Today, I want to talk about the steps I took towards becoming one of the most highly qualified Trainers in the Health & Fitness Industry. The inception of this all stems back to when I was in my teens… so, let’s wind back the clock as I take you through my personal story of how [and why] I decided to become a Personal Trainer.
Back when I was just seventeen I was still living with my Mum during the summer holidays when I was back-and-forth from boarding school; that Easter she had joined a Health Club called: Holmes Place (which would later be bought out by one of my former employers – Virgin Active). Compared to the gym I used at school, the equipment this place had was in a whole different league, and I loved learning how to use it all.
I quickly became friends with some of the Trainers there, and there was one guy who was huge! And yet, he was only 18 – so, I asked him what he did to a) be so muscular, and b) what led him to starting a career in Personal Training so soon after finishing “High School” (for us Brits – schooling from 16-18 is known as ‘[Sixth Form] college’). Turns out, he was boshing an unreal 8000kcal per day – which I couldn’t fathom at the time! And he just had a love for fitness, and was good with people, so for him it was a natural fit.
One day I was looking at the Trainers’ profiles – displayed in the club – and noticed that the ones who I had seen with the most clients (so, the most successful) all attained their qualifications through Premier Global; I saw other Trainers certified through YMCA and FutureFit (for example), but they didn’t appear to be a) as knowledgeable, or b) have as many clients. The entire Fitness Team was a really great bunch of people, and all happy to share their knowledge with me, but I just couldn’t shake the notion of how some were of a higher standard – on a *technical* level – than others.
So anyhow, I brought up the idea of wanting to become a Personal Trainer with my family… it got shut-down. If you read my last personal story about where I started in the Industry (Virgin Active – The Beginning), then you’ll already know the little choice I was left with than to simply put my dreams of becoming a Personal Trainer on the back-burner.
Fast-forward a few years to when I had graduated from University, and now I was free to do what I pleased. So, I went right ahead and joined the Fitness Industry and learned the Sales/Corporate side of how to run a successful Health & Fitness Business. In doing so, I quickly teamed up with the Personal Trainers, learned their Strengths and USP’s (Unique Selling Points – what made them stand out from the others), and in return for connecting them to potential clients (new members who I’d signed up), I was given a ton of access to them through one-on-one training, and learned a LOT!
Again though, I found that there was – in this case – ONE person on the Team who stood out; Rob was a Level 4 [Master] Personal Trainer, and he was Premier-qualified. He had an aire of maturity and knowledge about him that made me realise that there was a reason he was the most sought-after Trainer in the Club. Granted, he was also a “Veteran” (in the sense that he’d been in the Industry for over fifteen years), so that “standing” also helped him earn a reputation as being one of the best in the City.
The pattern became obvious – Premier Global was (still is) the Gold Standard for Personal Training qualifications; and so, many years later – when I decided to finally pursue my passion for Health & Fitness – they would be who I would turn to in order to get the formal qualifications I needed to hold up my otherwise robust knowledge-base of Fitness.
Again, if you’ve read my first ever article – My Blog Post for TEDx Folkestone – then you’ll know that it was my stint with Type II Diabetes that led me to finally make the change (career-wise) and take the steps to becoming a Top Level Trainer.
So, after having lived in South Korea and Spain, I headed back to the UK, got a job working [Membership] Sales at Bannatyne Health Club, and used the income from that to finance my way through the Premier PT Courses.
Where some people go and enrol on the most basic course – “dip a toe in”, so to speak – I knew immediately that I was going “the whole hog”, so I laid down a sizable four-figure sum of cash and signed up for all the courses that would get me to Level 4: becoming not only [‘just’] a Personal Trainer, but a Specialist in Diabetes & Obesity. Cool thing was that in doing so, I had some nifty bonuses thrown in like: Circuits Trainer and Kettlebell Instructor Certifications to boot.
During my Level 2 & 3 courses, I kind of became something of a “secondary tutor” to my peers. We had one of the best Teaching Staff you could possibly ask for – Matt, Steve, Nikos and Shirley [at these Levels] were superb! However, for virtually 70+% of the people in the room, all the Anatomy/Physiology/Nutrition/etc was completely new to them. Meanwhile, I had accrued a fairly in-depth knowledge over the course of over a decade prior, so I would regularly offer to help teach [outside of class time]. Having been a Teacher in the past, this came really natural to me, but the best part was that it was passive revision for me, and I also proved to myself that I “knew my sh*t”.
The Muscle Manual was my perfect little “cheat sheet” for Anatomy – I frickin’ love this thing!
