Friday, January 14, 2011

The Future of Our Fitness Profession


Twice in the last few weeks, I have heard a story from a client which I found deeply troubling. The story goes something like this:

“I was telling my doctor/friend/barber/etc. about working with a personal trainer. And he/she said to me, ‘The fastest way to get yourself injured is to work with a trainer.’ So should I be doing this?”

Sad but true. Personal trainers are often thought of as unreliable, unsafe, unethical, uneducated, unprofessional. Even by people in our profession! I once had a colleague, yes, a fellow personal trainer, wax on about how a high school graduate or a trained monkey could become a personal trainer and how disappointing it was to his parents that he chose to work in this field.


Also compelling was the informal survey done by an industry consultant with whom I’ve worked over the past few years. He asked friends of friends, people who were somewhat removed from direct association with his work, what they thought of personal trainers. He asked doctors, attorneys, captains of industry, fitness center owners (who employ, and thus generate revenue from, personal trainers), and so on… and the response was very similar to that expressed above.


I have been very fortunate to have been surrounded by supportive health professionals, business advisors, and communications experts from whom I have sponged up as much information as I could. The associations, educational organizations, and trade groups with which I have been affiliated maintain excellent standards of practice and codes of ethics which have lead me throughout my career. Most of my superiors and colleagues and employees over the years have embraced a “never-stop-learning-growing-exceeding expectations” philosophy in their work. People are putting their health in our hands, so while we may have a bunch fun and not take ourselves too seriously, we absolutely have to take our clients interests, needs, and unique abilities very seriously.

In the past, when I have taught personal training certification courses, I’ve sought to instill the importance of professional conduct and careful training protocols among my students. Frankly, the texts and the teachers cannot overemphasize such matters. Would I like to see personal training become a more regulated field, with an industry-wide standard of education and accountability? Yes, I’d have to say I would.

But lots of industries are well regulated and standardized, and yet people still have unfortunate experiences with those individuals who choose flaunt those standards for their own gain.
My job is to reduce your risk of injury, and to make sure you feel better when you walk out the door than when you walked in. Getting in the door is the hardest part, after all, so if you hold up that end of the deal then I’ll hold up mine. Will you completely avoid getting injured? Well, do you completely avoid getting injured when you exercise on your own or when you don’t exercise at all? Statistically, the answer is a resounding no.

But should you get injured, will you know how to discern the nature of your injury and know whether medical care is warranted? Will you know whether ice or heat or rest or compression or elevation are appropriate for your discomfort? Will you know how to modify your movement patterns to avoid inflaming the discomfort or even to improve its healing?

A great trainer will.

The fitness profession needs to be more professional, and I commit to being the change I want to see in my working world. And I’m proud to say I know and work with many other trainers who do likewise, and I am happy to share the many resources I have found so valuable toward that end. So there’s hope!

On another note: Check out Dr. Hyman’s newest videos and blogs in relation to his next UltraSimple Challenge if you want to jump start your health, your healing, and your weight control!

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