Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Trainers and their credentials

Do you use a personal trainer? A coach?

Do you know what his/her credentials are?

Has he/she undergone any objective knowledge testing by any accredited agency to become certified? Does he/she actually have a college degree in the field from a reputable institution, or is he/she working on little education and a sketchy understanding of the science of fitness and performance?

Check this out. You probably would want a certified mechanic to work on your car, why not on your body?

Here is information about the accreditation procedure of the National Academy of Sports Medicine. There are some other reputable associations which offer certification, but not many. Be an informed consumer and don't be misled by scientific-sounding association names on a resume or fancy claims of degrees from obscure "institutions" that you never heard of.

About triathlon coaches, here is the information on Level I and II certification in the US, and here is information on Level III certification. Note that a Level I coach needs to (primarily) just attend a clinic and pass a written test. Personally, I'd recommend using at the very least a Level II coach - but also double-check their educational credentials and verify exactly what services they will provide before hiring them. (I counted only eleven Level III triathlon coaches in the USAT nationwide listing, so it might be difficult to find one of those in your immediate area.)

And perhaps I should add on behalf of the trainers and coaches out there doing a great job on not very much money - if you hire a well-educated genuine professional, be prepared to pay them a fee that is in line with their credentials, expertise, and time spent on providing services - just as in any other field of specialization. Fifty bucks a month doesn't buy many groceries for anyone!

Full disclosure: No, I haven't hired a coach yet. When I find one that has more scientific knowledge about exercise physiology and sports biomechanics than I do, combined with lots of success with the Masters Clydesdale/Athena athletes that he/she already coaches, and that I can afford, then we'll talk.


Habeela said...

Well said! I get a little scared when I talk to some personal trainers and particularly frightened when they start referring to themselves as PTs...they use it to mean personal trainer and don't even understand that PT is reserved as a reference for Physical Therapist...BIG DIFFERENCE!!!!

Another good certifying organization is American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Comm's said...

Very clear message. Buyer Beware. I know Mike Clark personally and have a NASM certification among others.

The trend now is unification. NASM and very few other highly reputable certification organizations are banding together to create a heirarchy of standardized training and competenence which I think is a good thing. To many people with little to no experience passing themselves off as pro's.

The worst now is with functional training or core work. Untrained personal trainers have no clue about progression or regression of core work based on a persons neuro-muscular response. They read it a book, saw it online, watched a trainer do it the gym on someone else...it must work.

Good PSA Nancy

Spokane Al said...


The personal trainer industry seems to have the same issues as the financial services industry (where I spent a number of years).

Virtually anyone can offer financial advise vs. those who go through extensive formal training and then the latter spend much of their time trying to separate themselves from the rest who seem to have a primary goal of separating the client from his/her money.

The result is that the consumer has a great deal of distrust and often places his/her trust in the wrong person and the result can be very bad.

It is an interesting world.

Caveat emptor.

nancytoby said...

Omigod, financial services ... I was going to post about my uncanny ability to ferret out the world's worst investments, but it was just too sad a story.

TriFeist said...

Another great post that brings together many resources. My coach could easily make USAT level 2, and maybe level 3. The formal education, years coaching, and coaching certifications in other areas are there but level 3 requires that some athletes be pro or top age groupers.

It's a little scary how little is required to officially call oneself a coach.

Shelley said...

Perfectly timed post Nancy. I imagine alot of people are thinking of embarking on a journey of training in the new year and are now looking for coaches! I for one will coach myself, there are so many resources out there on the net, plus my experience. Well I can't do any worse I guess..:-))

Comm's said...

Well even elite athletes have a coach. Tiger, Jordan. Lance was good-Carmichael made him better. I use people for their resources, specifically for my weaknesses like rehab and accountability to the program I created. So even though few people can create a better workout for me than me, a trainer can provide education, motivation and accountability that can keep you on track.

I have told myself I wouldn't hire a trainer until I couldn't kick my own ass.

nancytoby said...

Yeah, if I had their salaries and their schedules, I might hire a coach too to keep it all straight. But I don't.

Motivation = priceless.
Accountability? Doesn't blogging do that?? :-)

Vickie said...

Not having read through all the links, my opinion on coaches is probably the same as yours. Maybe its an age thing? I feel I am self-motivated enough to buy a program, if necessary, to follow, but would probably opt for a good book that has a solid program. After Shelley's experience, I can't see myself spending money supporting someone who doesn't even interact with you. The best teacher is experience, so that's what I'll be trying to get more of in the next year.

Vickie said...

P.S. Yes, to further make a point about supporting someone else to get me to work out. For this I would have to work every weekend, so when would I ever have time to do the workouts??