modify the names to protect the innocent.
cheated on his new wife with not one, but two of his female
smoked pot between clients, and a few of his “cool”
clients joined him periodically.
worked as a trainer . . . and an escort, escorting male
or female clients to wherever it was that they wanted to
be seen or not seen.
was easy to dismiss those three, as their extracurricular
activities had little to do with anything I did for a living.
Regardless, somebody needed to establish some ethics
that we were to be bound by, and if these guys were writing
the newest editions of the book, I wanted to cancel my subscription.
time and experience I met other personal trainers. I met the ones who took pride in making
their clients sore.
Some found an odd self-gratification in knowing that
a client lost his or her lunch during or after a workout
met the inventive trainers who operated under the paradigm
of “if your body moves that way, it must be safe for
I continued to explore the world around me, I found no shortage
of personal trainers who appeared to readily and willingly
violate each and every one of the safety guidelines I had
studied to pass my certification exam.
of course I met some very nice and very competent personal
trainers along the way, it didn't take long before I understood
and intuitively embraced the concept of separation, or separating
myself from those who saw the career choice to be a free
for all justified by a nice pair of delts, a smile, and
the ability to count backward from 15.
I was going to be different, I needed a different term.
I felt as if Personal Training was going to be my
profession, and in a moment of decision I threw away my
business cards and made up new ones. The new ones didn't say “Personal
said "Fitness Professional."
had half a dozen shirts made. They said my name on the front and "Fitness
Professional" on the back.
1991 I spoke at the IHRSA conference. I had, at that point, achieved some acclaim
as a committed individual earning a sound living as a personal
trainer, and I was speaking to an audience of health club
owners, managers, and fitness directors about "making
money in providing service to the members"”
The health club paradigm was set up to profit almost
exclusively by selling memberships, and I was going to teach
the audience how to ethically generate profits by appropriately
charging justifiable fees in exchange for fitness services.
asked the question, "who here is a personal trainer?"
About 200 hands went up.
followed with, "keep your hand raised if you are a
fitness professional." Every hand stayed raised. Then I threw out the question / command
that proved highly revealing.
your hand raised if you can define the term Fitness Professional."
hand went down.
odd phenomenon lives on. Personal Trainers are quick to call themselves
fitness professionals, but much as the book of ethics remained
a figment of anyone's imagination, the term fitness professional
remained unconquered in pinning it down to a definition.
years after that IHRSA presentation, I had an office, conference
set up, and personal training studio on Oakland Park Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. Business was good. I had a strong team, but my team was small
and my greatest challenge was growing it.
was hard to find "the stuff" that made for a fitness
mix of humility and competence were required, along with
people skills, caring, and evidence of reliability.
I dreaded the interview process, but at times had
to subject myself to it. I remember the day I screamed, "ENOUGH!!!!!"
My assistant at that time was named Kira.
I'm sure she'll never forgot that scream. It came immediately following the stable
worker who she ushered in for an interview. She told me
with her eyes, as he sat in the hot seat, she knew there
would be a reaction. This filthy (literally) poorly kept
stable worker answered my ad because his brother told him
he works well with horses and he's strong.
That was a fateful day for me.
politely escorted the stable worker out of my office, keeping
a safe distance to avoid odors and the little bugs and microbes
that surely made a home on this guy, and I let loose. "ENOUGH."
I think the building shook. It was a moment of relief. I
knew I had to follow with some evidence that I still had
my sanity lest Kira call the looney bin to come and get
"Kira, I've had enough. Either get me a button under my desk with
a trap door that leads to a pit of hungry alligators, or
cancel every other interview appointment!"
I slammed my office door.
I sat down with a yellow pad and a pen and I wrote
out the list of traits I'm looking for when I seek out Fitness
had been using the term in my help wanted ads, but I concluded
either nobody understood the term, or the candidates who
were showing up couldn't read.
day changed the way I interview, it changed the way I hire,
and it prompted me to get a certification for my cat to
reveal the flaw in the belief,"I'm certified, “I'm
list served me well. It helped me specify what, specifically,
I was looking for in hiring Fitness Professionals. The list not only served me then, it has
continued to serve me to this day, and I've happily shared
it with any fitness director, personal training studio owner,
or fitness professional seeking to build his or her team
through hiring. Most of the time I could recognize the
industry veterans who needed the list.
