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Your step-by-step guide on how to become a fitness manager

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Fitness managers are professionals who are in the middle of the gym leadership hierarchy. They are supervisors to personal trainers but work under the senior management of the gym. The job outlook for fitness professionals has increased by 39% for the coming decade, which means many more jobs are opening up in this industry. 

This job outlook is much higher than in other industries. That’s why 2022 is a great time to become a fitness manager because you could have tremendous career growth in the future. 

Fitness managers can work in health clubs, fitness facilities, and gyms. But to become one, you need to get the required qualifications which are much more than what one needs to become a personal trainer. 

In this article, we’ll cover the job responsibilities of fitness managers and share a step-by-step guide you can follow to become a fitness manager. 

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What is a fitness manager? 

Fitness managers are high-ranking members in a gym’s management. Their roles and responsibilities include managing all fitness-related activities of the gym, such as overseeing equipment, fitness program designing, organizing group fitness classes, hiring and training staff, and so on. 

These professionals are vital for fitness businesses. That’s because not all gym owners have the proper certification to design fitness plans for the customers.  

The job description of fitness trainers includes the things we’ve mentioned above. Here are some of the other responsibilities of a fitness manager working in a health club: 

  • Train personal trainers and supervise the new staff to ensure that your gym can provide high-quality services to the clients. 
  • Interact with clients to learn more about their needs and experience with your gym and staff. Then use the information to design fitness classes. 
  • Some fitness instructors also work closely with clients to design exercise plans and provide fitness training to meet their fitness goals. They also conduct fitness assessments on new clients and pair them with appropriate personal trainers.
  • Maintain the fitness facility in top-notch condition so that it’s safe for all staff and clients. Also, ensure compliance with health and safety regulations. 
  • Recruit new personal trainers, yoga instructors, coaches, and other fitness-related staff. 
  • Manage the budget, marketing campaigns, deal with customer service issues and implement gym policies.  
  • Generate progress reports for the gym that show growth. 
  • Prepare work schedules for the staff and approve leave requests. 
  • Design workout programs and work with the fitness trainers to meet the monthly target revenue. 

What are the requirements to become a fitness manager? 

Education is an essential requirement to become a fitness manager. Here are some more things you need to check off if you’re training to be a fitness manager: 

  • A bachelors’ degree in a fitness-related field. (Some gyms also accept a high school diploma or GED, but that’s rare – especially with the increasing tightness on fitness regulations.)
  • Experience as a personal trainer is also helpful to have.
  • Excellent communication skills, organizational and management skills. 
  • Experience in sales or management is preferred even for rookie managers.
  • If you’ve specialized in a niche primarily related to health and wellness, then you’ll need the required certification from respective personal trainer certification bodies. 

Step by step guide to becoming a fitness manager 

Training to be a fitness manager can involve many steps. You can choose to pursue this career path after you’ve spent a few years as a personal trainer. Or you can decide on becoming a fitness manager after you’ve completed a bachelor’s degree in sports or exercise-related fields. 

Here’s a comprehensive guide you can follow to become a fitness manager: 

1. Become a personal trainer 

Fitness managers don’t necessarily have to be personal trainers. But most of them are. That’s because you can’t efficiently do your job unless you realize how personal training works and how to manage customers and their needs. 

To become a personal trainer, you can join training programs with only a high school diploma. Then get some experience working in different settings. 

2. Personal trainer certification 

You need to be certified to be a personal trainer. For that, you first have to identify the relevant certification program for yourself. Your options include the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), the National Council on Strength & Fitness (NCSF), the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). 

You can give the certification exam of any of these top-ranking institutions to become a certified personal trainer. It is also best to get first aid training and certification as well. This can be a valuable addition to your resume. 

Most gym owners prefer candidates with some level of first aid training. You will have noticed that if you’ve been in the industry for long enough or even if you’ve ever scrolled through the job descriptions of personal trainers or fitness managers. 

3. Get a bachelor’s or masters’ degree

You can become a personal trainer with a high school diploma and certification. But a fitness manager must have at least a bachelors’ degree in a subject closely related to training and exercise. Mostly, the degrees you can go for include kinesiology, sports medicine, exercise science, and such. 

