Three industry leaders share continuing education opportunities every fitness professional should be taking advantage of.
Dr. Suess said it best: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Success in any professional field is a result of learning, and learning isn’t limited to grade school and college. You can learn a lot from books, industry peers and your own experiences — particularly, where you’ve failed.
Regardless of where your knowledge comes from, it’s important to never stop learning. This means recognizing when you have room to grow in certain areas, and seeking out the resources that will help you improve.
Fortunately, there’s an abundance of continuing education opportunities available to fitness professionals: certification courses, networking events, tradeshows and peer groups, to name a few.
“Now, more than ever, there are so many choices for continuing education opportunities,” said Maria Gonzalez, the CEO of ClubFitness Greensboro in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Organizations like Club Solutions and IHRSA consistently provide top-notch education for fitness professionals. SIBEC and the Fitness Industry Suppliers Association of North America (FISA) each add an additional element of networking events, which can also be a great opportunity for enhanced education.”
With so many resources available, a good starting point for your continued education — be it events, peer groups or certification courses — is determining certain needs at your club and where you are in your professional development.
The fitness industry is a wealth of knowledge in and of itself. Many professionals have been around for several decades, navigated any changes the industry has gone through in that time, and are willing to let you pick their brains.
Networking events bring together club operators from all across the U.S. to learn from each other.
“Events of this nature give operators the opportunity to learn from first-class operators from all over the world,” said Gonzalez. “Not only do they share the latest industry trends, they also share best practices.”
According to Ralph Rajs, the COO of Forma Gym, with two locations in California, networking events excel at creating connections that last beyond a once-a-year conference. “A top benefit of these events, of course, is the idea sharing, but I think these organizations also do a great job facilitating networking and consistent person-to-person sharing,” he explained. “Networking has become as important as anything else.”
Networking events can also be invigorating. Spending time among like-minded peers — sharing ideas and inspirational stories — often serves to spark creativity.
“These events motivate vision,” said Ethan Smoorenburg, a franchise business consultant with Anytime Fitness Corporate. “Exercising your passion muscles is essential to being properly engaged, and these events offer an environment and setting conducive to inspiring your purpose.”
In addition to being inspiring, networking events often leave participants feeling refreshed when they’re back in the office.
“Taking time away from day-to-day operations provides time to regroup and recharge,” said Gonzalez.
No one can do it alone, and this doesn’t just apply to the fitness industry. To navigate the ever-present challenges of operating a health club, you need a support group.
“Being part of a small group of people allows for personal connections to be established and grow,” said Gonzalez. “The intimate environment of a small group provides participants with the ability to build a level of trust that allows for honesty and transparency. This allows operators to feel comfortable sharing struggles and victories, without concern for judgement.”
It’s critical to surround yourself with people who support you and give you a forum to discuss ideas and challenges, whether you become a member of REX Roundtables or create an informal group with friends in the industry.
“The top benefit of being in a REX Roundtable is the depth of relationships I have developed with the people in my group,” said Rajs. “I know them, and they know me — strengths, challenges, and areas where we can help and support each other.”
According to Rajs, peer groups can often evolve from professional relationships to true friendships. “In our group there is a deep commitment to helping each other because of the relationships and bonds formed over the years, through the good times and not so good times,” he shared. “I know I can pick up the phone and discuss any issue with one of the 15 people in my group and get great insight.”
You might be surprised by what you’ll learn just from talking to others in the industry, and getting a healthy mix of perspectives and experiences.
“Learning from other perspectives can bring unique solutions to light,” said Smoorenburg. “Networking opportunities and advisory boards also help one to not feel alone. Understanding that others experience similar pain points as you can humanize and simplify your obstacles, and aid in overcoming them with best practices that can be learned from collaboration.”
If you have time to put toward studying, or you have staff members who would like to continue their education, certification courses are great for sharpening skills.
Picking certifications, more so than choosing an event to attend, should be done based on current professional development stages. “This all depends on the positioning and strategy of your club and whether you can tie that to a staff person’s personal passion,” said Rajs. “Matching those two things can be challenging.”
There are a wide variety of certification courses available on almost every topic imaginable, from personal training and marketing to teaching group classes.
According to Smoorenburg, some certification organizations periodically offer free quizzes in which fitness professionals can earn continuing education credits. “For example, the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) has been providing two free quizzes monthly through their membership program, which can be applied toward recertification,” said Smoorenburg.
Additionally, there are new certification courses for personal trainers and fitness coaches being created often, so it’s important to stay on top of developing courses. Consulting industry friends — like the ones you’d find in a peer group — can help you stay informed.
“A good friend recently informed me of the BioForce Conditioning Certification by Joel Jamieson,” said Smoorenburg. “This certification aligns coaching with better integrity and is best for those with training experience. It provides improved practical solutions for a variety of clients through focused, individualized programming and proven concepts suited for a quality client experience, thus offering more confidence to coaches.”
Looking to industry suppliers is another good option, as many of these professionals have the accumulated experience of working with a variety of clubs.
“Vendors have risen to the challenge in offering education to their clients,” said Gonzalez. “For example, Virtuagym is offering weekly webinars to their clients, and Technogym and Glofox have also put on webinars addressing issues faced by operators today.”
Being able to attend industry events, join a peer group and complete certification courses — and offer them to your employees — is the optimal way to give yourself a well-rounded educational experience. However, if you feel you don’t have time to take advantage of all three resources, just pick one and get started.
Whether you’re getting your continuing education opportunities from another professional or from an online course, remember: the more you learn, the more places you’ll go.