As a military athlete, you already have dozens of skills that would make you a great fitness professional and business owner, starting with your tactical training knowledge. Not only is this a powerful training style, but tactical fitness has gained momentum as a new form of athletic training in recent years. Publications like Well + Good are taking note and obstacle-course style races were on the rise pre-COVID.
In addition to your knowledge and skills in general physical preparedness (GPP), you’ve also learned how to be disciplined and accountable. These are two necessary characteristics clients need to have if they want to see health and fitness progress.
If you’re a former tactical or military athlete transitioning into civilian life, you can use that experience to launch your own business as a personal trainer, health coach, or group fitness instructor. If you’re not sure where to start, here’s what you need to know.
Earn Your Health and Fitness Degree
Build on your tactical training background with the right academic credentials. The ISSA College of Exercise Science offers both Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree tracks, and as a Military Friendly School, its courses are flexible enough to be finished while still on active duty.
Once enrolled, you can access the curriculum wherever there’s an internet connection and work on each module at your own comfortable pace. To remove any financial barriers, ISSA also accepts military tuition assistance (TA) for members of all the armed service branches.
The application and enrollment criteria differ depending on which branch of the military you served in. To get the most accurate information, check the TA portal of your branch’s website for details on how to apply.
Depending on when you served, another option is to finance a degree or certification course with the Post-9/11 GI Bill, offered to veterans on active duty for at least three months on or after September 11, 2001.
You’re also eligible for this assistance if you received a Purple Heart on or after September 11, or if you served for at least 30 continuous days on or after September 11, prior to an honorable discharge for a service-related disability. The GI Bill can be used for 36 months in the following areas:
- Tuition and Fees: Full coverage for in-state public schools.
- Housing: Monthly allowance if you’re more than a half-time student.
- Textbooks and supplies: Not to exceed $1,000 per academic year.
- Moving fees: $500 one-time payment to help you relocate from a rural location to attend school if you live in an area with less than six residents per square mile, and if you are moving at least 500 miles away.
Keep Reading: How to Start Your Fitness Career as a Combat Veteran
Find Small Business Grants and Loans Specifically for Veterans
After you have obtained the necessary credentials, the next step is to finance your new business venture. There are many small business loans and private or federal grants specifically created and available for veteran entrepreneurs. To qualify for these financing options, you must fall into one of the categories below:
- Active duty armed forces member who receives TA benefits
- Honorably discharged or service-disabled veteran
- Current member of the Reserves or the National Guard
You also need to certify the business as veteran-owned through the Vets First Verification Program. This will confirm that your business is at least 51 percent owned by one or more veterans who manage daily operations and make long-term decisions.
Here are some loans and grants to look into as you prepare to launch a fitness business:
- SBA Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program
- StreetShares Foundation Veteran Small Business Award
- Warrior Rising Small Business Education and Grant Assistance
- U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Entrepreneur Portal
- SBA Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program
- Hivers and Strivers Angel Investment Group Funding
- SBA Veterans Advantage Guaranteed 7(a) Loan Program
In addition, you can also consider becoming a member of the National Veteran-Owned Business Association. Entrepreneurs who run a 51 percent veteran-owned business are eligible to join. Once a member, this organization serves as a direct link between corporate investors and networking opportunities so you can gain the financial support and professional visibility required to grow a business.
Use Your Expertise to Build Comprehensive Training Plans
As a former military athlete, one asset that sets you apart is your fitness experience. It’s important that you bring this front and center so clients know what benefits your approach will offer them. Here are a few ways to reach your potential and share a powerful message that brings them to your business.
Create Your Biography
Your professional biography will be on your website, your social media profiles, and likely a variety of other places where clients can learn more about. This is your chance to stand apart from your competitors and share your military athlete experience. If you’re not sure where to start, check out 10 Types of Personal Trainer Biographies.
Get Active on Social Media
There are millions of fitness professionals on social media, so being active on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and others is key to reaching your audience. But don’t just share fitness tips and nutrition hacks, share your story. This is what attracts people to you and helps them connect with who you are. Check out 5 Tips for Sharing Your Fitness Journey on Social Media to understand how to do that.
Due to the COVID-19 shutdown, the global use of online and mobile fitness programs increased by 46 percent in 2020, according to the World Economic Forum. One powerful way to grow your business and reach more potential clients is to offer virtual fitness classes, whether on-demand, live, or through Zoom with 1:1 with clients. Make yourself available where clients are comfortable to attract more clients.
Use Your Military Athlete Skills to Become a Business Owner
Your experience as a military athlete makes you a great candidate for becoming a fitness business owner. Use these tips and ideas to secure funding, stand out in the market, and earn credentials that will allow you to build a thriving business.