Careers advice

What skills are needed to be a personal trainer in NZ?

Let’s get your job application in shape.

If fitness is your thing, it doesn’t get a whole lot better than being paid to do your hobby! And given that us Kiwis are such a sports-mad bunch, there’s usually no shortage of demand for personal trainers in New Zealand.

But if you want to land a job as a personal trainer, you’ll need to bring a whole lot more to the table than a good 10km time – this is a mutli-faceted career that will test you in many different ways. So what skills are needed to be a personal trainer? Let’s take a look.

Personal trainer job skills

1. Technical knowledge

If you’re going to effectively train your clients and help them reach their individual fitness goals, you’ll need to understand how the human body works, and be able to apply that knowledge to each individual who comes to see you.

You’ll also need a working knowledge of all the equipment available in the gym space you use, as well as the health and safety protocols in operation. On that note, you’ll also need a health and safety certificate – hopefully you’ll never need to put this knowledge into practice, but gyms are potentially dangerous places, and you need to be prepared.

Finally for this point, you’ll also need almost inexhaustible energy. Your last client of the day will expect the same commitment and drive as your first, so you’ll need to keep those energy levels high.

You'll need to be tailor your programmes to individual clients.

2. Nutrition knowledge

You’ll probably find your clients coming to you for advice on what they should be eating to complement the work you’re putting in in the gym.

As well as the basics, you’ll need to be up-to-date on the latest research on nutritional health. However, it’s also important to understand the position of responsibility this puts you in. You can't just recommend the latest fad diet without fully understanding the research behind it – eating is such an important part of health, you need to be confident that what you’re recommending is right for the person seeking help.

3. Emotional intelligence

People come to personal trainers for all sorts of reasons. Some of your clients might simply be looking for a leg up with their fitness goals, some may be trying to recover from injuries or illnesses that have been holding them back and impacting their mental health. Others may also be facing serious body confidence issues, which will require understanding and ultimate professionalism.

Another reason why it’s so important that personal trainers master emotional intelligence is that you’ll need to motivate people on a daily basis. Let’s face it, we’ve all had days where we’re not feeling like pushing ourselves as hard as we could, but, as a personal trainer, it’s your job to snap them out of that mindset and get them back on track. Crucially, not everyone responds to the same types of pep talk, so you’ll need to tailor your approach based on the individual client.

4. Expectation management

In some ways, this is the opposite to a lack of motivation. Some clients will be so amped up to start working towards their fitness goals that they’ll want to see results immediately. As a personal trainer, you’ll know this isn’t the way it works, and it means you’ll need to set expectations from the start.

A big part of this is understanding your client’s individual goals, and communicating a clear timeframe for achieving them. A good tactic here is to set a number of smaller goals along the way to the overall objective so that your customer still feels a sense of achievement while they’re working through your program.

You'll need to understand your clients' goals while also managing their expectations.

5. Business and marketing skills

Many personal trainers work on an arrangement with a gym or workout space in which they’re responsible for bringing in their own clients, and then some of their takings go to the gym.

While this isn’t the only way to work as a personal trainer, if you do go down this route, you’ll need to know how to bring in new clients, retain those that you already have, and also be able to deal with the finances. When it comes to the marketing side of things, a lot of this today will be done through social media, so being savvy with tech will certainly help you here.

6. Time management

Given that you’ll be training multiple people a day, time management is another useful skill to include on a personal trainer’s CV. It’s very common for fitness conscious professionals to visit their personal trainer before work, or even on their lunch break – so they won’t thank you if you’re not running to schedule.