Continual Professional Development for Personal Trainers

Nov 13, 2019

By Tim Saye

Continual Professional Development (CPD) will sound familiar for most personal trainers because most PT course providers will try to get you hooked on one of their CDP courses as soon as you're qualified.

While you may not know what you will need before starting to work in the industry, CPD and other specialist courses become essential the longer you stay in the fitness business.

In this article, we'll focus on how your educational aspirations and achievements will help you get better results for your clients. Don't worry, If you're at the start of your career, we'll also give you some directions on how to decide which courses to pick.

Why Do You Need to Keep Learning Throughout Your P T Career?

Let me ask this question: What do you think makes a successful personal trainer or coach? Based on interacting with thousands of PT Distinction users and trainers in our fitpro community, we think it comes down to one core factor: happy clients.

If your clients are happy, they will praise your name, refer you to their friends and family and stay with you until their ultimate fitness goal is achieved. How do you keep your clients happy? By providing excellent service, over-delivering on your promises and the big one is RESULTS. You can be the loveliest, most caring trainer in the world, but if your clients don't feel like they are progressing towards their goals, they won't become your best marketers.

Client results can depend on a few factors; The most important one is that you have the knowledge and expertise to help a client with their particular goal or problem. 

A Level 3 Personal Training qualification will provide you with enough background to work with healthy adults. Teaching them about exercise, demonstrate the correct form, advise on general nutrition guidelines and help them strengthen particular areas of their body.

If someone finds you with a more specific problem; e.g. body composition goals, an injury or a health condition, or a female client falls pregnant, you need more knowledge and skills to help them flourish.

You will need to have a specialist understanding of their situation to help them achieve their specific goals or to stay active without injury or health risks. In other words, to help them achieve the results, they desire while taking into account the potential limitations of their body, you will need to build on top of the skills you learn in the basic PT qualification.

On another note, science is fluid. Scientists publish new research papers every week. That applies to fitness, nutrition and exercise science too. If you'd like to keep your knowledge and science facts up to date, you'll want to follow these changes and figure out how they may affect your clients.

What are the CPD courses?

CPD courses are designed to help fitness professionals stay committed to their continual professional development throughout their career.

These courses provide a platform where you can update your knowledge and skills, gain specialist academic and practical experience in fields you are interested in, and generally stay on top of the science behind everything you do with your clients.

Do you have to complete a course to learn something new?

The short answer is no. Knowledge is available, whether you buy books, enroll onto online courses or take up mentoring from someone who is already an expert in the field you'd like to enter, there are myriad ways to learn.

However, if you'd like to be qualified and insured in a specialty, you will need to check with the governing body of that field about the requirements to practice what you learnt and work with that specific niche.

We published a series of articles about specialist courses in the past. Depending on your interests, you can find resources on the below topics below:

- Nutrition Certificates 
- Pre and Postnatal Qualifications 
- Strength and Conditioning in the UK
- S&C in the US, Australia and Canada
- Training Ageing Clients
- Working with Youth Clients

How to decide what your pursuit should be?

There are many ways to pick a specialisation. The decision is usually a very personal one. There are a few factors to consider, though:

- Where does your passion lie in terms of client goals?
You could write a list of all specialties that you'd be keen to explore. E.g. body composition specialist, pre and postnatal, lower back specialist, injury prevention, Strength and Conditioning, menopause and female hormones, etc.

- Which area of fitness excites you enough to take the extra mile?
Are you keen to learn about a piece of equipment, e.g. kettlebells, TRX and more; maybe you'd like to get into powerlifting or Olympic lifting. The list is long.

- Do you have one or more clients whose situation changed while working with you for which you are not qualified?
For example, a client got pregnant, went through surgery, was diagnosed with a condition or long-term illness, etc.

- Which type of clients do you enjoy training the most?
You can classify based on age, goals, type of jobs they have, their personalities, their preferred training times, their interests, etc.

- Do you have a personal story that made you look into a field deep enough to become an expert?
Whether that's a lifestyle transformation that required you to learn about nutrition to a high level, a health or musculoskeletal condition you have that made you become an expert of fitness for that niche, or anything else, a personal journey is a great place to start when working to help your ideal clients.

- What does the market demand?
Demand is something you can't ignore, at least at the beginning until you become established and make a name for yourself. Identify client goals that come up most often, from becoming more active, losing weight, building more muscle, managing a health condition, or as part of a treatment plan.

A good move now is to answer these questions, write a list for each and see where there's an overlap. That should be your primary focus when choosing your next area of professional development. When your clients enjoy the benefits of your added skills as you go through your learning practices, they'll trust you will do whatever it takes to help them achieve their goals.