Climbing the Wall Between Instructors and Personal Trainers

Q: A:

Like many other group fitness instructors, I am making the transition to personal training (while keeping my classes). However, I am sensing resistance from the personal trainers at the club where I work. They act as though I have no knowledge, skills or industry longevity. What can I do to climb the wall dividing “trainers” from “instructors”?

Miranda Mirsec Long Beach, California

Kudos to you! In new surroundings, if others are “annoyed” by you it usually means they feel threatened (just ask the new gorilla at the zoo). Some personal trainers may feel uncertain of what role you will play as a new team member and feel they could end up on the losing end. Unfortunately, only time will prove your competence and expertise. In the meantime, win them over with kindness. Don’t be afraid to show your strengths. It may take a bit more effort on your part, but if you show that you care and are interested in making a positive impact on their corner of the jungle, with time they will appreciate you and what you have to offer. Take interest in them–figure out what makes

them tick. Share resources you think they may have interest in (being careful not to come across as a know-it-all). Ask for their professional opinions from time to time. This is one of my favorite approaches because it gives a glimpse of what you are capable of while also showing that you respect others’ opinions. For example, you might say, “Sharon, I was wondering if I could get your advice. I have a student who was recently diagnosed with MS. She is interested in a private training session. I have consulted with her health professional and he recommended core stabilization work. I am considering a Pilates and stability ball program that focuses on functional training. I know you have 16 years of experience as a trainer and I was wondering if you could share some pearls of wisdom.” Stay strong and remain professional at all times. Regardless of how others treat you, find strength in those who care about you. Remember, just because you don’t see the stars shining above you, it doesn’t mean they’re not there.
Miranda Mirsec, MA, is the physical health programs manager for the Southern

California chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and serves as a consultant to organizations that service the disability community. She holds a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and a master’s degree in organizational management and was a finalist for the 2000 & 2001 IDEA Program Director of the Year Awards.

A:

Larisa Yaghoobov Las Vegas, Nevada
Long gone are the days of the noncertified “aerobics” instructors hired to teach “dance exercise” because they looked good and had high energy. Today, most health clubs won’t hire a group fitness instructor who doesn’t hold a nationally recognized certification. Yet we still face the undeniable separation between group exercise and personal training. Much of this separation is due to personal trainers’ lack of information regarding group exercise. Many trainers have never taken a group fitness class. They see what we do as simply jumping around and yelling into a microphone. What they don’t see are the hours of hard work studying for primary and specialty certifications and the practice that goes into designing our classes.
SEPTEMBER 2003 IDEA FITNESS EDGE

Instead of feeling snubbed, we need to work on educating trainers about the fitness industry’s standards for group exercise instructors. Here are a few things you can do to show your fitness knowledge without showing off: 1 . Stay current with industry research. Provide informational literature to your group participants and your personal training clients. Provide a copy of this literature for the personal trainers in your facility. 2 . Conduct yourself as qualified in both roles. Teach your classes with the same amount of professionalism you train your clients with. 3 . Try bridging the gap by inviting members of the personal training department to participate in your classes. 4 . Use both positions to your advantage. As personal training clients participate in your classes and group exercise participants train with you individually, the other trainers will take notice and recognize that you are doing something right. The group exercise arena has grown by leaps and bounds in the past 20 years. Instructors are slowly receiving the respect they deserve as the rest of the industry becomes more educated about our role in fitness. In the meantime, embrace the opportunity you have to reach two different markets and change even more lives.
Larisa Yaghoobov is a group exercise supervisor for 24 Hour Fitness in Las Vegas. She herself has a dual fitness professional role as an ACE- and AFAA-certified group fitness instructor and an NASM-certified personal trainer.

instructors who combine successful careers in group exercise and personal training. Many who apply for our Caribbean guest instructor program have both certifications; we highly regard this combination. We encourage our professionals to maintain current certifications in both and attend workshops and conferences to stay on the cutting edge. Spend less time worrying about colleagues’ views, and focus on slowly building your own business. The only opinions that matter are those of the people whose lives you touch. Before you take on the additional responsibility, consider what your focus will be. Are you going to market your personal training services to your group exercise participants? Will you specialize in a certain area (corporate, clubs, selfemployment)? You must actively seek new clients; they won’t come your way without a consistent effort on your part. Look at ways you can advertise to friends, family and nonfitness colleagues from your past. Ask about compensation and the split in fees. To make the transition easier, you can start with mostly group exercise classes and then gradually add a few clients. There’s no need to give up one for the other–you can be versatile. Remember, establishing a good client base will take some time. Stay motivated, pick a niche, and don’t feel defeated if business is a little slow initially. Have faith in your abilities. There’s a lot to be said for people who can combine a career with their passion.
Sarah Terrion has 16 years’ experience as a group fitness instructor, program director and health club manager. She and her husband own and operate NRG2GO, a company that places guest instructors in Caribbean resorts.