A day in the Life of a QUALITY Personal Training Education

If you are interested in taking your passion for fitness to the next level, visit The Academy in Boston or New York City to learn more about getting a TOP QUALITY personal training education.  Check out our Facebook page to view pictures and video clips of the schools, the job fairs, the staff.  http://ow.ly/3sFbk

Not only are you stepping out there and helping people become healthier, stronger and more fit but you are joining the thousands of fitness professionals in an industry that is growing exponentially!

Children and Exercise: Advise from an “Expert”

By: Angela Corcoran, MS, CSCS – Head of Education at The Academy, Co-Founder & Educator at Innovative Wellness Consulting

Like Clarke Kent, I was not born knowing my destiny which has so clearly unfolded for me over the past six years. On March 13, 2003 I received the news that we were going to have a baby. After years of being told that this was implausible, you can imagine our shock when we were told. As an Exercise Physiologist, I learned throughout my academic career that exercise is a magic cure for almost any ailment but of course had not assumed this was an area in my life that would change. Having planned a life without children, I was suddenly looking down the road of uncertainty. The youngest in my entire family, babies were not my forte and pregnancy did not fit into my plans of running the New York City Marathon in November when I would be full term. I had no idea in that moment how my life would change; how my daughter would awaken in me super human desire to contribute to the good of the nation and start for me an unbelievable adventure.
Before I had a child of my own the explanation as to why children were (and still are) the largest growing diseased population as a result of physical inactivity seemed obvious. With the evolution of video games and the disintegration of the stay at home mom, families just weren’t investing time into each other. Of course I knew there was no way this would happen to me, or my family, the solutions seemed obvious. But when our daughter was born, it became clear that the solution was not obvious. Almost immediately the biggest commodity (other than sleep) became time.
I wasn’t eating well and I certainly wasn’t getting in daily exercise. But it was through this experience that I began to explore what individuals in my industry, the fitness industry, were doing. One recommendation was mom and baby yoga. For me this did not work. I am a true believer in the physical results from Yoga, but with the mom and baby I just didn’t break a sweat. I tried multiple classes, weeks were passing and none proved physically strenuous enough for me. In my frustration I did what any normal product of the 80’s would do. I came home with my daughter, downloaded some gratuitous 80’s music, Madonna, Crowded House, Michael Jackson, and had a make shift dance party with my toddler in the comfort of my own home. Sweaty and out of breath, having to take breaks from jumping on the bed, and laughing so hard that we were crying it never dawned on me that this, this was exercise.
As exercise professionals we so often feel that we have all of the answers to exercise and maintaining health, but my epiphany didn’t come from a place of answers, it came from a place of questions. One morning after a jog we had an exclusive Madonna dance party. Suddenly in the middle of Material Girl, I heard a sound that would forever change my interpretation of exercise, “beep, beep, and beep”; I was in my target heart rate zone. Suddenly it dawned on me, I was having fun with my daughter and she was no longer a passive observer in my jogger stroller, she was an active participant. For a solid thirty minutes I was exercising at heart rates that exceeded what I normally accomplished on the track, and I felt great! My daughter certainly was having a similar cardiovascular response to mine and she was enjoying every minute of time we were spending together. I started to think about her little body and her need for exercise. Ironically even as a personal trainer, it did not dawn on me until then that children have very clear established needs for exercise. I needed to educate myself on what normal exercise was for children. What would her response be to cardiovascular exercise and was a small amount of resistance training okay? I tore into textbooks and the internet searching for answers to my questions on children and exercise.
I learned a lot about children and the need for them to participate in physical activity and that very few get the recommended minimum exercise requirement. Physical inactivity is one of the two major causes of overweight children and of childhood obesity, poor nutrition being the second. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is a program of studies designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States. Data from NHANES I (1971–1974) to NHANES II (2003–2006) showed increases in the rates of obese and overweight individuals among all age groups, however the rates among children are quite astonishing. Among preschool-aged children, aged two – five years, the prevalence increased from 5.0% to 12.4%. In fact if current rates continue, by 2015 1 in every 4 children in the United States will be obese.
The research that I found showed that as weight increases to reach the levels referred to as “overweight” and “obesity,“ the risks for Coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon), Hypertension (high blood pressure), Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides), Stroke, Liver and Gallbladder disease, Sleep apnea and respiratory problems, Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint), Gynecological problems leading to abnormal menses, and infertility also increase. In addition to increases in weight, if you add physical inactivity it alone may contribute to poor development of the pre-front cortex of the brain, an impaired ability to read and to develop vocabulary, an inability to self regulate behavior and poor academic achievement.
I learned about the idea of leisure time physical activity versus non-leisure time physical activity. Leisure time physical activity is the time spent intentionally performing physical activity, non-leisure time physical activity is the time through daily life where the activities performed require one to be physically active. One potential theory as to why statistics regarding children, disease and physical inactivity are so alarmingly high was that the amount of non-leisure time physical activity for children has decreased to such a great degree that the amount of leisure time required to compensate for that loss is much higher than initially prescribed. Increased use of non-active technology and lack of green space clearly contribute to non-leisure time physical inactivity as fewer children walk or bike to school, participate in recess or even have access to gym class. Increased TV and video game time and increased working hours from two parent families all pose potential contributors to decreases in leisure time physical activity.
In fact, for otherwise healthy children the current recommendation for cardiovascular exercise alone was and still is one hour daily in addition to any non-leisure time physical activity in which that child is already participating. Put into perspective, for otherwise healthy adults the requirement is a cumulative 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity weekly, or 30 minutes most days of the week. Children need to intentionally exercise every day for one full hour. I never considered that I might need to incorporate exercise into my daughters’ daily routine; that her daily need for exercise was greater than mine. I found books that told children about their bodies and how they work, but very few suggested effective solutions to incorporate exercise into a daily routine. Lifestyle has changed and with it, so has the amount of non-leisure time physical activity making daily exercise requirements for children far greater than many families understand. Many books get families thinking, but none empower them to make change. I wanted to make change and the clarity of purpose I felt in this moment was an epiphany, I wanted to empower parents, just like us, whom I knew must be having the same experiences to reclaim their health, and the health of their children, through eating healthy and exercising.
The past 5 years of my life have been an amazing journey. I have continued my runs and in November I did finally run the NYC marathon! With the help of my daughter who is now five, and fit as a fiddle, I have created a number of exercise adventures that parents and well as personal trainers can do with children in different environments without spending money on gym equipment. I have become an expert on Children and Exercise.

