While many trainers say the most rewarding part of the job is helping people transform themselves, it also ensures they practice what they preach. "You are a walking billboard. When I tell people I don't drink Monday through Thursday, I don't drink," says Rodrigues, who played football in high school and college and squeezes his own workouts in between clients. "Make sure people see you working out. You're also a salesman."
And personal trainers are selling a service that isn't cheap, making it a potentially lucrative trade. Salaries range from minimum wage for beginning trainers working at gyms to $200 an hour for independent trainers of professional athletes. The median annual salary is about $45,000.
"I've had people I know can't afford training put it on their Visa card anyway," says Rodrigues. "It's like a Coach bag. Do you need it? No, but it looks good. Do you need personal training? No, but it will help you look good. Will it change your lifestyle habits? Hopefully."
And the goal of personal training, he says, is not to create lifelong clients, but to make people self-sufficient in maintaining their health and fitness levels.
That said, Rodrigues thinks the demand for personal trainers will continue to grow—and believes the business will cater to an increasingly niche clientele including pregnant women, children, and people with various health conditions. "We're a nation of vanity. We want to look good. We want to feel good."
And personal trainers are at the crossroads of making that happen, says Rodrigues: "They want to help people feel good about themselves."