In our new Realtalk Fitness series, we're sharing the realities of being a fitness instructor today. We know it takes a lot of effort to create a lasting career with a steady following, and we want to shed light on what it’s really like.

I've been in the fitness world for a long time as a former professional basketball player, coach, and trainer. Today, I am a Master Instructor at FlyWheel, am a Nike Master Trainer, and star on the show Work Out New York on Bravo. The job of personal trainer looks glamorous, but there's a lot of hard work behind that façade. Here are my best tips for how to turn your fitness dream into a reality:

1. Be your true self.

The most successful people are successful because they are authentic. People are drawn to authenticity. When I was starting my business, everyone was telling me to find a niche and, in the hope of being different, I kept looking in directions that weren’t authentic to who I was. I realized that what makes me different also makes me special. No one else can be me. When I focused on that, everything started to fall into place. I didn’t have to try to do or be anything other than who I am.

2. Run your business professionally.

If you were an attorney, an accountant, or a doctor, you would handle yourself in a professional manner, right? Do the same with your fitness business. If you are unsure how to write proper emails or cover letters, take a class and figure it out. You are your brand. Everything you do is your brand. Be on time, speak professionally, always represent yourself well.

3. Everything won't be perfect.

You will more than likely change your website, logo, business cards, and possibly even your training philosophy more than a few times. Paralysis by analysis is a real thing. One of my favorite sayings is “You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” Go for it, see how it feels, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. There is great power in the first steps.

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4. Set up an LLC or S corp.

The name of my corporation is twentynine inc. Why? Because I started it 12 years ago when I was 29 years old. Talk to your accountant (there’s another piece of advice: hire an accountant) about the tax benefits of operating your business this way. It’s exponentially beneficial.

5. If possible, teach group classes — they will lead to private classes.

I understand that group fitness is not everyone’s forte. If it’s not you, then it’s just not you (see tip #1). However, IF you have the chance to teach group classes, it will put you in front of several people at once. Inevitably some of these people will want you to train them privately. It’s a business model that works. Additionally, it can provide structure and a steady paycheck to your business as you grow.

6. Be humble.

Never call yourself a rock star; let other people do that for you. Humility goes a long way, not only in this industry but in life. To be at the top of your game and exercise humility is one of the most attractive qualities of people in any field. Remember, we all started somewhere.

7. Get inspired and be supportive.

These two things go hand in hand. Get out there and take other instructors’ classes. It’s refreshing to see how other instructors teach. We can learn from each other. When you realize there is enough for everyone out there, you will stop competing with everyone.

8. Never forget that this isn't really about you.

I hope you are in this business to change lives. If you aren’t, I’m not sure how long you will last or how successful you will be. If you are seeking fame for your success, it will be clearly apparent, but if you’re looking to change lives, your success and fame will manifest all on its own.

9. Have an end game in mind.

As a professional athlete, I knew that I had a shelf life. I knew it would all come to an end one day. I couldn't bear thinking about it, though. I had no idea what I wanted to do when my basketball career ended. I was devastated and unprepared when that day came.

As fitness professionals, we can get stuck in that same trap. We can’t teach classes for the rest of our lives. We can’t train 10 people a day for the rest of our lives. How can you personally monetize what you are doing by leveraging yourself? There are a ton of different ways to do that — from online training to product development. Take time to strategize your future. It’s important.

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Photo credit: iStock

Photo courtesy of the author


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