Please take the time to answer the following questions as if your future career depended on it… because it does!
- What is the purpose of what I do professionally?
- What is my reputation with my clientele?
- How are the needs of my clientele and society as a whole changing?
- Am I prepared (professionally, emotionally, educationally) to adapt my services and how they are delivered to meet these changes?
- What will I be known for six months from now? One year from now?
- Am I more certain than not that I will still be successful in this industry two years from now? Why?
- When I look back years from now, what contribution did I make to my clients, community and industry that measurably changed lives? (As evidence that I did something worthwhile for someone and refused to simply take up space.)
The purpose of any industry is to identify a need or problem within society and provide a solution or benefit through its product/service(s). Therefore, your success is directly correlated (but in no way limited) to your ability to assess the goals and needs of your client(s). The better you are in the assessment stage, the greater impact your services will have on your clients' lives, provided you have the necessary skills to apply the information you obtain. Not only do you need to understand what benefits your clients desire but anticipate how their needs and goals may change and what new skills and information you will need to acquire in order to adapt your services to these changes.
The bottom line is, our industry is changing fast. This is because our clients are changing. If we are not changing as well, we are becoming obsolete! The changes in our society that will occur within the next decade are going to create many challenges for us as fitness professionals. However, these challenges also present opportunity. The purpose of this article is to identify the changes in our society that have occurred in the last decade and how they affect our industry. How can we prepare for these changes? Then we will discuss the human part of what we do or have the potential to do.
Definition of Human: (1) The ability to identify and dedicate yourself to a cause more benevolent than your job. (2) Deciding to take a risk and give everything you have in order to connect one to one or one to one thousand with the dogmatic intent of contributing something powerful and positive to someone. (3) Commitment to Professional Growth with the intent of using your acquired knowledge and skill to help someone beyond yourself.
Traditional Benefits of Personal Training
In the past, our clients' goals have included improving athletic performance, health and appearance. The majority of goals have been cosmetic augmentation. This service by itself is of inordinate benefit to our clients. Everyone desires to be appreciated, admired, attractive and confident. The ability to make changes in our lives is a powerful motivator. Positively changing the way we see ourselves has the potential to greatly affect our self esteem. This has the potential to positively affect every part of our lives. Therefore, the goals of our clients have been directed toward body fat loss and/or lean muscle gain. Since the desire to be attractive and increase our self esteem will not change, the goal of cosmetic improvement will not change.
However, we as professionals will have to adapt to the changing needs of our clients. If we neglect the professional development necessary to adapt our services to the needs of our clientele, the next few years are going to be rather unnerving.
The Changing Needs of Clients
Within the past decade, there has been a greater increase in technology than in the entire 20th Century. This increase in technology has changed the way we live and work. Right now, 90 percent of the workforce in the U.S. is white collar or “knowledge workers.” The over 50 population is steadily increasing along with the retirement age. This means that the sedentary population is not only getting older but growing in number. As we introduce technology into society at the magnitude we have been over the past 10 years, we concomitantly remove many of the normal activities of daily living. The average work week is longer than in the past. At home, technological improvements replace the need for movement. The consequence is a decrease in the neuromuscular efficiency, balance, proprioception, etc. of the average American.
The Effect on Society
As the levels of physical activity decline in this country, the rate of obesity is steadily increasing (33.4 percent). Low back pain effects 80 percent of our population. There are an estimated 80,000 anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in the U.S. every year (70 percent non-contact). The financial cost of musculoskeletal impairment is approximately $120 billion annually. Approximately 43 percent of work related injuries are sprains and strains, with over 60 percent involving the trunk. This does not include the undocumented loss of quality time with family and friends or recreational enjoyment.
As the rate of injury and employee absenteeism increases, so do health care reforms. This results in a decreased number of rehabilitative sessions with a qualified medical practitioner. The average person cannot function optimally in either his personal or professional life in the presence of chronic pain. Since the average person does not possess the knowledge necessary to train himself post injury in a health club, personal training moves from a discretionary income based luxury to a necessity. This is demonstrated by the $21 billion spent every year on alternative medicine.
Medical professionals are recognizing the need for post rehabilitation and optimum performance training in the health club environment. This situation provides an opportunity for skilled medical professionals to supplement their income through personal training. The needs of today’s clientele are greater than they have been in the past. We are dealing with an older, more sedentary, more sophisticated population whose needs go beyond cosmetic appearance alone. Therefore, they not only need to utilize services that help them to look better but that help them to live better! If a trainer does not have the ability to conduct a complete assessment of the goals, needs and abilities of a potential client, his ability to design and implement an appropriate program will be compromised. If the trainer is incapable of designing a program that is not only suited to the client's goals but to his physical needs, safety and optimum performance is compromised. If a fitness professional can not competently design a safe and effective program, the competition is going to get interesting.
Entering your workplace right now and more so in the near future are professionals who are experienced in:
- Evaluation of kinetic chain (muscular, articular, neural) dysfunction
- Integrated bio-mechanics and anatomy
- Arthrokinematic, myokinematic and neural dysfunction
- Positional tissue release technique
- Active tissue release technique
- Muscle energy release technique
- Myoskeletal technique
- Rehabilitation as well as pre and post rehabilitation
If a person is post injury or in chronic pain, it adds to the component of risk involved with personal training. Whether it is financial, emotional or physical, risk is a major reason people refrain from using a product or service. The average consumer is smarter and more knowledgeable than ever before. The average consumer has also experienced enough garbage to be a walking lie detector. So, you can’t fake your qualifications. Assume that without continuing your skills you will become obsolete 12 to 18 months from now. This opens up opportunity for entrepreneurial medical professions. This could present serious challenges to many trainers.
