Paper Credentials Vs. The Fitness Industry

2010 November 18
by Alan Aragon


Is the fitness industry unique?

The fitness industry appears to be unique in its ability to facilitate career success despite a lack of what I call paper credentials (letters after your name). Before I go on with this, it might be a good idea to set some operational definitions for fitness industry & career success. The latter term is highly subjective, so let’s just define it as the ability to make a decent living. I’m not necessarily talking about getting filthy-rich, but at least being able to comfortably cover your independent living expenses without needing a night-job where dollar bills are waved at you. 

Next, let’s define the fitness industry itself. Let’s just figure this encompasses any field related to improving the body composition or physical performance of the healthy population through diet and/or exercise programming.  This section is titled as a question because this is the only industry I’ve been professionally involved with. I don’t have any first-hand experience in other industries, so the uniqueness of this aspect of the fitness world is mainly an assumptive observation I’ve made.

So, here’s the point. It seems to me that paper credentials are not nearly as crucial for success in the fitness field as they are for success in other fields. This is especially the case with entrepreneurs – particularly those whose business is primarily internet-based.  I’m not aware of any formal research on this topic, but I would venture to guess that the fitness realm has a large proportion of entrepreneurs. This demographic obviously has little concern for employer acceptance, so their main entrance requirement into practice is a big set of cojones. Also, a knack for effective marketing is often what separates the highly successful fitness entrepreneurs from the average ones.

The good & the bad about such an open industry

Fitness industry credentialing  is largely based on certification. This allows people to take  more focused and efficient routes toward adeptness in their chosen skill set. Anyone who has a college degree related to nutrition or exercise is well-aware of the battery of irrelevant, time-wasting, life-bleeding courses (in addition to the relevant ones) required to get the degree. There are several instances where I’ve heard people attest to learning more in their 3-day certifications than in their 4-year degree. This is kind of sad, but it’s true. Furthermore, in the fitness field, personal trainers can get hired almost anywhere, as long as they’re certified.

The good thing about certifications is that they cut right to the relevant information, and omit the trivial courses common in college curriculums. This is good in the sense that plenty of industrious people with advanced degrees in unrelated fields have made a rapid switch over to the fitness field due to its low entrance hurdles. Thankfully for many folks contemplating a late career change, the fitness field is free of the traditional entrance barriers of other professions. But of course, there’s a dark side.

The fitness industry is famous for being chock-full of quacks and charlatans. There are heaps of people running their mouths online and off, pontificating about this nutrient or that, this way of training or that — without having learned the physiological basis for such recommendations or protocols. The fact that this field has so many wackos makes it difficult for the consumer to discern whose material is scientifically based, and whose material is a lot of hot air. This is the unfortunate side of the picture, but it’s also part of my point — you can be devoid of scientific knowledge (or you can create your own brand of pseudoscience), and still become successful in the fitness industry.

A little about entrepreneurship versus employment

Again, if you plan on approaching a large company for employment, degrees can not only help, but in many cases are required for being remotely considered for the job. Degrees can also help facilitate an easier climb up the corporate ladder, and allow higher pay rates. However, entrepreneurship is a different animal, especially in the fitness industry. In many cases, a great physique will get you more clients and/or customers than having a string of letters after your name. Aside from a miniscule minority, clients truly don’t care what certifications trainers have. They just want to know if your clientele gets results, and that you actually care about them enough to show up for appointments.

Entrepreneurship in the writing vein is a whole other topic that could easily warrant its own post, but here’s what I’ve learned. The people who give up their hard-earned money for fitness information products do not do so on the basis of how many advanced degrees the author has. Now, this may be different in the realm of medical information for diseased populations, but for the healthy population aiming to either look or perform better, there seems to be a different set of prerequisites in the eyes of the clients & customers. Case in point – how many of you reading this blog give a rat’s ass about my degrees? I didn’t think so.

Just a few examples

Perhaps the best way to illustrate my perspective of this topic is by providing a few real-world examples of entrepreneurs whose material I’ve followed at some point (or still follow).  The common thread among them is their success despite their non-reliance on paper credentials.

  • Let’s begin with the late Dan Duchaine. He’s written a number of books, but is perhaps most famous for Body Opus. Dan is widely regarded as one of the most brilliant guys to ever utter a word about nutrition & other related topics, and pretty much no one really gives a hoot what he studied formally. A little-known fact is that his college degree is in theater arts.
  • Another guy who made a huge mark without a string of degrees after his name is best-selling author (Body for Life) & former owner of EAS, Bill Phillips. In contrast to Dan’s somewhat ‘underground’ celebrity status, Bill has reached obscene levels of commercial success. He has no health or fitness-related college degree that I know of. While I’ve never gained any innovative nutritional knowledge by reading Bill’s material, he’s a fascinating and inspiring study in achieving a tremendous scale of success with the lay audience.
  • I mention Lyle McDonald quite regularly because a)  for roughly the past decade, he’s been one of the most influential guys in the industry, and b) he and I have a similar market niche. Although our business models differ slightly, we share the same fundamental science/research-obsessed approach that’s tempered with field experience. Lyle fits the present topic perfectly because he’s another guy without a string of advanced degrees and certifications (after his undergrad degree in exercise physiology, he got bored of the snail-pace of college). Nevertheless, anyone who’s familiar with his work knows that a stack of degrees would be a humorous underrepresentation of his actual knowledge.
  • Martin Berkhan is best known for his scientific approach to intermittent fasting. Martin is unique among this list because he doesn’t have a book out. However, has one of the most impressive collections of client success stories you’ll ever come across. His own transformation is particularly amazing. When he does put out a book, there’s no question that it will accelerate his already rapid career ascent. Once again, Martin does not rely upon his academic credentials to assert his credibility, and nonetheless has a backlog of clients waiting to work with him, and a legion of followers waiting for his book to be completed. I don’t even know what his exact degree is (nor do I really care), but I do know that he’s one of the very few people whose work I bother to read with genuine interest.
  • Tom Venuto is best known for authoring the e-book Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle. He also has an Avery-published book available through major retailers called The Body Fat Solution. On a side-note, this is probably the most scientifically sound weight loss book to ever hit the shelves of mainstream book stores. Tom has parlayed his physique and vast client experience – along with his genuine diligence in gathering the facts – to create a prodigious level of success. His formal education boils down to an undergrad degree in exercise science and a couple of training certifications. But does anyone really care about what Tom’s formal education is? I know I don’t – but maybe that’s just me. What matters is that he strives to balance his personal experiences with what’s been demonstrated in scientific research. Speaking of research, both Tom Venuto & Martin Berkhan are currently subscribed to my research review, and have maintained their subscriptions since the publication’s initial release in early 2008.
  • Anthony Colpo is best known for his book, The Great Cholesterol Con. For those unfamiliar with his work, a good introduction is this peer-reviewed article on the cholesterol controversy published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. Of equally high quality is this response to a critical letter to the editor regarding his paper. Anthony’s sharp reasoning ability and firm grasp of a wide range of fitness-related topics put him squarely on my short list of excellent reading material, despite the lack ‘flexing’ of letters after his name.

Wrapping up

There are plenty more examples worth discussing (Alwyn Cosgrove [correction: I was just informed that Alwyn indeed has a master's degree in exercise science, but the fact that I was unaware of this speaks toward my point that he doesn't necessarily use it to tout his expertise], Jamie Hale, Leigh Peele, JC Deen, & the list goes on), but this piece is already running too long. Let me stress that this was not meant to be an anti-college article, nor was it meant to indiscriminately rail against advanced formal education. There obviously are brilliant & successful folks in the fitness industry who have advanced degrees (James Krieger, Emma-Leigh Synnott, and Layne Norton immediately come to mind). However, my point stands that becoming successful in the fitness industry - especially as an entrepreneur - is not critically hinged upon paper credentials.

I’ll end off by mentioning what I feel is one of the most effective training grounds for fitness entrepreneurship: being an employee. For anyone thinking of creating a successful business, spend some time first as an employee – even if it’s for a limited but long enough stint to get a feel for what consistently produces results. This way, you’ll be able to minimize your risks & use your corporate experience toward more smoothly navigating your own company. Here’s a short list of certifying bodies that I feel are worth the investment for those seeking to get a foot in the door:

BREAKING  NEWS:  David Miklas just created more video brilliance (here).

[GO  HERE  TO  COMMENT]

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95 Responses leave one →
  1. Jason Steele permalink
    November 19, 2010

    I’ve found that in the fitness industry, it’s possible to be over-credentialed. It’s almost like the market doesn’t trust MDs a whole lot, and PhDs are also looked at with just as much skepticism as people without a degree at all. Experience speaks really loudly, and it shows pretty quickly. I think that the industry will always be full of quacks as long as the market will buy diet books from TV celebrities who’ve decided to take on fitness as a hobby. Very interesting topic, Alan.

  2. Jen C permalink
    November 19, 2010

    Alan,

    First let me say that your research review is fantastic, but I know you already knew that. :)

    I can vouch for the idea that the fitness field is full of quacks and celebrity quacks, but that’s also a sign of how attractive and appealing the field is. Everybody and their mother wants to be a fitness guru.

