A Need For Better Fitness Industry Standards

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Human beings have pursued fitness since their primitive nomadic days when they went on hikes and hunting trips to gather food and water for their families and tribes. Fast forward to 2014 and the way humans pursue fitness has evolved drastically. The evolution of what is now the fitness and health industry has become a multi-billion dollar industry that offers more information, better technology and smarter science behind the way in which we all workout. Although this is positive news for the global economy and even more so for many people striving to live a healthy & fit lifestyle, I am here to talk about the increasing number of inexperienced, uneducated fitness professionals who have entered the fitness & health field, leaving people like me frustrated and hungry for better fitness industry standards.

Think about it: how many people do you know who have been injured while working out at a local fitness studio, Orange Theory Fitness class, Crossfit box or sports event? With the rapid growth of various group fitness programs, the number of personal injuries caused by exercising has continued to drastically increase over the years. This injury trend isn’t a coincidence either. As a physical therapist treating up to 10 patients per day at an outpatient sports rehabilitation clinic in South Florida, I have witnessed first-hand the many injuries caused specifically by poor fitness training, inadequate program design, improper mechanics and a lack of recovery. These types of problems usually happen when a personal fitness trainer or instructor isn’t performing their job to the best of their ability.  If an instructor isn’t doing their job properly, it is usually due to lack of proper education and/or experience. As this dangerous, yet preventable, trend continues to develop within the fitness industry, it’s time to demand better educated and more experienced trainers!

Social media (particularly instagram) has provided a platform for many uneducated, inexperienced individuals to strut their stuff online as ‘fitness gurus.’ This has led to a selection of watered down “fitness professionals” in the market. What’s even worse is that these instagram ‘fitness gurus’ make it harder for reputable professionals to prosper and make an impact. With a free instagram account, a couple of abdominal flexing ‘selfies’ and a four-week personal fitness certificate course, you’ve got people positioning themselves as the best trainer in town, when in fact, they have little to no expertise in the field.

One fitness professional that I consider the real deal is Katie Chasey; she is the founder and head trainer for the RXBound training team and serves as a coach, programmer and instructor, with a specialization in Olympic lifting, among many other specialties. Chasey and I share the same frustration with the rapid growth of the fitness industry. Chasey recently published an article titled ‘The Cost of Competition: When Bad Programming Puts Athletes at Risk” which identifies the fitness market as a “quantity over quality” arena and clearly explains why this new fad is bad news for fitness enthusiasts. One of the primary reasons why this trend is occurring at such a rapid pace is due to an increasing demand for group fitness and group trainers.  Facilities are under pressure to keep up with the demand, which is leading to more and more under-qualified and inexperienced trainers being hired. I’m not saying that this applies to most trainers, but with group fitness exercise programs becoming so popular, it appears to be happening more often now in 2014 than just a few years ago.

Poor program design is becoming common not only due to a lack of knowledge and experience, but also because of pure laziness. Something as simple as over (or under) prescribing rep counts for certain exercise formats can attribute to a serious injury, which may result in the need for long-term physical therapy or surgery. Over the past few years, it seems as though society has been conditioned to accept and trust any personal trainer who is in great shape, regardless of their educational and work background. I think it’s time that this norm change.

The Current State of Fitness Instructors

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fitness instructors and personal trainers need nothing more than a high school diploma and a “certification” to begin working. Due to these subpar standards, little time and money is required to enter the market, and has ultimately led to almost 300,000 fitness instructor jobs in the United Stated in 2012. This trend has lead to an overpopulated industry with average trainers and uneducated instructors. The BLS has also predicted a faster than average growth rate for fitness professional positions between 2010 and 2020 with a 24 percent expected progression.

Although I am in support of industry growth, in an effort to help everyone achieve healthier and more active lifestyles, I would love to see more trainers further their education. Would you trust a medical physician who didn’t have a Doctorate of Medicine? The same applies to personal trainers; by putting an uneducated and inexperienced instructor in a group fitness setting, with 20 to 40 participants, all of different fitness levels and strengths, it is understandable why that class could produce mediocre results and cause several unnecessary physical injuries.

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 The Evolution of Personal Training & Group Fitness

Personal one-on-one fitness training sessions were considered the ultimate way to get in shape a few years ago. A certified trainer would design a fitness program according to a client’s baseline fitness assessment results. Although it may vary depending on the client’s goals, a general outline of this test consists of a series of measurements of a client’s resting heart rate, body composition, muscular endurance, flexibility, range of motion and motor skills.

With an unpredictable economy and job market, many people turned to personal training because they ‘liked working out.’ To make matters worse, personal trainers started transitioning to group fitness business models, which enabled them to train more clients per session, resulting in a higher profit margin. From a business standpoint, this makes sense; however, with an uneducated and inexperienced trainer, the results can be disastrous. This evolutionary change in the personal fitness arena has led to dwindling standards when it comes to proper technique and programming.

 A Call For Better Fitness Standards, Programming & More Education

Just as medical doctors, psychologists and lawyers spend nearly a decade in school learning and studying their craft, I believe the same should apply to personal fitness professionals. With a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science from Florida State University, a Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Florida International University, and several certifications in specialties related to the physical therapy and fitness, I know the difference between an educated trainer and a fitness guru who “trained hard,” then decided to take a course in personal training. My purpose is not to look down on anyone but rather to encourage trainers throughout the industry to enhance their credibility! Fitness and health is my true passion and it’s disheartening to see others lack expertise, care, and compassion about their profession. It diminishes the hard work, education and authenticity of individuals like myself who have dedicated almost all of their life to studying and working in the industry.

If you agree that more trainers should have more experience and education, make sure to share this blog post with your friends online.  Also, make sure to follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter as I provide authentic health & fitness tips, tricks and host various fitness events in the South Florida community! The next time you see your group fitness instructor, make sure to ask him or her what their educational and work background consists of. Venture out and try different workout regimens – the more you workout and more you expose yourself to, the easier you will be able to spot a great, qualified trainer.

3 thoughts on “A Need For Better Fitness Industry Standards

  1. Great article. I could not agree more. I actually went to school for Civil Engineering. I worked as an engineer out of school but my background as a dancer and my strong passion in the health industry especially while working as an engineer and volunteering as the office ergonomic specialist. When I switched careers I was amazed that I could start working after one certification. After passing NASM’s CPT exam I decided I wasn’t ready. I went thru all NASM’s curriculum and NESTA’s FNC before I felt I could start this career transition. My first gym job I was astounded by the lack of professional knowledge many of the trainer possessed. After about 6 months at the gym I knew I needed more education. I needed to know why I was seeing so many common pains and poor muscular patterns in many of my clients. That’s when I left the gym and transitioned into Egoscue’s Postural Alignment Specialist program. I learned so much there that NASM’s education had completely left out. While Egoscue was great I still needed more. That’s when I transitioned into a PT office to work as an aide and study under four different PTs; understanding the body post and pre surgery became one of my greatest lessons of the job.

    I now am solo and work primarily individually with clients who are more mature, have had previous injuries, or struggle with different physical conditions. I love it but it is really hard to grow your business when joe shome is charging $20 with one cert or even worse those individuals who were injured by a bad trainer… suddenly thinks all trainers are bad. And then I have those clients that want to go way above their skill level because their friend’s trainer allows them to do things they shouldn’t be doing.

    It is a challenging messy industry.

    1. Thank you for this! Please share this post as this is something that needs to be addressed and understood across the WORLD! Im glad there are others out there who are on the same page with me on this issue and can stand up for the standards of this industry 🙂

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