They had bald spots on their heads from pulling their
hair out, or at the very least, a lump on the side of the
head they opted to bang against the wall most often.
is that list of traits, exactly as I created it that fateful
I present this list, I ask the question, "is this a
lot to ask?" The
answer I hope for is, "yes."
do want to ask a lot of someone seeking professional respect.
We ask a great deal of those who aspire to be medical
professionals. We ask a great deal of those who aspire
to be legal, financial, or psychological professionals. Shouldn't we ask someone seeking professional
respect in the realm of assisting people with their health,
movement, function, and well being to jump through a series
of reasonable hoops?
list above is not new. As I mentioned, I’d been sharing
it for over 10 years with anyone who would find it valuable. What is new is, I no longer call myself
a fitness professional.
have changed, in many ways for the better, but in other
ways they've muddied up a bit.
The number of certification offerings has grown twenty-fold
since my first certification, and the certification agencies
have challenged each other to find which "credentials"
have merit. Health clubs and employers of personal trainers
run across the board in what they call "employment
requirements." A low barrier or entry, reality shows,
the web, and the societal ADD that is prevalent today have
all contributed to parity and instant replication.
I see the words "Fitness Professional" on the
shirts of health club employees who seem to live by and
rarely hesitate to drop their own subpar standards.
I see the words on promotional literature for health
clubs who haven't any competence requirements for their
see the words on business cards of many who come in to interview
with me and have difficulty defining simple terms such as
calorie, balance, and aerobic exercise.
find that hard to believe? I challenge you to try it. Ask a self-labeled fitness professional
if he or she can define a calorie, can define muscular balance,
and can define aerobic exercise, and they’ll all nod
their heads without the slightest bit of doubt. Then go
the next step. Ask
for the definitions.
You may find yourself surprised.
The response is quite similar to the response I receive
when I ask a self-proclaimed fitness professional to tell
me what a fitness professional is.
if you ask the questions to a few "fitness pros"
you do not know intimately, to witness momentary silence
combined with an unexpected moment of self-questioning. It's the revelation of a hole between what
people think they know, and what they honestly have command
over. This odd phenomenon, mixed with the other evidentiary
examples I just provided, demonstrate the ease with which
anyone can adopt a title in our field, and "Fitness
Professional" is now so overused, it borders on meaningless.
I am a Personal Trainer. Although I've owned a health club for
the last seven years, I am not a health club owner. I'm a personal trainer who, within the
growth of my business, came to open a health club. I'm not a writer. I’m a personal trainer who has information
to share and am privileged by being invited to contribute
to vehicles for sharing.
intention is no longer to separate myself, but rather to
raise the bar, to stand as an example.
My mission today has little to do with separating
from the masses, but brings me to a place where I want to
empower those who seek betterment.
you want to be an exceptional personal trainer, you might
be able to. I'd
be lying if I said anyone can.
have to have some foundational skills or innate gifts, or
in the absence of those skills or gifts, you have to realize
the quantity of work you have cut out for you.
You have to be willing to learn and study, not only
the textbooks, but human influence, human adherence, human
emotion, and leadership. I hope that five years from now, the traits
I outlined earlier will not stand in list form as criteria
for separation, but will become the traits inherent in all
your position as I respect mine. We are personal trainers, connected by
passion, bound by a power to change lives for the better,
and in that we deserve to be revered for what we do, provided
we set the bar high, provided we are willing to stand on
a visible platform demonstrating the qualities of excellence
that all aspiring personal trainers should hold dear.
am proud of what I've chosen to do for a living.
I am proud of the impact I’ve had upon the
lives of others. I
am proud to call myself a Personal Trainer.
I will be sharing details on this emerging platform in a
first-time ever-offered program for personal trainers covering
days beginning April 14th.
The information is delivered via teleconference and
internet. If you are serious about being the best
personal trainer you can be, if you aspire to make this
your career and the source of your present and future prosperity,
consider joining me and 199 other personal trainers for
8 days of change. Check