Interview with Functional Intense Training Founder Nikki Warren

Programs and Schools

Nikki Warren has more than 18 years of experience in fitness training. Five years ago Warren, 40, opened her own training center, Kaia F.I.T (Functional Intense Training) in Minden, Nevada. She franchised the concept and there currently are 28 Kaia Fit locations throughout the US. Career Colleges interviewed Nikki to discuss her background to provide students with insight into what they can expect when they become a fitness instructor.

Q. What is a typical workday like?

A. I travel a lot, but when I am home, I usually get up about 3:30 a.m. and leave the house about 4. I start my first class at 5, and I have a class at 6, an hour break, and classes again at 8 and 9. We have noon and evening classes, but I don't typically coach those. After the 9 a.m. class I go to the corporate office and work the rest of the day.

On perfect days, I might train at 5, 6, and 8, and try to schedule a workout for me when someone else is coaching. When we are coaching we are teaching the women correct body posture, and demonstrating different exercises for balance and strength. We have lot of women; the age ranges from 35 and up. We have elite triathletes that need to be pushed to women who are brand new to exercise.

Q. How can a recent graduate find an entry-level job as a fitness trainer?

A. The best way I have been able to find positions was through networking and being a part the location I was interested in. Start by becoming one of the people working out there, and network with the owners and other fitness trainers and eventually apply for job. It's about networking and being available. I would tell a recent graduate to go to as many classes as possible, and give it 100 percent when working out so that other people notice and want to be trained by him or her. The doors open from there.

Q. How much exercise do you get on a regular basis training clients?

A. I work out quite a bit. Between coaching three to four classes and working out myself I average about three hours a day of physical fitness five to six days a week. Do I get tired? I love it, so if I do get tired I just don't coach as much. But I like to work out. We trainers are our own boss, so you work as much as we want. To be in this industry one has to really love and be passionate about fitness so that it never feels like work. I love the connection with the girls, and there is no better way to start the day. To make a good living at it one have to be passionate, know his or her own body and sometimes take a couple days off so not to become exhausted.

Q. What is your favorite part about your job?

A. I love the connection with the women, the camaraderie and changing people's lives. When can help a woman change the way she feels about herself, her self-confidence improves. They take that to their families, their kids and their communities. It's life changing. I love seeing women come out of their shell and find the person they really are supposed to be.

Q. What is one thing you like least about this career?

A. There is nothing I don't like about what we do. I have purposely created the optimal life for myself. That's the great thing about being a business owner -- I get to choose what I do. I am a morning person, and I never miss a sunrise. However, it's sometimes hard to keep up with the administrative side, such as answering emails, contacts and organization. It's harder to keep the back-end work organized. There are trainers and coaches who are really organized, but for the typical trainers, it is the training that we love. However, it is just as important to keep up on the paperwork.

Q. What is the most challenging part of your job?

A. Getting to know each and every women in a program and finding what works for them. There are so many different personalities. Sometimes they won't want to wake up early, or they have nutritional issues. There are 30 or 40 girls in each class, and the instructor has to find what it takes to make them all successful and not let anyone slip through cracks.

Q. How do you learn about new exercise trends?

A. I go to as many fitness conferences as I can. There are conferences all over nation, and they are different from one week to next. I also keep up on all my certifications. I am part of the ACE (American Council on Exercise) community and get their newsletters and magazines. I am always reading a lot and going to different conferences and getting different certifications. It is constantly changing, and there are so many new things and people are creating new ways to make fitness fun.

Q. What skills are most valuable for a fitness trainer?

A. Being able to smile and relate with clients. Trainers have to be able to stay in shape yourself and show others they practice what they preach. It helps to be an extrovert, not being afraid to be social and invite people to come into their class and connect with other poeple.

Q. How do you find new clients?

A. Word of mouth is best. When first starting out trainers have to get their name out there. I advise new trainers to begin by teaching free classes so people know them and what they offer. From there it spreads. If a trainer are good, people will tell their friends. Social media helps too.

Q. What advice would you give someone who is considering entering the field?

A. The first thing is to study. Understanding the human body and anatomy is the number one way to keep clients safe. Trainers have to have the education to keep clients moving forward, and have the certifications so that people find them trustworthy. There is nothing worse than having an injury. It starts with putting the proper education behind the training abilities, and then getting out there and doing it.. The more trainers put themselves out there in the world, the more things fall into their laps.

Also, writing down goals so one can see progress and then figure out where he or she want to work, live, and where to teach. From there they should try to create the life they want. They should always wear a big smile, and if they love what they do, they should be successful.

Lastly, it's important to have an exit strategy. As we get older, we still love to train, but you have to start thinking about an exit strategy. When you setting up a business to be a personal trainer, if have you have good coaches around, one still will be able to make money while sleeping in. Trainers should create the future they need; that way they are not just showing up for an hour and getting a certain amount of money.

Q. What training did you receive before beginning your career, and how can you move up and get promoted as a personal trainer?

A. I coached for years in different sports. My first training was from USA Gymnastics, then I coached competitive snowboarding through USA Snowboarding. When I got into fitness, my first certification was through ACE, then NESTA (National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association), then in Yoga and Pilates. I also received certification through Cornell University on plant-based nutrition, and I am a certified Level 1 instructor through USA Track & Field and USA Triathlon. I continue to take classes.

Q. How much do you need to know about other fields, such as nutrition, for your job?

A. A lot. It is crucial to understand the body. Injury prevention comes from knowing the muscles you are developing. Trainers have people's safety in their hands. Also, nutrition is a huge aspect of helping people become their ultimate self. Our body functions from the fuel we have, so an understanding of nutrition is important.

Please note: Unless explicitly stated otherwise, any job outlook predictions, career/educational advice, and salary information found on this page are based solely on the opinion of the interviewee and not that of or any other organization.