Training for Personal Trainers: Continuing Ed for Fitness Professionals

Fitness pros work in a field that is really quite fluid. New research and fitness trends are being adopted all the time, and if you don’t know the difference between Tabata and HIIT, between a barbell and a barre, or between a transversus and vastus medialis, then you won’t be as good as the trainer up the street who does.

Almost all certification programs require continuing education credits of some kind, usually about six hours a year to stay updated. When trainers and instructors are new to fitness, they usually go way over that number, racking up weekend certs in all kinds of disciplines and styles like Zumba, CrossFit, TRX, etc. But once your career is established, it’s easy to slide back to a bare minimum and I think that’s a mistake.

Maybe you don’t take a lot of pricey certification classes, but that’s no excuse to stop learning. And it’s not that hard for a trainer to expose themselves to new ideas. I regularly take fitness classes out of my comfort zone (I’ll be taking my first ever Zumba class later this week). I’ve also taken Spin classes on “tippy” bikes (as a Spin instructor that was quite fun) and my first and last ever Pole Dancing class. I loved the pole, but hated the bruises. And I felt about as sexy as a … well, it wasn’t pretty, let’s just say that.

There are other ways to expand your horizons, of course. I’m a member of the ACOG, the ACSM, and IDEA Health and Fitness, all professional medical and fitness organizations that regularly put out information on new studies, new fitness ideas, and the like. I read through them every month and am always picking up something I didn’t know before.

Going to conferences is great also. This is a chance to hear fresh ideas from top professionals and be able to talk to your peers. It’s so rare that I get to have a conversation with another Pilates studio owner, so it always feels cathartic when I do. Very few people understand the balance of clients, instructors, personal life, and wrangling computer programs into submission, all while planning your fall marketing calendar.

My newest trick for knowledge is checking out choreography on YouTube. Fair warning: there is definitely a lot of crap for fitness on YouTube. I frequently cringe at the bad form that I think is actually worse than what I usually see in a gym. But there are some gems out there too, filming and putting out great videos; you just have to dig for them a bit.

There are lots of way to stay connected with your peers, continue to grow as a trainer, and energize not only your clients but yourself too. How do you, as a fitness professional, stay fresh?