BY KAREN ASP
You’re always looking to gain the competitive edge in your personal training business, especially in today’s challenging economic climate. After all, if you can give your clients something no other personal trainer can offer, you are likely to be successful. And, while figuring out what that “something” is isn’t always easy, you might want to consider following the lead of other successful fitness professionals who have become certified as an ACE Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant (LWMC) . With this credit behind your name, you will not only set yourself apart, you’ll also help your clients meet their goals more effectively, which will no doubt pay huge dividends in the long run.
What is a Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant?
Introduced in 1995, the LWMC certification is designed to give fitness professionals advanced knowledge and tools to help people with weight-related challenges by focusing on three areas: exercise, nutrition and lifestyle change. “People who have weight-related issues have probably had unsuccessful attempts at losing weight in the past,” says Todd Galati, M.A., certification and exam development manager with ACE. “Yet with the LWMC certification, fitness professionals can help people identify their obstacles to change, and educate them about the relationship between exercise and nutrition so they can finally move forward.”
Topics covered in this certification include the psychological aspects of weight management, the physiology of obesity, techniques for lifestyle coaching, the relationship between exercise and nutrition for weight control, and behavioral change. Because of the training associated with this certification, you will be able to address a wider range of issues with clients than you would with the personal trainer certification. “As a LWMC, you’re essentially teaching clients how to facilitate lifestyle changes,” Galati says.
For instance, you will be able to gauge what stage of behavior change clients are in, which will indicate how ready they are to change. You can help them identify obstacles they have faced in the past and create solutions for overcoming those hurdles in the future. You will be able to evaluate their goals and steer them toward realistic goals.
You can also offer nutritional insight, interpreting the newest food guidelines for clients and helping them understand what eating healthy means. While you can’t create meal plans, you can review food diaries and help clients identify their nutritional strengths and weaknesses, spotting where they are making poor food choices and educating them about how to make better ones. You might even recommend foods that can assist certain health conditions, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Other topics you might address include portion control, how to create caloric balance and how many calories the client is burning during exercise. And, of course, you will help them forge positive experiences with exercise, especially if they have had negative experiences in the past.
What the LWMC Certification Will Do for You and Your Clients
As a result, you will wind up treating the individual as a whole, rather than focusing solely on the physical side of living healthy. This is what prompted Shannon Fable, president and CEO of Sunshine Fitness Resources in Boulder, Colo., 2006 ACE Group Fitness Instructor of the Year and a 2009 IDEA Instructor of the Year finalist, to obtain the LWMC certification. “If we want clients to be successful, we have to address not only the physical needs, but also the psychological and nutritional needs of a client,” she says. “I knew I needed to learn from a reputable source how to address the whole client within my scope of practice, and the LWMC certification was the perfect answer.”
That same reason prompted Alicia Kirschenheiter, owner of Evolution Total Wellness in Suffolk County, N.Y., to go after the LWMC certification. There are, of course, many reasons people have struggled with their weight, and without addressing those reasons, Kirschenheiter didn’t feel like she was doing justice to her clients. “If you don’t address those reasons, chances are pretty good that no matter how good a personal trainer you are, your clients won’t be successful,” she says. “If you want to help your clients move forward and then maintain their gains, you have to address the mental and emotional issues they’re having.”
In fact, Chris McGrath, who is owner of Chris McGrath Fitness in New York City, teaches ACE courses and has served on ACE certification committees, feels so strongly about the LWMC certification that he recommends every personal trainer get it. “Every fitness professional in the consumer market should get this certification because it gets more specific to what the majority of our clients come to us for,” he says. “Many trainers think they should focus solely on fitness, but for most of our clients, it’s not a matter of what type of exercise they should do but how to overcome obstacles that have prevented them from succeeding in the past.”
Armed with this knowledge, you will then be better poised to help clients meet their goals. “When people first start a fitness program, they often do well because they see immediate changes,” says Karen Merrill, a Boston-based health specialist, athletic trainer and personal trainer. “Yet then they hit a plateau. But, because you have the LWMC certification, you’ll be able to give them tools to get through that plateau, reach their goals and eventually maintain that healthy lifestyle.”
Fable can attest to clients seeing better results. “The materials provided a much deeper understanding of how big a part the mind truly plays in the success or failure of clients,” she says. “Once I knew how to set up the client-trainer relationship, assess where the client was in his or her fitness journey and determine motivating factors, I started to get results for my clients at a greater rate,” she says.
While this certification will no doubt help your existing clients, it will also allow you to expand your client base. “This opens up the opportunity to work with virtually anybody, and not just people who are overweight, as everybody from the deconditioned individual to the competitive athlete can probably find areas in their life in which they need to makes changes,” McGrath says.
Lifestyle and weight management consulting can even be a business in and of itself that doesn’t have to fit within the confines of a health club, McGrath says. For instance, you could do sit-down counseling or phone counseling. You might even check out programs like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers to see if local clubs would be interested in hiring you to consult for them. And with the government’s increased focus on healthcare, you might have more hospitals and medical-based facilities looking for someone like a LWMC, Galati says.
Doors certainly opened for David Bagby, owner of SimplyFit Fitness Services in Jacksonville, Fla., and a gold-certified ACE professional, after he earned the LWMC certification. A physician who does anti-aging wellness medicine hired Bagby to oversee the fitness end of his practice, and Bagby credits the LWMC certification for helping him secure the position. “The LWMC certification has made me more marketable, as I can offer more to clients and employers, especially with the behavior-modification part,” he says.
Another benefit to the LWMC certification? It will set you apart from the rest of the field, again making you more attractive to potential clients. “In today’s world, people are looking for the most educated and most experienced professionals to help them achieve their goals,” Merrill says. Give them a choice between a personal trainer and a personal trainer with the LWMC certification, and once they understand the difference, they’ll probably veer toward the latter.
One more point to consider: With this advanced certification, you may be able to charge more. That strategy worked for Bagby who increased his prices after obtaining the LWMC certification. “Because I’m offering clients more services, I can demand a higher price,” he says.
Interested in pursuing the LWMC certification? Because this is an advanced certification, ACE requires that you hold a current ACE Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor or Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist certification; an NCAA-accredited personal trainer or advanced fitness-related certification; or a four-year Bachelor’s degree in exercise science or a related field. You also need to be at least 18 years old and hold a current adult CPR and AED certificate.
Study materials are available. You can also sign up for the Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant continuing education course to help you prepare for the exam.
If you already have an ACE certification, the LWMC exam will cost $150 for the paper-and-pencil version or you can take it at a computer-based testing facility for $184. Without an ACE certification, expect to pay $219 for the paper-and-pen version or $249 at a computer-based testing facility. Check ACE’s Web site for exam dates and locations. If you pass the exam, you will receive 2.0 continuing education credits, which you can use to renew another ACE certification.
If you decide to pursue the LWMC certification, you won’t regret it. Says Mark Jackman, Ph.D., owner of Life Signs in Durham, N.C.: “If you’re interested in weight management and are outraged at the state of affairs in America today, getting this certification is the obvious solution.”
KAREN ASP, freelance journalist and ACE-certified Fitness Professional, is a contributing editor for Woman’s Day. She also writes regularly for numerous other publications, including Men’s Fitness, Women’s Health, Self, Shape, Fitness, Prevention and Runner’s World.