Rewards and Challenges of Being an On-Campus Fitness Instructor

By Damita Glaude

For Catie Metcalf, being a personal trainer at the Dr. Betty L. Siegel Student Recreation and Activities Center at Kennesaw State University has been a wonderfully rewarding experience that is not without its challenges.

“I love it. I think it’s a really good opportunity that I didn’t even really know was here,” Metcalf said.

The Dr. Betty L. Siegel Student Recreation and Activities Center provides students with an opportunity to become personal trainers and group exercise instructors. While the job has its perks and rewards, there are also challenges that come with working at college gym.

In search of a new job, Metcalf discovered the personal training program and promptly enrolled in the practicum. She became officially certified in January.

Having only been a personal trainer for two months, Metcalf has already learned so much.

“You have to keep learning. This isn’t a job where you can just take a test and you’re done,” Metcalf said. “You’re going to have different clients that want different things and have different capabilities.”

Gabby Sciacchitano, who has been a personal trainer for a year and a half and is also a group exercise instructor can attest to the necessity of being adaptable in your teaching.

“You can’t plan for what your clients will do or what your students will do in your classes, so you have to be able to adapt,” Sciacchitano said. “Maybe how can I make this workout harder or a little more manageable.”

Sciacchitano as well as group exercise instructor, Kyler Brady, emphasize that while training prepares you for the job, a natural ability to teach is key for being successful.

Brady says that there is a certain amount of performance that goes into the job, so natural ability to perform in front of a crowd and provide that energy and atmosphere goes a long way.

“It’s not something that necessarily has to be taught, but is either there or it isn’t,” Brady said. “There are a lot of people that are interested in group exercise and think they can teach a class, but it takes a different kind of person compared to someone who can just exercise correctly to someone who can perform.”

The instructor is very much the mood-maker and is responsible for creating a fun environment. Brady says that even if you aren’t feeling great and don’t want workout, you need to fake it until you make it as your energy will motivate the students, which will motivate you right back.

While a college workout environment can be fun, there are unique drawbacks to the personal training and group exercise programs that are specific to KSU.

wellness center
The Center for Health Promotion and Wellness on Tuesday, March 9, 2016. (JEMcapstone/Damita Glaude

The personal training program does not incorporate fees for the trainers into the program, so students are currently allowed only ten personal training sessions a semester. This limits the amount of progress students can make with their trainer and also has an effect on the amount of commitment some students are willing to make.


“Some students may only come to the gym once in a while so it’s hard for them to continue their workouts,” Sarah Robinson said, who has been a certified personal trainer for a year. “With regular gyms people pay for their workouts rather than having them as a part of tuition, so people at regular gyms are more likely to come consistently.”

Besides a limited amount of sessions leading to more unmotivated students, personal trainers and group exercise instructors do not get paid as much as they would if they were working at a regular gym.

“I think our pay could be more, but unfortunately there is a limit on how much the university can pay you,” Brady said. “We do make more than minimum wage because we don’t work the minimum wage hours, but I think we deserve to get paid more.”

While those limitations may be a little discouraging, the rewards of the job far outweigh any cons.

“Being able to be that teacher for somebody and watching your clients have that ‘aha’ moment in their fitness journey is so rewarding,” Sciacchitano said. “Seeing them do that first push-up and knowing that you helped to get them there is great.”

As for Metcalf, she plans to continue with personal training after graduating from KSU.

“I had this dream of being a personal trainer and it was kind of one of those things I never really thought would happen and it’s crazy to see how I got here,” Metcalf said. “I definitely plan on sticking with it in some way, shape or form.”

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