Beware: Title Dropping May Get Personal


One last thought about title dropping. In this industry just about everyone you meet has some sort of fitness title with countless acronyms following their name. “Hi, I'm John, fitness director and ACSM and ACE certified personal trainer.” “Hello, I'm Jane, health club owner and AFAA kickboxing certified.” “Howdy, I'm Bob, group fitness program director and AFPA yoga instructor.”

The certification agencies and acronyms are countless. And quite frequently our titles look more like alphabet soup than anything else. To those of us in the field, it's completely normal. But to “regular” people, our alphabet soup is their filet mignon. In fact, just a casual slip of “I'm a personal trainer” or “I own a health club” is sure to both dazzle the laypeople and begin an onslaught of questions.

Our line of work fascinates folks outside the fitness world. They believe that we, as fitness professionals, hold the key to unlocking their true hard-bodied self and that we somehow possess the knowledge that can turn their behinds into J-Lo's and their abs into Brad Pitt's. The four magic words, “I'm a personal trainer,” turns on their mental light bulb and opens the door to questions about eating habits, lifting routines and sometimes even more personal issues.

As a personal trainer and group exercise instructor, I can't tell you the number of times I've accidentally slipped and mentioned my profession and then been pummeled by queries. As you know, most people want to know some basic things — should I lift before or after I do cardio, how much protein should I eat, and how do I get rid of “this” (as they point or pull on their problem areas)?

Sometimes though, the questions get more personal. A woman who I had just met at a party pulled me aside to ask me if passing gas while running was normal. Another time at a wedding reception the best man quietly asked me if all spin bikes were that “uncomfortable” for guys. And even the grocery store isn't safe. In casual conversation at the checkout line a teenage girl asked what I did for a living and then asked why her thighs were always the first thing to start sweating when she was on the elliptical.

Why do people feel the need to tell you these intimate details about their fitness routines? Because they trust us. We, like most health professionals, are held in esteem for our knowledge. Because we're constantly talking and reading about exercise and nutrition, it's easy to forget that much of the public is still clueless about fitness. They get mixed messages from advertisements, the media and even their friends and family about how to stay healthy. No wonder that when they spot someone with credentials in the industry they can't stop the stream of questions. They want answers — and with America's obesity epidemic they need them.

Granted, being hit with a ton of questions on your day off may be a bit annoying, not to mention occasionally uncomfortable, but it can be worth it. Although you are not getting paid for your “services,” it's a great opportunity to encourage people to get fit and eat a proper diet. And you don't always have to give your expertise away for free either. Make sure to keep your business cards on you at all times. They can always call you if they want to come in for a personal training session, group exercise class or a tour of your facility. So, go ahead.Don't be afraid to drop your title occasionally when mingling with those outside the industry. You never know what just a few uncomfortable answers can do for someone else and possibly for your business.

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