May 20, 2010

Warning: All Fitness Trainers are NOT Created Equal

I was recently browsing through the recent edition of our local newspaper when an advertisement related to fitness training caught my eye - as it always does. The add looked great, the trainer was smiling, but the fitness classes advertised raised an eyebrow or two.  Classes relating to the training of specific body parts such as "Guts and Butts" that suggest if you do these classes you will earn the ability to crack chestnuts with your butt cheeks got my attention. Classes that focus on specific parts of the body (abdominals, hips and thighs) align themselves with the notion that if you exercise this part of the body, this part of the body will lean up and look sculpted and beautiful (at least the North American definition of beautiful).  This is also known as spot reducing.  Spot reducing, as far as I am aware, is a myth that continues to permeate the marketing of fitness to trusting consumers. I say "as far as I know" because the exercise science research is always producing findings that change, alter, or substantiate what we think we know now. 
So...back to my story....
I noted the website of this trainer and promptly logged onto her site in the hopes of gaining more information on her education and services.  What I found did not surprise me, but motivated me to make this entry as a way to help educate the public on the good, the bad, and the ugly of the fitness trainer. Now, in now way am I saying that this trainer in particular was "bad" or "ugly". I'm just saying there are standards of professional practice and education that one must attend to to ensure the safest and most effective services. 
In BC we have a provincial governing body of fitness leaders that define the code of ethics and standards of practice among the profession.  The British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) has been around well over 20 years now (as I registered with them over 20 years ago).  Anyone interested in becoming a fitness leader or personal trainer can do so by taking the courses necessary and paying an annual fee of membership.  This is the basic standard. By obtaining membership, the fitness leader must pursue on-going education in the areas of fitness and health in addition to holding a current CPR and First Aid ticket.
Taking it a step further, you may find personal trainers that hold a degree in the exercise sciences along with their BCRPA registration.  These trainers have gone through extensive education and training and have a wide knowledge base related not only to training technique but to injury post-rehabilitation, exercise as it relates to specific populations and so on. These trainers are among us and in great number. It doesn't take much to find out who has this level of education and I highly recommend you do.
Unfortunately, the fitness industry is just that. It is a multi-million dollar industry that is geared towards making money from the consumers need for youthfulness, fitness, fat loss, looking great naked, etc. There are going to be certifying bodies that create short educational opportunities that focus on exercise and the injured, the chronically ill, the obese, and so on. What concerns me is a little bit of information can be a bad thing.  I hold an undergraduate degree in Kinesiology and a master's in Exercise Psychology and I know less than I did going in. A friend and colleague of mine holds a master's in Exercise Physiology and feels the same.  Funny how those holding a certificate of fitness training / personal training become the "expert" in exercise.
I mean no disrespect to those that want to share their love of fitness and become trainers who respect their scope of practice and the practice of the profession. I do, however, have concerns with those that take the short cut through certifications and weekend crash courses to do the same work as those that spend 10+ years immersed in the subject matter and call themselves "experts" or "gurus" in the field.
If you find yourself in the market for a personal trainer be sure to ask questions.  The minimum qualification would be certification and registration with a governing body. The "Gold Standard" would be finding a trainer that brings both academic education, certification/registration, and experience to the gym.
Just something to consider.....

Happy Exercise!


  1. I am going to a bootcamp with a trainer from hell! She makes "everyone" do lunges and does not correct anyone's knee or degree angle of the leg. Priceless, as we have a variety of individuals and ages. I however, have had such great people in my life (lol) Kathi... I now know the correct way of exercising (whoott) BUT.... it's a shame that a recreation centre can send out someone with such little qualifications that can cause injury! Shame!

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  3. Hi Anonymous!
    Thank you for taking the time to contribute to this blog. Your comments are appreciate, although I am sorry to hear about your bootcamp class. It is awesome that you know the proper technique, perhaps you can help the others in the class???? OR..become a fitness leader yourself! I agree, it is a shame. What is worse is that many of those that become injured will not return to a fitness class because of their bad experience.
    Thanks again for this. You made my day with your comment!
    Have a great weekend.