6 Ways to Elevate Fitness Professionalism: Post-Vancouver Think Tank Thoughts

Friday night I was invited to a meeting of the minds by Carmen Bott of Human Motion who is also the new provincial director of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). This meeting brought together some of the top Strength and Conditiong Coaches, Personal Trainers, Physiotherapists, Kinesiologists, Yoga Instructors and Fascial Stretch Therapists in Metro Vancouver.

One big question that came from this gathering was “How can we elevate the standards of fitness professionals?” This was in order to figure out who we could invite to present at a provincial NSCA conference who would attract the veterans and the rookies.

I have been involved in the health and fitness field since 2000 and since that time have always surround myself with people who will motivate and encourage me to elevate my standards of practice. To raise our standards as a collective we need to lead by example, those who are poor or weak in one profession will eventually leave.

Anyone who is in the top echelon of their profession is there because they have they too have sought to be mentored by those who have been in the trenches for many years if not decades. I have been aware of a pervasive feeling of annoyance because many Personal Trainers are lured into the business with promises of a quick few weekends of study, an exam and then being able to bill out $65 per hour without really honing their craft and leading clients through exercise that they cannot execute properly – possibly doing harm soon or in the long-term. They quickly learn that after expenses their take home is not $65 per session and hopefully they learn that they are billing their time not their expertise.

The state of the industry is that young and easy to get into the fitness industry, but there is also a lack of mentorship afterwards. I have had clients, have used the services of trainers for years, say “Wow, I have never had someone teach me that,” with some something as simple as cueing scapular retraction and depression during a lat-pulldown (that scares me). Trainers get their certifications and then think they can become independent trainers right away – are you an entrepreneur? No, you own your job that is it.

The independent training studios are so full to brim that the experience of clients starts to decrease in quality. Does the consumer know the difference between an expert trainer and someone who is fresh on the floor – who is there to push you to your limits? Generally not. The culture of these studios is to hold on to the clients that you have, don’t coach other trainers – because they are the competition. Could they become better than you, maybe? If you have any business sense you will know that there are plenty of clients for everyone and that each professional has their own niche, or at least you should!

Six Ways to Raise the Bar

Is it up to us to elevate the game of those who do not wish to? You can only coach those who wish to be coached.

  1. It starts by creating an environment where we speak to each as peers whether you have 1 year of experience or 20 years of experience – we all have different life experiences, therefore different insights into human movement and how to teach people to become better at it.
  2. Surround yourself with peers who challenge your way of thinking (whether you end up agreeing or not).
  3. Be open to new ways of thinking, new ways of teaching, new ways of doing business – e.g. look at all the technological changes.
  4. We need to mentor the young ones who are eager to learn and are ready to be coached.
  5. Be proud of your profession. It doesn’t entirely define you, but shout it out!
  6. Learn from everywhere – books, peer-to-peer discussions, workshops, even outside of your profession

When I told someone I was going to be a Personal Trainer they asked, “When are you going to get a real job?” It took awhile to make a living, because I had to buck the trend that “there is no money in fitness!” What BS! By the way – I am a Kinesiologist (another pet peeve is Kinesiologists calling themselves Personal Trainers, just because not many people know what a Kinesiologist is or does).

Only those who really want to be the best at what they do will go out and meet the best at what they do. They follow in their foot-steps while creating their own path.

Today I met some of the leaders in our field in Vancouver as well become reacquainted with others who I haven’t seen in a long time. As Canadians are we too meek to step-up and say confidently “We know stuff! Let’s share!”? Today was the first step in sharing our knowledge. Step up and be confident, people pay us for expertise not our time.

Other thoughts from this meeting by my peers that were written in less than 24 hours:

Fit Pro Think Tank Sept 2011

Bridging the Gap Between Strength and Conditioning and Yoga


3 thoughts on “6 Ways to Elevate Fitness Professionalism: Post-Vancouver Think Tank Thoughts

  1. Good article! I would suggest making some time for a growing ageing population. With the babyboomers on the cusp of retirement or some already retired, they have more time to dedicate to fitness and more are reading about how they should be exercising. There is an interest there. But far too many people treat 3rd age people ("seniors") the same way they treat a 20yo. The bones are older, the muscles stiffer, their interests are different. You will get a senior hooked on aquafit much more quickly if you play music they adored (Beach Boys anyone? :-)). You will keep the attention of a senior much more easily if you talk so they fully comprehend which frequently means slowing down speech and speak slowly and clearly, sometimes augmenting the volume a notch or two. You will also keep them coming back if you find out a little about what they suffer from, be it fibromyalgia, lupus, or breast cancer. If you learn about what affects them and how it will define how they can use their body, they will respect you for the little bit of research you have spent. 🙂

  2. Inspiring article. I feel strongly that we, kinesiologists, should be working harder to more clearly define our role in the health care and fitness industry. One of the primary reasons the public does not understand our role, is that we are not unified and clear enough with ourselves. I think many budding (and vetern?) kinesiologists believe there is little value in the degree/profession, so they use it only as a stepping stone to other ambitions. We can do much more than 'personal training' or support work within a physio or chiro clinic. Personally, I think that the 3 big pillars for appropriately trained kinesiologists are: 1) specific primary prevention programming (individual or group) mostly based on physician referral, 2) post-rehab assessment and conditioning (physio or chiro referral 3) specific programming for persons with chronic conditions/disease. All 3 of these areas allow us to work in collaboration with other health care professionals, not just as support staff. Obviously, physiotherapists are also qualified to carry out such programming, but quite frankly, most of them are too busy treating acutely injured pts to expand into these areas. They are perfect roles for us to hone.

  3. Thank you.I really appreciate your feedback and all of your suggestions. Our aging population represents a very large market that is very under represented in the fitness business as many new trainers want to train high level athletes and many clients in their 60s prefer to work with someone who is older and more experienced. Also, big box gyms do not have have many programs for these clients, sadly nor are their facilities designed for this population in mind.Many times I have heard new clients in their 70s say that they are switching because these newbies are too gung-ho.Another client recently went to a bootcamp that included 2 hours of exercise plus hiking, which was fine for those in their 20-30s for four days straight but a little much for anyone in their 60s even when they are fit. So you think that clients respect research based fitness programs, is that what they are looking for?Andrew, Lifemoves is focused on continuing to develop specific programming for clients with chronic conditions/diseases as well we are working on expanding into prevention programs.Speaking with a Physio at this tank and others that I know, they really don't have very much training in exercise therapy – that is why we as Kinesiologists need to be more vocal on letting them and others know that is our role in the health/wellness/fitness/rehab realm.

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