How I Got My Job as a Personal Trainer: An Interview with Iona May

How I Got My Job as a Personal Trainer: An Interview with Iona May

Health and fitness is big business right now. From avo on toast, to finally mastering the squat rack, most of us twenty-somethings are really trying to take care of our bodies (in between the pizza take aways and 3am parties, that is).

I spoke to personal trainer, Iona May, about what trends actually work, and how any future fitness buffs can turn their passion into a career.

Hi Iona! So how did you get into personal training?
Hey Alice! My background is actually in IT, so the complete opposite to what I’m doing now. I did languages at uni, I’ve always been into fitness and nutrition for myself. I used to have a horrendous diet- you name a diet, and I’ve been on it. And while I was working in IT I realised I wanted to do something that was actually going to help and inspire people rather than sitting behind a desk. I did my PT qualifications thinking I’d just do it on the side, but now I’ve been doing it full-time for a year and a half!


So how did you find juggling doing your personal training alongside a full-time job?
It was busy, but I thrive on being busy.


Where you always quite sporty at school?
Absolutely not. I still wouldn’t class myself as someone who’s really sporty. And even with weightlifting, it’s something I do because I see the benefits, but it’s not something I’m obsessed with. I’m more passionate about helping people improve their health rather than pumping iron.


For anyone who’s looking to get fit, how can they start their journey? What should they be doing right now?
I would say do a food diary. I was really bad for secret eating and you don’t realise how much it impacts on you. A lot of people gain weight from the little things. It might even be someone is eating healthy things but just too many calories. And then just move. I don’t think you necessariliy have to go to the gym and do weights, but find what you enjoy. If you like walking, walk. If you like running, run. If you enjoy dancing, go out and dance!


Fitness is really ‘fashionable’ right now, but are there any fitness trends that you think are actually worth people’s time?
A few years ago skinny was really fashionable but it’s good it’s now ‘fit not skinny’ with the whole weightlifting thing. It’s better to be stronger and try and enjoy your body rather than try to be a body type you’re not. I also agree with High Intensity Interval Training because everyone has time for it. If you put a little time in, consistently every week then you can achieve your goals.


What about fitness Instagramers? Is there any people that you think we should definitely follow?
Instagram is an interesting thing because in real life people can be totally different from on Instagram. A lot of people on there are doing 90 days programmes but I don’t think that’s sustainable. It’s definitely better than in the past when people advertised ‘six weeks for flat abs’. Joe Wicks and Kayla Itsines are quite good, though there’s loads I don’t agree with!


What is the best thing about your job and working for yourself?
The best part is definitely helping people achieve something, Lots of people come to me and think they’re worthless and it’s amazing helping someone actually achieve their goals. I’m only leading them in the right direction and the rest is all them.


…And the worst part?
Right now, the long days. I can be up from half past five in the morning ‘til 10pm.


For anyone wanting to be a personal trainer, what’s the top piece of advice you’d say to them?
Don’t do it for the money! I think a lot of people think if you’re charging £35 an hour you’re going to be minted, but with all the extra paperwork, classes and time spent messaging people my hourly rate ends up more like £9 an hour. You need to do it because you’re passionate about it.


Ideally, where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
I’ve started doing Highland fitness retreats so I want to expand on that. I also hope to be doing nowhere near this many hours and travelling a lot with my business.

You can find out more about training with Iona here.