Self-Regulation & Self-Determination

The safety and quality of fitness instruction are of profound interest to fitness facility owners/managers. Which is probably why you can’t read an industry periodical these days without finding some mention about the need for regulation over personal trainer certifications. The issue is whether the industry will regulate itself, or whether it will fail to unite and agree upon some self-regulatory standards soon enough, letting government step in to do the job for it.

If you think government regulation is a radical concept at this stage, think again. I think it’s safe to say that not many would opt for government regulation. With that would come a loss of highly valued independence and autonomy over many areas, including staffing and programming decisions. But the need for self-regulation is paramount, as evidenced by the tragic Crunch incident and the subsequent uproar seen in letters to the editor and guest editorials in just this publication. So while many of the articles in this issue focus on personal trainer skills and pricing, we also once again cover the issue of regulation.

Several organizations have stepped up to the plate to offer solutions to the self-regulation issue. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the International Personal Fitness Trainers Association (IPFTA), the National Fitness Trainer’s Association (NFTA) and IDEA are the four that most quickly come to my mind. ACSM’s Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines was the first effort which outlined some basic education standards for instructors. IPFTA (p. 60) and NFTA have since organized to set standards for trainers. And IDEA has taken it even a step further by setting up a Personal Fitness Trainer Recognition System, as part of its website, to educate professionals on what is a quality certification and to assist consumers in identifying whether the trainer they choose is indeed qualified (see the news story on p.10).

While each of these efforts is a positive step toward self-regulation, it is not a standard by which the industry as a whole has agreed to abide. Therefore, until someone (and who that someone will be I haven’t a clue) takes a leadership role and sets the standard that everyone agrees to follow, this issue really needs to be about industry self-determination. Club owners can’t leave it up to the organizations to ensure fitness instruction is both high-quality and safe. Instead, a grass-roots effort is needed, and it begins in each and every facility. That means hiring qualified trainers who are certified by organizations that set high educational standards for their certification programs. And most importantly, it means educating your members and your surrounding community about what to look for when choosing a trainer, and assuring them of your commitment to high quality and safety, putting to rest those concerns raised by the Crunch and other incidents.

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