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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Getting worked up over personal training

By Stephanie Wei
Special to The Toronto Sun

We've all seen them at our gyms: tanned, toned specimens of physical beauty, ready with a sunny smile and helpful advice on proper technique. Personal training is an increasingly popular career for people with an interest in fitness, but these days, it takes a lot more than a great physique to be successful.
Personal trainer Lucy Piekos, top, says you must develop your own style to be successful.

Winnie Talan, a Canadian Association of Fitness Professionals (Can-Fit-Pro) PRO Trainer and group exercise manager of recruitment for all Sports Clubs of Canada locations, says being a personal trainer requires education, an outgoing personality and the ability to market yourself.

"Many people starting out have the misconception that if the club is busy, they will get lots of clients," Talan says.

In reality, personal trainers have to be friendly and personable and take the initiative to talk to members. Talan, a personal trainer for nine years, currently teaches the Can-Fit-Pro course that certifies people as group fitness instructors. She says personal trainers "design customized workout programs tailored to the client's needs and goals." Typically, this involves going through a warm up, discussing injuries, medications, goals, limitations and time frame.

"A lot of new exercisers just want to get comfortable and learn how to do things properly in the weight room," she says. At the same time, there are also many athletes such as golfers who want to work on sport-specific areas. With the trend toward mind-body connections, many trainers are incorporating yoga and pilates techniques into fitness programs.
Personal trainer Winnie Talon says the job requires an outgoing personality, self-marketing and education.

"To become successful, you have to be unique and to develop your own style," says Lucy Piekos.

Piekos, who works at the Skyline Club and Bally's Total Fitness, is known for her enthusiastic and energetic approach to motivating her clients.

"You have to make it fun," she says. "If the client doesn't like it, they're going to give up."

At the same time, Piekos stresses that safety should be a priority at all times. "You want to be knowledgeable and creative in designing the program, but always safety conscious. There also has to be balance, you have to also make sure you aren't missing components such as stretching or nutrition."

These days, most health clubs require trainers to be certified by either the Canadian Personal Training Network, Can-Fit Pro or the American Council on Exercise.

While each certification has specific requirements, they generally include either classroom instruction or at-home study material, theory and practical exams.

While Talan says a related degree also helps, these days it's more about personality.
Lucy Piekos shows a client proper technique on weight equipment.

"You have to be bold and outgoing," Talan says. "You have to be knowledgeable about exercise science and open to learning about different training styles, but it's also about reading the client and the bond that forms with the client."

Talan encourages fitness enthusiasts who are interested in becoming personal trainers to get personal training themselves to learn the client's perspective. As many personal trainers are self-employed or work freelance, Talan says it is also important to understand the business and marketing aspects.

Piekos recommends becoming more educated about fitness to make sure you like it. She advises new personal trainers to be aware of clients' needs.

"When I started out, I had to learn that people have different needs," Piekos says. "Make sure you design programs specifically for your clients."

Like many female personal trainers, both Talan and Piekos started out as group fitness instructors. While Piekos enjoyed it, she felt that she could do more.
The Canadian Association of Fitness Professionals

The Canadian Personal trainers Network

American Council on Exercise

"I felt I could make a difference. People would stay after class and asked lots of questions, so I studied and read a lot on fitness. As a trainer, my clients are my motivation. I feel that I'm a role model for my clients, and that's what inspires me to work harder. Fitness is my life, and I love it."

Piekos has made it her mission to encourage women toward weight training. "A lot of women say they don't want to get big, or they're intimidated by the weight rooms. If they spend a few sessions with a personal trainer, they will gain confidence and know more than the average person in the weight room."

Talan had worked through law school as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, and chose a career in fitness over law. "It's much more rewarding," she says. "You're there to help people feel better about themselves. At the end of the day, that 'thank you' is just golden."

(Write Toronto-based freelancer Stephanie Wei at (

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