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Keeping Kids Active When Schools Are Closed

By Dave Johnson, MEd

The COVID-19 pandemic has been, and continues to be, a struggle on virtually everyone across the globe. Economies are tanking, people are losing jobs, and prolonged isolation is driving record cases of depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. Most attention during the pandemic has been on adults; after all, they are (generally speaking) more at risk of complications from this virus than children and, for the most part, have been the ones driving infections.

The start of the public school academic year, however, is right around the corner and many school districts are struggling with the learning environment and the decision whether or not to physically welcome students back in their buildings. While evidence suggests that children are less likely to have severe complications, we have seen the number of children contracting COVID-19 dramatically increase since schools and camps started re-opening. A recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that, in the last few weeks of July, 97,000 new cases of COVID-19 in children. As more states begin to re-open their schools, it’s anticipated that the number of cases will skyrocket. Online education is an option but this article is about being at home.

Why does this matter to personal trainers? Odds are, if numbers continue to climb, schools will close again. If schools close again, that means that most interscholastic athletic teams will also stop playing and practicing and children will not be physically active during physical education class. Simply put, this means that most children will not have any guided physical activity in their lives. This is a major public health concern! As a baseline, during normal times, fewer than 25% of children meet the recommended physical activity guidelines for their age. Even those children who are involved in sports fall victim to this. Have you ever thought about how much time is spent during practice simply standing around?

If you’ve read my previous blog post (The Hidden Benefits of Physical Activity in Youth), you’re already familiar with some of the lesser known benefits of physical activity in children. From a COVID-centric perspective, though, there are three major benefits to focus on:

Regular exercise boosts the immune system – Research has consistently shown that regular, moderate-intensity exercise has immune-boosting benefits that may help children and adults to fight off infections, including COVID-19.

Regular exercise may prevent weight gain – Energy balance and how it applies to body composition is well-known among personal trainers, but consider that kids are eating more fast-food than ever. That, coupled with childhood obesity rates being what they are, means this is a target demographic that desperately needs our help!

Regular exercise will reduce stress and anxiety – We know adults are stressed but kids are, too! One of the most important components of in-person schooling is the enhanced social dynamic it provides or a work online learning balance. Simply being around their peers is incredibly beneficial for most children and, since March, many have been isolated and have not had the opportunity to engage in regular age-appropriate conversation with friends.

This all may seem bleak but there is good news: we can help! There are strategies that personal trainers can utilize to help families stay active together and promote a healthy lifestyle for both their children and themselves. Join me in our upcoming BlogCast to learn more about these strategies and how you can help this unique demographic survive and thrive during this pandemic.

Please register for Keeping Kids Active When Schools are Closed on Aug 19, 2020 3:00 PM EDT.

Want more specific ideas to excel with our youth and your children?  Check out our Youth Fitness Foundations programs and others for direction to expand this market as a Personal Trainer and as a parent.  Check these out!

Youth Fitness Foundations

and

Youth Fitness Practical Review

 

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Strength Training Tips For Young Athletes

Mark Cassidy - Certified Personal Trainer InstructorBy Mark S. Cassidy, MS

If you are involved for any length of time in the Health & Fitness Industry, the topic of strength training children is going to come up.  What age can they start? How often can they perform a routine?  What type of routine is best suited for them?  How long until they start to see results?  … are all part of the list of questions that will arise…  But there’s nothing wrong with these questions or a youngster trying to increase their strength or improve their body style.  They just need to do it properly.

Over the years there has been a misconception that kids shouldn’t lift weights until they were at least 16 or 17 years old.  If they attempted to perform weight lifting exercises at an age any younger, they could seriously damage themselves and potentially could stunt their growth. However the times have changed.  There are Health & Fitness Experts, Certified Athletic Coaches and Medical Doctors who can agree that children can start working with weights, as early as grade school.  But there has to be specific rules and guidelines followed to not only ensure the youth’s fitness success but help minimize any chance of injury.

PHYSICAL & PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS

There is both a physical and psychological component / benefit for children who strength train.

  • Increase muscle strength
  • Increase muscle endurance
  • Increase in bone density
  • Increase in joint mobility & stability
  • Decrease in potential injuries
  • Improved performance in youth sports activities
  • Better social acceptance from piers
  • Improved self-image
  • More self confidence

Along with building muscle, when done correctly and using a full range of motion, it can also improve bone structure and density and help develop a youngster’s flexibility, exposing another old myth—that lifting weights makes a child stiff and ‘muscle bound’.

