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Why I Hate Calling Myself a Personal Trainer

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It seemed like a good idea. I enjoyed working out and hey, I can get paid too! Sign me up! I mean there is nothing better than getting to wear shorts and tennis shoes every day.

It all happened after growing up in a small town in North Texas and participating in baseball, basketball, track, cross country and powerlifting. Having an athletic background and a general interest in fitness led me to become a fitness fanatic. At the time, muscle magazines and pumping iron were my primary source of knowledge, but following high school, I moved back to my hometown of San Diego and found out that there are people at the gym that can help you get results faster. All it took was a phone call to mom from this 17-year-old, and I had ten sessions with a bright young personal trainer at 24-Hour Fitness in Pacific Beach.

 

So Why Personal Training?

I was excited to learn and build the muscle I had always wanted. It turns out that that intelligent young personal trainer wasn’t much older than me and half way through my sessions we became workout partners. We are still friends 14 years later. While I would not be where I am today had I had not met my personal trainer, I later learned he was doing it to get some extra cash for college. He wasn’t planning to make a career out of personal training. You will find that a majority of personal trainers are only doing the job to get them to their next ‘real job.’ That’s not my story though, and that’s why sometimes I don’t like being called a personal trainer because of these common misconceptions. Believe it or not, I believe personal training is a true profession and skill set. The hard part is finding a professional personal trainer who is dedicated to his field, and not just his or her own body. I embody the belief that working out for your own personal health, along with helping someone else with theirs, is both an art and a science.

Approximately 8 million people use personal trainers in the United States, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. But what is the definition of a personal trainer anyway?

 

PT Defined

As defined by Wikipedia, the definition of a personal trainer is:

“A personal trainer is a fitness professional involved in exercise prescription and instruction. They motivate clients by setting goals and providing feedback and accountability to clients. Trainers also measure their client’s strengths and weaknesses with fitness assessments. These fitness assessments may also be performed before and after an exercise program to measure their client’s improvements in physical fitness. They may also educate their clients in many other aspects of wellness besides exercise, including general health and nutrition guidelines.”

A personal trainer’s duties do not define the educational requirements of the job. The profession itself has a very low entry barrier, and there is no one governing body verifying the validity of information provided in certifications or courses.  This creates havoc within the profession because people may think there is no way for a consumer to discern a professional, educated personal trainer from someone who just likes working out and sees it as a way to make some money.

One way is to review the trainer’s educational background and check their credentials. Formal education in a related field (i.e., kinesiology, nutrition, physical education) is a cornerstone that provides a certain level of information that is understood by the general public. Anyone holding a B.S., M.S., or Ph.D. should always be at the top of your search when you’re looking for personal training. In addition to formal education, certifications are a way to identify a top-notch trainer. A weekend course is all you need to become a ‘certified’ personal trainer, and those are a dime a dozen. Being certified does not mean you are highly qualified.  The most respected certifications are the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), National Academy of Sports and Medicine (NASM), American Council on Exercise (ACE), and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

 
 

 

Taking A More Individualized Approach

While my personal experience with fitness programs and study of content have merit, it limited my experience. Unless I was going to be training clones, I needed to take action and truly educate myself. In my 12 years in the business, I have learned that you have to constantly educate yourself, adapt, and improvise to truly respect the profession. Completion of a master’s degree in exercise science, a bachelor’s degree in nutrition as well as continuing my education with certifications and specialty courses have all allowed me to reach the top of my profession. Regardless of whether it’s a quick morning workout, a session in between client meetings, or a long afternoon workout to relieve the day’s stress, I believe that my education has taught me how to personalize and hone in on the details that different people may need when it comes to their workouts.

A well-educated personal trainer is recommended to anyone who works out, and that includes me. Having someone who creates workouts tailored to your needs motivates you and keeps you accountable when you are weak. Be careful about the common pitfalls of the personal training standards and be sure to do your homework on the person you hire. I notice most people in the business of ‘personal trainers’ are doing impersonal workouts and don’t take it seriously enough. The personal in personal training should be this:

P-professional

E-educated 

R-responsible

S-selfless 

O- observant 

N-noble 

A-accountable

L-leader 

Through my educational journey, I have realized that there is always more to learn than there is time to learn it. I stay true to my profession by being a constant learner, and I surround myself with a network of people that only better myself, and in turn, better my clients.

“A life coach does for the rest of your life what a personal trainer does for your health and fitness.” Elaine MacDonald