Veteran Entrepreneurs in the World of Fitness

A former personal trainer helps other Marines with their exercise programs.
Cpl. Arron M. Stephens, 27, a former personal trainer, spends his free time lifting weights in the gym and helping other Marines with their exercise programs and nutrition. (Courtesy photo)

Veterans leave the military with a skill set that many employers want, but these same skills also make for great entrepreneurs. Veterans are trained leaders capable of handling high-stress situations with rigor and grit. Veterans are also tactically trained and know the importance of staying physically fit. A career in the fitness world might be a great fit for a would-be entrepreneur. 

From military "boot-camp" training classes, obstacle-course racing events, fitness inventions, apparel and military-themed training camps, veterans are finding a place for themselves as entrepreneurs in the very large fitness industry. Why is that? Here are some reasons why many military members are drawn toward physical fitness as well as why civilians hire them for their expertise for their personal fitness needs.


Physical training is a part of a veteran's everyday life in the military, especially the combat arms/special operations branches. Typically, athletes who exercise habitually are drawn to the military and special-ops world after their playing days are over. Finding a niche in the fitness world just makes sense to many.


Good, certified and motivational trainers do very well monetarily. Many make between $60,000 to $75,000 a year, and others who take full advantage of today's technology with social media and other forms of media can make millions. Whether you invent a fitness product like the TRX or sell apparel for the fitness-minded like Rogue American Apparel, these veterans are building a life inside the fitness industry and creating their own niche.

Military Mindset and Fitness

Military training is hard-core. Military preparation creates a mental set of competition and performance, compared to that of sports and/or in extreme activities. It is the same reason why former special operators are involved in jobs like contractors. With the rise of CrossFit gyms and the ease of building a franchise program, many veterans are finding an avenue in group training similar to their previous units. It is a camaraderie that many veterans miss, but group training easily can scratch that itch.

Instructor Mindset

If you were responsible for training and the performance of others, you may enjoy being a coach or instructor. There are psychological aspects about leadership that also are involved with veterans finding themselves drawn to the fitness industry.  With obesity nearing epidemic proportions, a proud American veteran may see it as another duty to serve a public that needs their experience. A civilian struggling with their weight could benefit from the veteran's ability to train others.

Here are a few quotes from veterans who need fitness in their life -- one way or another:

"Personally, after active duty I got more involved because I found it to be the perfect prescription for fighting stress and fitness facilities [are] more accessible. On the civilian side, I had been involved in a serious use of force incident as an LEO and ended up taking to running and the weights to help combat the stress and loss of sleep, etc. These activities became habit and routine, and made me feel better."

"Maybe it's an aspect of vigilance and, yes, always ready that fitness offers. Back when I did LE, there was the term hyper vigilance that a lot of officers display. As for military, one thing that is hammered home is being vigilant, thus making yourself hard to kill and physically and mentally prepared to fight."

Who Are The Customers?

Many customers feel this way:

"People want to learn from those who have done it. And when I say done it, I mean really tested themselves and had no other option but to succeed. I believe the military drills something into its members about always being ready for whatever is thrown at you, and being fit to fight is just one example."

On the civilian side of things, veterans would not be in the business of training people if they did not have clients who actively pursued their specific training skillset. With the rise of tactical fitness training as its own fitness genre, many see a full spectrum of fitness focused on all the elements of fitness building lean, strong bodies provided by these veteran experts. Overall health, wellness and the ability to handle crisis situations in a post-9/11 world have strengthened the need for these skills to be taught.

There is a bit of sadist/masochist thing going on too. For the masochist, some people need a trainer yelling at them for no reason, physically pushing them through their own perceived limitations. And on the other end, the trainer "needs" to smoke someone, because it's been a long time since they have done it as a drill instructor.

Most customers think like this one:

"If you want to be your best -- seek out the best and do what they do, or at least try. Whether its martial arts, powerlifting, bodybuilding, chess, music, fitness, business, etc. -- seems like a common-sense way to approach it.

Another customer of programs, like Go Ruck, which use veteran members to put people through a very physically demanding group team-building event that can last several hours or even days, states: "Often the Vets are exceptional at building strong bodies and minds, and that is appealing to many like me."

There are also training programs for training education and certification available. Companies like the National Strength and Conditioning Association, American College of Sports Medicine, National Academy of Sports Medicine and American Council on Exercise are reputable places to start your journey in the fitness training world.

Salute You -- Scholarships for veterans seeking physical training certifications/education. The American Council on Exercise offers training and scholarships for those who want to continue to serve others in fitness business.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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