Mind & Motion

Re: “Crash Course for personal trainers” Post on PCDB

Posted in Fitness Tips by Meghan Pickrell on August 22, 2009

I’m posting something a little out of the ordinary this week because I think it’s well written and informative. This article by Lee Atur, was originally posted by my mentor, Carole Amend on her blog at http://aasicontributions.blogspot.com/2009/05/re-crash-course-for-personal-trainers.html

It’s long but well worth the read if you are pilates teacher or enthusiast. I will follow up this conversation later in the week with a post discussing how to find an appropriate pilates teacher/personal trainer. Stay tuned and enjoy!

Re: “Crash Course for personal trainers” Post on PCDB

Click entry title for link to PCDB.  

by Lee Artur (for AASI)

When I began my career in fitness in 1981, it was during the heady days of the Jane Fonda workout, Joanie Greggains, and the 20 minute workout, where 4 sexy vixens jumped around performing wild donkey kicks and doggie hydrants that were accepted as exercise in those days. In 1982, Kathy Davis and her husband Peter founded IDEA, The International Dance Exercise Association, in an effort to professionalize a burgeoning health/fitness industry that was like the Wild West in those days. There were no certifications available and most of the instructors were either dancers (if you were lucky), or moms who took a couple of classes in Jazzercise and started up an exercise class in the local church basement, or, worse yet, Slimnastics instructors, whose flailing limbs could take your eye out. The WMCA did train their instructors, though, and that program was nationally based.

In 1985-86, IDEA presented the first organized National Exercise Instructor certification test (ACE was founded later). It was to be the gold standard, the “PMA of its day,” with no practical application necessary to pass. Prior to this, the only place offering Exercise Group Instructor training and certification was The Kenneth Cooper Research Institute in Dallas, Texas, however, it required a trip to the Institute in Dallas for at least one week of training before you could take the test and it was very expensive.

Within the next few years, AFFA came out with a test and certification process that actually required a practical test. By this time, the Personal Trainer branch had sprouted from the Group Exercise tree, so along came ACSM. ACSM was supposed to be the real gold standard of knowledge, but wait…here comes NSCA, that wanted to set itself apart as the ultimate gold standard. A college degree was required to take the NSCA test, however, the degree was just for show, as it did not have to be a degree in “Exercise Science”; any ole degree would do. So, we had English Majors who liked to lift weights becoming personal trainers (but as least they could spell). None of these organizations required prior training to take the exams and few required a practical test to pass. Although some did offer a one or two day workshop, attending was not required to take the test.

Here is a quote from David Herbert J.D. Senior partner of Herbert and Benson, Attorneys at Law. You can find it at http://www.afpafitness.com/about/press-releases.php under “Certification Myth vs. Fiction”:

“The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) began (an) effort some years ago when it first developed and published its standards of practice, see, http://www.nsca-lift.org/Publications/standards.shtml. IHRSA, the American Heart Association (AHA) with ACSM, the Medical Fitness Association (MFA) and others have all similarly engaged in some standards development. Each of the foregoing efforts however, to one degree or another has not resulted in a consistent, uniform expression of the standard of care to be expected from and delivered by personal fitness trainers. 
It is hoped that the effort now being undertaken by the NBFE* will result in a uniform, national standards statement which can be used and applied in a very consistent way not only to test the qualifications of various fitness professionals, starting with personal fitness trainers, but also to be used as a benchmark for expected service delivery by such professionals.”

(*National Board of Fitness Examiners)

After 30 years and all the legal mumbo jumbo, the fitness industry is still rife with no real standards. Weekend certifications abound, spewing out Personal Trainers and Fitness Instructors by the dozens because that’s where the money is to be made. I fear that this is where the Pilates profession is heading as we merge with and become more like Group Fitness, rather than a unique and specialized field that is an entity unto itself.

There is nothing wrong with having to or wanting to answer to a higher standard of training. If there is a national test, however, it should be developed by an elected group of our peers, who are working for the betterment of our profession, not a (for all intents and purposes) self-appointed board looking to forward to their own agenda and the benefits of their own interests. The fact that the PMA may have had good intentions at the inception of the organization has been overshadowed by what they have not done for us and how they are trying to move us toward a myopic interpretation of what we should or shouldn’t know and/or teach as instructors of this method.

It was a community effort that resulted in the landmark lawsuit that took the name rights away from one individual, who tried to enforce a strict code of who could or could not claim to be a Pilates Instructor. The PMA was formed on the tails of winning the lawsuit, and it was in a position to do better things for an industry that was bound to expand due to the release of the name “pilates” into the public domain. However, the PMA has done nothing except to rewrite the rules. So, it’s ironic that after all the money and aggravation of the lawsuit, in reality nothing has changed, except that now it’s an organization (not just one individual) that decides who is worthy. And being worthy depends on two things: 1) if you subscribe to their ideas by paying money to take their test, or 2) if you are an esteemed first or second generation teacher, with a big following, who will draw paying participants to the annual conventions.

“If Joe and Clara were alive today they’d be aghast at the myriad of mat classes being taught by inexperienced teachers and the collectivized group reformer classes. These diminish what Pilates essentially was and still is. Pilates is primarily and exquisitely one to one, in depth, geared to each individual’s needs and condition, taking in the whole person, supporting as deep a journey into the body, mind and spirit as each person (teacher and client) is capable of experiencing with room for experimentation, imagination, fantasy, endless inner dialogue and whatever comes up in teaching and learning. There is plenty of room for creative expression. Pilates as an education is even more so now as biomechanical knowledge has joined and integrated with it.”

Mary Bowen
(in response to an article that appeared in the New York Times about Pilates)

As a professional group of our stature, we should strive for a universally accepted standard for communicating, so that we can all translate our words into a movement language that is a shared experience between the instructor and clientno matter what school or training program we attendedThe PMA Certification Exam has not addressed this issue. We will address it by striving for a collective mindset to work toward a higher degree of education and training. We need to produce viable information forums for instructors, creating a better way for understanding each other, as well as uniting movement education with the advancements in technology and science that are available today, as Mary Bowen said “ Pilates as an education is even more so with all the biomechanical knowledge that has joined and integrated with it.”

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