Trying to Make It in the Fitness Biz? Take This Advice From Nina Dobrev’s Trainer

Fitness instructors get to work out all day and have plenty of time to cook healthy meals thanks to their flexible schedules—so they’re basically getting paid to be in the best shape of their lives, right?

Not so fast. According to Lissa Bankston, former Reebok athlete and Nina Dobrev's personal trainer, that's one of the biggest misconceptions about working in the fitness business, and one you'll need to put the kabosh on if you're thinking about getting into the biz yourself.

"For the most part, fitness professionals have crazy hours that are 100% full on hustle," says Bankston. "You have to schedule and plan your workouts just like you do your clients or they will never happen."

To help you get a better idea of what it's really like to work as an instructor or trainer, we teamed up with ReebokONE—Reebok’s exclusive trainer loyalty program designed to support the career development of fitness pros—and got the lowdown from Bankston.

Whether you're trying to turn your status as your friend group's "fit friend" into a side hustle, or want to upgrade your current side hustle into a full blown career (or are just curious how your favorite instructor makes it work), Bankston is dishing the secrets that’ll make life on the mic as simple as savasana.

Wondering how to become a personal trainer? Here are Bankston's 3 tips for kickstarting a fitness career.

how to become a personal trainer

1. Authentically network

You've heard the career adage "it's all about who you know," but Bankston—who now works as director of human performance at Theragun—would argue it's more about why you know them. "There is a huge difference between traditional networking and authentic networking," she explains.

"Traditional networking is where you seek out relationships that will ultimately benefit you in some way. Authentic networking deals with your genuine desire to surround yourself with like-minded people and grow in a relationship with these people."

So instead of seeking out relationships centered around a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" proposition, make a point to connect with people who you genuinely find interesting and inspiring. "If the [result of] growing this relationship happens to mutually benefit you, bonus!" she says.

2. Set boundaries and stick to them

This piece of advice applies to all areas of your life, but especially if you're in the fitness realm, where schedules are notoriously fluid. "How you prepare for and manage those hours will be what keeps you sane," Bankston says.

A few of her must-set boundaries include setting "business hours" (the only time when clients should expect answers to texts and calls), setting a cancellation policy (which will ensure clients cancel less often), and taking downtime and vacation (don't feel guilty about napping or otherwise setting aside time for yourself, Bankston advises). Establishing these boundaries and then following through on them will encourage your clients to take you seriously and respect your time, so you avoid burnout.

how to become a personal trainer

3. Seek education like it's your job

Despite what you see on Instagram (ahem, workout videos galore), the training portion of being a fitness professional is actually a very small part of the job. The more important piece, according to Bankston, is the work you put in outside the gym.

"Your knowledge itself and your ability to know your lack of knowledge in an area will be what separates you from the pack," she says. "Your knowledge is your power."

Her advice is to use seminars and certifications to educate yourself on as many fitness-related subjects (think nutrition, recovery, injury prevention, sleep, hormones, and stress) as possible—all of which you can access via ReebokONE as you work your way up the tiers in the loyalty program. The more knowledgable you are, the better equipped you'll be to help your clients succeed.

"Hands down the best part about being a trainer is getting to help someone, but usually in ways you never see coming," Bankston says. "Being part of someone else's success and knowing exactly how hard they worked to get there is an indescribable feeling."

In partnership with Reebok

Photos: Lissa Bankston

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