Guest Post: Heather of Run Faster, Mommy!

7 Nov

I asked Heather to write this post for me because I’m also looking into getting into the health and fitness field.  I have a whole post for you guys on why and when I decided that would be my future, but in the meantime, check out all of the information Heather has to share with us.  And check out her blog, Run Faster, Mommy! It’s super cute, she’s totally personal and down to earth, and a fellow New Englander (as I know so many of my readers are as well!).

Hello loyal Because I Can readers!  It’s Heather of Run Faster, Mommy! here with a guest post while Samantha is away for the weekend.  The topic up for discussion today is working in the health and fitness field, and how does one take the leap to get there.  There are a million posts floating around on the internet on how to do it, but probably not as many personal accounts.  I’m here today to give you a little bit of both.

Chances are, when fitness and living a healthy, active lifestyle makes a huge impact on your life, you are going to want to share that passion with others.  It may be just by motivating a friend, or dragging your co-worker to the gym. But some fitness enthusiasts feel the drive to make an even bigger impact and reach even more people, and therefore choose to become a health or fitness professional, either as a group exercise instructor or personal trainer.  That was me without a shadow of a doubt.  I started running, working out, and really making adjustments to my own healthy lifestyle shortly after my oldest son was born.  I felt FANTASTIC.  I couldn’t get over how, only 4 months after giving birth, I felt better than I have in my entire life. I knew I HAD to share this with other people.  Oh what a wonderful world it would be if we would all exercise!! I was on a mission.  I wanted to become a personal trainer.

But where do you start?

Unfortunately, personal training certifications are a dime a dozen.  A quick google search will reveal hundreds of options, some of which require not much more than an application fee and bam, you’re a “certified” personal trainer.  This route, while certainly easy (and usually cheap), is only doing a disservice to you and all of your future clients.  It is imperative, as a trainer,  that you have a working knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, exercise physiology, biomechanics, injury prevention and more, to prevent harm to future clients.   Many personal trainer certifying agencies are not accredited by the NCAA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies), meaning they have not met specific standards set by the NCAA for the safety of the public, and those are the ones you want to avoid. Further, some agencies that are NCAA accredited are still not as highly recognized in the fitness industry as others, which is critical when it comes time to finding a job with your new certification.

There are many questions you should ask yourself when deciding what certifying agency you would like your credentials from, and further, how much work you are willing to put into your education. Are you looking to personal train or teach fitness classes on the side, or are you looking to make a career change?

Options include:

Home Study. Many certifying bodies allow you to  purchase study materials and textbooks when registering for the certification exam, and you make take the exam when you feel ready (usually within a certain time frame).  
Pro: You may study at your own leisure, and have more time to really take in and learn the information
Con: No hands on learning or experience. 

Weekend seminar/workshop certification:  Usually held over the course of a weekend, culminating with the certification exam.
Pro: hands on experience, in person instructors to answer your questions.  Many gyms will offer these to their employees or future employees, which may be convenient as you know they will accept your credentials for employment at that given location. 
Con:  A lot of information to learn in 48 hours.

Technical college/continuing education program:  Many colleges or technical schools offer 6-12 week personal training programs, either in person, online, or a combination of both.  
Pro: More time to learn material. Access to instructors, hands on training (assuming the course is not 100% online) 
Con: possibly time consuming.  May be limited to taking a specific certification exam (associated with the course/program)

Associate or Bachelors degree in exercise science (physiology, kineseology, etc):
Pro:  In depth education in the field of exercise science, allowing you to explore a wider range of materials and topics.  A degree will allow you to obtain advanced certifications as well as further your education in the field, and possibly allow for greater career opportunities.
Cons: Time consuming, expensive.  Location may be a huge factor if there is not a college or university near you with an accredited program. 

As for my decision: I lucked out, because just a few minutes away from my home was a University offering a bachelors degree in exercise and sport science.  The program was highly accredited, culminating with not only the degree, but an advanced certification from the American College of Sports Medicine, the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world and arguably the most prestigious certifying organization for personal trainers.  For me it was a no-brainer. I knew I wanted to make fitness a full time career, and therefore wanted the best start I could possibly get my hands on. 

I will tell you this: it was a long road. There were many times I asked myself why I didn’t do a home study or a weekend seminar, and could have been well into my career long ago.  But in the end, I feel that I certainly have the upper hand on those who did not take this route, as I am now armed with a vast working knowledge of the human body and exercise science.  And as anyone even vaguely associated with the fitness industry can tell you, there is a lot, I mean TONS of misinformation out there regarding weight loss and exercise.   I feel it is very important as a trainer to be able to not only help my clients distinguish truth from false infomercial claims, but have the ability to explain exactly WHY that diet pill is no good, or how the latest gadget is just a false claim at a quick fix from a technical and scientific point of view. 

 So, as you can see, there are many options when it comes to taking that step to entering a career in the fitness field.  And there are many personal factors that will weigh in on the path that you end up taking to achieve your goals.  Regardless of the path you take, the biggest piece of advice I can give anyone is to double and triple check the certifying agency you have decided to test with for their validity, accreditation and recognition.   And then, put your heart into learning the information and pursuing this new career.  Full time, part time, or only occasionally on the side, it is without a doubt an incredibly rewarding field to work in.  Helping someone transform their life through fitness is absolutely priceless! 

For more information, check out the following links:

NCAA accredited personal trainer certifications:  http://www.ideafit.com/template/ncaa/2-6-08 
The American College of Sports Medicine:  http://www.acsm.org


Heather is an ACSM certified Health Fitness Specialist, with a passion for sharing the love of fitness with everyone she meets, and an obsession for running as often as she can.  You can follow her adventures at her blog, www.runfastermommy.com
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