AGE & SKILL CONSIDERATIONS

Professionals in this field advocate a more functional approach to strength training for kids.  Introduce them first to basic exercises that have little or no weight.  The emphasis must be on using proper technique.  As they get older, the weights can gradually get heavier and the number or variety activities can increase.

PROGRAM DESIGN SUGGESTIONS

It is recommended that kids do at most 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions for each exercise. They shouldn’t lift more than 3 times per week, and they should never sacrifice technique for additional reps or weight.  For safety reasons, you should also discourage youngster’s from lifting any weights over their heads or faces or any other lifting that unnecessarily strains their spines (for example bench press, shoulder press, or back squats).

According to Dr. Cedric Bryant, the vice president of educational services at the American Council on Exercise, kids ages 11-13 can begin doing some of the traditional strength training exercises keeping the resistance light.  However, the instruction for these kids needs to be based on proven physical, phycological and biomechanical principles.  In addition to being coached by trained-certified health and fitness professionals.

And what can parents tell the skinny teenager who weight trains all summer but is disappointed in the fall when they don’t look like a “Superman”?

Just because you don’t always see results immediately, doesn’t mean the time and effort you are putting in, is not having a benefit.  Hormones and metabolism may not be fully activated yet to make those muscles develop.  A child’s height and limb-length may still be developing.  And dietary requirements and adaptability may be coming into play.  There are always mental and structural gains taking place with exercise movements – even if it’s not visually noticeable.  Keep working hard and putting in the time.  The Superhero will eventually arrive.

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You Finally Got Your Personal Trainer Certification: Now What?

Getting your personal trainer certification is a big step toward a bright future as a fitness professional. Studying for and passing your exam and getting CPR certified demand a lot of time and effort, but certification is just the beginning. To make the most of your personal trainer certification and turn it into a sustainable career, you need to take some additional steps toward professionalism. 

Lifestyle Fitness Coaching Certification Professional holding a clipboard

5 Steps Toward Becoming a Successful Certified Fitness Professional

The following five steps will get you started on the right path toward a successful career as a Certified Personal Trainer:

  1. Get hands-on experience: Some newly certified trainers already have a background in fitness. Some have academic degrees in exercise science and related fields, and others have backgrounds in athletics or bodybuilding. Whether you have a background in fitness or not, working with clients requires additional skills. Consider enrolling in the W.I.T.S. internship program. As an intern, you gain experience working one-on-one with clients, and you get a glimpse of the fitness business from the other side of the front desk. 
  1. Purchase Liability Insurance: Physical activities of any type come with inherent risks for injury. While the benefits of fitness activities outweigh the risks, there is always the chance that something can go wrong. Even if you work in a gym or studio that provides coverage for its employees, it is wise to protect yourself with additional insurance. The good news is that liability insurance for personal trainers is remarkably inexpensive. After all, an important part of your job is to protect your clients from injury, so the risk is relatively low. Follow this link to find affordable liability insurance.
  1. Form an LLC: A legal liability corporation (LLC) is a legal entity that protects business owners and their families from lawsuits, creditors and other business liabilities that may arise. Unlike a sole proprietorship, with an LLC, only the assets of your business are at risk — your personal assets and those of your family are protected, should your business fail or fall on hard times. An LLC is easy to form and inexpensive to register. There are many online resources to help you form an LLC. 
  1. Define your niche: There is nothing wrong with taking on a broad range of clients, but narrowing your niche can help you establish a solid reputation as a fitness expert. Certain clients may be outside your scope of expertise, while focusing on a specific population can enable you to grow professionally while having a positive impact on the lives of your clients. Youth, older adults, pregnant and postpartum women, body builders and figure competitors — the list goes on and on. Choose your niche and grow a robust clientele to promote your business. 
  1. Establish your brand: Once you establish yourself as a certified fitness professional,  expand your client base and cement your expertise by branding yourself online. Professional posts on social media, a professional website and Facebook page and maybe even a YouTube channel are great ways to reach an ever-growing audience and expand your business. Use your imagination to create a solid brand image that reaches the masses. 

