Who’s taking your money?

Disclaimer: If there is a post that could earn negative feedback, this will be it.   I am not here to attack levels of knowledge, experience or skill; I am here today to educate the consumer to make the informed decisions.

The other day I watched a video of a person who was training a group of young hockey players.  The video was horrendous.  The kids were doing a random circuit with techniques and movements that made me cringe.  And yet this person running the session is considered my competition; they are located here in Calgary.  What pissed me off even more was that they were charging even more than I do for that garbage they called a training session.  Yet this is not uncommon.   I have heard it on numerous conversations.   I had heard a story of a young woman who hired a trainer.  She had mentioned that at the first session the trainer worked her so hard that she was physically sick.  The trainer had the audacity to say, “don’t worry, that is normal for the first few weeks of working out.”  NO, IT IS NOT NORMAL.  IT IS IF YOUR TRAINER HAS NO BLOOODY IDEA OF WHAT HE OR SHE IS DOING.

This profession at the present moment has no regulating body, to state who can or cannot do what we do.   You know, people go to their doctor and just trust that the person doing the physical is a doctor, or at least they should be if they are located in an office and not a van in a back alley.  People spend more time researching information on electronics for their home than they do researching the certifications, backgrounds and knowledge of their “trainer” how is looking after their health and well being.  They just trust that the person with the title TRAINER on their back knows what they are doing.  Guess what, many don’t have a sniff of what they are doing.  I used to be concerned with what others in the city had for certifications, and who was working where.  Then I stopped caring because I would see on bios’ that had the certification CANFIT-PRO… IN PROGRESS.   Bloody hell, it is a weekend course.  Am I reading this on a Saturday and when I go back to the bio on Monday is said that it is completed.  So someone with a weekend course knows as much as I do, and went to school for 11 years of university.  Seriously?  And on a bio, do not list one of your certification as Current CPR and First Aid.   The janitors at the gyms I used to work at had CPR and First Aid, but that doesn’t mean that they are a “trainer”.  I have been known to tell people who want to be a personal trainer, but not want to go to school, to not do it.  Leave it to the people who want to put in the time and do it correctly.   And don’t get me started on the certifications people running boot camps have!

And don’t get me wrong, I am not here to tell people who can or cannot do their job… well actually I am but I do not have the authority to fire people that need to be.  I find it a slap in the face for all of us who have worked hard to get where we are today to have this happening in the profession.  Really I am here to educate the consumer, those who are buying training or coaching to ask what certifications and education your prospective coach or trainer had, and do not feel bad to walk away when they say, “I don’t have any education, but I am passionate and have experience working out.”  The only workout you should be getting at that point is running away before they talk you into buying sessions.

What we also need to realize is that there are a few different certification out there that can confuse the consumer, but for each of these certifications there are associated scopes of practice.  Those scopes of practice are there to give “trainers” guidelines as to what they can or cannot do, but rarely do these trainers adhere to them.   So that is why I am here, to help you, the consumer out.  Here is what you need to look for.

Some form of Post Secondary Education (College, University Degree or a Masters Degree) – this person at least has the basic understanding of anatomy, physiology and biomechanics depending on the number of years in school.

Certifications – This could be a long list but I will hit the most common and important to look for.

Alberta Fitness Leadership Certification Association (AFLCA) … and I would have to put CANFIT – PRO in with this group.  It is a weekend course but it is a start for those wishing to get into the profession.

Scope of Practice The AFLCA certified Resistance Training Leader is able to:

  1. Lead a safe exercise session by providing effective and appropriate exercises in order to meet the needs of participants.
  2. Provide weight room monitoring and equipment orientation.
  3. Lead exercise groups that are based on AFLCA standards and NFLA guidelines.
  4. Lead introductory resistance training programs.
  5. Lead participants that are apparently healthy.
  6. Use the Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating, Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living, and Par-Q


In reality, these are your weight room attendants.  They cannot Write programs, but they can show you how to use a piece of weight equipment.


Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology – Certified Personal Trainer (CSEP-CPT) – to achieve this, the candidate must have a University degree or diploma, with the necessary prerequisite course work.  They must attend the modules, and pass the practical and written examination.  The Scope of Practice is as follows.


