“The field of personal training is red-hot … and almost completely unregulated. This means that the same people you’re relying on to keep you fit – and, more importantly, safe – during your private session may have neither training nor license to do so. Possible result? Severe injuries.
Leave it to the New York Post to go for for that shock and awe value in the first line; that’s how an article from last September in the Post called “Not All Trainers Fit To Be Tried” started. That one line says a lot:
– First off that the training field is red-hot – yup, that’s right, and as we’re going to find out, there isn’t money only in training clients, but also training trainers.
– It’s unregulated, ie. isn’t surrounded by reams of red tape – This by the way is a good thing , especially for the trainers that know what they’re doing.
– There are a lot of people in this industry that don’t have a clue what they’re doing.
That last point is what this story is about: training education. More accurately, the article reads just like a Press Release for a new Personal Training School here in New York City. It’s called the AAPT and is the venture of celebrity trainer Harry Hanson and a his buddy celebrity Doctor, Dr. Steve Salvatore. It’s not surprising that they were able to get an entire feature article about their training program in the Post; they’re both in the news and media frequently. But such a one-sided story needs a little more light.
The AAPT is a 260 hour training school meant to ensure that new trainers entering the field have the proper knowledge and expertise to safely train clients. It was Harry’s answer to some of the bogus Personal Training Certifications we see out there these days, one of which was gotten by his 9 year old son (I’ve even heard stories of dogs getting certified!) .
Since there is no governing or regulatory body in training education, this has to be seen as a moral enterprise: we’ve got to take it on faith that AAPT students are better qualified. This led me to ask the question of why someone would sign-up for such a long, expensive ($4,950!!!!), and little known training school if they can get a nationally known certification in a weekend for one-tenth the price?
From some of the AAPT’s sales literature and the article, the answer’s clear: for employment at a major health club. They list Crunch, Equinox, and Sports Club LA among the places where trainers can work after graduating. That fact that this is the best someone graduating from the longest and most expensive certification could do is a little discouraging. For those of you that don’t know, don’t be fooled by the glitz and size of those huge corporate chains; they’re probably the worst places for any trainer to work. Anyone that lives in New York or near a Crunch or Equinox location should ask one of their trainers about job satisfaction; I’m yet to hear a positive story. The majority of trainers at these places are just biding time as trainers until they can find something “better” to do. This is what I call The Myth of Personal Training; graduates from this long, intensive, and expensive program will be shocked to find the mediocrity and low-pay at these major health clubs.
Since education standards in Personal Training are unregulated, any school in this industry must be viewed as a money making venture first and foremost. It’s true that the AAPT is a more intensive program than most, but it’s no different from even the weakest certifications in that it’s looking to apply a credential to someone before they can begin work.
It does make me squeamish to say that this profession that I love is so wide-open to quackery; but in my experience I’ve found that clients are very savvy when making choices in an open marketplace. It’s only in major commercial health-clubs, where all clients have to chose from are the second-rate trainers hired by the club, that they run the greatest risk of finding a bad trainer. The horror stories you hear about clients getting injured at the hands of their trainer usually happens in this setting. Outside of health clubs, the training profession hearkens back to the old days, when professionals were judged on factors beyond just where they graduated from college. The truth is if your not a good Personal Trainer you might be able to get a few clients, but you won’t be able to keep them for long or charge very much. It won’t be very long before a trainer like this starts looking for another career (probably to be bad at that one too!).
I don’t mean to discourage those of you working hard at these chain gyms and doing your job well; it’s probably you more than anyone else that can understand and relate to exactly what I’m talking about. I’m a believer in the profession of training as it is today; it’s not a perfect system, but it’s one that can be used by the intelligent, ambitious trainer to achieve tremendous success. However, there are many looking to impose prerequisites on Personal Training that could one day change it into just another jobWhile I’m not completely behind Harry’s project, it’s unquestionable that he’s a Top-Level Trainer by all standards. Running three high-end training studios in lower Manhattan, appearing on television numerous times, and getting involved in ventures outside of hourly training makes his career path one that all of us need to pay close attention to. Besides Personal Training, it’s obvious that he’s also a master at public relations. I couldn’t find out which PR firm or agent represents him, but from reading the article you realize that they are very good at what they do.
Another very good thing Harry does is he actively engages in physical competitions, in his case Judo. Any serious Personal Trainer needs to realize the same thing too: that you need to practice what you preach, and actively competing is one way to hold yourself to it. You don’t need to win a gold medal – just put yourself on the line.
While his education program is intensive, it’s not nearly as overdrawn or excessive as the degree being offered by Purdue University. You can actually commend him for identifying such a good business opportunity, one I’m sure he’s aggressively looking to grow to the national level. But for trainers that are committed to becoming active in the industry quickly, they need to realize that action is the first step. It just takes a dozen or so high level clients to have a thriving business. The trainer that understands how to get these clients and retain them will have a huge edge over all the other trainers who are just looking for a job.
As for clients, just like any health field it’s up to them to make an informed decision. They can use a wide range of criteria, from the certification, referrals from friends, or interviewing and trying-out the trainer themselves.