How to Become a Personal Trainer with an Endurance Training Specialty

Personal training is often a rewarding career for fitness buffs and exercise enthusiasts. This lucrative field allows you to turn your fitness quest into a satisfying form of employment. It also gives you the opportunity to help others meet their personal and professional exercise goals.

Some trainers specialize in teaching groups of people in small or large classes. Others specialize in personal training. Personal instructors work one-on-one with their clients. Their duties include developing individualized workout plans. They also include safely guiding their clients’ journeys toward improved general fitness and specific training goals.

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Personal trainers often choose to focus their businesses on specific types of training. One of the most sought-after specialties is endurance training. Instructors who work in this area help their clients maximize their exercise performance in a range of ways. Improved performance can help recreational athletes meet their targets for fun, health and well-being. It can also help serious athletes win competitions or meet other professional goals.

Personal endurance trainers make some of the highest salaries in the fitness instruction industry. As a whole, personal instructors make an average of almost $57,000 a year. Income varies from case to case, but it’s not unreasonable to set your sights high.

Interested in becoming a personal trainer who specializes in endurance training? Let’s look at some of the steps you need to take to make that goal an achievable reality.

What Do Personal Endurance Trainers Do?

Personal trainers with an endurance specialty serve clients who want to increase their athletic endurance. Endurance athletes get their name from their ability to endure rigorous exercise for extended periods of time. That includes coping with fatigue and pain. It also includes coping with other stresses placed on the heart, lungs and muscles.

When clients undergo endurance training, they can improve their level of performance in a variety of sports. A short list of these sports includes long-distance running, soccer, basketball, swimming, skiing and snowboarding. Proper endurance training is also essential for “extreme” athletes. People in this category take part in triathlons and other highly rigorous competitions.

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Types of Training Approaches

To provide effective assistance to their clients, endurance-oriented personal trainers must gain a wealth of detailed knowledge. That includes the ability to conduct different types of training. Widely used training approaches include:

  • Slow-Distance – This form of training is designed to help clients sustain a slow pace for long periods of time. It’s particularly favored by athletes who run marathons. The same holds true for bicyclists who race long distances. In addition, personal trainers often use the slow-distance approach with beginner endurance athletes of all kinds.
  • Interval – During interval training, your clients work at max effort for relatively short periods of activity. In between bursts of activity, they rest and recover. Due to their intensity, sessions of this type of training don’t typically last for long.
  • Pace-Tempo – This form of training requires athletes to work just a bit harder than they would in competition. They offset this increase in intensity by shortening the duration of their activity. The end result is an improvement in overall energy availability.
  • Repetition – Runners often use this form of training to improve the economy of their body movements. It also delivers improvements in running speed. During repetition training, athletes repeatedly work at a very high level of exertion. Between each short period of exercise, they take longer breaks to rest and recuperate.

Personal endurance trainers may also offer something called Fartlek training. This approach combines other common training techniques. It has two main advantages. First, it helps your clients steer clear of boredom during their workouts. In addition, it works all of the body’s vital systems.

Designing Training Programs

Endurance trainers must take a range of factors into account when designing programs for their clients. Perhaps the most treasured objective for the typical endurance client is improving the lactate threshold. This term describes the level of exertion an athlete can reach before releasing high amounts of lactate into the bloodstream. (Many people believe that increased lactate levels lead to muscle soreness.)

To help their clients reach this goal and other objectives, trainers must plan carefully. Necessary steps include:

  • Paying careful attention to individual client factors such as weight, age and prior exercise experience
  • Creating a plan that produces desired results without increasing injury risks
  • Creating a plan that aims for gradual improvement of client endurance
  • Accounting for the unique training capacities and deficits of each client

Education for Personal Endurance Trainers

In today’s world, science provides us with extensive information on what happens to the body during exercise. This reality places a significant educational burden on anyone hoping to work as an endurance trainer. To do your job properly, you must have a firm grounding in the current state of knowledge. You must also update your knowledge periodically to remain up-to-date.

To gain the necessary background, most would-be trainers seek a degree in certain fields of expertise. A variety of college or university majors can fit the bill. Common examples include:

  • Exercise physiology
  • Kinesiology (body movement and mechanics)
  • Exercise science
  • Fitness management
  • Health management
  • Sports medicine

Each of these majors can help you gain knowledge in critical areas. For an endurance trainer, such areas include:

  • Biomechanics (the structure, movement and function of the human body, including cells, organs and the body as a whole)
  • Chemistry
  • Human anatomy
  • Human physiology

Your coursework should also introduce you to other key topics. These topics include sports injuries, sports injury management and sports-related diseases. They also include general physical fitness, basic nutrition and sports nutrition.

You can work as a trainer without a degree. However, the right credentials can greatly enhance your odds of finding clients. Some endurance trainers get a two-year associate degree in their chosen field. Others enroll in a full four-year bachelor’s degree program.

Certification for Personal Endurance Trainers

After graduating from an associate or bachelor’s program, you’re well on your way to working as an endurance trainer. However, if you want to stand out from other trainers, your work isn’t done. Top trainers combine their scholastic background with some form of advanced certification.

The certification process offers specialized knowledge for training professionals. This knowledge distinguishes them as experts in their field. When seeking help, many clients only want the best. That means finding a trainer with advanced certification. If you possess this certification, you’ll increase your chances of finding fulfilling, high-paying work.

Certifying Bodies

In the U.S., a number or organizations offer certification for endurance trainers. A brief list of these organizations includes:

  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • National Exercise and Sports Trainer Association (NESTA)
  • United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA)
  • American Fitness Professionals Association (AFPA)
  • USA Triathlon
  • American Sports and Fitness Association (ASFA)

All top programs hold accreditation from the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). This accreditation serves as an independent check on the quality of the offered programs. Look for it when choosing your certification source.

Types of Certification

Personal endurance trainers can take a general or specialized approach to certification. Generalists choose programs that cover a range of training topics. Specialists choose programs that focus narrowly on specific sports or forms of competition. Of course, you can choose to obtain both forms of certification. In fact, many trainers hold multiple advanced credentials.

The name of the certificate you hold will depend on the type of coursework you pursue. Common titles include such things as:

  • Certified personal trainer
  • Running instructor
  • Triathlon instructor
  • Ultra-running instructor
  • Cycling instructor
  • Sports conditioning specialist
  • Functional training specialist

Program Formats

Today, most certification programs offer online coursework. Once you complete this coursework, you must take an exam. Only people who receive acceptable scores on their exams will gain certification. In addition to online classes, various programs may use teaching formats such as:

  • Hard-copy study guides or textbooks
  • Downloadable study guides or textbooks
  • DVDs and other forms of audio/visual media

Seeking Work as an Endurance Trainer

Now that you’ve obtained your advanced credentials, it’s time to find work. A large percentage of personal trainers work for themselves. That’s true even for trainers affiliated with larger companies that hire them as independent contractors. With this in mind, you’ll need to take a proactive approach to launching your trainer career. Potential strategies for breaking into the industry include:

  • Providing free introductory training for new clients
  • Networking at trade shows and personal trainer seminars
  • Signing on to an organization as a volunteer consultant

As you gain experience, you’ll feel more confident in your new career. You’ll also improve your profile as a serious, knowledgeable professional. Many trainers discover that their careers take off when they find their special corner of the larger market. That corner may be a particular sport. It may also be a particular age group or training approach.

Some trainers work as full employees of gyms, health clubs or other facilities. These professionals benefit from the infrastructure provided by their employers. Nevertheless, as a full employee, you must still be concerned about promoting yourself to your clients. This will help you keep your training roster full. It can also improve your standing with your employer.