A CSEP-CPT™ is sanctioned by the CSEP to:

  1. Administer the CPAFLA to apparently healthy persons, as determined by all negative answers on an unmodified PAR-Q or a PARmed-X (conveyance form) signed by a physician stating unrestrictive physical activity/exercise. All CPAFLA fitness appraisals must be preceded by the participant signing an informed consent form as outlined in the CPAFLA manual.
  2. Interpret the results of a client’s fitness appraisal in relation to the Health Benefit Zones for persons of similar gender and age as provided in the CPAFLA and CSEP-CPT manuals.
  3. Provide a tailored physical activity, fitness and lifestyle plan to help the client address any particular weakness identified and/or interests expressed including individualized exercise prescriptions using various modes of exercise and exercise equipment.
  4. Design and lead exercise sessions with a client or group of clients using various pieces of fitness/exercise equipment.
  5. Monitor and document a client’s physical activity/exercise program leading to safe and effective program planning and progression.


The CSEP-CPT™ is NOT sanctioned by the CSEP to:


  1. Use an ECG for any purpose.
  2. Utilize any assessment protocols other than the CPAFLA and those specifically listed in the CSEP-CPT Candidate’s Study Guide.
  3. Use assessment protocols that require maximal exercise
  4. Design, implement and monitor exercise prescription strategies for populations with medical conditions, functional limitations and disabilities.

Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology – Certified Exercise Physiologist (CSEP-CEP)

This is the highest level of certification within Canada at the present time.  This candidate must have a University degree with the necessary prerequisite course work.  They must attend the 4 modules , and pass the practical and written examination.  They must maintain on a yearly basis a specified number of credits that are associated with teaching, course work, presentations, etc to maintain current status and demonstrate academic upgrading in the field of exercise physiology.  This is the one certification that may allow someone to use the term… PERSONAL TRAINER.  The Scope of Practice is as follows.


A CSEP Certified Exercise Physiologist® is sanctioned by CSEP to:

  1. Administer appropriate assessment protocols (both submaximal and maximal) for the evaluation of physical fitness to individuals who have been screened, signed an informed consent form and/or who have been cleared for unrestricted or restricted activity by a licensed health care professional.
  2. Provide physical activity clearance following further queries to positive responses to questions 4, 5 and/or 7 on the PAR-Q. For example, an individual could be cleared for physical activity/exercise by a CSEP-CEP if:
    1. in question 4 it was determined that the dizziness was associated with over breathing during heavy exercise or sudden postural changes;
    2. in question 5 it was determined that the joint problem was an old knee, ankle, houlder or other old joint constraint; and,
    3. in question 7 it was determined that the individual had a “cold” or relative contraindication such as, but not limited to, controlled diabetes or stable medicated blood pressure.
    4. Provide physical activity clearance to clients who are screened out by PAR-Q questions 1 and/or In these instances, until additional information is gathered, the CSEP-CEP can recommend tailored, low intensity, progressive physical activity (such as walking).
    5. Seek medical clearance for clients of any age who are screened out by PAR-Q questions 2 and/or 3 which deal with potential heart problems before providing physical activity recommendations.
    6. Provide physical activity clearance and recommend tailored, progressive physical activity for clients over age 69 who do not respond positively to PAR-Q questions 2 and/or 3 which deal with potential heart problems.
    7. Provide physical activity clearance to clients over age 69 and recommend tailored, progressive physical activity.
    8. Provide physical activity clearance to youths under age 15 who have consent of their parent or guardian.
    9. Interpret the results of an individual´s fitness assessment to determine the individual´s health-related fitness level and/or performance-related (function, work or sport) fitness level.
    10. Use the outcomes from objective assessments to guide decisions regarding physical activity/exercise: prescription, demonstration, supervision and monitoring, fitness and healthy lifestyle counseling and act as a personal trainer.
    11. Suggest healthy dietary practices in concert with physical activity/exercise programs for healthy weight management.
    12. Suggest dietary practices for health-related nutrition and performance-related nutrition.
    13. Use a heart rhythm tracing to observe heart response during a fitness assessment and a structured exercise session.
    14. Evaluate and treat both asymptomatic and symptomatic populations with medical conditions, functional limitations and disabilities, through the application of exercise and physical activity, for the purpose of improving health and function.
    15. Perform evaluations, prescribe conditioning exercise, and provide exercise supervision, health education and outcome evaluation.
    16. Work with apparently healthy asymptomatic and symptomatic populations such as older adults, children and youth, and obstetric populations, and to society as a whole, in health enhancement and the prevention of impairment and disability.
    17. Provide appropriate exercise therapy to clients including, but not limited to, those with musculoskeletal, cardiorespiratory, and metabolic conditions.
    18. Accept referrals from licensed health care professionals trained to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal conditions and/or medical conditions.


