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Personal Training – Safe Guarding Yourself and Knowing What Qualifications To Look For.

Updated: May 17, 2023

I recently got vilified on social media for questioning whether someone was qualified to do the job they were advertising themselves as. Unfortunately, some people were too preoccupied with the fact that I called them out and said it was a nasty, unprofessional thing to do and a personal attack on them to actually comprehend what my point was. No one was in the slightest bit interested in either verifying their accreditations or asking them if they were indeed qualified. I still don’t know now but I’m 99.9% sure they do not hold any recognised fitness industry qualifications. This person isn’t a rarity. With the explosion of the popularity of ‘online coaches’ during the 2020/21 lockdowns a lot of people have made a lot of money by jumping onto an opportunity born of desperation and misery. Some of these people are qualified PT’s offering a valuable service for certain groups but many aren’t. The online coaching market continues to thrive because in my opinion many think it’s an easy, quick buck.


Why does this bother me so much?


Nicola Poole Personal Training Newton Abbot

Should I just go about my own business and let others get on with theirs? Why put my name and business on the line of fire? Well, not only is it potentially dangerous, these people have no insurance, they are essentially defrauding people and also belittling the profession I work within. Personal trainers, coaches, therapists and nutritionists spend a lot of money and time gaining their qualifications and building a successful, rewarding occupation that does make a difference to so many. Why should we allow charlatans to destroy our reputations and scare people off from engaging with us? There is no mandatory regulatory board so I can’t report these people and someone can call themselves whatever they like with no repercussions. All I can do is warn people and explain how they can avoid them by reading between the lines. I’m not saying that these people are necessarily bad people or they are trying to scam people. What I am saying is that they are not equipped with the knowledge or expertise to do the job correctly. They often market a product based solely on what they do themselves because they don’t know anything else and they believe “it works for me, so it will work for everyone else”.



They are not able to differentiate between different populations and they are most certainly unaware of the harm they can cause by prescribing ‘nutrition advice and plans’.



If your car needed fixing and your mates, mates said “I’m a mechanic. I’ve been fixing my own cars for years, I’ve read books and watched YouTube videos. I’ve got the experience. I can do that for £200.” Would you take them up on their offer? Handing your money over to a stranger who says they know best. Potentially risking life or injury, invalidating your car insurance or you end up taking it to real garage when it breaks again? I don’t think many would. So why would you do that with your health?



So, how can you work out if someone is legitimate or not?


Let’s start with the red flags, if anyone calls themselves any of these or similar then I would strongly suggest you ask them what their qualifications actually are and which company they used. Some of them are real titles but aren’t associated with any qualification and some are just made up and mean absolutely nothing. They might actually be a personal trainer but people often use different titles to try and make themselves sound more qualified to stand out from the crowd. So, always double check.


"Online coach, online gym coach, weight lifting trainer, sportsperson, entrepreneur, public figure, trainer, gym trainer, mindset coach, lifestyle coach, advanced trainer, personal coach, strength coach, fat loss coach, transformation coach, functional trainer and anything else that ends with coach or trainer other than personal, S&C or Olympic lifting."



What Qualifications Should I be Looking For?


Personal trainer Newton Abbot

I obviously work within the industry but I am also a qualified Tutor/Assessor so I know what pathway people should take when becoming a personal trainer. The usual route for most fitness industry courses are:

  • Level 2 Gym Instructor

  • Level 3 Personal Trainer

  • Some people also have class based qualifications such as group cycling, exercise to music and circuit training.


Even if someone has a Sport, Coaching, Teaching, Health or Leisure Degree they still need to do these courses unless they have completed them within their degree. Once someone has these qualifications they can then proceed onto other higher level more specific courses, for example:


  • Strength and Conditioning

  • Pre and Post Natal

  • Working with Children and Adolescents

  • Older Adults

  • Rehab and therapy courses

  • Nutrition

  • Olympic Weight Lifting


There are many others but unless they are Level 3 and above they don’t really hold much clout. Some trainers will site an interest or specific area they work within but this just an ideology it doesn’t mean they are qualified to advise in it. I would also ask if they have an Enhanced DBS number so you can check who they are. I work with children so I have to have one but I have also worked with adults who could be deemed as vulnerable so it’s a useful thing to have. Ask if they are registered with https://www.cimspa.co.uk/ although the majority of fitness professionals don’t (I include myself here but thinking I really should!) but it’s a useful tool to know about. Do they have a professional website? Look for reviews on Google Business, Yell or Facebook. Do they have insurance? Do they have policies on data protection or duty of care? All these things paint a picture of someone and the business they are marketing.



Don’t be embarrassed to ask to see copies of qualifications or ask questions.



If they are legitimate they will not mind at all. I am amazed at the number of parents who don’t ask me for my DBS number. If they aren’t legitimate they will stop answering your messages and disappear swiftly. If they work at a local gym and you have concerns about them contact the gym manager or owner. If you think they might be a risk to public safety, contact your local police and make a report. If they are on social media report their account. But most importantly, tell your friends and family so that they know to avoid them. Be informed, be safe.



Personal Trainer Newton Abbot, Devon

Nicola Poole is the owner of Inspired Coaching. With 8 years Personal training and S&C coaching behind her, 4 years of tutor/assessing in personal training, 7 years of competing in powerlifting at an elite level plus 14 years as a PE teacher she has extensive knowledge and experience in her field of work. Using the moto ‘Where Every Body Fits’ sums up the diverse clientele she works with, operating as an

Personal Training Courses

inclusive, HAES and body neutral coach helping people achieve the right balance between exercise, health and life. Nicola curently freelances for Performance Training Academy supporting them in their delivery of health and fitness courses.

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