There is a racket going on in the fitness industry, and unfortunately the ones suffering are the very ones who are on the front lines, putting in the majority of the work. No, I’m not referring to our clients, I’m talking about the trainers.
Being a personal trainer, coach, group fitness instructor, whatever you want to call yourselves, you all have two things in common. You want to help people improve their lives through fitness, and you want to make money doing it.
Unfortunately, there are entire organizations who base their bottom lines off of reducing yours.
I’m talking about (most of) the companies offering certifications.
This could refer to something as broad as a basic personal training cert to a certification regarding a specific piece of equipment.
Now, and here is the conundrum, which are needed, and which are not? This is where things get dicey. I have students ask me all the time,
“How do I do what you do?” That is probably one of the hardest questions for me to answer, as I did not have a very direct introduction to the fitness industry. I came in through a veritable back door.
I have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology, and I teach High School Weightlifting, as well as Health and other general Physical Education classes. The certifications I have in Olympic Weightlifting and Kettlebells, among others, I received out of interest, not necessity. I did not start seriously training adults until after my teaching career was well underway and I already had quite a bit of experience under my belt. Add to that the owners of the gym I worked out of had known me since I was a toddler and were familiar with my education and teaching experience, and it placed me in a very unique situation.
As an 18 year old kid, unfortunately, their best option is to either go work for a big box gym who offers their own proprietary cert (and make peanuts while having to meet membership and personal training upsell quotas), or shell out a large amount of money to an online company for a PT cert that will require yearly or bi-yearly re-cert fees, as well as continuing education units offered by companies that they either own or paid them to offer CEUs.
Going the PT route at least allows them to start in a private gym/studio who would pay them more, or “rent” them space to build their own client base. (which, by the way is NOT a subject covered by the PT certs) After that, it would behoove them to start attending courses to teach them the correct way to use various pieces of equipment, and learn techniques that are foreign to them in order to shorten the experience learning curve.
Now, I definitely do not suggest going after every cert under the sun. Get certified in areas that interest YOU, because that means that you will continue practicing those skills, and they won’t fade. Don’t be a jack-of-all trades but a master of none. Pick a few and be the local go-to person for them. Your reputation will start to build.
Back to the title – and here’s the thing – I have never had a person, client or otherwise, ask me what certifications I had as a prerequisite to me working with them (actually I did once, but he was another trainer at a conference, and I think he was sizing me up). My clients either heard about me from someone else, or saw me at the gym and then approached me later. Not one of them ever asked to see credentials. But they did appreciate it when I would go learn something and then bring it back to them.
So here’s my main point (finally!). The certifications are there to serve you, not the other way around. You don’t need THEM, they need YOU. They are there to teach you things that you can use to set yourself apart from your competition, or teach you how to operate your business to its fullest potential. If the company requires re-certs, ask why? Did they physically remove the knowledge from your brain? I spent years and lots of money on my college degrees, and no one can take them away from me. Will research eventually show that some of the theories I learned were inaccurate and incorrect? Yes. Does that discredit the critical thinking and learning that I underwent? No.
I do struggle with this topic myself, as I continue to meet and be exposed to people and organizations that I respect and appreciate. I know full well that one could attend the same class ten times in a row and pick up on ten new things each time, but it is very difficult for me to justify paying a cost that in most cases exceeds that of a full-time load for a semester at an actual university for a two to three day weekend.
Now some of you may ask, “But you’re the Chief Instructor at the FitRanX® Instructor Certifications, aren’t you being hypocritical?”
This is what it comes down to, and these points were what led to the requirements for that course when Nick and I created it.
- The course is not required, it is optional.
- It DOES actually teach proprietary information that you can only obtain there.
- There is NO re-cert required.
- There are tangible benefits to attending, other than the information learned.
- The cost is extremely low compared to industry averages.
We designed the course because we saw a need. We saw gyms struggling to implement the FitRanX program to it’s fullest potential, and we saw individuals with little industry experience stressing to get a foothold. We definitely didn’t create the certification to make money, in fact, we are happy if we just break even each time. It exists solely to teach, to help improve people’s business.
One of the best things a fledgling gym owner CAN do is to invest in a fitness business coaching organization/group. Most gym owners are (no offense) meatheads who decided that they wanted to make a living by living in a gym. What they are not are businessmen/women. I had a friend growing up who was a cyclist, and he decided he wanted to open a bike shop. The business struggled from its inception to its closing due to the simple fact that my friend was an enthusiast in the sport, and not a businessman. He made decisions from a personal interest standpoint, and not a business growth perspective.
Gym owners can be the same way. They are great at building great abs, but can’t build a spreadsheet to save their lives. Learning basic business accounting, managing, and advertising skills will literally make or break you, and there are some fabulous support groups out there to help you with this.
But when it comes to building up the alphabet soup that some trainers feel they need to print on their business cards, use restraint and be critical. Ask what you need more, the information or the piece of paper? If you’re doing it to add to your personal wall of fame, I’d pass. But if you’re doing it to truly learn something new, then by all means attend.
Attend courses that interest you and will help you grow your business. Your clients won’t care which organizations with which you have aligned yourself with, they only know that you care about them. And that’s all that really matters.
Tim Peterson, Chief FitRanX® Instructor