12 March, 2014

Why continuing your education is important (not only for your registration)

I have a friend who has a PhD in exercise physiology and is acknowledged as a world leader in his area of expertise. Every year he continues to research and refine his knowledge and understanding of how the human body responds to exercise. He has been involved in exercise research for more than 25 years. You would think that he would have reached a point where he knows everything about his specialised topic! But on the contrary, he continues to study and research and regularly makes new discoveries to further his understanding.

I find it interesting that most ‘experts’ are continuously seeking further knowledge. Yet, at the opposite end of the spectrum we often receive enquiries about our Certificate III and IV in Fitness from people who inform us that they “Already know everything about exercise and training but just need the qualification”. Similarly we have Personal Trainers who enrol in our CEC courses just because they “need the CECs because my registration is due at the end of the month”. Sometimes they enrol in the course without even having an interest in the topic!

An on-going thirst for knowledge is a highly desirable characteristic in every professional, not just personal trainers and exercise instructors. The benefits of completing regular and relevant professional development include:

  1. Staying up to date with ‘best practice’

When you have some spare time check out the following research based journals. www.physicaltherapyinsport.com (Journal of Physical Therapy in Sport) www.jsams.org (Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport)

These types of journals contain research based evidence. In other words, they contain information about a topic based on scientific principles and practices. These journals enable you to keep up to date with recommended methods of exercise, training, rehabilitation, nutrition and other relevant topics.

  1. Staying ahead of your competitors

Personal training, along with most other industries, is a competitive business. Would you place your trust in a physiotherapist that had not completed any further professional development since they completed their initial qualification several years ago? Of course you wouldn’t! You would expect the physio would stay up to date with modern techniques and treatment methodologies.

This expectation should be the same for all health professionals including personal trainers. By completing relevant further education you are keeping yourself ahead of the pack.

  1. Providing variety and relevance in your exercise programming

While we all have favourite exercises and workouts, we need to keep updating them if we want to keep our clients (and our sanity!). Think of how your programs have evolved over the years to cater for new equipment and trends. Within the last five years or so we have seen the inclusion of functional training, bootcamps, crossfit, Zumba, pilates and yoga as accepted methods of exercise within the fitness industry. We’ve also seen countless new (and recycled) equipment become mainstream including gymsticks, resistance bands, kettlebells, suspension equipment, medicine balls, bosu, slosh bags, ropes, tyres, rollers and many others.

Attending masterclasses, conferences, workshops and training sessions taken by other exercise professionals is a great way to rejuvenate our ideas and add some variety to our programming.

To get the best from your professional development we recommend the following;

Planning – develop a professional development plan that will enable you to gain expertise in the areas of greatest interest to you. Try to complete the professional development in sequence to lead to a higher qualification. For example, you may consider completing individual modules covering exercise rehabilitation principles for clients with musculoskeletal conditions, cardio-respiratory problems and neurological issues. By completing these individual modules you may then be able to link them to a higher qualification such as the Diploma of Fitness or the first year of a degree.

‘Active’ and ‘Theory’ education – complete professional development that includes new or updated activities and exercises as well as theories or concepts. Don’t just obtain your PD through attending and participating in workshops. While you will no doubt learn new skills through your participation you also need to learn the science behind them. This will assist you to explain to your clients the rationale for incorporating that particular form of exercise into their session.

One final thought for you to contemplate. Your credibility and that of your industry is dependent on your expertise.

Keep working on it!

Written by Steve Hore. AFA National Manager

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