    This is a relatively new field, and as it evolves I’m sure we’ll see some weeding out of the bullshitters and pseudoscientists. Nevermind, I doubt that. Fitness is like a magnet for people who believe in magic spells and magic potions. At least it keeps things interesting, and it’s entertaining to see you pick it apart.

    Anyway, keep up the awesome work!

  3. Fred permalink
    November 19, 2010

    As you said the fitness industry (body composition) is very visual based. Unless I know that in some time in he past my trainer has been some hench/tough guy I am unlikely to place my body in his hands. Likewise with coaches who do not not have the experience to fit the squad.

    However there is also a prevalence of using ones title as a means to create trust, I have read at least one “Dr” article on T-Nation, better now known for it’s hype rather that “underground” fitness.

    Someone who also did not have a rigorous education was Freud. Although he studied and got an honours degree (in biology), his principle education came from becoming an apprentice to some of the great psychoanalytical minds of that time. Many of his theories that are famous are based on hypothesis’ that he came up with in response to his own experience then applied to clients. This is much in the same way as those mentioned in the above (Tom Venuto, Mark Berkhan etc).

    To succeed in the fitness industry, body composition, it seems that personality is a stalwart, as with psychoanalysis. Charisma and the ability to get over your ideas to someone and foster trust that your theory/experience will work for them.

    A degree won’t teach you that, as all it is doing (save for the master’s thesis) is teaching you about a box. But then you can find out about the box without getting a degree (the formal way), as with apprenticeships . Either way you have to know the box to think outside it.

  4. RayCinLA permalink
    November 19, 2010

    @Alan:

    I think you might be underestimating the X-factor that guys like you, Lyle, Martin, etc have. You guys have personalities that can fill entire rooms. You could quit your fitness career tomorrow and go into stand-up comedy. And I’m being serious here.

    I know you’re not trying to discourage people from getting degrees as much as you are trying to encourage people to give the fitness field a shot, but let’s face it. Most of us NEED regular boring expensive degrees to fall back on, since not all of us can sell ice to Eskimos like you can, Dr Alan Aragon PhD, RD, ATC, CSCS, BRO.

    You get what Im saying because we’ve know each other for years, but I think it’s important for you to make it clear that not everyone can pull an Alan, Lyle or Martin stunt without having an exceptional level of charm.

  5. Anan7 permalink
    November 19, 2010

    To Ray: I disagree with your idea that Alan, Lyle, and Martin owe special credit to their personalities beyond what most can expect from themselves. If anything, Lyle and Martin have abrasive personalities that can rub people the wrong way. Yes, Alan is hilarious, but I dont feel he shows that side at all when he’s defending any of his claims or beliefs about nutrition.

  6. Jean Paulo permalink
    November 19, 2010

    I thought the size of the biceps = knowledge :)
    *Kidding aside*

    People tend to be most dogmatic about the things that we understand the least Alan, that’s the sad truth. The average population would rather listen to someone who has stellar physique without being skeptical whether what they preach is scientifically-valid or made of quackery.

  7. Annie permalink
    November 19, 2010

    I’m curious as to what your opinion of A.C.E. and I.S.S.A. might be.

  8. Eric permalink
    November 19, 2010

    @Anon7

    Facts that defy conventional wisdom tend to rub people the wrong way. That is what Alan and Lyle present. It rubs people the wrong way because they have to admit they are wrong, most people can’t/won’t accept that, especially on the internet. People start name calling and using nonsense type logic against facts on the internet.

  9. Mark Fisher permalink
    November 19, 2010

    I think the other obvious exception to the rule (paper credential = success) is any artist; actor, painter, snow globe maker etc. (Just kidding of course; you’ll get nowhere as a snow globe artisan without a doctorate). While it’s certainly a bit odd that artists and fitness professionals go hand in hand in this category, it probably also has something to do with how unrelated much of what goes into getting a degree is to having success in the real world with real people.

    But holy crap, it sure does provide cover for quacks, huh?

  10. S. Harding permalink
    November 19, 2010

    Ray,

    I disagree with you on this. I think the X-Factor you’re referring to is a lot of years of due diligence and a consistent output of thoughtful, useful material. I don’t think the guys Alan named off are going to get any charm awards any time soon. Also, Alan isn’t known for rubbing everyone the right way, but I’ll give it to you that his comedy is worthy of some sketches.

  11. David Wiss permalink
    November 19, 2010

    Great article! I’m in the Masters program at CSUN in Nutrition/Dietetics and also doing the DPD. I believe you went to Northridge as well, so I’m assuming you know what that is. I’m also certified from with NASM. But I’m all about application, theory regurgitation isn’t for me. I go to school with a bunch of people who memorize facts, get A’s on tests, but yet they eat like crap and take the elevator to the second floor. You and me we see eye-to-eye. I would love to connect with you further. I tried to subscribe to your research review but the link didn’t let me through. Can you send me another link? Thanks for taking the time to write that article, I’m with you!

    David Wiss

  12. Mike L. permalink
    November 19, 2010

    Alan!

    Bro, I’m about halfway toward my undergrad degree. This article was SUPPOSED to say that anyone without a degree from a four-year university is grossly unqualified and should go back to school. Now what am I supposed to do? Keep wasting my time learning about the AUFBAU and Krebs Cycle and pretending that it’s relevant to a career in nutrition? So disillusioned, bro.

    In all seriousness, I learned more in my two years working for LA Fitness than I have during my time in college. I agree that getting some experience under your belt is the best thing you can do if you want a successful career in the field. However, I think many of these certifications need to have more stringent guidelines; anyone can pass the ACE exam, for example, after about two hours of studying. I’ve seen way too many commercial trainers putting their clients at serious risk due to their lack of education, experience, and/or common sense.

    My advice to anyone interested in entering the field is to be careful and take the decision very seriously. If you have a passion for fitness and truly want to help people, do everything you can so that you are qualified to do so; this goes far beyond just picking up a certification.

    -Mike L.

  13. SkyNett permalink
    November 19, 2010

    Lol – you know how I feel about this Alan. Great article.

    For me, the degree and RD certification is what I’m after, but I do want to work primarily as a clinical dietician and just dabble in the fitness world.

    And you, Lyle and Martin do have degrees related to the field. I’m just wary of the tools out there with no formal credentials passing out half-baked bullshit. For every guy like Duchaine, there are a MILLION who are not Duchaine, you know?

    Great piece though – love the Bro diploma…lol…

  14. November 19, 2010

    Jason, Jen — Agreed, & thanks.

    Fred — “You have to know the box to think outside it” — I like that, very well put.

    Ray — The only X-Factor I have is that I’m Filipino. That’s a powerpul pactor.

    Anon — You tell ‘em! Ray, take notes, bro.

    JP — This is true. This is why I’m grateful & somewhat surprised that some people listen to me despite the clear lack of noodz of me circulating the internet.

    Annie — ACE & ISSA don’t carry the same weight reputationwise as the certs I listed. ACE is automatically associated with aerobics classes, and ISSA is automatically associated with brotastic bodybuilding bro-ism. Whether this is actually true according to their study materials, I can’t tell you first-hand. When I used to give continuing education courses to trainers, I offered credits for NASM, NSCA, & ACE. I eventually dropped ACE because not many trainers were certified by them. My initial exposure to ISSA was a lame article that warned against fruit. Not the greatest 1st impression. Perhaps they’ve stepped up their game since then, who knows. The certs I listed are the Big 3 that most employers perceive as the top qualifiers for the job of personal training. All other certs just don’t have the same oomph when it comes to impressing potential employers.

    Eric — You know I’m a perfect gentleman to the bros I smugly talk down to, right?

    Mark — Yup, the fitness field is very much like art & entertainment. Often more so than it is about science & objectivity.

    SH — Coincidentally, 2 more sketches have been made (credit: David Miklas), I added them here.

    David — Not sure what the glitch could have been, check your email in a moment.

    Mike — It’s true that certifications are just a fraction of what qualifies fitness professionals. And of course, not all certs are created equal. An ideal scenario would be having more than one certification, even if only one of them is kept current. Perhaps a more practical solution would be to choose an organization that best fits your sensibilities, and just order the study materials of the others to get a broader view of what folks are pushing.

    Sky — “For every guy like Duchaine, there are a MILLION who are not Duchaine, you know?” <– I don’t disagree with that at all. The thing is, guys with no formal training can dish out half-baked BS & still make a living in the fitness industry.

  15. Erin permalink
    November 19, 2010

    As a dietitian I wanted to add that people are drawn to the idea of a quick fix, of course we all want maximum results with a minimum effort. Health professionals tend to focus on small, realistic, sustainable and achievable changes in areas such as weight loss to avoid discouragement and dropping the effort all together. Without credentials you are not burdened by any regulating body to follow up on whatever promises you want to make, regardless of what evidence there is. You can claim lose 10 lbs a week on this diet, trim your waist five inches a month with this fitness device, or whatever you want and people will be interested as they want to believe it.

  16. snorkelman permalink
    November 19, 2010

    Glad the videos make people smile. Ironic that I made the “bro” refer to obtaining a weekend training certification at the same time this blog was being put out. Total coincidence.

