Let’s be honest, I am not your stereotypical personal trainer. I’m not cut or ripped or even within a normal BMI weight range. In fact, technically I’m obese. All of my parts jiggle, I hate running, and I’m constantly battling one ache or pain or injury or strain or some other physical ailment that requires me to modify certain movements on some (or all) days. But you know what? All of those things are what make me a fantastic trainer. All of those things are the reasons I became a trainer! Because I wanted to share my knowledge and first-hand experience of what it’s like to fight for a fit and active life in a body that feels uncomfortable.

I get asked a lot of question by others who are in my shoes, mostly women, who have been through what I’ve been through and who also want to help others achieve fitness goals regardless of looks and size. Every woman who has reached out to me has come with the same amount of personal insecurity, self-doubt and fear of judgement as the one before, so I thought I’d share some of the questions I get along with the answers I give in hopes that it will encourage you to reconsider your preconceived notions of what a trainer is and does and why you don’t have look the part to BE the part.

At what point did you get certified as a trainer?

When I registered for my training course I had lost a little over 100lbs and had been doing CrossFit for about 6 months. I was still very new to fitness but knew that I wanted others to feel as good as I did. At that point I was barely fitter than the average unfit population but I knew that I was only going to get stronger and better with time. During a conversation with my coach/mentor about this very topic, he told me, “You only have to be one step ahead of your clients in order to help them.” I took those words to heart and used them to help build my confidence in my ability to help others. So to answer your question, I was at a point where I knew I was better than I had been, getting better than I was, and ready to help anyone who wanted to be better than they were.

How long did it take you?

I took the full six months that were allow by my program…because I’m a procrastinator. I could have done it much faster if I had buckled down!

Where did you certify?

I am certified through AFPA. It’s one of the cheapest and easiest certs out there. For me, it’s just a title. My knowledge and experience comes from personal experience and lots of research on my own. Plus some really fantastic mentors.

How have people responded to you as a trainer?

I assume they respond well. My clients love me, and that’s what matters to me. If there are people who don’t think I’m not worthy or shouldn’t be a trainer, I couldn’t tell you who they are. I really do not give any power to negative people in any area of my life. I’m good enough at being my own worst enemy, and I’m the only one I can control, so that’s what I do. I just assume they all think I’m awesome, ’cause why not?

Do you actually have to be able to do a perfect burpee to be a great trainer?

Like I said above, my mentor told me that all I had to do to train others is be one step ahead of them. So no, you don’t have to be able to do a perfect burpee unless your clients want to learn how to do a perfect burpee, and even then, there are ways around it. If you’re a naturally good coach, you can coach others through HOW to do something, even if you can’t do it yourself. That being said, chances are your clients won’t need to know how to do a perfect burpee before you are able to do them yourself– but they may catch up quickly, so get working on those burpees!

In addition to being a certified personal trainer, I am also a certified CrossFit coach and there are many skills like handstand push-ups, pull ups and muscle ups that I can’t do myself  but I can coach the crap out of them!  Movements like those (or burpees) when taught in a group environment can be demonstrated by a client/athlete who has mastered the skill while you, as the coach/trainer explain how to do it.

Of course, one on one is different but my personal training clients come to me because they want to get where I am, not because they are better than me. I think this is usually the case no matter who the trainer is.

How do you get certified?

So here’s an interesting fact about personal training that you may not realize— it is completely self-governed! Meaning, there’s no national certification, accreditation or requirements to meet in order to become a certified personal trainer. Crazy, no? There are dozens of certification programs out there, some more respected than others, but in the end, everyone who meets the requirements of whatever program they go through gets the same initials, “CPT” after their name for certified personal trainer. Theoretically, I could start an I’mperfect Life Certified Personal Training Program and deem you worthy of the CPT title that you could then carry around with you, too. Hmm…maybe someday!

This isn’t a dis on certified personal trainers by any means (that’d mean I was dissing myself) but I hope that knowing this might make you feel less intimidated and more likely to research certifications programs, feeling more confident about pursuing this field.

Where should I get certified?

Knowing what I just told you, I think getting certified is a very personal decision. If you are a fitness buff, love fitness, read all things fitness, KNOW fitness– not just exercising/exercises but also how the body moves, SAFETY, some bio-chemistry, SAFETY, anatomy/physiology, SAFETY, and safety, AND you have a great mentor and/or circle of trainers that you trust who are willing to keep an eye on you so you and your clients stay SAFE, then an online self-study program is probably good. But if you’re new to fitness, haven’t learned how to adequately and SAFELY program training plans, don’t know the large and small muscle groups, understand the importance of working on stability and flexibility as much as strength and endurance, or don’t have a fantastic mentor or group of trainers who you can trust, then I would recommend a more hands-on program at local community college. I actually wish that I had done that. I think I would have felt far more confident than I did when I first started out.

I am very fortunate to have a few wonderful mentors who are constantly teaching me new things and challenging me to be a better trainer, but had I gone through a more structured program, I’d have struggled a lot less with my confidence when I first got certified.

Is there anything I should know before I consider getting certified?

You should know that there are many men and women out there who need you and more importantly, who WANT you! When you think back to what made you love fitness and what keeps you motivated to keep going, chances are it’s not some hard bodied trainer showing you how awesome they were. More than likely it was YOU realizing what your body could do and learning that you have the power to make it even better. That’s what clients NEED. They don’t need someone to show off for them, they need someone who can make them feel good– physically, mentally and emotionally. They want a trainer who understands where they are, how hard it is to get up and down, on and off the floor. They need someone who will believe in them when they can’t do it for themselves, someone who will keep them safe, someone who won’t give up on them when they feel like they have failed. As a non-stereotypical trainer, YOU can be that person.

If your fear of being judged or looked down upon by others is what’s holding you back, I strongly encourage you set all of that aside and only consider the VALUE that YOU have to offer. Be proud of who you are and where you’ve been, and know that all of those things are what will make you the BEST trainer for YOUR clients.

Never let others, or more importantly what you THINK others might say about you, determine what you do. Do what’s in your heart. That’s where true happiness is.

Have you considered becoming a CPT but are afraid to take the leap?  What’s holding you back? Tell me in the comments below!