Monday, March 25, 2013

What To Do With All That Education, Passion & Muscle?

Most new trainers concentrate on the aspect of becoming certified and being crowned a legitimate fitness professional. Most trainers confuse a certification with a license. Some believe that passion trumps education. Some also believe that a certification is the “end all be all” of the qualification process. 

I wanted to provide a brief description of each qualification.

A CERTIFICATION is absolutely nothing more than proof that you passed a specialized test. Granted by a professional organization, a certification is issued after a formal course. The legitimacy of that course curriculum is dependent on the educational institute or the organization. 

A LICENSE is a requirement by an appropriate government agency (example: State Department). These are two very different pieces of paper. The license carries much more weight and includes a lengthy process to obtain. This process relies on a successful college education and testing. 

A DEGREE is a title conferred by a college or university that indicates completion of a course study or academic achievement. Associate's degrees are obtained from a 2-year college career. These degrees are slowly becoming obsolete and weak in the career marketplace. A Bachelor's degree is obtained from a 4-year college career. This degree is the norm--however, this degree is also losing some staying power as many students are opting to obtain a 6-year degree. The Master's degree is obtained after one has received a BS (bachelor's of science) or BA (bachelor's of arts) and completes 2 more years of study at the college level.

Furthermore, PASSION is a strong compelling feeling about something—as in love. EDUCATION is the act of imparting or acquiring a particular knowledge or skill-set ( One can have passion—but have no knowledge of that which he loves. He can only have presumptions on how to care for it to best serve him—without education, one is limited at what you can do to best serve another in their best interest.
Most of today's new breed of personal trainers is becoming certified through fitness organizations or secondary schooling systems. These programs can last anywhere from 3 months of home-study or 9 months in a community based education program. This process can differ in length depending on the organization, province, or financial allocation. Either process, a trainer has to get their study on and start somewhere. I prefer learning from an educator that spends time in the field--actually training clients and training regularly. 

The path seems pretty clear cut until the education process ends and the trainer must decide on what turn they want to take next: work for a commercial establishment or start-up a business---or in some sad nothing. In my career in meeting with countless new trainers and discussing their backgrounds through interviews; I have condensed my experiences with interviewees into three categories:
  • Those that work in a commercial gym setting are likely to succeed as a trainer and future business owner.
  • Those that receive a certificate or education and directly move towards a business start-up struggle and eventually dissolve the business. 
  • Those that wait or do nothing after formal education, tend to fail because of a loss of motivation, resource disconnect, and failure of network support.

Again, this is purely opinion based. However, please consider that my opinion is based on sitting across from an office desk with male and female applicants and interacting with students since 2002. Not all successful trainers and business owners follow this route that I have outlined. Some have had success through different means. I want to offer explanations for my finding listed above:

Most trainers that work for a commercial business learn to work under pressure. They learn to create and meet monthly expectations. Those that can grip this concept and SEPARATE the business side from their passion will have success. Those that feel overwhelmed by the business-end of personal training and feel it is defining them and undermining their level of passion--eventually fail.

Those that work in a commercial setting meet more potential clients than you would with a store-front studio. Potential customers are ENCAPSULATED in a gym. This is a great thing for any trainer. Potential clients walk in and out of a gym yearning to learn something new or receive some sort of direction. Once a trainer understands this...they will come to grips with learning the business side of personal training. It is not a bad thing to provide direction to unknowing exercisers; however, gaining the confidence and proper communication script is key.

Those that become certified and go straight to the town hall to declare their business will struggle. Unless you have help in understanding the business side of opening a studio---it will be a challenging first year. This is normal in most cases with any new business. However, the owner becomes the trainer, the marketer, and the "face" of the business. In some cases, the owner also becomes the book-keeper, janitor, and repairman. These many hats tend to weigh hard on the head of the newly crowned fitness professional. In time, the programming will take a back seat to the responsibilities of the business.

Those that go straight to business rarely think outside their box. Let's face it...your place, your rules, your way. That is what attracts people to become entrepreneurs. But outside of that world, there are competitors and new findings that attract customers. If your niche market is the same as four other competitors in your area, than you have to work hard to learn new research and new ways to program. Believing that you can keep customers simply because you buy them coffee or go to the same church or listen to their squabbles during training sessions is unrealistic. Customers that become your friends eventually stop paying their friends. 

Those that wait and do nothing after formal education lose sight of the career path goal. During the process of learning something new, there is a sense of openness and expectation that is a primary source of motivation. However, once the education process is completed there is a sense of "now what?" Some people fear the next step, others eventually procrastinate.  This is a wrong turn on a couple of levels. Keeping what has been learned in your head fresh---applying what you've learned is a key to survival. If there is no application to these new-found tools, a trainer is bound to lose some knowledge simply by virtue of the old mantra: "use it or lose it". I firmly believe in this. 

Those that wait and do nothing after formal education fear they have lost their "safety net". There are those that procrastinate entering the field because they have a 'fear' of the real world. The education process--whether it is studying at home or in an institution--provides a safe haven for one learning something new. 

It's a safe way to learn and gets you passionate about learning more about gorillas, but once you have to step inside the cage, you tend to forget how to apply what you've learned. These trainers eventually lose alot of what they've learned because they are paralyzed by their fear of acceptance; fear of applying what they have learned; and fear of socialization [fraternizing]. In today’s world of overnight wealth sensations, it is very easy to become short-sighted.

Opening a training business is a challenging endeavor and really needs planning and evaluation. Evaluation in the form of self-inventory begs to ask serious questions regarding your ability to be successful:

What can I provide that is different from my competitor? 

Where do I want my business to be in 1 year? 

Am I prepared to do what I have to do to keep my business prosperous and still enjoy life? 

Am I as good of a fitness professional as I think? 

And am I told I am good only by people that care about my well-being? 

Finding out how you will make the cut in the future is a risk—but one that will define you. If you are willing to work hard and continue to grow as a professional—beyond your certification and education and yes, even your passion—will ensure that you have a legitimate shot at becoming a legitimate fitness professional and business owner.


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