    I dug back to the past for some references (Haagen Dazs) and just flat out created stuff that sound like something Alan would say (the river analogy). I even tossed in a couple blasts from the past about Chocolate milk and Anaconda (I particularly enjoy the belief that chocolate milk comes from “brown” cows – reminds me of somthing my twin 6 year-old daughters would say). I kind of enjoy making these animations, and will stay tuned for future areas that are ripe for development. I am pretty much locked into the “tan” Alan to keep the series consistent.

    Interesting to hear about Venuto and Berkhan having subscriptions to AARR. Not really shocking, but neat to know.

  17. Eric permalink
    November 20, 2010

    You know there’s a new shirt idea somewhere in this statement.

    Alan— You know I’m a perfect gentleman to the bros I smugly talk down to, right?

  18. November 20, 2010

    So what you’re really saying is that I should drop out of school…

  19. Jason permalink
    November 21, 2010

    ^ oh snap.

    I hope you know that real science ‘just ain’t jacked enough’, JC?

  20. Polytroll permalink
    November 22, 2010

    Off topic, but would you please reach out to Shawn and help her?

    http://twitter.com/#!/ShawneyJ/status/6547762761957376

    She has made some incredible progress in her training videos…really a lot of people thought she was done, but then those videos showed her working skills even HARDER than what she did at Beijing. (I was worried with post-puberty, taller, and the bad knee she would never be the same again.) She really does need to get cut down though. I just honestly think training at a lighter weight will allow her to do more skills and also take it easy on the injured knee. (There is probably some need for a taper, right before major competitions, but even just for training, she seems like she could drop some healthily.)

    She seems tough in sport, but a little sweet and sensitive. For some reason, I think your style would work really well with her and with her Chinese coach.

  21. November 22, 2010

    Polytroll – Go ahead & talk to her, and I’ll let you know whether she reached out to me.
    JC — When in doubt (or, when time is on your side), stay in school :)

    Eric — I talk down to bros in the kindest, gentlest ways possible. Shirtworthy? Maybe.

    Snorkelman — Martin & Tom have each maintained their AARR subcriptions since the beginning, and it definitely isn’t surprising. You’re either really into this shit, or you have other things to read (ie, TV Guide).

    Erin — I love it when RDs post on my blog. I’m under the impression that only about 2 or 3 dietitians know about this blog.

  22. Jason permalink
    November 22, 2010

    And just a quick question. Are you working on a second version of GC? If yes, when do you think it’ll be finished? (2 more weeks?)

  23. November 22, 2010

    I have absolutely no problem with people having no paper credentials as long as they can back their word. The problem we have seems to be the other way around. People with degrees and certifications that still talk out of their asses…

  24. November 23, 2010

    Great article Alan, Thanks! :)

    I’m going to the Philippines in a couple of months, btw :-)

  25. Polytroll permalink
    November 23, 2010

    I think, if you are thoughtful, you can recognize those with paper authority who are wrong, and the opposite. This is not to say that there is no correlation of expertise with education, there is. Just that things are not black and white. It requires being a thoughtful person, much of the attitude and philosophy that comes through in Alan’s writing.

    That said, I’m not too blown away by Lyle. He has some decent points. And there are definitely bros who he skewers. But he mixes up aenecdote and literature in an unrecognizable manner. Much prefer Alan’s approach of citing where things come from, to Lyle’s “trust me” synthesis, that is hard to check, hard to use as a first step to learning more.

    The problem is the “guru” tendancy of the fitness industry. Duchaine, Phillips, etc. fit right into that meme, btw.

    And Duchaine got his girlfriend’s foot cut off. Little bit on the “bleeding edge” of theory to practice experimentation. I’m sure the guy had some insights, but not so sure that he is a useful source for the average practioner. Probably a lot more useful for the average practioner to learn basic anatomical kinetics and nutrition (and unlearn “bro” knowledge”) rather than worrying about the “places where the literature is wrong”.

    P.s. I’ve done what I can, Alan, wrt Shawn. It’s hard to get ahold of celebrities. If you can stir yourself to reach out through your network, might be useful (for both parties) and fun. I realize you are NOT dying for business NOR are you overly awed by a high profile athlete. That said, I’m begging you to reach out to her. You probably know more about how to contact these kinds of people than I do. Plus, I would just get off to hear that you were helping her. At least give it a thinker…

    P.s.s. Not sure why you are so down on teh eggwhites. I found that a pint of eggwhites (250 kcal, 50g protein) mixed with liberal spices and about 100 calories of chopped sautteed in Pam veggies, into a Poly scramble, was an incredibly tasty and calorie undense dish. Effing ginormous! Very easy to prepare also. When I was losing weight, it was an awesome post-workout meal. I mix a real egg in, now that I’m no longer a fattie. ;) So, you can be happy about that…

  26. November 27, 2010

    Great article, Alan. I’ve been a certified PT through two different organizations (AFAA, which was a useless weekend course, and NSCA) and personal trained all through college before I had any degree whatsoever. I got my undergrad degree in psych and will likely pursue the psych route all the way to PhD, but even having a focus on health psychology has seemed to be a tough sell to gyms looking for trainers. I’ve typically been hired/found clients based on experience, knowledge, and my own fitness success. But my psych degree taught me how to review information critically, which extends into all fields of research. That’s been the difference for me.

  27. Nick Rensing permalink
    November 27, 2010

    Ahem, more than just fitness gurus have maintained subscriptions to AARR since the beginning. Haha, you need an AARR loyalty package. What is to stop someone from only subscribing once a year to download all of the back issues?

  28. November 27, 2010

    Nick — Answer: karma. Thanks, by the way.

    Barncat — From what I’ve observed, the psych field is very research-intense, which is a good thing. Check out http://knowledgesummit.net, there’s a bunch of good fitness + psych-related stuff (Jamie has a psych degree but ended up in fitness & sports training).

    Poly — I’m not an eggwhite hater. I just happen to be a yolk lover :)

    Fredrik — Whoa, I haven’t been there in about 25 years. You going on business, or pleasure?

    Bill — Yes, there is that side of the coin. I actually was in that boat once upon a time (oh the GNC days gone by).

    Jason — The GC update will be a while. I plan on completely re-doing it.

  29. November 28, 2010

    Pleasure -> I’m going there with my older sister and her family, for the wedding of a filipino who have been working for them here in Norway.. We are going to stay there for about 3 weeks though, so plenty of time for things to do other then the wedding as well.

  30. Nick Rensing permalink
    November 28, 2010

    Alan,

    Edit my comment if you may, but why not just institute new rules? Do you check to make sure people aren’t already doing this? Sorry to bring this up, just thought I would help you out. Make people subscribe for 6 months-12 months or only allow them limited access to archives. Essentially create tiers within your membership structure. If you ever hope to continue to grow AARR, it must happen eventually.

  31. November 29, 2010

    Nick — Basically you’d have to sell me on the idea; I haven’t heard of any publications that work on a tiered basis. It’s standard to sign up for a science-related journal & have access to the entire archive of issues. Check your email, I’d rather discuss this there. Check your spam box if I’m not in your inbox.

  32. Kelechi permalink
    December 4, 2010

    Great, Great Read Alan . I’m glad you fleshed this out (ref: previous talks) it really reafirms my paradigm shift that I got when I first started reading your works.

  33. December 4, 2010

    In after Kelechi!

    Glad you found this writeup useful. You’ve been making quite the splash in the mags & online, I hope your career in this industry continues to flourish. Peanut M&Ms for life ;)

  34. December 5, 2010

    So I am about to graduate medical school for nothing now? haha Just Kidding.

    This article sums up what I have thought for a long time!

  35. Kyle permalink
    December 6, 2010

    I thought Lyle just got a P.hD

  36. The Schimiz permalink
    December 8, 2010

    “There are several instances where I’ve heard people attest to learning more in their 3-day certifications than in their 4-year degree.”

    Unfortunately, this is partially true for many other fields as well. The majority of engineers with their BS will have forgotten the majority of their coursework within 5 years of graduating, and when I graduated, I (and many of my classmates) had a huge feeling that I hadn’t really learned anything. So, I started pursuing a grad degree because I thought I could take specific classes geared towards a specific topic of research that I could master. Nope. All of my specific knowledge has been gained through literature reviews and experience. You’re right though that the degree makes a HUGE difference, but I still feel like school was a huge waste of time.

    Anyway, the most frustrating thing for me on the consumer end of the fitness industry is figuring out who to trust as an “expert.” Like you mention, many personal trainers can attract clients based on their physique. I can’t quote any statistics on this, but getting a job as a strength coach seems to be based way too much on who you know. Do big college football teams and NFL teams have the best strength coaches in the world? Sometimes yes, but sometimes no. When I was getting recruited in high school, I had the chance to tour a bunch of top college facilities, and even then I knew that some of them were way behind the times. However, the top programs consistently produce the best athletes because they start with the best athletes.