Some fitness trainers also acquire a masters’ degree in the same or different discipline as their bachelor’s. But that number is small – 9.3%, whereas 68.2% of fitness trainers have a bachelor’s degree. 

Although a masters’ degree is not a prerequisite for being a fitness trainer, extra education can help you advance in your career. It can also be great for your clients because you can help them much more with your highly-refined expertise. 

4. Narrow down your niche 

Fitness managers can have specializations such as Pilates, aerobics, cardio, health, wellness, etc. You can even choose between being a fitness manager that works with clients one-on-one or in group classes as a group fitness instructor

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Narrowing down your niche can help build your authority and trust with your customers. Clients that are looking for specific experts will come to you. And they’ll know for a fact that you have the qualifications and the experience to help them with their fitness goals. 

A specific niche might also save your time because then you just have to develop specific workout templates. And interact with the same population of customers.

5. Find a health club to gain experience  

Once you have your personal trainer certification and a bachelor’s degree, you should start looking for a club manager job at a fitness facility. That’ll help you train to be a fitness manager. 

Here, you can gain experience managing fitness programs and designing programs for specialized classes and personal trainers. 

Experience can be a valuable asset for a fitness manager to have – especially if you can gain experience working at some bigger gyms. You should try to work in your niches, such as yoga, physical rehab, strength training, and athletic training, and so on. 

But if you’re just starting out then, you should avail any opportunity you can get to gain the experience you need.  

6. Polish your management skills 

This step is a continuation of the previous point. Gaining experience also means polishing your business management skills. As we said in the beginning, fitness managers are positioned between top gym management and personal trainers. Hence you need stellar management skills to be a great fitness manager. 

In some gyms, fitness managers are called general managers. That title change might also change some of your responsibilities. For instance, general managers perform many administrative functions, such as approving leave requests, working with the marketing teams, and handling complaints. 

So you could end up managing the fitness aspect of the gym as well as performing an administrative role. All of that requires you to have excellent business management skills. 

7. Find your rhythm 

Since you’ll be managing several aspects of the fitness business, you’ll have to decide what appeals to you the most. Some personal trainers enjoy creating personalized plans to meet their clients’ fitness goals. Others prefer to manage the facility as an administrator.

You’ll have to decide for yourself what you want to do. You can still create fitness plans for customers and have their personal trainers work on those with them. That way, you won’t have to be directly involved with the training. 

8. Continue learning 

Continuously learning and improving yourself is an essential part of being a fitness manager. New research is always going on in the fitness industry, and things change with time. A great fitness manager can keep up with the advances and prepare their fitness plans and designs accordingly. 

You owe it to your customers to be on the top of your game. For that, participate in online courses and gain Containing Education Units (CEUs). Be sure to find high-quality courses that match your specialty.  

Several personal training certifications require that you gain a certain number of CEUs every two years or so to recertify. The same goes for fitness managers who are actively training customers and participating in the planning of fitness classes for the gym. 

You can join either management-related programs or personal training-related ones – or both. The course materials in these online courses are designed to be concise to give you the exact information you need quickly. That way, you don’t have to spend too much time studying, but you still get all the current information that helps you become a better manager. 

In summary 

Becoming a fitness manager can be great. It’s the perfect job for fitness enthusiasts who love the management and administration side of running a business. This is also a step-up for most personal trainers who have to cut down on personal training hours because they get older and have less energy. 

The process of training for becoming a fitness manager is not complicated. You just have to know what niche you want to pursue and then get after it by acquiring the proper certification and degrees. 

Even if you’re the best in the business, you can still benefit from resources that make your job less stressful. Fitness management software can make it much easier for you to carry out your daily responsibilities. Here, you can conveniently manage group exercise templates and quickly create fitness program designs for your personal trainers and so on. 

It also streamlines the management of your gym or fitness facility. You can manage personal trainers’ schedules and generate revenue reports with a click. Check out our features page to learn more about how an automated system can better help you do your job! 

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Mehdi Elaichouni
Owner at Carpe Diem BJJ

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