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I have been a Certified Group Exercise Instructor and Personal Trainer for 21 years.  Certification is important to me.  I feel that maintaining my Certification shows that I am striving to be professional and current.  Recently, I read another Fitness Coach’s comments about why he chose not to maintain Certification and how that piece of paper doesn’t really guarantee the individual is actually a good Coach/Trainer/Instructor.  That got me thinking.  The general public most likely does not know all the aspects of Certification and whether it is important or not.  I will give you a breakdown and my thoughts on Certification to help guide you when you are choosing a Fitness Professional.

First, there are many companies who offer certification.  Each company has a different method of certifying the individual.  Some companies allow a person to attend a one day workshop, take a written test, and hand over the certification.  Other companies require a person to study manuals, take practice tests, then complete a written test where you must score above a certain percentage, and also pass a practical exam where you demonstrate your knowledge and are scored by a teacher.  In my experience, when you are required to pass both a written and practical exam, the preparation for that certification is more in-depth and more difficult.

Once a person is certified through a company, they have to maintain certification by completing CEU (Continuing Education Units.)  These can be completed via home studies or by attending workshops and conferences.  I have completed CEUs both ways and I always learn something from the materials and speakers.  There are a variety of topics to choose from including nutrition, special populations fitness, management, injury prevention, and every type of exercise.  A person can learn more about an area they specialize in or they can learn about something new that they are currently untrained in or have no previous knowledge about.

For each Certification an individual holds, they must complete CEUs approved by that company, update their CPR training, and pay a fee to continue to keep the Certification.  Typically, a Certification lasts one to 2 years and must be reapplied for with these credentials at the end of the certification period.

Does Certification mean that the individual you are hiring is guaranteed to be a top notch professional?  Not necessarily.  I have seen Certified Personal Trainers and Group Exercise Instructors performing contradictory exercises, not following the guidelines set forth by their certifying agency, and asking clients and students to perform exercises that could harm them.  Teaching exercise and fitness to people encompasses a large range of knowledge about human anatomy and physiology, body mechanics, exercise form, execution, and purpose, as well as coaching and motivation techniques.  There is a great deal of information to know and to be able to demonstrate and explain to clients and students.

With this large amount of knowledge needed to successfully train, teach and coach individuals, experience is also needed.  A person does not learn everything from the textbooks and tests.  It does take hands-on practice and real world experiences to continue to grow and become a better trainer.  The book knowledge is a start, the continuing education expands the knowledge building, and the real world practice allows the professional to apply the knowledge they have and further incorporate techniques and ideas to create a well-rounded training plan for their clients and students.

When you hire a Trainer, Coach, or Instructor, what should you look for?  First, determine what are your goals?  What are you looking to accomplish?  When you have an idea of your needs, then research to find a professional who has experience in that area.  Interview the fitness professional and find out what current certifications they hold, and if they do not have any, why not?  Ask them about their training philosophy.  You want the most knowledgable, supportive and experienced fitness professional who can help you successfully achieve your goals.

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