    Take some of the NFL combine training schools for instance. The Michael Johnson training center, Parisi, and Defranco ALL produce some of the best athletes every year at the combine despite having different teaching/training methods and despite changing their own methods over time. They start with the cream of the crop. Now I’m not calling them scammers or anything, but how can I ever know if they are really the best? Or how would I objectively choose between them?

    Who am I supposed to trust as a consumer? When I’m a poor college student and actually want to invest my money in a book (~$50) or a dvd course ($50-$100s) how am I supposed to choose? It was actually fun for me because I am a nerd, but my only choice was to amass as much knowledge as possible to weed out the bullsh– and oftentimes try stuff out for myself. But I did waste a ton of money along the way. I mean, I spent 100s of dollars on books about speed training when the most beneficial material I found was a relatively short $14 book and several free conversations/interviews with strength coaches.

    Alan, thank you because your stuff helped me become much more discerning for nutrition, but finding your book/materials was basically lucky and took a while. Along the way I payed cash into marketing hype way more than once. It wasn’t all wasteful as I kind of consider it an investment in knowledge, but it’s been extremely frustrating and I wish I had some of the cash back!

  37. December 8, 2010

    The Schimiz — Thanks for sharing your insight regarding the engineering field, and good point about the top programs often producing the best athletes because they start with the best athletes. I’m glad to have been of some help in your acquisition of discernment in the nutrition department. Are you currently in engineering, or sports/fitness as a career?

    Kyle — Lyle & I both got our Broscience doctorates from a special diploma mill, here you can get one too: http://www.phonydiploma.com

    Spencer — Glad you liked the writeup, thanks for stopping in.

  38. The Schimiz permalink
    December 8, 2010

    I am actually giving the sports career one last go about this spring which we’ve emailed back and forth about a few times. My career had ended on a sour note with a bad overuse injury. I need some closure, and I have a decent chance of at least impressing some people.

    In the meantime, I am finishing up my thesis for my MS Mech. Engineering (focus on explosives, combustion, and gas dynamics if anyone has a connection!) and looking for work absolutely any and everywhere.

    PS – Thanks for using the “the” before my name :-P

  39. December 9, 2010

    I KNEW you sounded familiar!

  40. December 11, 2010

    Personal training was a career change for me and I certainly appreciate the efficiency and affordability of a certification course. Having gotten certified through ACE, though, I can attest to the low quality of their program. The only clients you’re prepared for (maybe) is the complete newb who will get results no matter what you have them do. If I knew then what I know now, I probably would’ve gone through NASM with the assumption that I could have learned more. I’m hoping to confirm that when I attend one of their workshops next year for CECs.

    Do you feel that it’s any easier to find a quality nutrition professional? I’m still trying to connect with a good dietitian in NJ who I can refer clients to, so if you or anyone else reading this can make a recommendation, please do!

  41. December 12, 2010

    Ben — It’s even tougher to find a competent nutrition professional, especially in the area of nutrition for fitness or sports goals. I personally don’t know any nutritionists in NJ.

  42. December 13, 2010

    Can you recommend an outstanding book on sports nutrition? The best one I’ve found so far is Optimal Sports Nutrition by Dr. Colgan which has been out for some time. Are there any superior recent publications?

  43. December 13, 2010

    Alan – I guess if that wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t have to spend so much time online following blogs like yours. Thanks for the reply.

  44. RayCinLA permalink
    December 14, 2010

    @ Terry:

    Colgan’s book is good for the ancient time it was published. Check out Alan’s book, it’s research heavy like Colgan’s, but it’s more up to date.

    http://www.alanaragon.com/my-book.html

  45. Tom and Millie permalink
    January 2, 2011

    Alan:

    I came to your blog as a total stranger after looking up info about the JP Fitness Summit. When I got into your blog, I found this blog post of your yours discussing paper credentials -vs- the fitness industry.

    I think this controversial topic in the industry comes down to LACK OF REGULATION.

    Too many people out there are calling themselves EXPERTS, but don’t have a college degreee, yet alone any type of certification (NASM, ACSM, NSCA, ACE, etc…..these being the top four in the industry based on when they started and reputation in the industry).

    You see Alan, many of your colleagues and names you mention, although they may have the 10yrs or 10,000 hrs of time in the trenches sort of speaking that constitutes an EXPERT, many don’t have the college degree, certification, and time in the industry. Then some of them have degrees in not fitness fields, no degree at all, or they have nothing but just experience with fitness.

    Many years ago, I heard rumor that REGULATION was going to be coming, especially in states like California where there is an over abundance of so-called fitness experts.

    I believe that guys like you are what the health, fitness, and nutrition really need because you have all the credentials, experience, degree, CEU’s, and are working in the field.

    In order for our industry to get better or weed out people that don’t belong, there needs to be REGULATION the same as you have with the “General Contractor” industry when folks are working on commercial or residential remodeling or building. You can’t be a General Contractor without proper licensing, experience, bond, etc…

    Take for instance, Tony Horton, you know the guy who does the P90-X and recent new book BRING IT. He is interviewed in the February 2011 Men’s Health about his new book, P90-X, and even admits that although he has 25 years in the industry training stars and regular folks, he has no letters behind his name or certifications. He admits that the ones with all the credentials many times are starving in their profession and the successful fitness folks have better marketing and sales techniques.

    I believe one of these days, the Jillian Michaels, Tony Horton, any many others who are just no more than fitness marketers will get sued or hurt someone and then the government will wake up and make it a law that in order to be considered a Fitness Professional, they will have to be like yourself and have the degree, certification, a state license like Dieticians and Nutritionists are required to have and have physical proof of documented hours in their field of expertise, the same that is required when folks studying for say the Project Management certification have to have in order to be qualified.

    I hope in the years to come it comes to this. Until then, you are going to have folks inventing some certification, coaching, mentoring, or get invited to seminars like the JP Fitness Summit preaching their thoughts on a particular health and fitness topic, but really are not experts in their field, they are just in the inner circle. I say this Alan because, go take a look at the Men’s Health Advisory Board list in the magazine each month….what do all of them have in common, they have the PhD, MS, teach academia at some college for the most part, like yourself. You see your name there along with Dr. Koch and Dr. Pearson, but yet, the guys at all the seminars have become famous in the industry by attending all the seminars, done networking, marketing, figured out a way to publish their articles or become fitness journalists, but don’t train, coach, or even see clients like yourself, only a few like yourself, Mr. Cosgrove, Mr. Boyle, Dr. Berardi, etc… are in the trenches.

    In closing, just because a guy can write an article and have one certification like CSCS and get on the fitness summit tours out there doesn’t make the guy or gal an EXPERT, they are just great at marketing their fitness knowledge or public speaking.

    Thanks for being above the rest in the industry.

    Tom

  46. January 2, 2011

    Hey Tom,

    Great point about Horton & P90X. I did read that MH article where they quote him to the effect of saying he has no formal certifications or academic qualifications, yet he’s boomingly successful while plenty of highly educated trainers are starving & sharing rent. This is a pretty sad thing, but this is the nature of our industry. It’s frustrating to see, but it also shows just how ignorant & indiscriminate the majority of the buying public is when it comes to fitness information & products.

  47. Tom and Millie permalink
    January 3, 2011

    Alan:

    I think the more folks like yourself shed light on this issue and even tell some of your colleagues that fall into the same category the same, then it will continue. I really believe not until the industry gets REGULATED, it will continue.

    It’s like recently I see this guy Tim Ferriss which many of your colleagues love for his entrepreneurial and marketing savvy blowing up Amazon and NYT Bestseller for a 4-hr Workout, but yet the guy is no more than the snake oil salesman from the past. He may mean well, but he is doing nothing more than his other book the 4HWW.

    It’s like we need to continue policing ourselves and those in the industry around us. When I was in the military for 20yrs and a former Army Master Fitness trainer for 15 of those, I have seen the industry really turn into nothing more than fitness marketing, fitness journalism, but you and I both know guys who are highly skilled and huge in the world of fitness academia, but never have a book written or get publish in our favorite magazines. They are working at colleges, hospitals, gyms, coaching athletes, etc…. because they, like you, know their true purpose.

    I like the blog post you wrote about turning down the Kings job because you have put your family first and want to be close to home. You know your vision which many young guys don’t, they just think going to these so called seminars or summits they will network, but it’s more than that.

    We all have a vision in our life and I hope Alan as a fellow health and fitness industry professional you never lose sight of what is important. Don’t get dragged into the fitness marketing inner circle or the so called fitness journalist path just to make a buck. Many fitness folks are doing this to get articles pubhlished, do the coaching, mentorship programs, starting a mastermind group, etc… it’s just mind boggling and reminds of the MLM’s out there that try and pump each other up like the Tony Robbins of the fitness world. I apologize for rambling, but it’s just crazy where it’s headed.

    I like what I see at your blog and personally made a decision after earning my MBA years ago and teaching marketing and running my fitness business that I will never get caught up in where the fitness marketing arena is going. My vision is just like yours to help others with their overall health and fitness, but I will not suport all these fitness seminars trying to make money off folks to try and tell them how to run their biz. It’s just not me. I like how you are affiliated with providing CEU’s based on your expertise in Nutrition, that’s cool of you to give back.

