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August 2012

Not Just Another Course: How Continuing Education Can Impact Your Business

The following is a personal account by ACE Exercise Pete McCall on how taking advantage of continuing education courses and workshops early in his career helped his business take off down the road.

According to Benjamin Franklin, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Who would have thought an 18th century quote by a brilliant founding father (albeit, not necessarily a fit one) could have a direct application to personal trainers in the 21st century?

Even today, Franklin is right. Investing in continuing education is the best money a personal trainer can spend.

Between study materials and time, becoming a certified personal trainer requires a significant investment. Once you finally earn that certification, the feeling of accomplishment is incomparable. When I became an ACE-certified Personal Trainer, I was so overwhelmed, in fact, that I immediately developed a severe case of the “know-it-alls.”

I thought the certification was the only knowledge I needed to be successful. 

Thankfully, a close friend of mine who had significant industry experience pointed out that while it was OK to feel accomplished, the learning shouldn’t stop. The goal of continuing education, my friend told me, was not only to maintain my certification but to learn more so I would be better equipped to help more people.

Think of it like this: Continuing education isn’t unique to fitness certifications. In every professional field, some form of continuing education is required to maintain your credential. Would you trust your health to a doctor who doesn’t know the latest research on medications?  How about trusting your business to an accountant or attorney who hasn’t kept up on changing laws?

Continuing education requirements in every field are put in place to ensure professionals providing a service to the public are staying current on the latest research and schools of thought. It’s not just an extra expense.

In 1999, once I got over my case of “know-it-all,” I started attending fitness conferences and workshops. I quickly realized that while I could have gotten by in the industry on my certification alone, it simply wasn’t enough to excel. If I wanted to be truly successful, I had to take advantage of continuing education. 

Soon after, I started seeing the fruits of my labor. I was standing out from my competition by learning about new pieces of equipment and becoming an early adopter of the latest training techniques. This knowledge also helped me keep new ideas flowing, and helped me avoid the dreaded trainer burnout. 

At the time, I worked for a “big-box” health club in downtown Washington, D.C., where most of the members were attorneys.  If you’ve ever worked with an attorney or know an attorney, then you know their time is valuable. To get their attention and up my sales, I focused on learning how to deliver dynamic sports conditioning–based workouts that burned a lot of calories in a short amount of time.   

Here are a few other examples of what I learned from continuing education and how I applied it:

  • The first time I used a stability ball was at a conference in 1999. I went to take a couple of other workshops and distance-education courses and ended up specializing in using the ball with individual clients and in group fitness classes. 
  • In 2002, I took workshops from Vern Gambetta and Gary Gray, the two founders of functional training. Their approach to program design completely changed my outlook on exercise selection; my clients liked the fact that we didn’t have wait for equipment and could train anywhere in the club with just a set of dumbbells. The most important thing is that they loved the results.
  • My introduction to kettlebells came in 2003. I had read a couple of articles about the resurgence of a piece of equipment from the former Soviet Union and was immediately fascinated by the tool. I jumped at the first opportunity to learn how to safely use them.  Being an early adopter helped me land new clients, as I was the only trainer at my club using kettlebells.  

Continuing education is not just a requirement to maintain a certification but, more importantly, it’s an opportunity to invest in your career as a fitness professional. Whether it is a self-paced course, a live webinar or a workshop, all continuing education provides the opportunity to improve your skills and knowledge base.

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