By Karyn Gallivan, MS, ATC, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, NASM-CPT
Contributor, Sports+Fitness Network
I talk to a lot of health professionals on a daily basis that are looking for networking resources for their patients who are ready to be discharged and then move into a post-rehab –or fitness- program. They express frustration that they do not know who is available that would be qualified to work with a client with metabolic disease and orthopedic challenges. This is unfortunate, in my opinion, because there are so many wonderfully qualified and appropriately credentialed fitness professionals that are always willing to take on new clients, especially those with many health challenges.
This challenge is very real because if you do an internet search for personal trainers in most locations, it is easy to find a list of personal trainers that are advertising their expertise and the fact that they are, indeed, the expert for you. There are many personal training certifications and, while it is relatively easy to understand what the most reputable certifications are, it is more difficult to understand the litany of specialty certifications that are advertised. Sometimes I have noticed that a personal trainer may have as many as 8-10 specialty certifications, yet there is no evidence of one of the top three or four personal training certifications or college degree. I have written previously about the importance of a college degree and appropriate credentials. And, I always hope that fitness professionals respect their chosen profession, and the industry that supports them, enough to get a certification. My problem is with those personal trainers who take several weekend certification courses and list that they are experts in (for example) exercise and the older adult, exercise for pre- and post-natal, exercise for those with obesity, injury prevention programs, post-rehab programs, and on . . .
If there is no evidence of significant experience and an appropriate educational background, it is very difficult for me to believe that the fitness professional understands the disease process, the aging process, the considerations/modifications necessary for the multiple medications that folks may be taking, or the injury/inflammatory/healing process for orthopedic injuries. This is a lot to throw out there, I know. But, if we are going to continue to elevate our profession, we need to be sure that we are representing ourselves appropriately. In addition, if there is a potential client that you would like to work with, but are not quite sure you have the appropriate experience and/or skills, do not be afraid to reach out to more seasoned professionals for help.
This brings me back to where health professionals go to find an appropriate post-rehab personal trainer for their patient. My advice to them is to try and find someone who has worked in a physical therapy or athletic training setting for a number of years, and who may now be working primarily in the fitness realm. In addition, I encourage fitness professionals that want to work with these types of clients to visit the local physical therapy and sports medicine clinics, introduce themselves, and spend some time getting to know the staff there. Most importantly possibly, is to spend a bit of time letting them know what you are qualified to do. Once a better professional network is built, the referral and collaboration process becomes much easier.