    Anyway man, I appreciate what you are doing and keep helping others is what it’s all about. As I always tell others in life and my former soldiers, “When you give unselfishly, you get much more in return”.

    Take care,

    Tom

  48. Tom and Millie permalink
    January 3, 2011

    Alan:

    BTW, I was going to ask are you Pinoy? My asawa ka, I think it’s right for “wife” is Vasayan and Ilicano. We have a 6yo girl or mastisa. As you know from your nay nay, eating proper at times is tough.

    On a side note, I am thinking about going back to college for Nutrition to go with my 20+ background in athletics, military, and fitness training. I am glad I found your sight .

    Salamat Pare,

    Tom

  49. January 15, 2011

    I have to agree with Tom and Millie that regulation is the only solution to the current extreme saturation of this market. One of the main issues I’ve encountered as a trainer is that many folks have a bad taste in their mouth from a previous experience with a self-proclaimed expert who didn’t know their @$$ from a hole in the ground… unfortunately in some cases this completely shut that person down to the idea of professional help in this field… or even worse, someone gave them terrible, dangerous advice and they follow it religiously, thinking they are doing their body a favor, but in reality are tearing it down.

    If some sort of standard were required to be met (and certainly beyond simply taking a ten minute online test to get a “certification”) in the field, then I think 95% of the weekend warrior guru-types would find something else to do that caters more to their unacademic, lazy lifestyle.

    It will certainly change the playing field and the strategies that many of us have to use to become successful. The move makes sense to me though.

    You need to update your blog, Alan!

  50. January 15, 2011

    Benjamin – Thanks for the feedback. And I know I’m overdue for one; I’ll have another post cooked up soon :)

  51. S. Harding permalink
    January 15, 2011

    Alan,

    Fantastic job on the latest issue of AARR. I’d been wondering about a nutrient timing update since it’s been 3 years since the inaugural series. You delivered BIG TIME on that, so thanks and keep up the excellent work.

  52. January 16, 2011

    S. Harding — Thanks a ton, man. I’m happy about finally bringing the 3-yr-old series on nutrient timing up to speed.

  53. David Miklas a.k.a. smorkelman permalink
    January 17, 2011

    Just a comment to agree with S. Harding about the Nutrient timing update piece in AARR. IMO that article is one of your best. I love quoting the tidbit about 600 kcal of pizza elevating insulin levels to a maximum point of 5.6 times that of fasting levels. The bros never have anything to say in response when you explain that. It blows minds when it comes to post workout fat being a no-no as well. Multiple further nuggets in this recent piece as well. Well worth the wait.

  54. January 18, 2011

    Snorkey — I’m so glad that the response has been so positive. It will be very interesting to compile what we learn in the next 3 years (or so).

  55. Eric Needs permalink
    January 30, 2011

    Alan, thank you for changing my life for the better. I am currently attending college in hopes to study nutrition. YES, I do want to be an entrepreneur, but I want to do things right. I hope to possibly be a researcher. But you have enlightened me. It seems to me like it is an injustice to see such success come to those that are not necessarily well educated. This needs to change, big brains need to be the new big cajones in the fitness industry. See you in ten or so years my friend.

  56. February 2, 2011

    Eric — When all is said and done, my job is to pass on the torch & keep the truth visible. All the best to you. I’m happy to have influenced you positively.

  57. Paul Skavland permalink
    February 2, 2011

    Awesome article. I’m late to the party buy wanted to post a +1 about regulation.

    Credentials and licenses only guarantee a minimum level of competence. Basically the government steps in and says you can’t be a (fill in the blank) unless you know this minumum amount of stuff so you will not hurt people (hopefully). This is why you can’t be a doctor, nurse, psychotherapist or even a massage therapist without a license (varies by state). I would defnitely support this requirement in the diet and fitness industry. I believe running around selling fad diets can absolutely cause harm and I think we’ve all seen “trainers” coaching their clients through dangerous and ineffective exercises in the gym.

    That said, just because someone has a license or credentials doesn’t mean they are any good. When I chose a doctor I chose one whose hobbies included triathlons. If I need a chiropractor I go to one who is a former competitive powerlifter. You still have to pick the best person for you.

    Of course that always makes me wonder, how do I know how to pick the best person? I was once naive enough to pick based on abs. How do we get the general public to believe that hot celebrities are not hot because they do P90-X?

  58. Zach N permalink
    February 2, 2011

    For those who think that regulation is good:
    The key is educating the consumer to differentiate between the qualified and unqualified. If some new regulation were to come into existence you could bet that legislators would screw it up.

    I am a powerlifter and I’m also an ACSM-CPT and will sit for the CSCS this summer and have the goal of being a collegiate S&C coach. The problem for me if regulatiion comes about is that I’m a business student and there is a good chance that regulation would require one to have a degree in an exercise science related field and therefore I would be “unqualified”.

    I am currently the S&C intern at my school and because it is a small school I actually do a lot of coaching. I will probably GA at the school as well where I will run several programs on my own. My school does not offer any Masters programs in a related field so I will probably get my MBA. After 2 1/2 years of coaching experience, a decade of lifting experience as well as a nose for textbooks, regulation still may not allow me to do what I want to do, yet some exercise science student with a 2.5 gpa and an interest in cardiac rehab would have the proper credentials. This why regulation does not make sense. BTW Jim Wendler has a degree in English, Mark Rippetoe has his degree in Geology, and I don’t believe either hold any certifications, are they not qualified to work in the fitness industry?

    No way would regulation be done properly. The best solution they would come up with is to allow people to apply for exemptions, leaving the system open to corruption.

  59. February 7, 2011

    I agree with these latter comments regarding regulation, and here’s an example to prove the point that greater government involvement is not the solution:

    The state of New Jersey had proposed legislation a couple years ago that would have required licensure for personal trainers under the oversight of the National Board of Fitness Examiners. Affiliates of the NBFE: Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA), International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), Professional Fitness Instructor Training (PFIT), World Instructor Training Schools (WITS), and National Endurance and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA). Do you really want these organizations regulating your career?

    I’m not buying the argument that potential clients have been “turned off” by incompetent trainers. For one thing, if an individual is willing to give up on their goals that easily, then I probably don’t want them as a client. Secondly, if you’re really any better than the mediocre clown they just fired, they should be an easy sell. In my personal experience, anyone with a functioning brain can tell the difference between a quality trainer and a brotard.

  60. Jenny Chronister permalink
    February 10, 2011

    Thank you very much for this post! I have a bachelors degree in hotel and restaurant management and have decided within the past year to change my path to a carreer in fitness and wellness. Deciding not to go back for another 4 year degree, I am halfway through a curriculum for an associates in Personal Fitness training culminating in my ACE certification and I have been secretly worried that I need that higher education. I love a 3 day intensive workshop and have become something of a certification junky!

    I’m glad to have found your blog!

  61. Jack permalink
    February 10, 2011

    Just an awful post in general. How is this valuable to anyone? It’s simply an observation with zero argument or creative substance. I came over to take a peak at your blog and your arrogant ass and I get to read this mumbo jumbo? Who cares. Stick to criticizing scientific journals and other trainers rather than trying to spew out something that is original in the slightest.

  62. February 11, 2011

    Hello Jack — How could you neglect to leave your last name (“Off”) out of the picture? And, I’m sorry you’re upset. I hear Kleenex works wonders for those crocodile tears. Take a tissue, really. Take two.

    All — I appreciate the intelligent feedback as a stark contrast to the asinine stuff that occasionally shows up.

  63. February 11, 2011

    @Jack
    I would kindly beg you to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8Tiz6INF7I
    P.S. Your critic should look in the mirror, for it is the best reply to your own exact post ;)

    Alan, bro’ :)
    dont even pay attention to him, looks like he miscounted his meals today ( was it 8 or 9 :/ ), and you know how hard it is when you are dead-afraid of sugar.

    I am visiting your blog on a daily basis, and cant wait for the next post.
    Keep up the great work!

    …gotta go now, waxy maize simply can not wait :)

    Ta – Ta…

  64. Tom permalink
    February 11, 2011

    Alan:

    I wanted to respond back again to my original blog comments above about the industry being regulated and maybe it will give some the folks that have responded something else to think about.

    Although all of as fitness professionals see folks that have “experience” in the field, but may not have the Cert or Degree, it doesn’t mean they are necessarily unqualified or qualified. What I meant by the industry needs to be REGULATED is that like it was alluded, our industry needs to do some policing of it’s own, along with government involvement, state and federal, and come up with a reasonable plan that says for example, by 2014, everyone that is working as a PT or CSCS needs have a Exercise Science, Physiology, Kinesiology, Nutrition Degree, etc…, be certified as a PT or CSCS from an NCCA or DETC or other accreditation group. If someone that is from the old school like the Bill Phillips, Wendler, McDonald, etc…. then yes, let them produced say a minimum of 5-10 yrs of documentation showing their programming with clients, seminars, or other CEU’s they have attended which will or can act in place of the degree. They would still have to have the PT or CSCS cert in order to practice the profession. This way there is a grandfather clause if and when national regulatory guidance is approved, then folks with layman or in the trenches experience like even a Tony Horton from P90-X would be considered “qualified” to write books, train people, coach athletes, etc…

    This is a very touchy issue with many fitness professsionals. I still believe it is black or white when it comes being a PT or CSCS, meaning I believe every trainer or CSCS coach should have the college background in exercise sciences, sit for the certification as a PT or CSCS, and of course have real world experience in the trenches with clients.

