Getting active is a common goal. After all, with the warnings about sedentary lifestyles leading to all manner of problems, most people find that is all they need to get started. Hiring a personal trainer seems to be the next logical step. Someone to keep tabs on you, design workouts, and push you forward sounds like a great idea on the surface, right?
But, there’s a dark side to the fitness world that most people do not know about and that the industry would prefer to keep hidden.
At first glance, getting a personal trainer seems to mean a professional that knows the ins and outs of health and wellness. That, unfortunately, is not always the case.
In reality, personal training is a field that is often poorly regulated, hard to keep track of, and full of misinformation.
What’s Wrong In The Industry?
Victor Geremia, owner of Health 360, points out that, theoretically, working with a trainer should be a helpful experience. But, in practice, it’s far different. He graduated from the University of Toledo’s Sports Medicine program after five years, with a specialty in Athletic Training. The trainer market, he says, is “kind of like the Wild West.”
Almost anyone can call themselves a trainer. Less than 10% of people doing so have a degree in a related field. Some 40% of trainers claim certification, but unlike Victor, they can have as little as 100 minutes of education before being able to work at a gym, and many have lapsed certifications.
Exercise is certainly a good idea. But it can also be dangerous. Victor notes that injuries can range from bruises to broken bones or worse. Around 30% of the USA’s population is obese, but Victor says the poorly regulated personal training market is failing them. One of the worst phrases bad trainers use is “well it worked for me, it’ll work for them.” He says, “people are selling [consumers] lies.”
Why Is It This Way?
Victor recalls a 19-year-old man coming in to Health 360 wanting to work as a trainer. He had recently quit a large chain gym after seeing the questionable practices they employed. Mostly, the trainers were poorly educated people hired mainly to look good. While appreciating the man’s drive and ethical commitment to training, Victor turned him away and told him to come back after extensive schooling.
Health 360 requires its trainers to have degrees and stay on top of their continuing education. The rest of the industry, however, does not. Large chain gyms lobby to keep the market unregulated. This keeps their prices down. After all, if they can sell a few thousand memberships but not actually have most of those people come back, while still making money, they have little incentive to change.
“Nobody knows which college will oversee it,” says Victor, referring to the various agencies which claim to certify trainers. Some are stricter than others, but the variety of options means it is often not clear who is in charge.
On top of that, customers have their own, often incorrect, ideas about fitness. In fact, the top 10 Instagram fitness personalities have no formal training, says Victor. Instead, they are fitness models who look the part. Health information constantly changes, so Health 360’s trainers spend plenty of time devoted to understanding new developments, chain gyms often don’t bother.
What Can Consumers Do?
It’s not all doom and gloom. Places like Health 360 have a mission to change the training market. “We took it upon ourselves,” says Victor, because for consumers, “the system is failing them.” His trainers all have degrees, constantly research new health information, and work one-on-one with clients. They have years of training and backgrounds in fitness. Instead of generic one-size-fits-all workouts, they work with clients to determine what’s best for them. Research, into trainers and into a gym’s background, is a consumer’s best weapon.
Victor compares going the gym to going to the doctor. You don’t walk in, pull something off a shelf, hope it is your file, and solve whatever is wrong with you. Instead, you and the doctor work together to determine the problem and how to fix it. “Your exercises are medications,” says Victor. And just like medications, Health 360 works to ensure everyone gets the right prescription.