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From the trenches: A personal trainer’s view of the health club business.
These days, there are a ton of personal training certifications out there. And each has their specialty and philosophy of training individuals. There’s NASM, NSCA, ACSM, NFPT, ISSA and WTHC (that stands for “What The Heck Certification” — I’m copyrighting that]). That’s not to mention a dozen more I can’t even remember.
What they all have in common is they bring education and legitimacy to a career path that at one point, used to be completely reliant on looks — whoever looked the best was the best trainer.
Certifications, along with college degrees, have pushed the field of personal training to not only seek out education, but maintain that education through bi-yearly renewals and CEC’s (continuing education credits). As of the last decade, we have accredited most of our certifications through a national accreditation board, the NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies). This adds another level of professionalism and structure to our field.
So why do I still see trainers that have no certification training in studios or clubs? What’s the excuse? And why are they allowed to work there? I get that certification tests are hard to pass, especially the really good ones (that’s what makes them the best ones). But there is a certification out there that most people can pass. Some people say “certifications are expensive to get and maintain.” So is food, shelter and transportation, yet you somehow afford that. Spending money on your career is not an expense, it is an investment in your business. So what else do they have as an excuse?
A story I like to relate is that of a new trainer to the club I work at. The young man is an extremely passionate and dedicated young man from China. He has education from mainland China and then moved here 5 years ago and is still working on mastering the English language. He begged the club to hire him and we told him he needed his NASM CPT before we could hire him.
Now imagine for a second you were this gentleman. He is in the process of learning English and we ask him to study a test that throws the terms “reciprocal inhibition,” “carpus longus,” and “synergistic dominance” around like they are common words. He has to translate what he reads to Chinese, come up with the answer, then translate it back to English. Talk about a learning barrier. But this young man is so passionate and persistent he passed his test on the first try. Bravo to this trainer. So why can’t others who were born in this country even try to credential?
I believe that we must as an industry make a certification a requirement for hiring and liability insurance purchases. We as an industry should not only set the standards, but call out those that are not holding to those basic standards of certification.
Just my thoughts from the trenches.
Vic Spatola is a NASM CPT, CES and PES. He is a senior trainer and martial arts manager at Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club in Denver, Colorado, and has over 20 years in fitness management.