In the city by the bay, 27-year-old Hannah Holdren gets to kick ass for a living.
Kickboxing, weight lifting and pushing people to the limit is just another sweaty day at the office in her world. Hannah is a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at San Francisco’s Crunch Fitness and has been shaping healthier lives for the past three years.
Feather Magazine spoke with Hannah to get the low down on what it takes to make fitness your career and what you need to know if you think you’ve got what it takes to be a personal trainer.
Feather Magazine: How did you first become interested in becoming a personal trainer?
Hannah Holdren: I was always really athletic growing up and played a ton of sports. I even considered going to college to play field hockey, but I chose the University of Miami where they didn’t have a field hockey team. After spending some time in school not playing sports, I quickly learned how much I missed being active and how important it was to my overall health and wellbeing.
Though I was only 18 or 19 years old, I saw this as my opportunity to really change my lifestyle and start making healthier choices across the board. Throughout the rest of my years in school, I ended up switching my major to sports administration and my minor to exercise physiology and psychology so I could learn more about nutrition, fitness and a potential career in that realm. It definitely wasn’t my original plan or dream to become a trainer (I thought I would work for a sports team or brand doing something less hands on) but now I honestly can’t picture myself doing anything else, at least for now.
FM: What is a typical workday like for you?
Hannah: I usually have an early wake up call around 4:30 a.m., as my first client or class that I teach is at 6 a.m. Typically my mornings are pretty stacked. My midday could either be full or have some gaps between clients, and then I typically have a few clients or teach a class in the evening. I will fit my own workout in where I can, and it is pretty typical for me to do some type of cooking or food prep on most days of the week as I like to be stocked and totally prepared with all the fuel I need for such an active job. I also make sure I have time to eat all the delicious food I prepare so I can keep my energy up from dawn to dusk.
FM: What was the first step towards becoming a trainer?
Hannah: The first step is getting certified. Depending where you want to work, different places will accept different certifications, but typically at least one is required; I have a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certification. The first step is also realizing you love fitness and being healthy and want to inspire others to live healthy active lifestyles as well.
FM: Can you tell us about the process of becoming a personal trainer? What are the requirements?
Hannah: Some gyms have their own education or certification process; it depends where you work, but typically either a degree in the field or a nationally recognized certification like NASM or ACE is required, or potentially both. There are many programs out there, so it is important to choose a legitimate one that is accepted at your desired place of work or is accredited, so that if you are training independently, your clients and others know you are educated and qualified to do the job.
FM: Do you have to go to college to become a trainer?
Hannah: You definitely don’t have to, but from my experience, I believe it helps. I minored in exercise physiology, which was extremely helpful in supplying me with a foundation for all my further studies and certifications post-graduation. I attended the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida and majored in sports administration with a double minor in exercise physiology and psychology.
FM: What were some of the challenges or roadblocks you faced during this process?
Hannah: Before I even started training, there were certainly some doubts in my mind. As a formerly pudgy kid and young adult, it was still hard to believe, even in my current fit state, that people would want to take advice from me on how to get into shape.
The only huge challenge I faced was adjusting to the super early mornings and physical demands of the job. I didn’t realize how much more I needed to prioritize eating well and often and getting to bed on time. Training is certainly one of those professions where it becomes obvious if you aren’t living your brand and it makes it hard to be successful. I am not a saint by any means, but for the most part I try to practice what I preach so that I feel my best and can help my clients do the same.
FM: What qualities or skills does a person need to be a good trainer?
Hannah: You have to be a people person for sure. You have to be flexible, patient and a good listener, but you also have to maintain a sense of authority to make sure you can hold people accountable when working to meet their goals. You have to be somewhat intuitive and able to meet people where they’re at.
It’s not always easy to give people a mix of what they want and what they need, but it’s so important, so you also have to be creative. And hungry, hungry for results, for progress, for success, for knowledge and new skill. The fitness world is always evolving and you have to evolve with it, or you’ll quickly become obsolete, especially considering the amount of online content available to people now. I think you also truly have to love and live your brand. The more you do that, the more you will be able to help others become their best selves, and that feels amazing.
FM: What do you love most about your job?
Hannah: It feels so good to see my clients succeed and reach their goals or even make baby steps towards them. Helping people reach and recognize both their small and large victories is very rewarding. The relationship between a trainer and client should be one of trust, so I end up getting very close with many of my clients, and the bonds I get to form with so many different people are so valuable to me.
FM: What aspects do you dislike?
Hannah: I am not a huge fan of the sales part of the job, which is just a part of it no matter what. I also don’t always love having to play schedule tetris, but other than that, there isn’t a whole lot I don’t like!
FM: What advice would you have for other young women thinking of becoming a personal trainer?
Hannah: Do it! The job is saturated with men, especially in my area. I would also tell anyone thinking about becoming a trainer to make sure you have completed, or are at least well on your way, in any fitness journey of your own. I have watched many young trainers, especially women, come into the industry and quickly get overwhelmed when their workouts and schedules have to take a back burner to those of their clients. So feeling good about your own personal fitness and yourself is essential before inspiring others to feel the same.
FM: What’s next for you?
Hannah: I know I want to work in the health, fitness, or maybe food and nutrition world in some way, shape or form, but I’m still fine-tuning the details of my dream future. I have visions of opening my own studio one day, or branding a sort of total lifestyle modification program people can subscribe to or learn from. I also have dreams of having a show on Food Network with my best friend, where we would travel around eating delicious things, working out, cooking awesome, healthy meals and really promoting our philosophy of a balanced lifestyle where a foundation of healthy habits allows for the occasional splurge.
You can follow Hannah’s nutrition and fitness adventures on Instagram @hungrygems