By: Gina Cortese Shipley, M.S.
Since launching the United States Registry of Exercise Professionals® (USREPS®) in January 2014, the members of CREP have been working hard advancing our mission of gaining recognition of registered exercise professional for their distinct roles in medical, health, fitness, and sports performance fields. In support of furthering the profession, one of our main initiatives has been raising awareness around USREPS®. It has been our hope that the registry serve the industry by: identifying those individuals who have met a uniform standard for their professional qualifications; assisting potential and current employers through credential verification of all validated NCCA-accredited certifications an exercise professional has earned; and serving as an assurance for consumers that registered exercise professionals have been vetted for their qualifications.
We recently checked in with Jeff Monaco, M.S., CSCS, National Fitness Educator at Gold's Gym, to see his thoughts on the state of the profession and how USREPS® has impacted him and his organization.
I understand that you recently went through a process of ensuring your employees had valid credentials. Please explain what your purpose of this was (what was your motivation/the importance of it/why was there a need for this)?
When I as hired on as the National Fitness Educator for Gold's Gym, one of my first orders of business was to ensure that all members of our Fitness Team met the minimum requirements to deliver safe and effective exercise programs for apparently healthy individuals that were members of our gyms. This meant that I needed to ensure that every team member held a valid personal training and/or group fitness certification from a recognized certifying agency.
The purpose behind this review was to make sure we were living up to the promise we give our members that every one of our Fitness Team members is nationally certified in their specific discipline. The importance was to ensure our team members had the qualifications necessary to design safe and effective exercise programs for our members. There was a need for this because our company has over 1,200 Personal Trainers and over 4,000 Group Exercise Instructors. With that many Fitness Team members, and turnover in both departments, it is very difficult to keep track of every certification.
How exactly did you go about this (what was your criteria, what actions did you take, tools did you use to assist, the process)?
The first step in reviewing our Fitness Team's certification was to establish a baseline requirement for all team members. The baseline requirement we set was that every personal trainer hired by Gold's Gym must have at least one NCCA accredited personal training certification, and it must be current. The second step was to gather the certification information from every single Personal Trainer on staff. That meant gathering the certifications for over 1,200 Personal Trainers. After all the certification information was gathered, I had to verify each Personal Trainer's certifications.
To verify the certifications, I utilized several tools including the certifying agency's website, calling the certifying agency directly, and using USREPS®. What I liked about using USREPS® is that it provided all the certifications from member organizations for the individual I was looking up. Instead of having to contact multiple certifying agencies for one individual, I was provided information on all the certifications held. That dramatically cut down the time needed to verify several certifications for one individual.
What has been the impact/outcome that has resulted from going through this process? How has this affected the way you do business?
In my opinion, the Fitness Industry holds itself back by not holding itself to a much higher standard of education and credentials for its professionals. There is an enormous need in our country for highly qualified fitness professionals. Fitness professionals that can work alongside other allied health care professionals to provide the knowledge and expertise to combat our Nation's health crisis. I applaud organizations such as USREPS®, and the member organizations, that are working diligently to increase the standards of our industry.
The impact for Gold's Gym has been that we have increased our hiring standards for Personal Trainers and Group Exercise Instructors. We have implemented a tier structure for our personal trainers that allows them to increase their income by continuing their education and obtaining additional approved certifications. As the most recognized name in Fitness, we want to do our part to ensure that we are providing highly qualified fitness professionals for our members, and the community.
What are your plans to continue ensuring your employees carry valid credentials (including non-expired)?
We are now more diligent with verifying the credentials of every applicant before they are hired. Additionally, we continuously review our Personal Trainers' and Group Fitness Instructors' certifications weekly to ensure compliance.
How would you like to see the fitness industry grow/change?
I would love to see the fitness industry become more regulated in a sense. I believe fitness professionals should be required to have at least an associate's degree in exercise science with a national board exam required for licensure. Nobody seems to question those requirements for Athletic Trainers, Registered Dietitians, Medical Technicians, etc., however, there is always a huge push back from the fitness industry when states try to regulate fitness professionals.
Do you see USREPS as a part of supporting that?
I see USREPS as a large part of increasing the standards and requirements to become a fitness professional, and I would like to see them take a stronger stand in this area.
We want to thank Mr. Monaco for his time in providing his insight and feedback and commend him and Gold's Gym for their incredible work. For more information on USREPS®, check us out at usreps.org. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have any feedback you would like to share. We would love to hear from you!