Training Trainers In-House

The "How-Tos" of developing an in-house training program for personal trainers can only be appreciated after we look at why your club should "investment-spend" for your organization.

Town Sports International (TSI), WellBridge (formerly CSI), Equinox Fitness Clubs, ClubCorp. USA, the Gainesville Health & Fitness Center, Spectrum Clubs International, the Genesis Health Club in Wichita and the Sports Mall Group in Salt Lake City are some of the major and up-and-coming fitness industry players that have determined that "investment spending" on their personal trainers is great for the industry in more ways than one.

Specifically, the clubs and club chains mentioned above see the following motivators for investing in their personal trainers: membership growth, membership retention, and enhanced, multi-dimensional programming options. In short, these players see a competent, diversified fitness staff with a broad base of skill-sets as a viable way to develop and deliver a high level of customer service, which gives the clubs a competitive point of difference.

On the business side of the equation, an in-house education program for personal trainers can potentially provide the following benefits for the club: establish a professional career path for fitness professionals, with an appropriate compensation program that will enable the club to attract and retain fitness professionals; and reposition the club's personal-training program as a strategic business unit that can increase the club's gross income from personal training and increase the percentage of the club's business that can be generated from services-for-a-fee programs.

Membership growth, membership retention and the delivery of innovative programming options that are member specific, combined with specific return-on-investment business benefits, are all reasons why we should follow the lead of the fitness industry leaders I mentioned above.

There are at least three potential options that can be used to set up an in-house personal training program.

Option No. 1: Drawing on the expertise of your existing staff in each club department is the most cost-effective way to develop your continuing education program.

Option No. 2: Hire a nationally recognized outside consulting company and/or a professional personal training certifying agency that can come in and set up your entire program.

Option No. 3: Develop your in-house program by drawing on elements from the two previous options.

The foundation of the in-house educational curriculum has been driven by the needs of the club's members. The more progressive clubs have conducted internal membership surveys to quantify and determine these needs. Some of these needs have been categorized as follows:

* General fitness programming

* Pre-existing medical conditions

* Musculoskeletal dysfunctions (post- rehab)

* Services for special populations

* Prenatal/postpartum

* Sport-specific training

These types of member needs drive the educational curriculum for the club's personal trainers.

The average personal trainer requires approximately 40 to 60 hours of continuing education training per year in order to address the ever-changing, multi-dimensional needs of the club's members. By addressing member needs through comprehensive programming, the personal trainers will be able to play a more strategic role in contributing to the financial growth of a progressive club.


The Educational Pyramid Model

The Personal Trainer Educational Pyramid Model, initially developed by Bob Esquerre, reflects his multi-level pricing structure concept, which was developed in 1992 and initially implemented at the Equinox Fitness Clubs in New York City. The foundation of the Educational Pyramid is based on current ACE, ACSM and NSCA fitness, health and wellness guidelines.

The pyramid identifies/quantifies the personal trainer's training level using his credentials and/or experience level. Each training level is specific and unique to the level of service that can be provided to each club member.

* At Training Level No. 1, the consumer pays X dollars, and the trainer is paid a flat rate at "A" because he is at the entry level of his career. The exact amount is market-driven. For example, X in this case could be $60.

* At Training Level No. 2, the consumer pays X+Y dollars (e.g., $70), and the trainer is paid a higher flat rate at "B" because he has completed additional credentialling requirements.

* At Training Level No. 3, the consumer pays X+Y+Z dollars (e.g., $80), and the trainer is paid a higher flat rate at "C" because he has a higher level of credentials and experience.