Finding new and innovative ways to sharpen our professional skill set and stay abreast of new developments, research, and training techniques is essential in the rapidly evolving field of fitness. This is hard to accomplish when the work schedule personal trainers and other fitness professionals keep is demanding and dynamic. Being a professional in the fitness industry is challenging – especially if you are new or semi-new to it.

Professional skills are built over time and with a commitment to learning best practices. When does a personal trainer have time to train clients and think about how to expand a professional skill set? Truthfully, this is an easier puzzle to solve than it appears. Just as you make efforts to infuse client workout programs with innovative ideas, apply the same concept when it comes to your professional growth.

A Personal Trainer’s Toolbox

You have a variety of exercise equipment available to you for every training client session. Don’t overlook the less obvious and tangible tools you have in the workplace to help you strengthen your unique skills that will endure for your career.


One of the best ways to learn is by example – be it a good or not so good example. Seek out the more experienced fitness professionals in your studio, gym, or region and ask to shadow or interview him or her. Mention that you are committed to building a better skill set through mentoring opportunities. In my 15-year career as a fitness professional, I have rarely seen another professional in the field deny a new professional mentoring. It happens but is more the rule than the exception. Take a chance and ask the question.

Business Sense

If you work for a studio or gym/center, ask your supervisor if you could learn about the back-end business operations. It isn’t enough to simply know the business; you need to know how the business runs and what it takes to “keep it in the black”. This also demonstrates initiative and commitment to the organization for which you work.

Seek Out Contrasting Views and Philosophies

Contrasting views exist everywhere and often times we are too quick to write them off or become offended if that view point doesn’t “jive” with our own. Before judging, take the time to think about how someone’s contrasting or conflicting perspective might help you grow and/or reaffirm your own philosophy and value system. Discourse and conflict are both positive when they are used to share perspective rather than belittle.

Take A New Class from Another Pro

It’s amazing how we seem to know our colleagues in such a limited fashion. We generally know what they do, but we don’t always know how they do it. Attend a group fitness class or workout session from another trainer or instructor. You might learn some new techniques and experience a renewed sense of enthusiasm.


college class

Check out local community colleges and universities for adjunct teaching opportunities. Most schools (especially those in rural states) starve for qualified instructors to teach physical activity classes or additional sections of wellness or exercise science-related didactic classes. Nothing helps to broaden a skill set, soften edges, and sharpen a vision quite like time spent in a classroom setting.

Take an Intern

Once you get your feet on the ground and feel comfortable, volunteer or advertise internship opportunities for students or aspiring personal trainers. We grow by helping others do the same.

Volunteer for a Challenge

I’m not suggesting you volunteer to represent your organization in the local 5K event. What I am suggesting is volunteering for a challenging project or task your supervisor may have in the pipeline. This demonstrates leadership qualities and helps you learn the various aspects of project management and implementation.

Get Social

I would be remiss in my duties as an educator if I didn’t highlight the “necessity” of social media. While technology has – in some ways handicapped the human race – it has also paved the way for networking and free marketing opportunities. Seek out known experts in your field of study and follow them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, etc.

Many fitness professionals share ideas, opportunities for conferences or events, advice, etc. Also, if they have an email address listed, write to them. Most of us will respond with unassailable enthusiasm at the opportunity to help someone else overcome barriers along the professional journey.

Do What Scares You

We all have things that scare us – be it spiders, clowns (ha ha), or – the dreaded – public speaking engagement. Whatever it is, work on it. If public speaking is what sends your anxiety through the roof – start small by giving a lunch and learn to a small group of employees, then move upward as your comfort level increases. It works, I promise.

Take it from someone who gets it – I used to hide under the dinner table during my birthdays because I couldn’t stand being the center of attention or people watching me. I’m a college professor and I present inside and outside the classroom on a daily basis. If I can do it, so can you.

There are a thousand little ways to grow as a professional and as a person, so get out there and adult like you’ve never adulted before! You’ll be surprised at how your evolution leads to significant changes in your career.


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Erin Nitschke

Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother, and passionate fitness professional. She has over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and college instruction. Erin believes in the power of a holistic approach to healthy living. She loves encouraging her clients and students to develop body harmony by teaching focused skill development and lifestyle balance. Erin is also the Director of Educational Partnerships & Programs for the NFPT. Erin is an editorial author for ACE, IDEA, The Sheridan Press, and the Casper Star Tribune. Visit her personal blog at belivestaywell.com