So, what do you do about this if you are a fitness professional? The answer is simple. Not necessarily easy, but simple. In fact, it starts with just two things:
- Accept complete responsibility for your own success and failure
- Decide to become absolutely peerless in your field
It is not up to your boss or your company to make you successful. You own your life; therefore, you own your career. Regardless of who signs your check, you are self employed. Yes! A company of one. Does this mean that as the CEO of You Inc., you are no longer responsible for the success of your company? No! In reality, you are more responsible and hopefully more interested in your company’s success than ever. It is YOUR responsibility to make your company and it’s customers successful. This is not achieved by simply following the system and doing your job. Hundreds of thousands of people who were doing their jobs in the last decade have lost their jobs!
The only job security you have is deciding that you are going to become absolutely, without question, peerless! This means going beyond your company's in house training programs. This means getting up while the rest of the world is still dreaming and read every damn thing pertaining to professional growth and excellence. It comes down to basically expecting no less from yourself than unparalleled professional performance.
However, having said all that, your competitive advantage is not in what you know or even what you can practically apply but what you can apply with distinction! This is achieved by applying your knowledge and skills in a way that makes a human connection. Not everyone is willing to go through the pain and discipline of becoming outstanding. Yet, certain people are. The question is, can they develop excellent competency and still relate to people in a way that motivates, supports and relates to their client emotionally? We are all emotionally driven. Among the greatest emotional drivers is the need to feel significant. Can you develop the educational competency and practical application of the skills necessary to manage the complex needs of today’s clients and, at the same time, demonstrate that you sincerely would rather be in no other place on earth, with any other person than with your client each session?
The competitive advantage, therefore, is no less than a combination of excellent practical knowledge (functional biomechanics, anatomy, kinetic chain function, etc.) coupled with an obsession for outstanding communication skills and (dare I say this) an attitude resembling fanaticism toward customer service artistry.
If this sounds a little bit over the edge, good! Whenever anything of importance needs to be accomplished, people do not seek out the average, half committed person but the fanatic on a mission, the one who pushes harder and has a higher criteria for personal excellence.
Which one are you?
Professional Self Assessment
- Perform an individualized assessment of the goals, needs and abilities of my client?
- Design an individualized program based on his personal profile (not standardized protocols)?
- Instruct my client effectively based on his preferred learning style?
- Modify my programs to fit the ability level of any healthy client?
- Am I consistently acquiring knowledge about performance enhancement?
An increase in performance is not restricted to professional athletes. Many people desire to participate in recreation sport. However, without proper stabilization, balance and control throughout the kinetic chain, recreational sport can greatly increase the risk of injury. Even if athleticism is not part of your client’s goal, stepping off of a curb without proper deceleration and stabilization can be just as challenging as any athletic endeavor to the dysfunctional client. Understanding a comprehensive kinetic chain assessment and individualized program design can increase performance and decrease risk of injury, regardless of your client’s goal. A systematic approach to developing optimum levels of flexibility, balance, strength, speed, explosive power and dynamic movement efficiency will give you the ability to improve not only performance but your client's quality of life.
Many of your potential clients will present with kinetic chain dysfunction, loss of balance, stability and proprioception. The greater you understand human movement science, functional anatomy and biomechanics, the greater your ability to design the appropriate program to assist them.
Do I understand the functional anatomy and biomechanics of the:
- Foot and ankle complex?
- Lower extremity complex?
- Lumbo-pelvic hip complex?
- Shoulder and elbow complex?
- Cervical complex?
Can you apply your knowledge to a comprehensive kinetic chain assessment and the design of a corrective exercise program focused on increasing functional strength, flexibility, range of motion, balance, posture and decrease the risk of injury?
Do I have a continuing education plan for understanding:
- Kinetic chain assessment?
- Positional release technique?
- Myoskeletal technique?
- Soft tissue technique?
- Active tissue release technique?
- Muscle energy release technique?
- Neurodynamic technique?
Professional Development Assessment
- Create and live consistent with my vision of who and what I want to become?
- Set goals and have a systematic approach to achieving them?
- Consistently re-invent myself?
- Understand and use motivation to maximize my clients' results? (And my own?)
- Continually improve my ability to develop rapport?
- Master the assessment of client goals, needs and abilities?
- Develop effective time and priority management systems?
- Prospect and network in order to create and keep a highly profitable clientele?
The changing needs of our clients and the entrance of medical professionals into this industry is a remarkable benefit. It increases the credibility and opportunity of this industry. It could also force many people out of personal training if they are not committed to continuing education. However, these changes provide increased rewards to fitness professionals sincerely committed to making a career out of helping people achieve their goals through education, application and integrity.
- Drucker P. Management challenges for the 21st century. New York: HarperCollins; 1999.
- Clark MA, Corn RJ, Parricino LA. Integrated program design for the personal trainer. Thousand Oaks, CA: National Academy of Sports Medicine; 2000.