As I was driving to a client the other day I noticed a personal training studio that was offering a “personal training certification” class. When I got home I went to their website and discovered that the “certification” was taught by the gym's personal trainers!
This got my spidey sense tingling because unfortunately I've seen it before.
The “certification” usually consists of the gym’s personal trainers teaching the class. The class usually runs for several weeks and often consists of various hands-on exercise technique with little in the way class room time spent on discussing the science and art of personal fitness training.
Sometimes the gym also allows the student to do an internship at the gym as well. This internship is basically the gyms way of getting “free help”. Oh sure, the student probably follows personal trainers around and learns a few things but they may also doing grunt work.
For the gym, it’s a win-win situation. They get money (“tuition”) from people who want to be personal trainers. If the person is also a member of the health club, the club gets paid twice – for the gym membership and the “certification”. If the person does the “internship” the club gets free help.
Sometimes the health club also makes the person get “re-certified” every year or so. This means that the health club gets a steady stream of extra cash from its students. An extra bonus for the club!
What a great deal, right?
Not so fast….
Here is the problem. Nobody but that particular health club accepts the certification!
It’s usually only after the person has spent their money and gotten their certification, do they realize that no other health club in the world accepts that cert.
Also –and this is the most important thing – the personal usually doesn't learn very much. I know this is true from the people I've talked to. They learn nothing about even the basics of exercise science or more importantly the real life ways to spot heart disease and other serious health problems that trainers run into every day.
Health clubs are pretty stringent about the certifications that they accept. They often look for something that’s been around for a long time or which they know is a quality certification. Why would they take a risk employing somebody who may or may not know what they are talking about?
For the novice, who wants to know more – but who will never work as a trainer, this gym-based “certs” may be an option. But, for those want to work as a personal trainer, this is not the answer.
If you are thinking about a certification offered at a health club, here are some questions to ask yourself.
- Who else – other than this health club – accepts this cert? Double check by asking around.
- Who are the people teaching you? Are they personal trainers? Who are they certified by? How good at teaching are they? You can be a great personal trainer but a horrible teacher
- How much does it cost to get “re-certified”? Who do you pay and who do you get your continuing education credits from? Is it the health club or will they accept credits from other organizations?
- Will you learn more than personal training – marketing, exercise science etc?
- What will the internship consist of? If it’s sweeping the floors or other grunt work, forget it.
I don’t know the prevalence of health club –based certifications but I do know that people, who take them, run the risk of getting the short end of the stick, when they get out in the real world. Because of that I wouldn’t risk making it your primary or initial fitness certification.
Have you ever paid a health club for a fitness certification?