Our first proper blog post is a bit of a rant about the personal training industry. It is not meant to offend any of the “fitness professionals” out there; its purpose is to educate fitness enthusiasts and gym users.
The fitness industry has a very bad name. Personal training/fitness instruction is not a well-respected profession. There is good reason for this; however it really should not be the case. I look at exercise and healthy eating as preventative medicine. I could cite a thousand peer reviewed studies showing these things to drastically reduce people’s chances of diseases and bad health. Implemented correctly, therefore, this would be hands down the greatest weapon against obesity and the rising costs of healthcare. However the professions responsible for delivering guidance and instruction in these areas are under-valued and therefore full of under-qualified people.
Personal training is an unregulated industry. There is no one regulatory body, but countless organisations offering certifications of variable (and often questionable) quality. These organisations enable virtually everybody who pays their fee to pass, even if they have to re-sit their multiple choice exams several times. You can become a fully qualified fitness instructor in two weeks, with no pre-requisites. This enables you to sit in a gym and tell everybody who comes through the door what they should be eating and what sort of exercise they should be doing. People in these positions spend more time telling people how to live healthy lives than GPs, and many of them are doing so off the back of a mere two weeks of relevant education!
To become a qualified personal trainer usually takes around five weeks or can be completed at weekends or via a distance learning arrangement. This qualification entitles people to be insured to construct a comprehensive lifestyle package for any client. They essentially have total control over everything from what their client eats and drinks to what time they go to bed! Of course compliance with what they advise is never 100%, but the client will listen to and have faith in what they are being told otherwise they would not be paying their trainer. Is it right that the individual with this much control over another person’s lifestyle is often basing their judgements merely on the things they picked up during a five week course?
In most industries, the job itself is an indicator of a certain level of competence, education and experience. Holding the position means you have successfully passed an interview and maybe some sort of assessment centre, beating other candidates to the role. However many gyms these days run their personal training service on a rental basis. Each personal trainer they employ pays £X per week or month to the gym (regardless of how successful they are) and keeps the money paid to them by their clients. As a result, the gym has no selection criteria and will allow any personal trainer to operate in their facility regardless of their education and experience. The more trainers clogging up their gym floor, the more money they receive for doing nothing.
What is attracting bright young people to this industry right now? It is certainly not the academic challenge. Courses are spoon-fed and, as I mentioned above, do not take long. In addition, the rewards are not great. How many straight-A students would turn down the opportunity of a six-figure salary working in finance or medicine to sit in a gym earning close to minimum wage?
I feel I could go on writing forever on this topic. It is a subject that really gets to me; however I will cut it here because most people have probably already stopped reading!
If you do not fancy handing your body over to an under-qualified practitioner with little or no experience for a series of trial and error experiments, take a look at our website and come and pay us a visit. Whereas most trainers view their fitness qualifications as both the beginning and end of their education, we are different. We bring to the table years of experience (in commercial gyms, professional sporting environments and research settings) and a whole host of qualifications from a range of institutes, including one of the leading sport and exercise science research departments in the world, Bath University, and currently the world’s leading strength and conditioning expert, Charles Poliquin. Despite this, we do not look at ourselves as the finished article. Our learning has only just begun. We believe education in our industry should be a lifelong quest (not two to five weeks!). Nobody fully understands the human body and how it works. Only now, after years of studying, are we confident that we understand enough for people to put their health in our hands. Do yourself a favour and be smart when choosing a personal trainer.