Meet Amy Hendersen, a Featured Graduate from the Academy

I moved to New York City from my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky in 2001 to study acting. I was always active growing up and loved being on stage. As a busy undergraduate, however, I put on weight – almost 40 pounds! I was not very happy with how I looked or the roles I was getting. After I graduated and was auditioning full-time, I started taking classes at the gym. I didn’t really know what I was doing but slowly took off the weight through good old-fashioned diet and exercise. In 2007, I decided to train for my first triathlon and it was during that training when a lightbulb went off…I could help other people lose weight and get in shape too!

I enrolled at The Academy because I wanted a great education and to be a trainer who knew what she was talking about. I wanted to back up my experience of becoming healthy with a solid foundation of exercise science, biomechanics, and nutrition. I knew I had changed my body but I wanted to tell others HOW. There were other certification programs out there but I was drawn to The Academy because the program was intense and thorough and I thought I would fit in well with the full-time program.

One of my favorite aspects about The Academy was that the day was split in two. For the first part, we were in class – taking notes, viewing presentations, and hearing lectures. During the second half of the day, we applied what we had learned earlier on the gym floor. This combination of classroom and hands-on learning helped reinforce my understanding of the material. We were in the gym, working out with equipment, learning the terminology and physiology, and training each other. By the time I graduated in December of 2007, I had already trained 14 clients – my classmates!

I now work at a private personal training studio in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  The training studio is ideal for clients because you don’t have to share space or equipment. I have over 20 clients and I work approximately 30 hours a week. One of my clients, Nicole Brewer, was one of the kicked-off contestants from a past season of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” I began training her to come back for the live finale of the show. The contestant who lost the most weight at home wins $100,000! She was determined and excited to learn about fitness and wellness. She changed her life and in the process became an inspiration to others. What a joy to train her!

I love my job and the part-time hours are great. I am not as interested in acting full-time anymore but am currently staying busy planning my wedding and applying to graduate school in Holistic Health Education. I would love to round out my personal training skills by learning more about nutrition, wellness, alternative therapies, and spirituality. I am certified by the American Council on Exercise and specialize in training pre-natal and postpartum women. I also work with clients recovering from injury. I just taught my first workshop at Pongo Power about endurance training and I focus on functional training with a holistic approach.

My education at The Academy was exactly what I needed to jump start my new career. Being a personal trainer is such a rewarding job and I feel so lucky to work in an industry that helps and educates others. If you have an interest in fitness, are interested in changing careers, want to take your skills to a new level, or are just starting out like I was – The Academy is the place to be! I am so grateful for my experience there and my amazing teachers. Thanks to The Academy!

Certification, Accreditation, Recognition – What‘s the Difference?

Written By:
Angela Corcoran BS, MS, HFI, RCEP, CSCS
Head of Education, The Academy

In 1998, I graduated from the Rutgers University Exercise Science program in New Brunswick, New Jersey as one of very few students in a new major. Initially I thought I would continue my education and find a career as an Occupational Therapist. However, after my senior internship, I realized that this profession was not for me. I was left in the precarious position of having no job and a degree that was largely unheard of.

I decided to fill some time with personal training. Never did I think of personal training as a profession. However, I was surprised to find that my personal training colleagues were better than me at the hands on aspect of training but there was something missing. They were comfortable navigating weights and moving with the flow on the gym floor but were lacking critical knowledge of physiology, anatomy, kinesiology, and special populations. I believe this made their training methods dangerous and potentially fatal. It was at this time that I began to question the personal training industry and its regulation. After all, at this early stage in my career I had both a certification and a college degree and I was uncomfortable on a gym floor! My personal training colleagues had so many certifications with so many different abbreviations.. I was confused. There’s ACE, NASM,ACSM, NSCA, IFPA, NCSF, IFFA, just to name a few. I asked myself; what is the difference between these certifications? And how is this industry regulated?

