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Personal Training Seen As Boom Business In Next Five Years

By Tracy Kershaw-Staley
Dayton Business Journal

When Karen Siebert began her career as a personal trainer three decades ago, most clients wanted to muscle up or slim down.

Today she encounters clients with a different motivation: to get healthy.

That change is helping fuel a boom in the personal training business. Baby boomers are seeking trainers as they look to keep active, lower their resting heart rate or lower their cholesterol, she said. The rising number of boomers, along with people searching for solutions to the country's growing obesity epidemic, is making personal training a lucrative career, industry observers say.

"More people are hiring trainers for the reasons of good health -- not to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger," said Siebert, athletic director at the Dayton Racquet Club. "I think that's why personal training is growing."

The number of personal trainers is expected to grow by 46 percent by 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, which listed personal training as one of its top 15 most desirable fields in which to work.

And with growing awareness of the country's ever expanding waistline, more people are signing up for gym memberships and being exposed to the possibility of personal training. Many gyms offer free or discounted sessions to lure members to pay for the training later on.

"Nine out of 10 times people will take advantage of that and continue," Siebert said.

The earning potential is strong. Most trainers can charge about $50 per hour. Working for a fitness club, the trainer takes home about $35 an hour after the club takes its share, said Fabio Comana, exercise physiologist with the San Diego-based American Council on Exercise, one of the largest and well-respected accrediting organizations for trainers.

Siebert said she earned the most when training people in their own homes. While lucrative, going to client's homes often creates an erratic schedule for trainers, she said. Now all but two of her clients are Racquet Club members who come to the gym to exercise.

"I found it was better to have one location," she said.

Personal trainers create and oversee workout routines for their clients. Instead of simply going to a gym and lifting weights, clients get personlized workouts catered to their specific phyiscal needs. Plus, personal trainers watch their clients and make sure they're following through.

Most trainers grow their clients by word-of-mouth marketing, said Scott Beeson, general manager of NeoLimits Fitness Inc.'s gym in Centerville, which has about a dozen personal trainers on staff. Once they show results with one client, others follow, he said.

"After a couple years, a personal trainer doesn't have to do a lot of advertising because they have a network of people," Beeson said.

Personal training has gone from a cottage industry -- Siebert started as an aerobics instructor at her church -- to a field requiring certification and continuing education. It's also become more specialized, with trainers marketing themselves as experts in golf conditioning or pilates.

Another factor driving the growth of the industry is how easy it can be to enter, Comana said.

It takes about a year to study and complete certification, he said.

Trainers also are benefiting from professionals such as Dan Fischer, president of Key Bank in Dayton, who want to fit exercise into their busy schedules.

Fischer has been working with a trainer for about five years. Since moving to Dayton in January, he started working with Siebert, whom he jokingly calls the "workout nazi."

He likes the variety and expertise that comes with working with a trainer.

"I'm a person who doesn't have a lot time," he said. "For me it works because it's a scheduled appointment."

© 2006 Dallas Business Journal

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