    As far as what I saw above on the comment about needing the education….YES, YES, YES, if anyone is thinking about changing career fields, get your butt back into college, get at least the Undergraduate degree in Exercise Sciences, sit for the test at PT or CSCS, but most importantly, have an internship or more experienced trainer or coach you can work with at a gym, school, etc.. that way while you are in college, you can work the craft as a trainer or coach, and keep learning the scientific things of anatomy, physiology, program design, etc….and apply that to clients you are able to work with while being supervised by your mentor.

    I don’t believe all the hype of these young guns going off to some Perform Better Seminar or other fitness summits to get a crash course or CEU from guys doing the coaching circuit out there.

    When someone says college isn’t for them or they don’t need to go to college, I feel sorry for those folks. Education is key to life…yes you can learn from others, yes you can take a few classes in college or read books at the library, but it’s not the same.

    The guys like Bill Phillips, who became successful at marketing their magazines, newsletters, books, etc… did so by networking and partnering with others. Not everyone can just go to some fitness marketing seminar and do what everyone elese is doing.

    The big players in the fitness marketing craze right now have created the Napolean Hill type MASTERMIND GROUPS and they all do co-marketing of their eBooks, products, blogs, services, etc….

    Unfortunately for these guys who want to buy these fitness marketing products, will one day wake up and realize they should have gone to college to have a backup Plan B, C, etc.. the reason the Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Zuckerberg are successful is because they were already smart going into Yale, Harvard, or other elite academic institution…more importantly, they had a GREAT IDEA and GREAT VISION.

    In the fitness world, we have visionaries who have no college, maybe one PT cert, but they have a unique product or service, great idea, and figured out a way to get rich from marketing it or created a network or partnership with other fitenss marketers to push the product or service….the next thing you know, society in general thinks the guy or gal is an “EXPERT”, but in reality, they were just good at pushing their idea…..case in point, Bill Phillips.

    He admited to steroid use, even wrote newsletters and info about how to use the illegal substance….now he has reinvented himself over the last few years as a guy for transforming your body the proper way.

    So, no matter what I or anyone else thinks, we will always have the guys or gals that can figure out how to push a product or service to the world, even if they have a degree or certification in fitness.

    It comes down to the consumer doing their homework and it comes down to other fitness professionals standing up and wanting to change the industry for the better by getting it regulated to where folks need to be educated with a exericise science degree, have the proper cert for PT or CSCS.

    It’ no different than having folks on one side who are PRO STEROIDS and the other younger generation of fitness professionals who are AGAINST STEROIDS…..even though common sense says you are a dumb ass for using them, people will still argue that they are OK if done in moderation and controlled by your doctor.

    What a crazy industry we live in Alan.

    Regards,

    Tom

  65. Zach N permalink
    February 13, 2011

    Here’s where I think you are making a mistake, Tom. You are assuming that getting a degree in Exercise Science or a related field makes a person more qualified than others because of the formal education they received. As I mentioned several posts above I am a business student and will probably get an MBA while working as a graduate assistant strength coach. I have, however taken several exercise science and other related courses. If I were to finish the EXS program of study because I had to, my remaining curriculum would be as follows:

    Fundamentals of Chemistry
    Intro to Organic and Biochemistry
    -Both are prereqs for A&P 1&2, both of which I’ve taken
    Applied Statistics
    Basic Pharmacology
    Abnormal Pscyhology
    Intermediate Physics
    Intro to ECG
    Exercise Prescription (at our school a whopping 1 week is spent studying healthy populations)
    Cardiopulmonary rehab
    Advanced Ex. Phys
    Pathophysiology

    Does the information provided in these classes that has any relevance to strength and conditioning need to be learned in a formal setting? Not according to the program advisors who recommended that my plan of not finishing the exercise science program would probably be a good idea in my case. The strength coach who am I interning for who has an M.S. in kinesiology and is a CSCS and CSCCa SCCC has also recommended to me that it doesn’t matter what I get a masters degree in just as long as I get it done. He also handpicked me over several Ex. Sci. students for the internship because of my level of knowledge in the field.

    I’m sure that when you think of regulation you don’t intend to wreck the career of someone like me, it’s probably the Jillian Michaels of the world you hope to target. But the fact is that it will affect me negatively. I will be given the option of choose a different career path or spend another $30k to become “qualified.”

    I’m sure there is a decent solution and it may lie somewhere in education, ie: 24 credit hours minimum in the field, or an internship or something else. Unfortunately if we hand over the decision making process to bureaucrats, a lot of people will lose. WTF does some bureaucrat know about health and fitness when half the people in the health and fitness industry don’t know jack? I say the answer lies in educating the consumer.

  66. Tom permalink
    February 15, 2011

    I don’t think I am making a mistake Zach, just like you are not making a mistake. It’s like I have told many folks both while I was training soldiers in the military or since I earned my MBA and taught college marketing, we all have opinions and perceptions in life. Whether one person is right or wrong, is not the issue.

    Especially here in America and in our culture, we are taught from a young age to compete, be right from wrong, gotta win in a debate.

    The great thing is Zach, like in all these blogs I have come across, whether it’s religion, politics, or health and fitness……guess what happens, a debate, argument, criticism, etc….occurs and we forget that we are all just a bunch of guys and gals wih OPINIONS. That’s it.

    Now, you are right, whenever things in life come down to rules, law, or getting regulated, it’s like how the Republicans and Democrats can’t ever agree on anything.

    I mainly wanted to convey my opinion from what Mr. Aragon’s original post was about credentials and how I feel wholeheartedly that education, no matter what issue it is about, is key to people being more qualified than others….once again, it’s just my opinion.

    We have too many wannabe experts or so-called fitness gurus out here, and guess what, the ones making the bucks don’t have a lot of credentials, but have years of helping people get results, and that is ultimately what people in the real world want.

    Just like you wanting to be a strength coach…if your athletes can’t jump higher, run faster, or move massive amounts of shit, then they will not come back to you, no matter how many letters behind your name or CSCS’s you have.

    I mainly expressed that in order to prevent unqualified folks from training people, the industry needs some type of matrix that begins with a degree, then you can sit for a cert, etc….

    I don’t believe Mr. Aragon who has the credentials and National cert for Nutrition would disagree on this part.

    Just like for the CSCS, you have to have at least a Bachelor’s Degree in order to sit for the test….I think the same should go for guys sitting for a Cert as a Personal Trainer.

    Maybe, show proof they have completed say 18 SH in exercise science, kinesiology, anatomy, etc….similiear to when you try to get a job teaching at a college, they want a minimum of a Master’s Degree, with at least 18SH on your transcript that show proof you have a background in the subject matter you are wanting to instruct.

    No matter what you and I think Zach, or how much we go back and forth on this or what Mr. Aragon or his fellow blog followers feel, it really comes down to the opinions, perceptions, and ultimately the results people are getting from us fitness professionals.

    So, until the government, either State or Federal pass more stringent laws, rules, or regulations, all you and I can do is help people the best we can, give them quality instruction that is ethical, sound, and helps them achieve their health and fitness goals in the long run.

    Thanks for your comments. I am done beatng this horse, LOL.

    Take care,

    Tom

  67. Tom permalink
    February 15, 2011

    Oh I fogot Zach, if you want to get a reputable degree and don’t mind going online, you can complete a MS in Exercise Science with CalU, who has a partnership with NASM…got to the NASM website, since you already have your ACSM-PT and background in exercise science classes and are in a Master’s Program, you should be able to apply..it’s a cohort, all online, and I am thinking about going for the MS, since I already have the MBA, talked to the school, but want to have the MS on my resume as well and would like to do the CSCS down the road just like you.

    Check it out, it’s an option if you want to save time.

    Regards,

    Tom

  68. Dave permalink
    February 16, 2011

    While I do think formal education is extremely important and valuable, I think it may be a bit overemphasized by many employers.
    I am a working adult and had aspirations to change my career and get my Bachelors in Exercise Science, yet recently found out zero colleges in my area offered the required classes at night. So basically, because I’m not a 17 year old kid living at home, I will get the cold shoulder when job hunting and am not eligible to earn a CSCS.
    I am nearly ACE certified and looking at additional certs. But it is good to see that sometimes knowledge, experience, and good old-fashioned passion are enough to take you where you want to go.

  69. Tom permalink
    February 16, 2011

    @Dave,

    Did you see my previou post to Zach N. about the online program at CalU who works hand in hand with NASM?

    Here is the link. They have both the Bachelor’s in Health and Wellness and the MS in Exercise Science. You do in a cohort all online.

    Go to: http://www.calu.edu/academics/online-programs/wellness-fitness/index.htm

    BTW, for the CSCS, you just need a Bachelor’s or 4yr degree to sit for the CSCS exam…doesn’t have to be in Exercise Science, but of course you should get it, in case the federal regulations change in the future and you have to have that on your resume for proof of experience.