Passing with flying colours, I easily attained my Level 2 & 3 qualifications (again – keep in mind how many years I’d been learning all that stuff “just for fun”). So, then came Level 4…
One thing I’d already been aware of was the overwhelming MINORITY of Trainers who take the extra step up to becoming a Master Trainer / Specialist. Literally no-one from my former class went on to do any of the Level 4 specialisms (not just Diabetes & Obesity, but you also have: Low Back Pain, and Pre/Post Natal Exercise, for example). That’s not to say I was the only one of the course. No. There were a dozen or so others in this new group – a mere fraction of the number of those who complete Level 2 or 3. Typically in the Industry, less than 10% of Trainers will go beyond the Level 3 courses.
Fun fact: there is even “Level 5”, which has one focus – Life Coaching! However, this generally isn’t considered to be within the realms of Health & Fitness [strictly speaking]. For me, being a Master Trainer / Specialist is more than suffice! I’ll leave all the Life Coach “biz” to Tony Robbins & Co.
Anyhow, on the Level 4 course, my unique position in this class was that I was the only person who had actually experienced Diabetes (and being borderline Obese) in the past. Even our Teacher – Ian – was surprised to hear that, and he was really great at including me in the classes for my personal input/experience.
Level 4 was no joke! Facts, stats, case studies, physiology, contraindications, and more… ‘Intense’ doesn’t even cover it!
Not gonna lie though, the level of detail at this point was significantly greater than anyyyything at Level 2 or 3. Even “Level 3+” [as I call it] – the qualification you have to obtain *between* Level 3 and 4 – wasn’t this complex; the latter being where [on top of the “basics” you learn at Level 3] you also learn how to work with clients who have health complications such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Depression and Anxiety – among others.
So, I did it – I went through several months of working 16-24hrs (Fri-Sun) in Sales, while then commuting to London [from Folkestone] for class Mon-Thurs more or less as a “9-to-5”. Getting qualified was a huge achievement for me, and the best thing was knowing that as soon as [even just my ‘grades’] were in, I was poised to transfer over to the Fitness Team!
Now, I’ll tell you more about my experience with Bannatyne another time, but one thing that was great was having the opportunity to earn a couple more qualifications, which would actually benefit my [eventual] transition here – to the U.S.
One or two Group X certifications I did, fortunately, were accredited through NASM, and actually, as luck would have it, just last year, Premier Global officially partnered with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and so, now all of my qualifications hold up as being “Gold Standard” – not just in Europe and Australia, but now in America too!
After all, we live in a world [these days] where it’s all good and well to “know a lot” about a topic, but there’s just that extra peace of mind that comes with knowing that the person you’re hearing it from has either “been through it” (i.e. overcome the hardships and come out on top), [and/or] actually made the effort to acquire a formal education on the subject also!
One thing that came as a pleasant surprise just last week was to see that NASM are now [also] partnered with a company that I absolutely LOVE: Hylete … ‘Hy-lete’ is an amalgamation of the words “Hybrid-Athlete”, and they produce absolutely amazing sportswear! If you’ve been following my Instagram, you may notice that virtually all of my T-Shirts are Hylete ones (even the NASM one I have), and so are all the shorts I wear also… in fact, 90% of my sports-related wardrobe is Hylete!
I’ve followed the company since they first arrived on the scene, and later this year will (hopefully) be working with them (either as an Ambassador, Affiliate or in some other capacity). So, on that note – watch this space!
But anyhow, that’s how I became Premier-Forged, and NASM-Galvanized. I’m proud to have come up through the ranks with the help of their guidance and tutelage, and I advocate them whole-heartedly! So, if you’re thinking of getting into the Industry, I absolutely recommend checking out their [Premier/NASM’s] courses! The only gain/benefit I get from pointing you in their direction is knowing that there might be another top calibre Trainer (in You, maybe?) that arrives on the scene and helps drive the Health & Fitness space in the right direction: with integrity, superior knowledge, and a passion for helping people.
Guys and gals, I appreciate you reading this blog, and I hope you like reading these occasional personal stories that I throw out there. As ever, it is a pleasure writing for you, and I want to ensure that I fulfil my Mission Statement (as per my ‘About Me’ page): [to] Inform, Educate, and Inspire Change!
I’ll catch you in the next CXP *Fitness* post where we’ll be discussing… “Split Routines” and Full-Body Workouts.
In the meantime, remember to Train Hard, and Train Smart.
Yours in Training
Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO