The key to having a top-notch personal training program begins by hiring certified personal trainers that fully ensure the representation of the club’s brand.
The difference between a club that can’t get its personal training off the ground and the club that has a thriving personal training business may not have anything to do with prices. The struggling club may be cheaper and may offer more one-on-one time with trainers. However, the successful club has made sure that all of its trainers are certified, highly reputable and professional.
When clubs enter the first stages of hiring personal trainers, the process begins just like any other position within the club. The trainers must submit a resume and they must go through a rigorous interview. However, when the general manager, head trainer and possibly the owner review the resumes, they should first look for one thing — the abbreviated letters that announce the trainer’s certification.
There are a lot of different types of personal training certifications in the United States alone. Therefore, it is on the club to make sure it understands what is and isn’t a reputable company. “We do require one of 14 certifications that we deem acceptable,” said Mitch Batkin, the SVP of Fitness for Sport&Health. “Most are accepted by the NCCA/NOCA governing body. The certification itself doesn’t guarantee the trainer is great, but it certainly stacks the deck in our favor.”
Reviewing resumes allows Batkin to move on to the next step in the interview process without the worry of the trainers’ basic knowledge.
Ensuring a Successful Next Step
Clearly, certification is the first step in discovering the abilities of a personal trainer. However, in order to really discover whether the personal trainer is perfect for the position, their quality must be examined through rigorous interviews.
For Josh Bowen, the quality control director of personal training at Urban Active, the personal training interview is a two-step process. “We first start with a sit down, formal interview to find out who the employee is, what motivates them and why they are in the industry (or wanting to be),” he explained. “The second section is the practical part of the interview where the applicant will be asked several questions from a scenario on how to train a certain population. From there they will go to the floor, where we can see the trainers’ practical application skills.”
Batkin said Sport&Health looks for trainers that have an ability to work with clients and make workouts enjoyable. Batkin needs to see those qualities during the audition process and they encourage the trainers to think outside the box to get the most out of different demographics.
“In the initial sit-down interview, it is important to ask a leadership question, motivation question and team-work question,” Bowen said. “All three are vital components of being a personal trainer. We look at three main things when looking at a potential hire — education/experience, passion for helping people and a thirst for learning.”
Granted personal trainers aren’t doctors or lawyers, but with the ongoing evolution of the fitness universe, trainers must be trained and retrained on new types of fitness.
“We have several continuing education opportunities available to our trainers,” Bowen said. “Every Friday we hold a company-wide trainer education conference call where we talk about specific training protocols for different populations. We look at different scenarios of clients and update the trainers on what is new and fresh in the industry. Our business is constantly evolving and we must keep up on the newest things out there or we won’t survive.”
Personal trainers have all the opportunities in the world to continue their training. “Online courses seem like a great way to go to increase the quality and decrease the cost of the student,” said Rebecca Pfeiffer, JD, MPH, the president of Pfeiffer Fitness. “These can be priced lower because of the lack of need for travel and overhead.”
Not only is the business of personal training changing over time, but also certifications are constantly evolving. “The concept of certification itself could never really be challenged, but the process by which one is certified may certainly be questioned; and it should,” said Angie Pattengale, the director of certification for National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT). “Our industry, as a whole, has come a very long way in the last five years and there’s no doubt that certification and continuing education offerings are better than ever and will continue to evolve with the growing industry.”
According to Richard Cotton, M.S., ACSM’s national director of certification programs, continuing education programs can be a valuable revenue source for clubs. Clubs have the ability to host workshops and charge trainers from around the area or region to attend. “There is something going on in a region every weekend,” he said. “There probably aren’t as many going on as there were five years ago, but there are still a lot.”
Continuing education gives many clubs that choose to host workshops the upper hand in finding quality trainers. “It’s a great opportunity to bring the experts to the facility and reach the instructors who may not be able to travel great distances to large cities,” said Mark Occhipinti, Ph.D., the CEO of American Fitness Professionals Association (AFPA). Cotton added that many clubs have the ability, once they get these great trainers into their clubs, to approach them and possibly pad their own personal training staff.
The Future of Certifications
With all the possibilities to be certified, certifications are quickly making some drastic changes. “In the past couple of years there have been initiatives by a few states to explore a licensing system for personal trainers,” said Mario Crespo, the president of the National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA). “The cases I have read seem to move toward having some education in addition to certification. Some initiatives have included NCCA accreditation as an acceptable prerequisite.”
States have a lot more to be worried about when considering trainer and public safety. However, Crespo said that most states probably won’t take the time to develop their own licensing programs and they will look to the reputable certification companies to help them.
The rise of group exercise classes has caused many states to take notice of certifications. “New forms of exercise are continuously being introduced and specialized to meet the diverse needs of today’s fitness enthusiasts and health club consumers,” said Karen Perlmutter, the national accounts manager for the National Academy of Sports Medicine. “Our industry is on the verge of massive changes, such as catering to an aging and increasingly diverse population. [Certification] offers an expansive continuing education program designed to arm personal fitness trainers with the tools and knowledge needed to safely and effectively meet the needs of their clients.”
Without quality certifications, clubs could slowly lose ground on their competition. Also, by using trainers that are certified by reputable companies, it gives clubs that edge on newer and more exciting training methods. -CS