As a participant in group fitness, I'm fortunate in that I participate with the education and knowledge to chose exercises that will make me stronger...and not injured. Unfortunately, the average participant doesn't have that option. They are trusting the fitness leader to make those choices for them. They are, in fact, putting their health and safety in the hands of the person in the front of the class. So who is this person and what makes them educated enough to lead a fitness class?
Over twenty years ago, when I was dreaming of becoming a fitness leader (seriously, it was all I wanted to do in life...after becoming a hairdresser), I had to participate in a fitness theory course that spread across a few months. This course presented on anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics. After that, I graduated to a course that focused on teaching the basics of fitness leadership combined with lessons on exercise safety. It took me approximately 6 months to accomplish this. Now it may take someone two weekends and you have the choice of doing it through a computer.
So what has happened to our fitness industry? Perhaps it is just my teeny tiny world I'm observing, but I do read the fitness industry magazines to keep abreast of the latest (and more ridiculous) fitness trends. Who knew I needed a stretch machine...I thought I could just stretch on the floor. What can you do with a kettle ball that you can't do with a medicine ball? And really, what's so different between Zumba and Jazzercise?
|This trend came and went as fast as parachute|
pants. No, I didn't dream it, you actually placed
slippery plastic under your feet and slide across
the wood floor. Inner thigh pull anyone?
So who's in charge here?
There are so many private fitness "governing" bodies in British Columbia and across Canada (not to mention North America) and there is not one body in charge of anything. You don't need a degree in exercise science or really even a certification in fitness. Anyone can put out their shingle and call themselves a trainer. It really makes me sad and very frustrated when I witness ignorance (and not science or psychology) driving this industry of exercise.
People pay good money for fitness without knowing the questions to ask. As a graduate from a Kinesiology program, I understand the many courses we had to take that, although may not relate to the act of leading fitness, certainly added to my deeper understanding of exercise physiology and movement mechanics. From measurement and evaluation of exercise to understanding the unique physiological adaptations of age, the average fitness leader is not equipped with this knowledge (nor do they believe they need to be)...and, in my opinion, that is a very scary thing.
About 8 years ago (give or take a few) I sat on the British Columbia Parks and Recreation (BCRPA) fitness leadership committee and was one of the few who were fighting for degreed certifications. I was pushing for longer courses, educational pre requisites, and the removal of the option for distance education past fitness theory. I wanted to see my fitness profession actually become a profession. To be respected as a health professional, I believed we needed to pull up our socks and start, collectively, acting like one. But in the end, I learned, it was really all about the business. In the end, I left the board heart broken, disillusioned and am seeing the effects of their decisions today.
Today, I am ashamed to have been a part of the fitness industry. Although I miss leading classes tremendously, I would never consider getting back into that frenzy of showboating. Put it this way, when I submitted my CV for the job I'm in today, I erased all mention of being a fitness leader....otherwise, I may have been passed over. The "f" word, in the health promotion profession is just that; it's ugly, embarrassing, and unprofessional. If you want a job in this area, you do not mention the word fitness. Interesting.
Of course, as I type this, I am completely aware of the many fitness leaders who are well educated, professional, and lead safe and effective classes. They work hard to make exercise fun and to include everyone into their circle. I go to great efforts to let these leaders know how much I appreciate them and what they do and go to great efforts to market their classes and/or businesses over anyone else's. These professionals understand they don't know what they don't know. They pursue knowledge constantly and will never proclaim their expertise.
Unfortunately, they are few and far between.