When I had developed the initial version of my run clinic, I wanted to test it with a few willing volunteers from the triathlon club. The club's board of directors (BoD) put up a brick wall because I had no certifications of any kind.
I initially thought this was some form of elitism, since my research revealed NO other run coaching or training programs that would help convert ex-runners and uncomfortable runners to comfortable endurance runners. There was no certified program that taught anything close to my clinic! Why did the board want me to have some alphabet soup after my name?
After looking into the matter, I found it's not about a piece of paper: It's about professionalism, which really means its about liability. Every professional practitioner of any kind, from MD to chiropractor to massage therapist, is certified by a recognized and accepted authority, is a member of a professional organization, and has liability insurance to ensure any harm they may inadvertently cause will be remedied.
The status of being a professional means you can't hide behind a liability waiver. The waiver only protects you against things the client does against your instructions (such as "Stop if you feel any pain!"). If the client is harmed while acting according to your instructions, you may be liable.
A run clinic for "broken" runners is certainly not a minimal-risk environment! The club BoD was absolutely right: It would be very wrong for the club to permit me to offer a clinic to its members without professional certification and liability insurance.
So I looked at all the professional certifications I could realistically pursue, including Physical Therapist, USAT Level 1 Triathlon Coach, Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), and a few others. The one most relevant to my run clinic is CPT, though the USAT Level 1 Coaching cert may be more useful in the long run.
The USAT Level 1 coaching certification is relatively simple to acquire: It takes only money to travel to and attend a certification clinic. Total cost, about $1000. Unfortunately, the next clinic I could reasonably attend isn't until September. Plus, the cost is an obstacle right now, though it may not be in September.
For the near term, becoming a CPT seems to be the way to go. A quick online search reveals literally a dozen or more different Personal Trainer certification programs out there, several of which have national-level recognition and acceptance. Most of them are either online programs, or DVD-based, or both. Only a very few are in-class hands-on programs.
I've been working with a personal trainer 2-3 times a week for a decade. Over those years I've often "traded up", and I now believe I'm working with one of the very best personal trainers in all of San Diego. I think I'm getting as good or better "hands-on" training than any classroom course could provide.
So I decided to restrict my search to the DVD and online certification programs. Several of these also had good national acceptance. Unfortunately, the total certification costs of those programs tend to start at $1000 and go up from there. And each program has different recertification costs and insurance rates.
I decided to restrict my focus to the cost of insurance, which is where the rubber hits the road: If I want at least $2 million in coverage, which program gets me certified with the lowest total cost when insurance is included?
The result surprised me. No, it shocked me! The ACT Certification program has a FREE certification available, though it has an annual insurance cost that happens to be $5 HIGHER than the paid program + the discounted insurance. The total cost for a 2 year ACT certification + 2 years of insurance? The annual costs are the $65 program fee + the $105 insurance premium, or $170/year. Which, for two years is $340. That's less than what some programs charge just to take their exam!
While ACT has not yet been accredited by a national agency, they are absolutely committed to obtaining NCCA approval, and it looks like they will acquire it before the end of this summer.
What amazes me is that their insurance company sells insurance to ACT-certified personal trainers at such a reasonable rate. Someone has done the risk assessment, and has found the ACT approach worthy. I wonder why other certification programs have much higher insurance rates? Perhaps they are padding the total to obtain maximum profit. If that's the case, then ACT has gained even more of my respect.
ACT claims one of their goals is to turn the economics of the fitness certification industry on its head. Their low program costs and low insurance rates seem to back this ideology to the hilt.
After all, I am the one doing all the work to get certified! What does the certification program itself do? Once the course is designed, implemented and approved, everything else is either stamping out copies or computer-based. Basically, minimal per-student costs, even allowing for ongoing program development and improvement. You can get a high-volume web server from GoDaddy that can support millions of users for a total cost of under $10/month: The recurring costs to present an existing online program truly are minimal, even trivial.
I can't judge the quality of the ACT content. But then, I don't feel I need to: Their insurance provider has done their own due diligence. Then again, I haven't read the insurance policy itself yet, so I don't really know what it does and does not cover.
I do get it all for only $14.66/month: Training, certification, CEU (Continuing Education Unit) classes, recertification, and insurance.
At this price, it seems silly to pay more now, since I'm planning to get the USAT cert eventually. At the very least, the ACT program is a minimal investment that is worth trying, just for the hell of it.
ACT, here I come!