With the amount of new information that scientists unearth on a daily basis, coupled with the ever changing techniques being used to build muscle, burn fat, improve fitness and shape physiques, it is essential for fitness professionals in the industry to stay up to date with the latest trends.
The best way to do this, which is being adopted around the world, is through Continued Education Credits (CEC). Professionals who require a license to operate are already required to attain a certain number of CECs each year to stay registered. In the health and fitness industry this applies to physiotherapists and biokineticists.
Despite a number of plans to implement a similar system for personal fitness trainers (PFTs), there is currently no governing association or legislative body that enforces CEC requirements for PFTs.
As such, many PFTs fail to follow up their initial qualifications with CECs, mainly because they are not mandatory.
There are also other factors at play, like the fact that the courses and seminars cost money to attend and require that trainers take precious time out from their working day, which costs them in lost revenue.
That doesn’t mean you should sit back thinking that your certification, diploma or degree will be enough to get them through your career.
An important reason to continue education is the fact that, over time, trainers can forget the basic principles of human anatomy, physiology, biomechanics and training that they initially learnt. This can subsequently make it difficult to understand why a new training modality could be effective for clients and may slow the adoption of new trends that are emerging internationally.
CEC courses, which cover various topics therefore help to broaden a fit pro’s frame of reference by exposing them to the latest developments in sports science, functional training, group fitness, diets, supplementation and healthy eating.
Attaining CECs can also benefit a trainer’s business, as it allows them to specialise in certain fields to offer unique services to clients. It also means that they can meet all the demands of an increasingly educated, informed and switched on public, as clients are now more likely than ever to ask their trainers questions about what they have read online or seen on TV.
The courses are often run over the weekends or take half a day to complete. Depending on the course, a certain number of credits will be assigned to the practitioner following the successful completion of the course, or they can also attend health and fitness related seminars, which also count towards attaining credits.
PFTs need to be able to provide a valid answer to these questions or they risk losing their client and worse, their reputation. Clients might also see other trainers doing new things and will want to know why they aren’t being exposed to these new techniques. Continued education also plays a key role in expanding view points amongst the local PFT and coaching community, which can only enhance the overall level and quality of service in this country.”
Archer also points out that the cost incurred by trainers when attending CEC courses and seminars can be deducted from tax, along with the other expenses incurred while trying to make their living. “You just need to make
sure that the institution you do the course through is a registered provider and that you have an accountant who is switched on to ensure you get the full benefit from this.”
“Virgin Active, for instance, will often host internal training sessions to make sure that their staff stay current with their qualifications, which is good for the industry, their staff and for the people who train at their gyms,” continues Archer.
According to Archer, the trainers who do stay current with their CECs often choose to do various courses offered by the Institute of Fitness Professionals and other education institutions, with the most popular being sports conditioning and functional training. “These courses are popular because more people are getting serious about the sports they do, even if it is on a social level,” he says. “By doing thes courses PFTs can offer training that was traditionally used only for athletes, which has a great appeal to a growing number of serious ‘weekend warrior’ athletes.”
Other popular CEC courses include group aerobics certifications for step classes, kickboxing, boxercise, exercise and pregnancy and indoor cycling. “There is also a growing focus on kids’ development courses, where trainers can learn to assist with the athletic development of children on a physical and mental level, as more parents look to give their children every chance of becoming a professional athlete,” explains Archer.
Thankfully, there are a few industry changes on the horizon that may change the PFT landscape as far as required CECs are concerned. For instance, the Register of Exercise Professionals South Africa (REPS SA) is a non-profit, independent public register that recognises the qualifications and expertise of fitness professionals in South Africa. Any PFTs or instructors who join REPS are bound by a code of ethical practice and must hold appropriate insurance and a valid CPR qualification. They are also required to meet the standards that are set for their profession through continual professional development through the attainment of CECs.
While the requirement to join an organisation like REPS SA is not legislated as yet and therefore not compulsory, it does add an extra element of security and legitimacy to the industry. The self imposed regulation trainers undertake when joining an organisation of this nature goes a long way to providing assurance and confidence to consumers and employers. It also means that their qualifications and CECs can also be viewed online by anyone, which means that you can check that you are getting what you paid for with your trainer.
CEC courses range from R800 to over R2000, depending on the type of course you choose and the training institution you choose to do it through, and can take from half a day, up to two days to complete. “As such there really is no reason why your PFT shouldn’t be attaining at least a few CECs each year,” continues Archer. “Don’t be afraid to ask them about the last course they did, or even to see their certifications before choosing to use their services. I can guarantee you that a trainer who takes an interest in their continued education will take the same interest in your physical development, health, fitness and well-being.”