Personal Training Development Center: Helping Trainers Get Started

Several weeks ago at the UWO Exercise and Nutrition symposium, one of the speakers, Jon Goodman, gave a talk on the importance of including basic nutrition coaching into the personal training toolbox. As someone who has been actively personal training for the past several years, Jon was able to provide firsthand experience about how when it comes to producing body composition changes, the idea that “you can’t out train a bad diet” always rings true.

During Jon’s presentation, he made mention of a new project he was starting called the Personal Training Development Center (PTDC). From what I could gather, this project is a means of providing nascent trainers the kind of tools and education that they don’t get as part of their “formal” education, but tools that are integral to long-term success.

Since I’m a firm believer that far too many personal training certifications leave trainers wholly under-qualified to work with real people (i.e. most personal trainers have zero idea how to get results with their clients) nor do most trainers understand anything about the business of personal training, I thought his idea had a lot of merit.

Later that day I was able to track Jon down and grill him a little further on what TPTDC was all about and how he decided to start it up.

Me: Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got into the fitness industry?

Jon: To be totally honest I was never good at team sports.  In addition, I’m a smaller guy.  To combat this I decided to start lifting weights at the local YMCA. I was 15 and had no clue what to do but I kept with it and come University, had put on some muscle.

Unfortunately, at 17 years and about to enter my first year studying Kinesiology at the University of Western Ontario, I still weighed only 105lbs! That’s when I decided to take advantage of a free program Western offered whereby every student got 2 free training sessions. After my first session I was hooked and knew that I wanted to become a personal trainer.

Jon Goodman – Creator of TPTDC

The summer between first and second year I completed the CanFit Pro course and got a job working part time at Western’s Sports and Rec facilities as a trainer and weight room manager. I worked in this position part-time for 3 years and I can honestly say, this is where my real education took place. I spent 30+hrs wk in the gym and was able to apply my kinesiology courses to the real world.  I also met some amazing mentors. A couple nights each week was spent chatting in the gym until midnight about exercise, nutrition, and time management. I can’t thank these mentors enough and mention the effect they had on me in detail in my book due to come out September of 2011.

Upon graduation I found a job training full time at Body + Soul Fitness in Toronto. Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to work full time as a trainer, manager, and trainer developer. I’ve also completed the CSCS designation through the NSCA and become a certified kinesiologist.

Very nice start to your career I must say. But were you always successful when you first started or did you find it tough initially?

Good question. I had two major struggles when I started personal training full time.

The first was finding an appropriate gym. I interviewed at 20+ facilities before finding the right fit. Luckily, I took careful notes after each interview concerning what I liked and didn’t like. What I figured out was that I needed a small club that focused on training, continuing education programs, and involved/supportive management.

The second major struggle was my insecurity. I was still small (weighed ~ 140lbs) and was self-conscious. Therefore I wasn’t comfortable cold calling or approaching strangers. I also had only trained myself and students in a similar demographic. All of a sudden I was thrust into a situation where I was responsible for the fitness of 50-80 year old men and women.

Yeah, developing the confidence in your own abilities is definitely something all personal trainers struggle with initially. I know back when I worked in a commercial gym how unprepared I felt during my first few weeks on the job.

So how do you feel that your initiative, the Personal Trainer Development Center, might help new trainers overcome some of the struggle they face early on?

Thanks for asking. The Personal Trainer Development Center has been a dream of mine in development for years now. I decided to finally pull the trigger and set up the Center after constantly being frustrated by the lack of materials available to improve the personal training industry.

As you may know, personal trainer is not a registered term. That means anybody can call themselves a trainer with or without certification. It also means that, unfortunately, a large discrepancy exists in the industry.

Thankfully, we are starting to see a change among consumers though and over the past few years, clients are beginning to demand for more qualified trainers. In light of this, personal trainers are going to have to find ways to set themselves apart in order to distinguish themselves and succeed.

I’ve set up the PTDC by gathering a network of passionate individuals who possess knowledge from specific different areas. The topics covered will be all the skills necessary that a trainer needs to succeed, not just simple exercise or programming skills.  Some of the areas the PTDC will focus on include: designing workouts for beginners, creating and maintaining relationships, marketing, business skills, how to build and take advantage of referral networks, job search skills and more.

The goal is to provide new and current personal trainers with a collection of free resources housed under one roof. It’s my way of paying it forward since not all trainers have the benefit of the amazing mentors that I had.

My intentions are to expand the network across Canada, United States and Australia in the next year. Long-term we’re looking at expanding into the Latin American fitness community. The PTDC is accessible by anybody with a computer and is free so all it takes is word of mouth. The sky’s the limit!

Excellent! Who can argue with free and useful? So what’s the best way for a new personal trainer to take advantage of your site?

There are a couple ways to ensure you don’t miss any of the information.  The first is by liking the facebook page here This way they’ll be notified whenever a new article is published. They should also add themselves to our email list via the web form on the website at or by sending us an email via the contact form.  We will be sending out all the articles via email to the list.

Lastly, the coaches have graciously agreed to answer direct questions, which is phenomenal! Some of these guys charge a couple hundreds bucks for an hour of their time so this is definitely a crazy value available to all member of the site. And did I mention this is all free? All readers need to do is contact a coach through their contact info at the bottom of their bio page or send the question to us via the contact form.

That sounds amazing and I can see how your site will grow to become quite useful as time goes on. Now in parting, if I could trouble you for 3 pieces of advice to a newbie, what would they be?

1.  Always strive to be better.  Never stop reading.

2.  Learn the difference between your own workouts and designing workouts for others.  What works for you may be quite different from what works for your clients. To take this point one step farther, understand what clientele you’re comfortable dealing with. Don’t attempt to be everything to everyone.

3.  Develop a wide cross-referral network. Search out the best physiotherapists, chiropractors, naturopathic and homeopathic doctors, dieticians, nutritionists, and sports medicine doctors in your neighbourhood and make the connection.

Thanks a lot Jon and best of luck with the PTDC!

Since agreeing to do this interview, Jon has asked me if I’d be willing to contribute to the site, which I’m more than happy to do. Frankly, anything that might help new trainers actually become better doing their jobs seems worthwhile in my books.

Working with others is never easy, particularly when so much of what you need to know isn’t covered in any text book. But with resources such as the Personal Training Development Center, the fitness industry can keep improving, one fitness professional at a time!

Till next time, train hard and eat clean!