Fitness clubs, weight training, floor exercises and a variety of courses catering for diverse needs: the fitness industry in Italy counts around 18 million enthusiasts and generates revenues of close on 10 billion euro. With social distancing and gyms closed in response to this pandemic, the fitness world has reinvented itself to provide online courses, remote coaching and apps you can download to your smartphone.
More than 120,000 fitness professionals work in Italy’s network of over 8,000 sports centres. Many of them are personal trainers – a kind of personal assistant for physical fitness. Demand for these professionals is rising. It’s a good career for graduates in sports science, 75% of whom find employment within a year of graduation, but it’s also a great job for sports and physical exercise enthusiasts opting to make a career out of their passion by taking training courses.
The coronavirus emergency has radically changed people’s lifestyles, obliging huge numbers to stay at home. Many of us started to look for online personal trainers to give us workouts and nutrition advise remotely. This motivated many personal trainers to reinvent themselves – but many others were already working with an online coaching model.
During the coronavirus emergency, the fitness business was forced to reinvent itself by offering online courses, remote coaching and apps to download to smartphones.
Federico De Luc can speak from experience – he is a personal trainer, qualified coach (as certified by the AIPT – Italy’s personal trainer academy) and a former judoka who was already working with his clients via remote coaching. “My career began when I was about 20 years-old after a car accident put an end to my sports career. I had to go to a gym for rehabilitation and over time, I enjoyed it so much that I decided to make a career out of it”, he tells us. What lay behind this choice was his desire to help other people – people who had found themselves in similar situations or who needed some support to lose weight or to exercise during pregnancy. “I started out by working in several fitness clubs. Now I use an app so that I can work remotely with my clients. We have a kick-off meeting to get to know each other and to work out a training programme that best suits their needs and goals, then I monitor their progress online.”
De Luc divides his time between being a personal trainer and coach for the AIPT at weekends and his office job – a dual career requiring a great deal of determination. His day starts at dawn: “The alarm goes off at 4.45 am. The time between 6 and 8 am is for my own training, then office hours until 6pm and for the rest of the day I am a personal trainer.”
In addition to determination, what qualities do you need for the job? “I am always very aware that I am dealing with people who want to lose weight, or to build their muscles. They could be athletes or simply amateurs but the main quality I need is empathy for each one of them. Together we need to find a touchpoint where we can identify the best way forward for their well-being.”
The main quality you need is empathy, to find a touchpoint where you can identify the best way forward for their well-being
A former baseball player and now a personal trainer who specialises in body building, Max Bassi is another member of the AIPT squad. “I took my first courses in a gym in Milan in 2001. This was the first step to becoming a body-building instructor and getting my AIPT qualification in 2017. Today, I am employed by several gyms and I also train with clients in their homes.” All in all, over 20 years’ experience thanks to his passion, qualifications and some wise decisions. “If you don’t have a passion for the sport then you won’t get very far. I was lucky because I’ve loved doing sports since I was a child. Getting a qualification is the key factor, it’s what makes the difference. A degree in sports science is an excellent foundation – but you will need to continuously take refresher courses and be very careful about the quality of those courses.”
You can get a good start with an investment of around 1,000 euro in a certified practical training course, but it’s important to keep upgrading your skills. You want to avoid becoming a cliché: a body builder who appears to be all brawn and no brains and promises unrealistic results. “In my experience, I can say that half of my clients have never worked out. So, you have to be matter-of-fact, honest and very understanding. In our job, we always have to remember that we are dealing with people’s lives and their routines.”