Ouch! As baby boomers grow older, many are experiencing at least one chronic injury. They may undergo surgery or physical therapy to help relieve pain. After they're released from therapy, however, many still need specialized attention regarding an exercise program. That's where the fitness community is stepping in. In the 2000 IDEA Personal Training Trendwatch, postrehabilitation training emerged as a definite growth area. Here are some ways owners of personal training businesses have set up their postrehab services.
At Train to Attain in Syracuse, New York, owner Eric Prager and employees see postrehab clients in a small, private facility. Prager believes the facility's intimate size helps clients with medical problems feel less self-conscious. When a new client arrives, a trainer completes an initial consultation and gets the client into a program. Then, after four weeks, when the client is accustomed to exercising, the trainer performs additional assessments. Clients make appointments for strength training (one on one) and cardio training (small group), because Prager believes both protocols are necessary.
On the other end of the spectrum, trainers at Physician's Fitness in Columbus, Ohio, travel to see clients in seven different hospital and outpatient physical therapy centers. "We used to have stand-alone studios," notes Greg Mack, chief executive officer and managing partner, "but they didn't work as well as us being onsite. The overhead is lower, and potential clients figure we must know what we're doing or the therapists wouldn't let us train there."
Marjorie Johnston of FitnessWorks Personal Training in Naples, Florida, sees most of her postrehab clients, who constitute about 75 percent of her clientele, in exercise rooms at the condominium complexes where the clients live. "Many of these [rooms] are well equipped with treadmills, elliptical machines and Cybex equipment," Johnston notes. In addition, she brings in props for balance training and some lighter weights.
Function First in San Diego doesn't focus exclusively on postrehab, but does see some clients in this population. "We take a different perspective," notes Anthony Carey, MA, CSCS, chief financial officer and company principal. "We don't do personal training [per se]; we look at the body's overall biomechanics and how that is affecting the injury site. Our expertise is identifying biomechanical problems and providing the right exercises in the right sequence to alleviate pain," he adds.
Staff Qualifications. Prager believes personal trainers working with postrehab clients should ideally have a college degree in exercise physiology or a related field. If that's not possible, at the very least the person supervising the program should have this type of degree. "It's a liability issue for medical practitioners," he explains. "They want to refer patients to fitness professionals who are knowledgeable about the body."
Mack likes to hire trainers with an undergraduate degree in athletic training, physical education or exercise science plus at least two years' personal training experience. He prefers that trainers have some clinical experience as well, whether as athletic trainers, doctor's aides or physical therapy assistants. The new hires then go through a 60-hour in-house training program.
Marketing and Promotions. "Our business has been growing 34 percent a year because of the medical marketing we've been doing," notes Prager. He gives medical practitioners patient information forms to fill out and fax back to him. "A practitioner has a great deal of power in the eyes of the patients, but sometimes the patients are uncomfortable calling us. We bypass that and call them directly." Prager works with 60 different medical practitioners.
One way Johnston gets referrals is from clients who take, or know friends who participate in, the land and water fitness classes she teaches for people with Parkinson's disease.
Business Benefits. "When physical therapists or doctors refer people to us, the potential clients see us as very credible," says Mack. "People coming out of postrehab are a captured, motivated audience who tend to be long-term clients. We usually get three to six months of personal training from them."
Johnston agrees: "Postrehab clients don't cancel appointments unless it's unavoidable. When they are functioning well again, they love to tell their friends about their wonderful trainer, which translates to referrals."
Potential Challenges. "Don't tell medical professionals you can `heal' or `treat' people. Watch your semantics," cautions Mack.