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Imagine being so confident in your product that you offer a money-back guarantee to training clients. Your imagination only has to go so far as New York City, home to Halevy Life. Founded by Jeff Halevy, it is the only gym in the world with a full money-back guarantee.
According to Halevy, this promise is made possible due to the club’s team of highly educated personal trainers. Each must possess a minimum of a master’s in exercise science in order to train at the facility.
Here, Halevy discusses why it’s so important for his trainers to pursue higher education, and why the industry’s standards should be much higher than they currently are.
CS: As a business owner, why did you feel it was important for your trainers to have master’s degrees?
JH: In New York State alone, if you want to massage people, you need a license; if you want to cut hair, you need a license; and if you want to tell people’s fortunes, you need a license. However, if you are going to manipulate a person’s cardiopulmonary system, musculoskeletal system and hormones — as every trainer does in every training session — you don’t need a license. As a matter of fact, you don’t need very much education or experience at all.
The standards for our industry are incredibly low, and while formal education is not a guarantee for expertise, it at least drastically increases the likelihood of an individual’s proficiency in a given area of study. Look at the practice of law: in certain states one can practice law having only passed the bar and not having attended law school. I can most certainly tell you that if I am going to be represented in a courtroom, I want to be represented by an individual with seven years of schooling behind their admission to the bar.
That is the reason why we have imposed our own higher standard by requiring extensive formal education. The impetus for our standards was never a competitive advantage, although it certainly is, but rather delivering equitable value for the purchase of professional fitness services by our customers.
CS: Are there challenges that come with hiring trainers of such high caliber?
JH: At this point in time it is no longer difficult to recruit high caliber trainers with master’s degrees from all over the country.
CS: Because you have such high standards, do you think your trainer retention is higher than at clubs that require less education? Any other benefits?
JH: Absolutely, yes. The trainers that I hire are not the Brad Pitt, “Burn After Reading” type of trainer. They are not pursuing acting. They are not pursuing musical careers. And they do not have any other profession. They work here full-time for the sole reason that they invested so heavily in their education. My trainers are not working here as a stop-gap measure to pay rent. They are true professionals heavily vested in their careers. In fact, unlike trainers at chain clubs whose primary goal is actually to sell sessions — not execute them — our trainers are not tasked with selling anything at all. Their job is to simply continue to deliver results to their clients. They are only further incentivized above their salaries through client retention bonuses.
CS: Is there anything else you’d like to add about the importance of education in a fitness setting?
JH: Our industry as a whole is relatively new. It is still emerging out of the “dark ages of fitness” of the 80s and 90s. There is currently a zeitgeist of continuing education via additional certifications above and beyond a trainer’s core certification. I believe that for our industry to continue to evolve, education will drive it as it has been doing. However, for education to truly progress, we will need to impose minimum standard entry points into the profession of personal training, establishing a new baseline of knowledge and competency helping us all to “Raise the Bar.”