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Certifiably Wrong


Those who know me know me well.  I’m not one to criticize nor call out others for doing what makes them happy.  Unless what makes them happy is hurting others. I am about to go on one of the most passionate but necessary harangues in a while. If you are someone who has paid for online training or nutrition programs with someone you cannot confirm is a certified personal trainer (CPT), this blog post is specifically for you.

A couple of months ago, I was watching “Catch a Contractor” on Spike with my now husband. There is a beefy contractor on the show named Skip Baddell who helps comedian, radio personality, and former contractor Adam Carolla bust independent contractors who are unlicensed and botch people’s homes with their unprofessional work (is there another word for contractor?).  On the show, Skip is portrayed as a hot-headed yet passionate contractor who becomes extremely angered every time a scamming business owner decides to work on a home without getting a license and with shoddy inadequate tools.  Skip argued that bad contractors insult those in the industry who are willing to put in the money and effort to get their licenses, insurance, and proper tools.  I always could agree with what Skip was saying but, to my horror, it became evident to me months ago that the same thing was happening within the personal training industry. Would you trust an unlicensed contractor to play with your house without having the proper education? No, right? So why on earth would you trust an unlicensed personal trainer with your body?

The fitness industry has always been a booming business.  Now, people who are gym rats can upload pictures of themselves and get not only likes but inquisitions about meal plans and workout routines.  This sparked many to realize a side personal training business can be developed in order to earn some extra cash (or big cash depending on your follower quantity). I know some people who got involved with lifting and then wanted to help others make the same transformation (including me!).  Therefore, they obtained their PT license in a few short months and are now educated enough to give effective and safe workout programs. However, there are a lot of people who do not put in this basic effort and are training people online with limited knowledge and their unrelated personal experience for some fast cash.

Just because you have the power to reel people into your workout and diet plans with a spectacular figure, doesn’t mean you should. If you have lean muscle and low body fat, that means you have found the correct formula that works for you. Under no circumstance does that mean you possess the knowledge to help other people.  There is a popular fitness model on Instagram.  She was able to completely change her body and build lean muscle. I commend her as she looks great.  For a decent amount of money, she was offering a 3 month program to help other people. The only problem? She is not certified. The progress pictures of her paying clients blatantly showed that (your client standing on their hind leg does not qualify as booty gains).  Additionally, she is charging you to help calculate your macro-nutrients. You can find that formula online! Anyone who charges you to calculate your beginning macros are not being upfront and should be listed under the category of “forever shady”.  She was also going to alter your macro-nutrients based on your progress.  Only a licensed nutritionist, registered dietician, or nutrition specialist has the qualifications to legally give you detailed nutrition advice in the state of TN.  As a TN trainer, I struggled giving very basic nutritional help. That should prove to anyone how important correct diet guidance is.  It is horrifying that someone who has not even put in the effort to gain a basic personal training certification was going as far as determining how much you should consume per day (wrecked metabolism anyone?). Most importantly, there was no medical form to fill out prior to beginning training- a basic necessity in personal training that could be learned through a course. That means you could have a bad knee or asthma but this girl would never know. A serious injury could absolutely be avoided if your online uncertified coach took a personal training course to understand the large amount of papers that need to be processed in order to protect clients and themselves. If you get injured, there is a large chance that your uncertified personal trainer does not have insurance because if they don’t care to get certified they probably don’t care about insurance. Why would you trust someone who clearly isn’t serious enough to protect themselves training you?

Gaining lean muscle and losing fat is a long and challenging process.  It takes great skill for someone to be able to figure out the correct formula for themselves, much less another human being.  If you don’t know if the online program you have invested money in is administered by a certified personal trainer, there is a great chance that it isn’t.  Most trainers are overzealous in their attempt to show they have certification and gain clients.  My goal is not to be salty about the fact that I am out money thanks to license and insurance fees while these faux experts are making bank. The purpose of this post is bring awareness to the necessity of hiring someone who is trained. You probably will still get results from an uncertified personal trainer as new programs can cancel out plateaus and nonetheless bring results. But wouldn’t you feel better knowing that the person behind the screen is committed enough to get licensed?  And yeah- you may still be at risk of getting injured and being trained improperly by a CPT employed at a reputable gym location. But if a certified personal trainer at a large gym fails at being a good trainer can you imagine how an uncertified independent “contractor” would fail at being a good one?

To protect yourself, always ask potential trainers if they have a certification; great certifications include NASM and ISSA.  Always ask the person you are trusting with your body numerous questions, probe a bit. Don’t be shy! Life is long.



Rupa is a certified personal trainer. She is also a graduate of Rhodes College. Rupa currently resides in Nashville, TN.

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