FitPro’s should expand their areas of expertise, but where?

For the newly qualified fitpro they enter the leisure industry full of hope and with a general feeling that they are well prepared for their new career. At least this is what most training companies tell them, so why should they think differently? Then the reality of the big bad world hits home when they join a gym and realise they are competing against a whole group of similarly qualified fitpros. If they don’t join a gym and decide to go it alone (self-employed) they quickly realise that they lack the required marketing skills to get their message out there. If they are going into online training, they will also need a website that has all the functionality required for this type of offering. My personal opinion is that you really need some practical experience of training clients before you make this step.
In my experience once you start to train clients it quickly becomes apparent how little you actually know and where the holes in your knowledge exist. It is at this point that you need to make some fundamental decisions as to what direction you want to move in. I initially achieved further qualifications with the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as I wanted an internationally recognised personal training certification. Next I moved on to nutrition education as this fascinated me. I had no qualifications and so went back to college and completed an access course to science, from there I went on and studied for a degree in nutrition. I could have taken the easier route of short nutrition courses but to my way of thinking if you are going to do something then do it properly. I am now a registered nutritionist (RNutr) and this has opened many doors for me (I don’t think short courses would have done this). I have never been one to sit back on my laurels and so a few years later I embarked on a PhD. What is interesting to me is that as I have progressed my education my interests have shifted. The PhD introduced me to the psychology of behaviour change, and this is a path I have followed ever more closely. As you increase your knowledge your interests shift, and I think this is important. Keeping things fresh and interesting makes you a better trainer. The fitpro’s that thinks they know it all and don’t require any more education should most probably retire as this attitude means that their knowledge base will quickly become out of date.
Where does a newly qualified or even a seasoned fitpro look to expand their horizons. With experience you will get a feel for who you like to work with. This might be a specific age group or a specific sector of the population. Once you know what this is you can upskill into this area. I went the degree route and continued to train clients whilst in university. At the time it was daunting, and I won’t pretend it was easy. However, I will tell you it was worth it in the long run. With the likelihood of registered nutritionist (RNutr) becoming a protected title I am very pleased I didn’t take the easy route of a short course in nutrition. Completing the PhD was very hard work, 12-hour days and sometimes seven-day weeks, but again, in hindsight worth the sacrifices. The route I have now taken, working a lot on behaviour change has made me realise how critical this is for any fitpro. Regardless of which population you want to work with you will nearly always be trying to help your clients achieve a specific behaviour change. This is why I am now providing specific courses in this area as it is such a misunderstood and undervalued skill to possess.
The takeaway message is always be looking out for how to develop your education and skill set. Ultimately it is this expanded skill set that will allow you stand out from other fitpro’s. The one thing you must realise is that within the leisure industry, sitting still and not expanding your horizons is ultimately going backwards. At the time investing in your education may seem costly but this is a far better investment than any piece of equipment could ever be.
If you need a bit of guidance with your career decisions let me know and I will see if I can help out!!