I just got my hands on an article from late 2005 from the New York Times and it was pretty shocking. What’s the main point of the article? Personal Training isn’t your usual job – it can’t be bound by the confines of a gym, can’t be punched in a clock, and your heart is the only qualification you need.

The main trainer focused in the article was Juris Kupris. Juris is the prototype Top-Level Trainer; visiting his web-site, you’ll notice absolutely impeccable personal marketing and image management. Let’s sing his praises for a bit:

  • He’s used the media to establish himself as a fitness expert (takes some dedication, but fairly simple)
  • Focused on a target market that can deliver a high return in terms of training usage and high-value referrals
  • Has branched into other sources of income other than hourly sessions (he’s released a DVD collection)

For every media-darling trainer like Juris, there are dozens you’ll never hear or read about that are doing the same thing: earning a high income from training a small list of high level clients. As a matter of fact, I’ve done it for years, and once you understand the mind-set and techniques that go into marketing yourself as a top fitness consultant, it’s actually quite easy; the only thing separating you is the decision to do it.

But being a TLT isn’t all work – that’s not what this business is about at all. Another point made clear by the article, a key to being a Top-Level Trainer, is lifestyle. Juris spends time at the luxury residences of his clients, and lives a very trendy New York lifestyle himself (that’s a picture of him with socialite and PR diva Lizzy Grubman; he’s also a Lizzy client). I too have visited some amazing locals in my young life and hobnobbed with celebs thanks to this job.

Another part of lifestyle is schedule and location. Even a suit like Graham Melstrand, the director of educational services for the American Council on Exercise, had this to say: “an opportunity (exists) for the well-qualified fitness professional to move beyond the traditional boundaries of fitness programming in the health club setting.” Translation: if you know what you’re doing, you make your own rules.

Salary was also mentioned in the article, and for all of the trainers featured, minimum $1,000 day rates are the norm. Not only is the work pleasurable (it can’t honestly be called work at all), but it pays well and gives you tons of time to focus on your other pursuits or just have fun!

But you don’t get paid for just showing up; I think that’s what too many new trainers think, and they’re in for a rude awakening. Being attentive and providing outstanding service to your clients is a must in this business. But what does that mean exactly? I think I’m the first person to ever throughly explain what this really is and how to do it; there are actual field-tested processes you can build in to your training sessions that will guarantee that they’re of the highest quality possible, and I detail these in the TLT Manual.

According to his website, Juris’ only two formal qualifications are an ACE certification and WITS accreditation; the former can be acquired over a weekend, the latter in a day. What really sets Juris apart is his belief in himself and his focus on his clients. That’s what’s really remarkable about this career. Unlike other jobs, where your success depends on where you went to school and other credentials, in this business you’re judged on just you.

This is both liberating and scary at the same time. It means that you can’t just show up and punch a clock to earn a paycheck. You’re not guaranteed a single client or a steady income. But it also means that as you get better, so will your salary; you decide your own worth. Your personal attributes, things like your personality, confidence, and fitness knowledge, are all anyone will ever judge you on.

If you feel like killing your high-school guidance counselor you’re not alone; I spent almost 8 years trying to get a degree in a go-nowhere career until I committed myself to Personal Training. Millions of other people are victims of the same lie, and are doomed to lives of dissatisfying work and hopeless mediocrity. I’m thankful that I got my awakening in a worthwhile career like Personal Training. Many more people in other career tracks are realizing the same thing: that you can control your own destiny here and now.