Why should you vote for Dan Jolley as a AusREP Member for Fitness Australia?
Fitness Australia has an important role to play in maintaining professional standards, through registration and education, in the fitness industry. In this way, it exists to meed the needs of members, and to maintain professional standards.
But how successful is Fitness Australia in this area? And how well represented are the needs of members?
I hear one major complaint about Fitness Australia over and over. That is, professionals don’t feel like they get value for money from their membership. And access to professional development is raised most often when I ask what they want from Fitness Australia.
The Fitness Australia board
Looking at the current make up of the board, it’s clear that business is very well represented. This is valuable when overseeing a national organisation, the size of Fitness Australia. And the addition of elected members to the board is a positive step towards representing members better.
But most personal trainers are self-employed, or work very independently, and their main concern (after making a decent living), is being able to provide a while quality service to their clients. The quality of our education and our professional development is key to making sure this quality is as high as possible.
This is where I can add the most value to the board. Because not only am I active in the fitness industry (like many of you), but I’ve taught Certificate III and IV in Fitness for the last 9 years as well. And I have academic experience which is vital for ensuring the reputation and quality of our industry into the future.
Why is the education of trainers important?
Among business owners and managers the skills and ability of new fitness professionals is a major concern, and has been for years. It’s an issue that even comes up in risk management discussions.
Cheap, short, online courses flourished when the vocational education sector was opened to more competition, and new trainers flooded the industry, without a lot of practice skills.
In response, in 2015 the Certificate III and IV qualifications were made more rigorous, requiring more assessments, and more demonstrations of competence by students. At the same time, a crackdown on private vocational training providers not meeting professional standards occurred, and a number where shut down.
This was a positive step towards improving the standard of the industry. But there are still gaps in this training, with my own doctoral research (and professional experience) identifying some serious errors in the knowledge of both students and professionals.
What about professional development?
If the quality of new trainers is a worry, can’t we just train them up ourselves? Don’t trainers get better with time, as they are exposed to more information, professional development, and improve their practical skills?
Well, that’s the plan, but it rarely works this way. In fitness, like other industries, it’s been shown that years of experience, or the amount of professional development completed, does not necessarily result in a more knowledgeable trainer.
Years of low-quality practice does not lead to better practice!
But our industry is set up to recognize professionals with more experience, with the levels of registration reflecting the number of years that someone is registered.
Again, some positive steps have already been taken, making professional development easier, cheaper, and more flexible. But we need to be concerned about the quality of professional development.
Every trainer I’ve ever met wants to do a good job for their clients. Every trainer wants to provide better information. But not every trainer has the skills to be able to choose appropriate professional development. There’s a risk that with this increased flexibility comes poor choices, and worse information and outcomes for clients.
How can academic experience help?
Fitness is a rapidly changing area. As we learn more about the human body, its complexity seems to increase. And for a trainer, working directly with our clients’ bodies, we are faced with a choice.
Do we ignore this complexity, and just work within our limited scope of practice and low-risk clients? Do we stick with tried and true exercise techniques? Do we just give basic healthy eating advice, within nationally recognised guidelines?
Or do we try to expand our knowledge, and with it, our scope of practice? Do we read up on the latest research and ideas, and try to stay ahead of the rest of the industry?
Many people try and take this latter approach, reading and learning from a variety of sources. But with it comes the risk that the information we use is misinterpreted, inaccurate, or not the highest quality. In other words, not trustworthy.
And trainers just don’t have the skills to identify that. About half of Australian personal trainers regularly use unreliable sources of information – this has been shown repeatedly in research! And the majority of personal training business exceed their nutrition scope of practice, or are at risk of doing so.
There is clearly an industry-wide problem in identifying, and staying within, the bounds of our qualifications. Fitness Australia can take a stronger role in endorsing high-quality information. It can work harder to identify, and discourage, practices that are not evidence-based. And it can encourage the development of evidence-based practice in trainers.
Every trainer wants to provide a better service for their clients, as mentioned above. And there’s no better way of doing this than by providing a service that research has shown to be effective for most people, most of the time, under everyday circumstances.
That’s much more reliable than “it worked for me,” or “I know a guy that says…”.
How can I help?
As you can probably tell, the knowledge and education of personal trainers is my passion. And by following this passion, I now sit in a unique position in the Australian fitness landscape.
I have extensive industry experience, having worked in local government fitness centres, and been a self-employed personal trainer, working with individuals, small groups, and corporate clients. I’ve attended FILEX and other professional development courses to try and get my CECs just like everyone else.
I teach aspiring personal trainers and see the errors in knowledge they bring into a course. I’ve seen how they improve during a course, and what qualities help them improve. But I’ve also seen the weaknesses in these graduates, and the attrition rates our industry still struggles with.
And I have academic experience that is rare in the fitness industry. While working as a personal trainer I completed a MSc in exercise physiology, which led me to first develop research and analysis skills.
I then went on to complete a PhD in educational psychology. This looked at the knowledge, errors in knowledge, and sources of information of personal trainers and fitness students.
In this research we tried to improve the critical thinking skills of personal trainers. These include reasoning skills, recognising high-quality sources and expertise, and identifying the boundaries of your own knowledge. We were highly successful at improving these skills, and improving trust in high-quality sources of information.
This provides direction for the education and professional development of trainers in the future. these skills are not a major part of Certificate III and IV education. So we need to try and develop them as personal trainers.
We need to model these skills as industry leaders, so emerging trainers make great choices in an evidence-based environment. Clients can only benefit from this approach, and isn’t that what we all want?
To find out more about me
Regardless of whether my nomination for the Fitness Australia board is successful, I’m already trying to improve the quality of personal trainers, and fitness information. And I’ll continue to do so, regardless of the outcome.
I have a website. Here I provide evidence-based information about exercise and nutrition, commentary on the fitness industry, and education about critical thinking skills.
You can find Critical Fitness on Facebook, where we announce new articles, and comment on new research and industry news.
You can also email me at email@example.com if you have any questions, or want to discuss any of these ideas further. Feel free to get in touch!
Voting is open to Fitness Australia’s AusREP Members and Business Members between 1st and 18th November 2019. Members are encouraged to cast their vote using the link in an email that they receive from TrueVote.
If you need further information or have any questions regarding the ballot procedures contact Liz Richardson at Fitness Australia on 1300 211 311 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Justin is the Managing Director of Active Management, which he began January 2004. He offers coaching to businesses worldwide in everything from start up and design to marketing and sales systems. Justin also facilitates four Australian and New Zealand ‘fitness industry roundtables’ events, which allows him to see a huge cross section of business models.