It took no more than a 10 minute search on the internet to discover that the personal training industry is completely unregulated and unmonitored. Organizations such as IHRSA are huge promoters of “self regulation”. This is completely astounding to me! You have to have a license to be a beautician; to cut someone’s hair. You also have to have a license to perform a manicure or a massage. But you don’t need a license to put a 50 year old person with medical problems through a workout? Think about it. Under the current standards a personal trainer with very limited medical knowledge can take someone with a potentially life threatening illness (like heart disease) and put him or her on a treadmill (essentially performing a stress test) with absolutely no knowledge of potential risk, and absolutely no oversight.

So where does the responsibility lie? It falls on the consumer and the owners of facilities that employ personal trainers. Because of this many gym owners have begun “in house” education programs. I am very familiar with these programs, as I was employed by Equinox Fitness for a long time working on their “in house” program which they call EFTI. I applaud any gym that attempts to create a standard when none exists. However, after years of trying I can tell you that it simply does not work. First of all, the people teaching these programs are typically unqualified. They themselves lack the required knowledge and training. Let alone the skills to teach. So why do these programs exits? Unfortunately, it all comes down to money. It’s expensive to hire qualified teachers with advanced degrees to teach in depth scientific concepts. Second, gyms make more money when trainers are training, not when they are in school. So there’s no incentive for a gym owner to hold back an under qualified trainer when he/she could be training clients. Typically gyms require some kind of national certification within 6 months of employment. However, many trainers that are working are not certified. Many never get their certification or don’t stay current and re-certify. Astonishingly, even trainers that are certified may not be qualified.

So what agency “certifies” a program? The NCCA, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, is ICE’s (Institute for Credentialing Excellence’s) accrediting body and the leading agency on accreditation in the field of personal training. There are hundreds of “certifications” available for individuals who want to become a personal trainer, but only those accredited through the NCCA should be considered (visit http://www.credentialingexcellence.org/). When I was hired as the Head of Education at The Academy, I decided that becoming accredited through NCCA was the next logical and important step after our statelicense. What I discovered was shocking. As a state licensed school we were not eligible. How is that possible? Our educational standard at The Academy far exceeds any at-home study course or program without teachers or hands on practical training. What I discovered, was that in order to be accredited through ICE and NCCA we had to offer our “exam” to anyone who walked through the door. But that was not an option. According to the rules and regulations of the State Education Department, all of our students MUST attend our classes and receive instruction from our teachers. Attending class is a requirement to take the exam. A certification is an accredited exam, it does not ensure practice, only book knowledge. The NCCA, which has oversight through ICE, will not allow you to become accredited unless you allow the general public to just sit for your exam. So you can see our dilemma. As an educational institution we were immediately ineligible even though our standard was much more stringent and thorough. As a licensed school, we must guarantee that our students not only have the knowledge.. but also the hands on practical training. Our NY State and The Commonwealth of Massachusetts licenses strive to ensure that our graduates can work in the field. Virtually guaranteeing that they are not only knowledgeable, but competent. A certification simply means that you passed a test.

Full of disappointment and frustration, I was not about to give up. After numerous attempts to contact NCCA, I received a call from Jim Kendzel; from ICE. Jim was very sympathetic and helpful regarding The Academy’s plight and he actually agreed with me. He invited me to sit on a board aimed at developing a new standard for assessment based certificate programs. The first step was just passed by the American National Standards Institute with ICE, and is available to view at http://www.credentialingexcellence.org/. The Academy has since become “A Proud Member of ICE”. Receiving recognition through this standard is the closest any school can get to an accreditation through NCCA/ICE at this time. But stay tuned, I envision an even higher standard and will continue to work with NCCA to achieve that goal.

So what exactly is recognition? There are a few organizations that offer recognition. One is IACET, or the International Association for Continuing Education and Training. Essentially IACET evaluates all aspects of the learning model and ensures it is valid. They then have a standard model of awarding continuing education units. We have just completed the application process (which was no easy task). The application which I ultimately submitted was approximately 1200 pages long. I am not allowed to share the standards directly with you, but essentially there are 10 standards that evaluate everything from the condition of the learning environment, to teacher qualifications to student examination. A far more rigorous requirement than getting a certificate accredited. Although it was a great challenge, I believe the qualifications they set forth should become the standard for all schools offering personal training education.

Ultimately the field of personal training should be a licensed profession. After years of experience in hiring personal trainers, I can’t believe that the industry is still allowed to exist in the manner that it does. The dangers of allowing unqualified people to prescribe exercise programs to individuals is simply terrifying and could be lethal in some cases. The interest and employment potential in this industry is growing exponentially each year. With the growth of the industry comes growth in the certification boom. This has added a huge degree of confusion for people wanting to become personal trainers.

I feel fortunate to have landed at The Academy. The vision of the school is very simple. We strive to become the model for licensure even though no such model currently exists.  The Academy has set the highest standard in personal training education through its educational model, its curriculum, and the employment of top qualified educators in the personal training industry.