A CSEP-CEP is NOT sanctioned by CSEP to:

  1. Administer assessment protocols and prescribe exercise and/or therapy to acutely injured and diseased individuals who are not within the boundaries of the above scope of practice.
  2. Diagnose pathology based on any assessment performed.

Now, when it comes to strength and conditioning for an athletic population the one common certification that someone should be a National Strength and Conditioning Association – Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. That really is the gold standard in the industry.

As I said there may be more certifications but many are related to the clinical or therapy side of things.   But in reality, it is about being an informed consumer.  Just because the person is “jacked” or has been working out for year, does not make them qualified to be taking responsibility for your health and well being.   Seek out those of us, who have put in the hours of study and dedication, have the knowledge and the credentials to perform in this profession correctly.  And by doing that, those of us who should be here, working in this profession will flourish, and those who want to take the short cuts will weed themselves out.

Once Again, Yours in Health and Performance

Jeff Osadec, MKin, CEP, CSCS, HLC2


6 thoughts on “Who’s taking your money?

  1. Jeff Zahavich

    Jeff, I always enjoy reading your thoughts. Indeed, an argument worthwhile having… if only ‘somebody’ cared.

    One last comment/question:

    It’s a good thing banks are not interested in reclaiming those pretty picture frames we hang on our walls [i.e., BSc. Kinesiology, BSc. Health Promotion, MSc. Kinesiology, CSEP-CEP, PhD (c)-?] At what point does one become intellectually saturated?

    1. jeffosadec

      I think the idea of saturation is not an issue. Think of it this way. I hear about a book that everyone is raving about. Now those of us who have put in the time, and dedication can read that book and pick out the relevant information and the B.S. We then know to 1, use the good information to build our own opinion and knowledge and 2, never do the BS with our clients. The people who “care” are those that will continue to seek out only the relevant information, and as we learn our opinions and view change in accordance with our increased knowledge. We basically adapt and we make more room without the fear of ever saturating.

      Those who cannot decipher the relevant info from the BS will never adapt, and they will suffer from the “saturation”. There are those who are closed minded who have had their brain welded shut by their narrow view and therefore cannot allow for the clearing of useless information or BS. Those who are dedicated will always endure, adapt and thrive.

    1. jeffosadec

      I would like to make it clear that I am not here to say that everyone who does not have letters behind their names are not doing good work… because there are some people who I think are fantastic at what they do (Dan you are among some of the smartest men I know doing this) but it is unfortunate that there are others who are in this for the wrong reasons and causing more harm than good.

  2. Noa

    Great post. Someone forwarded it to me, as I was ranting about something similar on Twitter this morning, more specific to coaching though.

    Just this week I have come across two more athletes who are now coaches with no previous experience, no mentors, no education or certification. Not to say that it is a bad transition, I was an elite athlete once upon a time… But I also flew to the other side of the world to complete a sports coaching degree. Its a slap in the face how little regulation there is and how bad the coaching certification process is. Anyone with a credit card and a free weekend can become a coach.

    The field of sports nutrition isn’t a whole lot better, but that another issue.

    I guess the question is if there is something that can be done to make a difference…?!

  3. Pingback: My Subsequent Resignation from “Personal Training” « Deliberate Health and Performance

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