    I agree with points everyone has made, but still believe education first in the field, then cert along with an internship or experience in the trenches, all three make for the best solution to the every growing problem of credentials -vs- experience conundrum we face in the fitness industry.

    Good luck Dave.

  70. April 4, 2011

    Great post Alan,
    I’m in a similar boat as most of those that you’ve listed.
    Who cares about credentials when the advice is sound, there are clients lining up and most importantly, the results show for it.
    Those that practise what they preach with results to match are going to be the kings of the industry at the end of the day.

  71. Tom permalink
    June 28, 2011

    @ Clint Crude Fitness:

    I understand your viewpoint about folks having passion and achieving results for clients, but here is the problem in the fitness industry. We are dealing with folks health, anatomy, physiology, nutrition, etc…., so I like I alluded many months ago to Alan, if the fitness industry would get regulated to where in order to practice as a personal trainer, instructor, nutritionist, etc.. that you would have to at least at a minimum have the following:

    1. NCCA aproved PT cert.
    2. Pass a State Regulated exam, similiar to what lawyers, accountants, doctors, etc… have to do in order to practive their profession.
    3. Be licensed, bonded, insured…..just like a General Contractor working on commercial or residential property

    No matter what my opinion or your opinion is on the matter, folks will continue to get bad advice on weight training, nutrition, and cardiovascular exercise.

    Just because folks go to seminars, summits, workshops, etc…. to learn or gain knowledge or keep up with their CEU/CEC’s, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a good base like 1-3 above.

    The way it stands, a guy like Tony Horton with P90X, who is passionate, knowledgeable, has the entrepreneurial spirit, fitness marketing, and shows results…….guess what, he admits he has not certs, formal training, degree to cover him.

    I think all of us in the fitness industry need to be held accountable and show good business practice when dealing with folks bodies.

    You don’t take your body to an unlicensed doctor or hire a lawyer who hasn’t passed the bar to deal with your life……but yet folks will hire a trainer or so called nutritionist who talks a good game and shows results, but yet is not a qualified trainer or nutritionist.

    I can’t wait until the federal government steps in after too many incidents of improper fitness or nutritional practice torward clients and make it MANDATORY for folks to have the certification, license, bond, insurance, etc….

    We can debate this until we are blue in the face, but REGULATION is key to get rid of the so-called experts in the health and fitness industry and force them to get educated and properly trained with a State or Federal qualifications to back it up.

  72. Mark Rand permalink
    July 18, 2011

    Tom is there some sort of epidemic of non certified, or certified PT’s injuring people throughout the US?
    I could agree if your point is that poor PT’s end up running clients off, in other words they cause individuals that may be toying with improving physical fitness to loose interest, but as we all know that is common regardless of the trainer. My point is unless there is some serious problem, to equate personal training with MD’s is dangerous. Those two subjects aren’t completely synonymous. The only thing that getting all the government regulation you prefer is to restrict the amount of PT’s available to the public and run the price up substantially. I am sure if you train for a living you would like your pricing to go up, but your success in that area is dependent upon your performance, i.e. Alan’s point!
    Another thing to consider is that so much of the subject matter involved is–evolving! Those that choose to continually inform themselves are the ones that typically are successful, regardless of the extended education. The good cert’s require continued education and unless someone can convince me that there is some sort of widespread deleterious affects from the current situation I see no reason for dramatic regulation that would end up hurting your cause primarily by increasing the costs to the average consumer.

  73. August 28, 2011

    Great article covering the industry. I consider you to be one of the good guys in the industry, Lyle another, looking back through the biggest breakthroughs of my bodybuilding career you guys have helped immensely, Ultimate Diet 2.0 was a huge advance forward with people basically mirroring Lyles work with a few small tweaks and passing it off as original work.

  74. Jack Christopher permalink
    September 25, 2011

    Alan, this post ironically inspired me. I did a couple sample exams easy. I may get a certificate you mentioned. As an autodidact against strict credentialism, that’s odd.

    And I’m not trivializing this. I’m genuinely passionate about health. Used to be morbidly obese even.

    Any good nutrition certificates or the like?

  75. Jack Christopher permalink
    September 25, 2011

    WHACK! *Flogs a now decaying horse*

    Tom, I respect your perpective. You want some kind of regulation in the fitness/health industry. I do to. But not through gov’t. For a few reasons. The phrase “regulatory capture” sums it.

    But there *are* non-gov’t ways to “regulate”. I prefer a p2p proposals actually. Peer Accreditation, “Crowdsourced” Credentialing and DIY Credentials. Sounds buzzwordy. Point is, they are systems where people (in peer networks) directly assess each other’s expertise. This blog is a “primitive” example of such a system. :) LinkdIn serves a similar function.

    Here’s more on this topic: p2pfoundation.net/Crowdsourced_Credentialling

    BTW, scratch my last comment. Musta been slipping on acid. Get a certificate? Hell no!

  76. Alex Miller permalink
    December 20, 2011

    1)Show me how to run faster and jump higher.

    2)Show me how to add 100 lbs. to my lifts–injury free.

    3)Show me how to take off 20-50lbs of fat.

    After you show me how to do these things and I achieve them and if

    1)I feel good.
    2)I look good.
    3)I am injury free.
    4)My bloodwork looks good on my next physical,

    Then I don’t care about the piece of paper hanging on anyone’s wall. Sometimes those who live inside the box and get to know the box become rather clinical and never venture to color outside the lines. I say that fitness science is like any other; first there is a discovery, albeit sometimes random, then there is the research to substantiate the discovery. The research is important but the discovery is the sine qua non that is usually put forth by the mavericks.

    The clinician sorts things out and puts things in their order with research trials that many times are paid for by supplement and pharmaceutical companies. Research is fueled by money. That smell you smell when you sniff the air inside the industry is the smell of money–pure and simple. If it makes anyone happy, most businesses go broke trying to cash in. The competition is as common as dirt.

    1)Have YOU tried eating low carb to know that it works? What does it feel like? What are your results.

    2)Have YOU tried speed, maximal and repetition training? What are the effects of each in your experience?

    3)Have YOU tried trigger point such and such or a foam roller or steroids to know what’s best for recovery?

    The answer is to read everything you can. Experiment within your reason and conscience and discover things for yourself. Be your own fitness guru. Then all of this will be academic.

    Great post Alan. You hit a nerve. It’s one of those rare posts that the length of comments is greater than the article. Good job.

    thanks,

    Alex

  77. Pat permalink
    January 5, 2012

    After reading some of your work, thank you.

    I am interested in this “regulation is the key” topic, but really, I don’t know how effective it truly is. Pick any other industry – there are plenty of people with top letters after their name that I would NEVER trust. Just the other day I saw a doctor who advised me to fix my diet and take some time off – the dude was sunken in the face yet truly over weight, clearly stressed and depressed.

    A good tree bears good fruit.

    I know plenty of broke financial advisers, yet the wealthiest man I know can’t even read a profit and loss statement properly.

    Interestingly, I found your stuff through Berkhan. His through Venuto. His through Lyle. His through Delmonte, his through Joel Marion, his through Dr K. Without these guys I wouldn’t know any better. Don’t drag people down I say, just ensure the cream rises higher, and faster!

    It’s just a shame that the really good info isn’t that easy to come across.

    But I guess isn’t that like most things in life…? The better books, the better info (the better drinks) are a few shelves up…

    Readers, commenters, beginners, teachers… Seek and ye shall find.

    It is as simple as that.

    Thanks for your work, I look forward to reading, and learning much more.

    Kind regards from Melbourne, Australia.

  78. Tom S permalink
    November 5, 2012

    Alan:

    It’s been a while since I originally responded to your post here back in January 2011. I came back because after really respecting what you have done for the health and fintess industry, especially with your views on nutrition, primarily nutrient timing, I am really dissapointed.

    As you recall, I am not one of your young readers, but a 40+yo retired military and fitness bootcamp owner and have been around the fitness industry over 25+ years, so I have though I have seen it all, but when I read this post about “Paper Credentials -vs- The Fitness Industry”, I see you shared my views on the importance of folks having the academic background, getting properly certified, etc…. but recently I saw this young guy JC Deen who although a sharp kid and been through a lot in his young time in the fitness industry, I feel you are being very hypocritical marketing and supporting this guys new “product” or book package called LGN365.

    I even saw a guy who I have emailed a few times over the years, John Romaniello, praising this young guy, but here is the huge problem you, Roman, and many others don’t see happening.

    Whatever happened to having academic qualifications, certs, experience, and the good ol’ 10yrs or 10,000hrs in the field or in the trenches doing the job before being touted as the next greatest expert or pushing some eBook or product?

    I have nothing against JC Deen, his story and what his passion for helping others is very commendable, but becoming some fitness marketer, being a writer, blogger, and entrpreneur is great, if you weren’t dealing with the human body, anatomy, physiology, human movement, or functional movement assessment or even nutritional aspects or design or consulting for clients……which is what Deen is doing or is pushing through this new product LGN365.

