Looking For a Personal Trainer?
Our local newspaper has been running a contest lately selecting three individuals who are wanting to embark on a healthy lifestyle changes, incorporating exercise and healthy nutrition into their lives, or looking for a personal trainer. I congratulate the newspaper on offering this contest and assisting those individuals wanting to embark on a exercise program.
Each week there has been various articles running discussing the various fitness options available. It is an overwhelming and sometimes daunting task starting a new fitness program or finding a personal trainer. Where do you go, what to do, how often and who will help me? All valid questions that the new exerciser should have help in determining.
One of the articles that caught my interest specifically is “What to Look for In a Personal Trainer”. Being a fitness professional myself and working hard over the last 10 years in an attempt to raise the bar in the personal training industry, this article naturally caught my eye.
It is true that this is an unregulated industry. Virtually anyone can call themselves a personal trainer and actually have a certificate to prove it. In fact, I could go on the internet and get a Personal Trainer Certification for Belle, the pug for $49.95 if I chose to.
This is definitely a “buyer beware” service. People seeking the services of a personal trainer need to do their homework. There are a multitude of certifications available now, as well as college and University programs. The most popular certification locally is the BCRPA certification. CanFit Pro is indeed the largest certification agency in Canada. ACE (American Council on Exercise) is a common U.S. certification.
These certifications are, in my opinion, entry level certifications. There is a rudimentary knowledge of anatomy and physiology provided. These certifications will provide knowledge to train a young, healthy body provided there are no medical issues or injuries whether recent or old to consider. However, there is unsufficient training provided to safely provided strength training services to an older individual who may present with a myriad of health concerns be it major or minor.
A large majority of indivudals over the age of 35 will have issues or concerns to deal with when providing strength training services. Arthritis, degenerative disc disease, rotator cuff issues, knee issues ranging from patella tracking problems, meniscal tears, ligament damage or even joint replacements. Bursitis, tendonitis, tendonopathies are just a few of the very common conditions that clients will present with.
Medical issues such as hypertension, diabetes (NIDDM or IDDM), hiatus hernias, MS, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue are all common medical conditions that also may be present when training various populations and age groups.
Because the primary client seeking personal training services is over 30 and most often into their 40″s and 50″s and beyond, it is essential that personal trainers have not only the necessary knowledge but the experience as well to deal with all health concerns.
Personal trainers must also be able to effectively communicate with allied health professionals such as physiotherapists, massage therapists as well as physicians to determine the best course of treatment/action for the client.
At my facility, I will accept BCRPA or CanFit Pro certifications as an entry into the field, but further education through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) must be completed during early employment. Continuing education done on site through DVD’s as well as attendance at conference is provided. A 6-12 month mentoring period is provided for all new staff before they are permitted to train clients unsupervised. Through the mentoring period, the new trainer will learn how to safely and effectively train all populations.
Besides NASM, two U.S. certifications are considered to provide a good knowledge base to work with individuals of all ages. They are the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Associaton) and the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine).
You also need to consider continuing education. These certifications are just the beginning. They provide a license to operate and obtain insurance. But the field of exercise science is always changing. Taking a bosu ball certification at the local YMCA does not constitute staying current with the latest science. It always suprises me when I talk with some local trainers that they have not heard of the “gurus” in the strength and conditioning world (Gray Cook, Dr. Stuart McGill, Mike Boyle, Eric Cressey to name just a few). Reading research journals as well as published works by any of the aforementioned are essential if you wish to continue your education and stay current with what science is providing.
Reading and studying is just half of the equation. Experience cannot be emphasized enough. The 10,000 hour rule certainly applies in this field. Being able to study and then put the science to practical use in the gym is essential. There is just some knowledge that must be learned in the trenches, working day to day with clients from all ages and walks of life.
Personal training can be a very exciting and rewarding career, but the trainer has a responsibility to learn and grow. You also need to know when something may be out of your scope of practice or expertise and be comfortable referring out. You must have a thirst for knowledge and be constantly reading. You must be willing to make changes and adapt your practice when necessary. If you, as a trainer, are still doing sit ups and crunches or doing single leg bicep curls standing on a bosu ball; then it is time to return to school. Science of training is changing and as professionals we have a duty to continue to change and grow.
Till next time,