REAL WORLD PT: Joe Costa, Club and PT Coordinator, Vic

A snapshot of how today’s personal trainers are working, living and shaping their careers

How long have you worked in personal training?

I’ve been in the fitness industry for about 20 years, starting as a PT and then working in various other roles. I currently oversee the health club and various areas within it, including the personal training program. I also still personally train several clients.

Are you full time or part time?

Full time

Why did you become a trainer?

I have played sports and enjoyed being active all my life. I found that I had a passion for helping others do the same. I became a trainer early on when I was a competitive Olympic weightlifter and wanted to continue improving at my sport and to help teach others in the club. So I became an ASCA certified coach. I am still genuinely passionate about helping and teaching people about health and fitness, and feel grateful and fortunate to be able to do it for a living.

Do you specialise?

I still enjoy passing on my knowledge of Olympic lifting and strength and conditioning and teaching that style of training. A lot of my clients enjoy boxing, and I also bring elements of my own Aikido martial arts practice into my training sessions. It all depends on what will work best for the person I am training.

Do you have a signature style of training?

Different approaches work for different people. I’m a bit of a jack of all trades with training. Through my Olympic lifting I was fortunate to work and train alongside some high level athletes from various sports and I learnt from that experience. I’ve also worked in strength and conditioning and over the years have continued to learn about different styles of training.

These days I lean more towards a functional training style using the concept of kinetic link training, looking at movement patterns rather than isolating muscle groups.

How many hours do you train clients for each week?

I usually train clients in and around my full time role managing the health club. This varies, but can be up to 10 hours per week, depending on my workload.

What hours do you work?

Most days I work from 9am to 5 or 6pm. I still do one late night a week by choice. Regular hours are a rarity in this industry, so I’m fortunate. In the past I spent many years doing the early 5.30am starts and late evenings, often up to 9.30pm, as well as split shifts.

What do you do in any downtime?

As a full time employee I don’t really have downtime. When I do have a spare moment I fill it with exercise, which helps clear my mind as well as keep me fit and healthy.

How long do your clients stay with you?

Some of them for several years. My longest client has been with me for about seven years.

How do you get new clients?

Usually I get new clients through word of mouth recommendations, or people see me training other clients in the club and approach me.

Do you vet clients before you agree to train them?

Yes always. It’s often just an initial chat to see where they are at, what they would like to achieve and to just listen to them.

Do you ever turn clients away or refer them to other PTs?

Yes I do, but for good reason. Part of my role overseeing the personal training program is to promote it and set people up with the most suitable trainer. Sometimes it’s just a time factor for me. We have some excellent trainers in our health club with varying skills and personalities. I try my best to match people up based on those qualities.

What differentiates you from other trainers?

There is the ‘art’ of personal training and the ‘science’ of personal training. I have always believed that there is more to being a good personal trainer than just having good scientific knowledge. I have a little of both – I get on well with most people, that’s part of the ‘art’, as well as having built up a lot of technical knowledge over the years.

What do you do in terms of your ongoing education?

I regularly attend workshops run by my current employer or from external providers. I try to get to FILEX as often as I can. I love learning about the latest trends and new things about health and fitness. There’s always something new to learn in this industry.

What is the best thing about being a PT?

Having the opportunity to help people achieve things they often didn’t think they could. Not just physically, but psychologically as well. It’s gratifying to be part of that process.

And the hardest?

It can be hard work and sometimes a little mentally exhausting. It’s not always as exciting as some people make it out to be. But I have come to realise that the good days way outnumber the bad.

What’s the biggest misconception about working in fitness?

That it’s all playtime and workouts! The reality is that sometimes you spend so much time in the gym looking after other people that your own health and wellbeing can take second place.

Where would you like your career to take you?

It’s already taken me from PT to this coordinator role, so there are career pathways. Who knows what’s next – I’m always open to new challenges! It might involve further developing my trainer mentoring and development role.

What is your fitness philosophy?

Find something you like doing. If you don’t like running on a treadmill and would rather be swimming, then go for a swim. I believe being healthy is more than just having a hard toned body. Exercise is the most potent and underutilised anti-depressant and it’s free. Get out there and just move – I can guarantee you will feel better for it.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as a PT?

Something I learnt through my martial arts training is ‘Never forget the mind of a beginner’. Remember how nervous you were when you first started out as a trainer – and you’re someone who loves exercise. Imagine how a new client would be feeling on their first day or session.

Smile, be friendly and listen. It’s their session and it’s about them, not all the things you can do or have done.


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