Get Paid to Get Fit

Become a certified exercise professional.

Natalie Hollingshead Sep 1, 2017

When it comes to exercise, getting started is often the hardest part. On the internet, in magazines and on Pinterest, you’ll find dozens of tricks and hacks that experts say can motivate you to get moving: Find an accountability partner, lay out your gym clothes the night before, keep an exercise journal, pay into a weight-loss challenge. But a less-talked-about trick of the trade is to join the trade — that is, to become a certified exercise professional and get paid to go to the gym.

Selling Certification

You don’t have to have rock-hard abs or a marathoner’s endurance to be a fitness pro. But if you want to be taken seriously and run your own business or get hired at a health club, rec center, gym, or private studio, you’ll need to be certified.

Luckily, most certifications don’t require an extensive background in fitness or nutrition (such as a bachelor’s degree in exercise science) to enroll in their courses and programs. And there is a huge spectrum of certification options available, from one-day on-site trainings in specialties like Zumba or Spinning to more intensive and time-consuming programs for yoga or personal training. Nearly all exercise specialties require a written test before you’re officially certified, plus ongoing continuing education to make sure you’re up on the latest research and trends. The cost can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands.

Working Out

The road to certification is different for everyone. Sometimes it’s a simple evolution from starting an exercise regime that turns into a passion.

Rachel Gainer’s interest in fitness and nutrition was sparked by a personal journey that began eight years ago. The Highland, Utah, mother of four began working with a trainer and mentor to get more fit, sharing her journey on Instagram (@rachel_rebuilt). She quickly gained a following.

“As I started sharing more, I wanted to have the certifications to give me a little more legitimacy, to feel like I’d actually gone through the right processes to share those things,” Gainer says.

Two years ago, she signed up for rigorous personal trainer certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and completed an additional fitness nutrition specialty course. Now she offers online training through her website, Her education has led to a more well-rounded view of what fitness really means, and she passes that knowledge on to her clients.

“Training definitely motivates me to be healthier but not necessarily to live up to some specific physical ideal of what is healthy,” Gainer says. “It helps me have a more healthy lifestyle, be in a healthy mental state in my relationship with food, and exercise in a balanced, sustainable way that leads to long-term benefits. Becoming a trainer has become more about being able to share what I’m passionate about and how it’s changed my attitude and my life.”

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