    Yes, it’s his personal No BS Approach, I get that, but he is no different than the Nate Green’s (Remember that guy, who is now working with Dr. Berardi – they guy who you have some fundamental differences with your takes on nutrition) of the world.

    They go to the Fitness Summits, the seminars, etc…. get cozy with other dudes at these conferences or fitness networking sites and befor you know it, they are getting you, Roman, Cressey, Robertson, Schuler, etc… pushing or marketing their products, while all along, they have no academic background in the product or service they are providing, nor do they have any top level cert from NSCA, NASM, or ACSM.

    Even I being an older dude am still trying to go back to college to get my Master’s in the Sciences and get other top certs before I ever attempt to sell a product or book, it just doesn’t sit well with me that all these young guns who are part of the fitness marketing or networking circles are being praised as experts or go-to guys on health and fitness and our industry deserves better.

    I know if JC Deen reads this, he can agree to disagree, so can you and many others, but like stated above, you writing this old blog post totally contradicts you now supporting the push or marketing of Deen’s new product LGN365.

    If you can explain yourself why you are supporting this young guys product or his lack of credentials, academic background, and experience, I would appreciate it since I do follow your site and respect your views on academia and in the health and fitness industry.

    Regards,

    Tom

  79. Alan Aragon permalink*
    November 10, 2012

    Tom — JC Deen has been immersed in his practice & education for a number of years now. For example, he has been subscribed to my research review since 2008. I don’t think it’s fair to judge JC without having actually seen the content of his product. Also, he is one of the guys I gave praise to in this blog post (under the “Wrapping Up” section) despite not having a stack of paper credentials — for good reason.

  80. December 21, 2012

    Alan,

    I really appreciate this article. After YEARS of wasted time and questioning if I was getting education in the right areas, I maintained a PT job at a few different employers for about 10 years. I decided to go out on my own in Jan 2012 and pursue the infamous internet training! I am pleased to know someone like yourself, that I avidly follow, along with many of the other names you mentioned in your article, support the fact that learning can be done outside of a college setting… I agree =) I am confident that a paper document or letters behind my name are not NEEDED to be successful. Thanks for all of the information you offer through your blog and your RR.

    Always learning,
    Kala

  81. Tom S permalink
    February 9, 2013

    Alan:

    I appreciate your feedback and explaining your rationale for why you support a product being sold by JC Deen based on your own experiences with him. I will just agree to disagree. My issue is not with him, but with many young guys like him that do all the fitness, social, or various types of marketing, but yet, where is the BASE of education like what you did with your BS and MS in Nutrition? I have stated in this blog our industry needs to be REGULATED.

    I have no problem with a guy like Deen making a BUCK doing what he loves, but, ask yourself this? Do folks with no degree or basic credentials and minimum years experience get invited to speak on the national level for NSCA, NASM, or ACSM? The answer is NO, because mostly all of the presenters, as you even alluded to in your blog post about being invited to NSCA all the ground pounding over the years you have to do or “Pay your Dues” and finally got to speak this past year.

    I see what Deen and all these young upcoming fitness professionals, no matter how fast they learn health and fitness areas, as fitness marketers. Even Deen has talked in various circles about learning marketing from school or sales or telemarketing, etc…. and he has taken that, tied in with his love of fitness and nutrtion to help others. Once again, I am all for it and great for him, but if the industry was REGULATED and guys like him all the way to the Tony Horton’s or Jillian Michaels, wouldn’t be able to peddle jack squat unless they had a MS or higher at the end of their name, along with reputable certs like CSCS or NASM or ACSM to go with it.

    Our fitness industry is no unregulated and info put out these days that the consumer is just buying crap that I have seen reguritated from the 80-90′s, but someone puts a different sticker or name to it. So, here is where I agree with Deen and is No BS Approach, which is refreshing. I just wish young guys like him wouldn’t drop out of school or they would actually follow in your footsteps, if you are a mentor to him and go earn that Master’s or PhD, get the high level certs that are accredited and in 10yrs, become the next you at a NSCA Conference. I like what Eric Cressey has done with his academic background, even though I don’t see eye to eye with his current views on folks not getting a college education unless they go for their master’s degree or are trying to coach at the collegiate or pro level.

    I will stick to what I have always said, fitness industry professionals should be held to the standard as doctors, lawyers, physical therapists, chiropractors, etc…. have the degree, certs, CEU’s, experience, board certified or national exam, etc….. and if we all did, it would weed out folks trying to sell a book, product, etc… and become nothing more than fitness marketers.

    In the end, it’s my opinion and you have yours, which I respect. But opinions are like you know what and we all have one.

    Take it easy,

    Tom

  82. Daniel permalink
    March 23, 2013

    Great article. This guy knows his stuff and is quite knowledgable, keep up the good articles

    Dan

    - NSCA CSCS
    - Exercise Physiologist

  83. Daniel permalink
    March 23, 2013

    Tom, i understand what your getting at but unfortunatly thats how the fitness and health industry works. ACSM depending what certification you have you will work with healthy or unhealthy individuals and NSCA with athletes. And yes they both have a personal trainer certification.

    Whats important to remember is that the tony hortons and jillian michaels of the world may not be as knowledgable as the people who went to post academic studies we have to remember they have got the business game down and that with many universities and colleges is lacking. Theyre all theory, technique but theyre forgetting that in the end we are all trying to make a living and a business here. Im sure some schools have some business classes in place but its like 15th on the list of importance. Also, look on the bright side… Without these peeps like tony horton and jillian michaels running around how can the true fitness professionals make themselves look good and stand out? Lol. We are light years ahead of them

    Dan

    - NSCA CSCS
    -Exercise Physiologist

  84. Eric permalink
    March 31, 2013

    @Tom

    Hey Tom,

    I’ve read your comments here and I can see where you are coming from. As a teacher I see a similar occurrence in my field.

    I attended school and have received my masters in reading, the masters title is essentially useless to me. I only got it because I wanted to be a better teacher of reading. I received my BA in education and with a minor in bilingual education. This is the route I chose to be a teacher, a vocation I have wanted to be in since high school.

    There is, however, an alternative certification, at least in our state, that one can get if one wishes to enter the field of education. It requires a few classes and the individual can even teach before even completing the certification, it’s technically a short cut.

    The truth is, through the alternative certification or university route, there are many unfit teachers out there. I feel the reason is because it’s damn easy to become one. I breezed by my college years.

    But there is something I’ve learned throughout the years:

    A) There are good teachers that have gone through the traditional route of being teachers
    B) There are bad teachers that have gone through the traditional route of being teachers
    C) There are good teachers that have gone through the alternative certification route
    D) There are bad teachers that have gone through the alternative certification route

    I would like to work with only the A’s and C’s of the world, but this isn’t always the case. While eliminating the alternative certification would eliminate the D’s teachers of the world, it would also eliminate the C’s. Not something I would like.

    Now I think the fitness world works a bit differently in that the free market would eventually weed out the “unfit” fitness professionals. It’s close to impossible to get rid of a teacher unless they do something totally unprofessional (I won’t got into the reasons why here).

    But the fact is that paper credentials have never played a part in how successful people can be. You mentioned Napoleon Hill, which I assume you read. The life he draws heavily from is Henry Ford, largely uneducated, yet he had a definite purpose (ambition), a plan, and surrounded himself with people that could help him achieve this (mastermind group).

    In another book, The Millionaire Mind, the author has dozens of case studies where self made millionaires were largely uneducated. Instead the had an underlying passion in what they chose as a profession and worked to get at it.

    Networking is, and always has been, important.

    You, Alan, and me chose the traditional route. I feel we should celebrate and work to mentor those strong individuals that go through the alternative route. Those that have a passion for it. Push them to the front of the field. We can learn from each other and in turn our network of people grows. In the end this is much better for our chosen fields, us, and the people we work for (our clients and students).

    In the end isn’t that what we all want?

    PS. Recently I began the alternative certification program to become a librarian. And damn, I’m going to work my hardest to be the best librarian out.

  85. April 4, 2013

    Eric,

    I couldn’t have said it any better myself. My wife works in the public school system and I can state without reservation that merely having an M.S. or Ph.D. means absolutely nothing in terms of talent, intelligence, character, work ethic, etc… The only reliable difference is salary. It’s quite pathetic actually.

    I’m not sure which planet Tom lives on, where apparently doctors never peddle pseudo-science and college dropouts control the market for snake oil.

  86. Trobi Edward permalink
    December 28, 2013

    Great article. My trainer got his fitness certificate online. I wouldn’t know if he was only telling me that was legit or not! For all I know, he purchased the darn thing at: http://diplomacompany.com. I put it up the gym or fitness center to check on that stuff.

  87. Marie permalink
    February 8, 2014

    I was wondering, where did you get your college degree from? associates, bachelors, masters?

  88. March 7, 2014

    In a release posted Monday, October 1, Anonymous hacktivists issued a
    summary of Swedish government websites to get targeted in retaliation for the raid by
    Swedish police. The 2002 movie The Count of Monte Cristo was filmed in Valletta and Vittoriosa as an alternative to Marseille.

    So, your website walks a very thin tightrope, legally speaking.

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