The cornerstone of a successful and fulfilling career is a commitment to lifelong learning, both personally and professionally. As it was once said by the incredibly wise Dr. Seuss, “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you will go.”
Many health coaches and exercise professionals associate learning with the formal education required to achieve and maintain their primary certifications. While accumulating the specified number of continuing education credits is an essential part of professional development, it is only one of the many ways to nourish a long and satisfying career. Enhancing and expanding your knowledge and skillset should not be limited to the certifications, specialty certifications, courses and conferences where you earn “credits.” Learning can happen whenever and wherever you open your mind to the abundance of opportunities around you.
What Is Informal Continuing Education?
Informal continuing education is any learning that occurs outside of a structured and conventional environment. It is often self-directed and consists of the things you do on a regular basis to evolve in not only your career but also your personal life. It might be the steps you take to explore an area of interest, the activities you participate in when searching for motivation or how you fill your cup in order to give to others. These valuable learning moments can be planned for in small daily doses or occur through experiential learning. By making curiosity and exploration a way of life, you will begin to cultivate a habit of lifelong learning.
Informal Continuing Education as a Way of Life
How you want to learn, what you wish to study and the type of learning you choose to engage in are all individual decisions. Regardless of what and how you want to learn, the opportunities and resources to support lifelong learning are endless. Here are a few ways to incorporate informal continuing education into your daily life:
- Read: Read on a regular basis to gain a deeper understanding of the topics that interest you most. Choose books or publications from within the fitness industry, as well as from outside the industry. Research to develop more knowledge about concepts with which you are familiar and move outside your comfort zone by delving into subjects with which you are unfamiliar. Industry magazines or ongoing publications such as ACE Certified or the ACE Insights Blog, in addition to self-improvement books on topics such as leadership, communication, emotional intelligence, behavior change and stress management are a great place to start.
- Absorb: Finding the time to read everything you’d like to can be difficult, if not impossible, which is why it can be valuable to add listening and watching to your to-do list. Podcasts, webinars, and instructional videos can add another dimension to your learning. Webinars and instructional videos layer on visual and auditory information that may help you absorb the information better. And, you can multi-task - listening or watching while you workout! Check out the many free live webinars from ACE or explore TED Talks. And, for podcasts, try Fitness Business Podcast, IDEA Listen and Learn, Ted Radio Hour or How I Built This
- Experience: It's important you continue to be a student and consumer of health and wellness opportunities once you become a professional. Be sure you continue taking advantage of all the industry has to offer. Participating in new fitness modalities, such as group fitness classes (in-person and virtual) you have not tried before, circuit training or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions, or outdoor experiences like hiking, mountain biking or adult recreation clubs is a great way to expand your horizons and meet new people in your community. In addition, exploring fitness apps or shadowing—or even hiring—another health coach or exercise professional to add variety to your routine and learn new techniques can help expand your knowledge and develop your skills through experiential learning.
Connect to the Community
Finally, consider becoming a part of a community where you can tap into the power of learning through social interactions. Connecting with like-minded professionals provides you with a network of resources and recommendations for things to read, absorb, and experience. ACE supports Pros through several Facebook pages and groups. Consider joining us at our ACE Fitness Page, ACE Group Fit Facebook Group or the ACE Health Coach Network. And be sure to take advantage of more local opportunities to meet people in your community. You never know who may be your next mentor or newest client.
Informal continuing education is not something you “have to” do, it is something you choose to do. It’s a choice and commitment to the pursuit of ongoing learning with a positive attitude and growth mindset.