stamina and now I can jump on the trampoline with my kids!”

What I Find Most Challenging about the Field

The subject of weight involves a lot of emotion, and sometimes people can get frustrated, especially when there’s a lack of knowledge. (Such as, for example, the fact that a person often gains some weight at first when the goal is long-term successful weight management.) Before a client comes in, I try to have a conversation with her to feel out her emotional state. If someone seems very anxious or depressed, I’ll try to steer her to get therapy, because this isn’t what our program is for.

In general, there’s a big achrayus in what we do, which can weigh on me (no pun intended!). I’m not a doctor, but I am working with people’s health, and I always worry: Am I relaying the correct nutrition and exercise information? Am I explaining things properly? Am I delivering what I say I will? People want accountability and you need to deliver, which can be a big pressure.

I’ll Never Forget When

I have so many heartwarming client stories! There’s the mother who came in and said she was barely eating anything in order to keep her weight down, and we helped her be able to eat much more. The mothers whose blood pressure and cholesterol have gone down. Mothers who say their birth was much easier because of their training during pregnancy, and that they were able to get back into exercising 6–12 weeks after birth because they felt so much stronger.

Something I Wish People Knew about Personal Trainers

It’s a big responsibility. A person can get hurt from exercise if you don’t know your stuff. That’s why I have a physical therapist and a personal trainer on our team. Also, to be a good personal trainer, you need more than just certification, you need lots of hands-on work learning from others.

Some other misconceptions: Don’t be fooled by a before-and-after picture being promoted by some magic diet. You have no clue what’s really going on behind the weight loss: Maybe they gained the weight right back, maybe they messed up their metabolism by losing weight. A viewer may think the “after” picture is the result, but sometimes it’s actually the problem. Did the person starve? Did she have surgery? How much food is she eating? Is she weak right now?

On the other hand, you can have a person who hasn’t lost weight for a year but has spent all this time building a foundation, and is now set to lose weight for real.

Also, there’s a difference between strength training and regular exercise classes. Some people think that they’re doing fine if they go to exercise classes. Classes are great in that they get you moving and healthy, but strength training to build up muscle is a whole different planet. There are a lot of skills a person has to learn in order to build up muscle properly — and that’s what a personal trainer is trained to do.

My Advice for People Starting Out

Realize that there’s a huge emotional responsibility in this job. You need to be able to put your whole self into this, which can be challenging when you have your own family as well.

Also, remember that you’re not exercising when you’re training, you’re teaching others how to exercise. So you need to make sure to get your own exercise time in as well.

If you’re teaching classes, realize that there’s only a certain number of classes you can safely teach per day. If they’re strength training classes, then you shouldn’t be teaching more than five 30-minute classes a week; don’t expect to teach classes full time. Exercising eight hours a day is impossible for your body to do!


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 992)

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