Monday, February 22, 2010

Can Trainers Over the Age of 50 Succeed?

Question: Would like to see you blog on older people becoming personal trainers and what types of things they should focus on. By older I mean someone just starting around 50 years old.

Thanks enjoy your blog!

Answer:  I actually get many inquiries on people starting a career in personal training "mid-life". For whatever that phrase means, I guess they refer to someone not going to college and receiving a degree and ultimately, starting a career in a gym setting and so on, so forth. To address your request,  the baby boomer's of today will be searching for fitness professionals of all ages, and most qualified. If there is one thing I have learned working with seniors (65+) is they are willing to shell the money if you can show them that you can help them in a positive manner. If they buy what you are selling,  they will work with you and they will tell their friends.
Strength Training for Seniors: How to Rewind Your Biological ClockMost clients (not just seniors), purchase with their emotions. Most want to TRUST who they are selling their hard earned money to, and they tend to trust those that they can RELATE to. Finding commonalities in people is nothing new in regards to a career and sales, but for seniors, finding someone that can relate to them is of the utmost importance. Why? As we age, the body undergoes many physiological changes and for many seniors, it is a concerning period in their lives. Some prefer older fitness professionals that they feel can relate to them and their needs. Others prefer younger fitness professionals that can provide a spark or bring vigor to their day. Some seniors simply prefer companionship.
Working with the older population, there are different parameters to focus on. With the physiological changes a senior experiences, a fitness professional may have to address several issues with senior clients including:
Loss of balance
Loss of strength
Medical Conditions
Orthopedic joint replacements
Beginning a personal training career later in life is perfectly normal and acceptable. The need for educated and caring professionals is abundant. The commonality of successful professionals is good customer service. If you provide your clients with a quality service, friendliness, and results, you will succeed.


  1. Good post John. I entered the personal training field when I was 47. I left a full time Nursing position to open my own studio. I think age is not as much as issue as education and knowing your "stuff". One advantage I have learned is that a lot of clients that are over 40 themselves really appreciate having a trainer that is a little older. Some older clients really don't want to work with the young spandex clad trainers - but then all comes down to professinalism, doesn't it. But that is a whole other subject.

  2. In traditional cultures, youth turn to elders for practical wisdom. As for training, older folks repeatedly stress that younger trainers lack experience and are deficit of wisdom!

    Now in my 51st training year - and some of that time with world class champion athletes of all sorts - a former bodybuilding, Olympic lifting, and power lifting competitor - I find today's personal training emphasis to be a lot of sound and fury signifying very little. Functional training's today's fad, as is Crossfit and P90X. Unfortunately, there's little new to them - Functional resurrects how training was done up to the 60s, as does Crossfit. New hybrid training, which P90X is a subset, harkens back to Dr Bob Gajda's PHA training of the 60s - only isn't as good as Gajda's work.
    As Bill Pearl has said in discussion with Dave Draper, personal training came into vogue only when gym owners quit doing their jobs - I'd add, also when big box gyms stressing volume memberships and profit margins turned gyms into used car lots and coaches into salesmen.

    Within the boomer population is also the first large scale weight trained group of men and women. Those that have staid with it, exhibited good independent research and analysis skills, are doubtless the best coaches around. For one thing, they've likely seen it and, hence aren't gullible for the latest fad. What's more, a seasoned coach doesn't rely on one method - like a master shaman, they have a bag full of tricks in relation to client centered training.

    I find it disdainful to call myself a 'personal trainer' - doing so would lump me in with younger people so full of their puffed up egos while short on know-how as to embarrass myself. Most of those younger trainers cannot make it through one of my six time weekly 75-90 minute workouts - the proof of the pudding. Every time someone starts a sentence with "my personal trainer told me xxx" I cringe in expectation of some hopelessly ill informed advise passed on to a detrimentally reliant person who actually paid hard earned money for it. Due to age, personality, and learning, I fortunately have the authority to change lives for the better.

    I came into coaching from a background including project management - and pretty much apply those skills to managing client training. Programs are simply strategies for useful outcomes in a timely manner.

  3. In my PT school, there was a 74 year old guy. He had a job before he'd finished. He just went to his local gym and said, "I notice you have a lot of older people come here. But nobody older to train them."

    The manager replied, "Actually, I've never known a personal trainer over 50."

    "Now you do."

    They chatted, and the manager hired him - only part-time, but that's all the new PT wanted.

  4. Kiashu, That is a great story. I always believed you an take any good student who is willing to be better at their craft and make them successful--regardless of age.

  5. My mum is 71 and she teaches classes and advises people from 40 upwards on all sort of health issues.

  6. John,
    As a 50 year old myself, I can concur with Narina that most of my clients feel more comfortable and confident in my abilities, at least from the outset, because of my age. Once they find that I actually have a background of knowledge that I can effectively impart to them, they come to rely on me for more.

    I firmly believe, in my heart-of-hearts, that most folks (especially women) yearn for that stern but loving, father figure to tell them exactly what to do and how to do it. I believe it's easier for me, as a more "mature" coach, to do so. It comes across more naturally and can be received more readily by the individual.

    Good post, as usual. Thanks.
    Steve Payne

  7. At the tender age of 52 (just had my birthday) I am in the midst of becoming a Pilates instructor. I have had to fight my way through a mechanical injury to my sacrum that is literally keeping me from finishing. I have been doing Pilates for eight years now and never had this issues until I really got down and heavy with the Pilates. I also power walk 2 - 4 miles a day at least six days a weeks. I am thinking about branching out and getting my ACE certification and getting back into body building as well as the Pilates. I feel with both of these disciplines, I will have a lot to bring to potential customers. With this continuous sacral issue, I am loosing hope and thinking I will never reach my dream of teaching. If I branch out, maybe I can overcome this problem. Any ideas or confirmations out there? Help!

  8. Kathleen,
    Get with a good physical therapist and straighten out your back problem. It will be a great opportunity to learn from people that help correct injuries everyday!

  9. Dear John,

    Thanks for the advice. My Pilates trainer is a Physical Therapist. She's probably been waiting for me to "Say the Word", Duh on my part! I've also been working with a Chiropractor who is realigning my Occiput, primarily the left side and working through Thoracic adhesions I have, left and right side. T, 1-2-3 area that is affecting Supraspinatus and in her thinking is tipping and actually corkscrewing my Sacral base. Which, she believes is the source of my sacral issue. At Pilates training, we've been focusing for several weeks now on strength training and flexion in the upper region of my body, the shoulder girdle. I had a great training session today after having an adjustment last Thursday with the Chiropractor. My upper region flexion is so much better than before. I feel like my neck is actually moving now. I feel twice as strong and confident as I did this morning when I wrote to you. Thank you so much for the advice and I am glad to have found you and your site.




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