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Internal Training Programs Help Retain Personal Trainers

Ann Gilbert, director of fitness for Shapes Total Fitness for Women, leads a team of more than 350 fitness professionals. She is a well-known presenter and has received the IHRSA/ACE Trainer of the Year award. For the past 10 years, Gilbert has served as a faculty board member for the Shapes Academy, an internal educational resource for continuing education. She can be reached at

Owners and fitness managers agree that people drive the success of the fitness business. Thus, most owners find that the benefits of developing an internal educational resource for personal trainers outweigh the challenges they face in implementing the program. The motives to start a club’s internal training program include more effective recruiting, a balance in staff retention and the increase in expected revenue from an educated and confident training professional.

Here are steps to establishing an internal training program:

  1. Recruit More Than Just Students. Establish an accredited faculty by recruiting professionals from your local area to teach regularly throughout the year. The professionals will provide credits for the nationally certified trainer and creditability to the club’s programming. Ask that the faculty members teach a block of fundamental courses throughout the yearly schedule. The fundamental courses will be the required training sessions. Fill in the training program’s schedule with visits from national presenters and educators. The trainers will appreciate knowing what courses are scheduled throughout the year, will plan accordingly and will be empowered to attend more than just the required or fundamental sessions. Most club owners invest in the education of their training staff and waive a fee for the required or fundamental courses while charging a minimal fee for outside presenters.
  1. Set The Stage. When rewriting a policy and procedure that includes attendance at internal training sessions, set the stage by introducing the education options as opportunities for furthering one’s training career. Spell out all the benefits of regular attendance, including new and innovative programming for clients, safer and more effective workouts for members and the opportunity to get any needed credits right at home. Communicate the options to your trainers monthly in your employee e-newsletter and advertise within the club to assure you are inviting all potential new hires to attend. Empower the professionals to attend more than just the required training sessions by offering wage adjustments or incentives.
  1. Assess the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Training Team. Once you have found the accredited faculty, visualized the schedule and educated the training staff on the benefits of having the internal training available, assess the strengths and weaknesses of the present training team to assure success. Address the certification needs and who may want more credits or practical demonstrations on new equipment, industry trends, sales or customer service. Once the weaknesses are found, the fundamental course lineup can be designed.
  1. Recruit and Retain a More Creditable Training Staff. Recruiting trainers with a gym background is a challenge for owners and managers. Data shows many trainers come on board with little or no experience in the club setting. Most are in need of practical work and mentoring to grow into the self-confident, revenue producer that owners and management want. Club owners who offer a course about launching into the fitness business have a clear advantage in recruiting and staff retention. The experience should include internship and shadowing opportunities. Upon completion of a training internship, new trainers are given direction as to which courses in the internal training program are the most appropriate for career growth. This process of launching and mentoring clearly means more of a commitment to the club, more embracing of the mission by the training staff and a more confident trainer on the floor promoting the club’s brand.
  1. Your Next Superstar Trainer Is Working Out in Your Club Today. The renewing member, the regular in the front row of the group fitness class or the client who continues to see great results is likely to be your next personal trainer and a perfect recruit for your internal training program. The recruit clearly understands the level of professionalism expected, embraces the club’s programming and lives the mission of the facility. By opening the internal training program options to the public and membership base, owners and managers are assured of a constant stream of new professionals coming on board.
  1. Reap the Benefits of the Internal Training Program. Members ask for three things: more educated trainers, high standards of customer service and knowing that staff is willing to introduce the newest trends and innovative training options. Owners and managers with trainers who focus on these three needs are seeing the membership base spend more, talk more and stay longer.
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