Twenty years ago, personal training was barely recognized as a legitimate business. Recently, however, personal training has evolved into a profession with a variety of credentials, continuing education requirements, and comprehensive support organizations, such as IDEA, ACE and NSCA.

Despite these changes, trainers can labor in conditions that isolate them from professional development and peer support. My business partner and I assert that trainers could benefit from a working environment that offers in-house professional development. Few facilities regularly connect their personal trainers to information about career development, continuing education and personal growth.

Back Bay Fitness in Costa Mesa, CA, provides its personal trainers with peer support and professional development. The center of the program is the Personal Trainer Roundtable where personal trainers discuss and share information about a given topic, such as trainer burnout, client issues, career development, goal setting, time management and best practices in exercise science. The roundtable is designed to foster an environment in which trainers can acquire skill-specific information. The following categories explore some dimensions of the profession.

  • Business Development Roundtable

    Offers advice and counseling on developing and transforming a personal training business into a profitable vocation. We discuss client payment plans, billing options, collections, marketing, saving plans and tax planning, as well as creating a professional business relationship with clients.

  • Client Issues Roundtable

    Client-related issues are bound to surface and unresolved conflicts between the trainer and his or her client affect the outcome of each session. We encourage trainers to share their stories and ideas for managing these issues before they do damage to the business relationship.

  • Personal Development Roundtable

    Personal training can be rewarding, but it also challenges trainers' emotional and physical health. We encourage our trainers to focus on personal survival skills, such as time management, physical and emotional health goals, and intrapersonal strategies to help them identify elements that will contribute to burnout.

  • Career Guidance Roundtable

    Opportunities for business expansion are emerging, and it is no longer sufficient to say you want to be a trainer. What type of trainer? Who is the next target audience? How can trainers expand their skills to serve new client populations? How can he or she grow professionally to avoid repetition and burnout?

  • Continuing Education Roundtable

    Best practices and new exercise strategies emerge at such a rapid pace that trainers, isolated in non-supportive facilities, cannot renovate themselves or their clients' workouts. Tedium, stagnation and burnout can follow. Back Bay Fitness coordinates an in-house continuing education program to encourage trainers to stay abreast of developments. Some meetings offer immediate benefits, as trainers can apply for CEUs by attending the education roundtable. The facility also hosts a library and resource center with industry journals and texts. In addition to maintaining a list of conferences, we encourage participation in attending conferences.

  • Are we doing personal training better at Back Bay Fitness? We hope so. After more than 12 years of practice, my business partner and I have concluded that ongoing professional renewal is the paramount strategy for lasting success in personal training. Professional renovation β€” incorporating education, career planning and business development β€” ensures that personal training remains a vital and recognized member of the industry. It is our aim that the roundtable programs and the working environment in our facility will become the industry's benchmark for excellence and professionalism in personal training.

    Katherine Coltrin, M.S., MES, CSCS, is the co-owner of Back Bay Fitness. She is dedicated to providing trainers and clients with fitness programming that incorporates the latest research and best practice methods. She can be reached at 949-631-5587 or www.backbayfitness.com.