All certified personal trainers are expected to keep up their certifications by completing a certain amount of continuing education credits; typically within every two years. They do this by attending seminars, workshops, webinars, take home tests, etc. One of the most popular ways trainers do this is by attending weekend long fitness conferences.
My experience with these fitness conferences leads me to question whether or not trainers are actually learning anything. Now, I can’t say I’ve been to all the conferences ever offered but I’ve been to a few. In 2005 I went to the IDEA Fitness Conference in Vegas. I came out with two conclusions: 1) Vegas was way more expensive than everyone said and 2) the conference was a complete waste of time. Just about every class, with the exception of two, were no different than taking a group exercise class at 24 HR Fitness except that there were 100+ people in the class. This was my first major conference so I had my hopes up. Bad idea I guess. I couldn’t believe they called a glorified group X class continuing education! Great, I learned a list of new exercises to take home with me. As mentioned, I could’ve done the same thing at 24 HR Fitness. I’ve also attended some smaller, localized, conferences thinking that the more intimate setting might produce a better atmosphere for more in depth, learning that is evidence based. However, they were all pretty much the same thing. I haven’t gone to any conferences in a very long time because of this. Not to mention the outrageous costs incurred in order to attend one of these. I came out of the IDEA Fitness Conference in Vegas about $2,000 poorer! The bad part is, this cost problem will never go away because CEC’s are mandatory and trainers must attend these types of things in order to keep their certifications current. This further questions the efficacy and legitimacy of CEC’s courses. Most personal trainers “attend” the courses or seminars, but are not really “present”, just so they can claim their CEC’s that they paid for.
With all that said, I do see the importance of having CEC’s. However, personal trainers must have a desire for professional growth and be intrinsically motivated in order for CEC courses to be effective. Time and experience alone will aid in personal growth; but the continual acquisition of knowledge can further develop oneself which, if obtained and applied correctly, can result in an individual being up to date with skills and current science practices. It is imperative if we are to recognize ourselves as professionals to maintain credibility by keeping up with the latest research. But it doesn’t stop there, personal trainers must also know how to apply this information. The smartest trainer in the world, doesn’t always make the best trainer in the world.