Getting a personal trainer certification seems like the logical first step to becoming a fitness professional.
Technology has revolutionized the way we learn, making personal trainer education accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Online learning has opened up opportunities for many by bringing fitness education to their homes.
1. Choose your certification and buy the study materials. (You can read more about the best personal training certificates here.)
2. Study. Some courses just involve reading a study guide, some have online lectures, and some include a resource center to ask questions.
3. Register and pass your exam. This is typically a multiple-choice exam of 120-150 questions.
4. Receive your certification and start training people!
All in all, getting your first personal trainer certification is a pretty simple process with a low barrier to entry. While it can be a positive first step, at OPEX Fitness we believe that fitness education needs to go much further than this if you truly want to call yourself a fitness professional.
The number one problem with the state of personal trainer certifications is they truly don’t test your coaching skills. Rather, they’re a test of your ability to memorize information, (some of which is, of course, valuable), and your ability to perform in a testing environment. Now, consider how much you remember from studying for multiple-choice exams in school. Unless you spend a considerable amount of time putting information into practice and learning it in a way that works for your learning style, most of the details are going to exit your brain pretty quickly!
So while a good start, a multiple choice quiz should really only be step one to your personal trainer education. It’s a necessary initial barrier to entry, but only the beginning of a lifetime of learning and mastering your craft!
So what else does a rigorous personal trainer education need to include?
Learning needs to involve the opportunity to ask questions, debate and bounce ideas off other coaches. Interacting with the material like this will help you to understand it more deeply and retain the concepts you are learning. Never accept information at face value without questioning the reasoning and evidence behind it. That is why the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP) includes daily forum participation, monthly cohort calls, and an optional live immersion course – so coaches can interact and question the course material.
Reading from a textbook is one thing, learning directly from an expert who will give you feedback is another. While it can be a little bit nerve-wracking to put your work and thoughts out there, it is incredibly valuable to get the input of a mentor on what you do well and what you could improve on. OPEX CCP coaches are encouraged to take a stab at practice program designs in our forums and submit their final project case studies for review and feedback directly from our Founder James FitzGerald.
Understanding coaching in theory and being able to put it into practice are two very different things! A rigorous personal trainer education should first teach you principles and then give you a chance to practice them to build confidence, understand what works for one might not work for another, and how to navigate the complexity of real-life human beings. That is why the second half of OPEX CCP requires coaches to do practice case studies, taking seven clients through consultation, assessment, program design, nutrition, and lifestyle coaching.
Probably the most important part of any personal trainer education is time actually spent training clients. Nothing replaces thousands of hours of experience through on the job learning. A common question asked by new CCP applicants is, “can I start coaching people immediately or do I need to wait until I finish?” Our recommendation is always to start putting into practice what you are learning immediately! Not only will this help you retain information, but you will also gain in the trenches experience that no course can give you.
In summary, while getting a personal trainer certification is quick and easy, getting a rigorous education is a different story. It is a commitment to daily learning and requires you to get out there and “do,” but it is what will set you apart in a saturated industry of mediocre trainers with little real-world experience. Get an introduction to our coaching education and start setting yourself apart from the industry, today.