Find Your Niche and Build Your Fitness Career

Build your skills and knowledge and become a top personal trainer. Choose from any of our professional fitness courses for skills training and certification:

Join the W.I.T.S. family of industry leaders today, and build your career as a fitness professional on a solid foundation.

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Lifecycle of a Personal Trainer: the high cost of low skills training

At one time, personal trainers had the coolest job around, and anyone who had their own personal trainer was ranked among the beautiful people. It was also a lucrative and viable career path for fitness professionals who had enough knowledge and charisma to attract well-heeled clients and help them reach their goals. 

That all changed when gyms began to put the hammer down on freelancers and hired their own trainers at low wages, keeping the lion’s share of revenues for themselves. Over time, that business model all but destroyed personal training as a sustainable career path and caused gym owners to shoot themselves in the foot with a costly cycle of employee training and turnover. 

The below infographic illustrates the typical Lifecycle of the average personal trainer:

Lifecycle of a Personal Trainer

The High Cost of Turnover

Low conversions, low client retention rates, dissatisfied customers and high trainer turnover all cost gym owners enormous amounts of money each year.

These important metrics should be applied to evaluate the performance of any gym’s personal training program:

  • The annual turnover rate for personal trainers runs between 80-90% on average: the optimal employee turnover rate is 10% or less.
  • The minimally acceptable sales conversion rate is 40%, and the optimal rate is 70%. To calculate this metric, divide the number of conversions by the number of prospects a trainer has pitched.
  • The optimal annual client retention rate is 80-90%. Divide the number of clients lost by the number retained.

Ironically, most gym owners don’t bother to track these metrics, and many are unaware of them. For trainers, having quantitative performance metrics would empower them to self-evaluate and monitor their own job performance. Yet in most cases, trainers have no idea what good job performance looks like. 

Factors Contributing to Trainer Turnover

Many people pursue a personal training career because they have a true passion for fitness and want to share it with others. Yet the actual demands of the job can quickly erode a new trainer’s enthusiasm, especially if they don’t feel valued or get the necessary training and support to succeed. 

Factors that contribute to high trainer turnover include:

  • Inadequate job training and poorly defined performance criteria
  • Erratic scheduling, with long hours and split shifts
  • Low pay, with minimal opportunities for advancement
  • Pressure to sell with inadequate sales training and support
  • Burnout from overtraining

The Importance of Skills Training

Most new trainers are hired based on academic credentials, or on a particular brand of certification. Yet during the screening and hiring process, critical skills training and experience is often overlooked. 

This problem partially stems from an antiquated business model that is still applied today. In the early days of fitness clubs, back in the 1970s, very few employees came to the table with any type of credentials or experience, and skills training took place on the job. In most cases, senior employees were responsible for training new hires. Then, as now, gym employee turnover was high.

The old-school model no longer works for several reasons: 

  • Personal training was not offered as a service by most gyms until the early 2000s, but the business model was never updated to include this new employee demographic
  • The job of Personal Trainer demands much higher levels of knowledge and skills than the fitness advisor of old
  • Personal training is a substantial revenue generator, and demands more attention from management to reach its potential
  • Asking a senior trainer to help on-board a new hire imposes an inherent conflict of interest, since trainers often compete for new clients

 

It makes sense to hire new trainers who already possess knowledge, skills and experience. Doing so will increase conversions, elevate client retention rates and reduce costly employee turnover, resulting in higher profits. 

Skills Training for Personal Trainers

If you are serious about building a successful and sustainable fitness career, don’t cut corners on your certification. Get the support, knowledge and hands-on experience you need to succeed with a fitness certification from W.I.T.S.

Advantages of a W.I.T.S. certification include: 

  • Fully NCCA accredited: The only practical skills competency exam in the industry, along with our written exam.
  • Recognized by employers nation-wide: Graduates that perform!
  • Available in colleges, universities and online.
  • Taught by qualified and experienced industry professionals.
  • Internship program available to cement your skills.
  • Friendly customer service and support.
  • Online continuing education at your fingertips.

Find Your Niche and Build Your Fitness Career

Build your skills and knowledge and become a top trainer. Choose from any of our professional fitness course for skills training and certification:

Join the W.I.T.S. family of industry leaders today, and build your fitness career on a solid foundation.