We are too fat. Globally, more than 1.5 billion people are overweight, with a third of those being dangerously obese. In fact, more individuals are dying from eating too much food than too little. In America, where more than a third of adults are defined as obese, no politician has campaigned on “a chicken in every pot” for nearly a century.
It’s not that people enjoy flabby paunches or risking diabetes, dementia, heart attack, and early death. It is simply that very few of us embrace lifestyles that daily burn more calories than we take in. In the trenches, fighting this onslaught of unhealthy, unsightly lard, stands one misunderstood profession — the personal trainer. For years, trainers were seen as mere drill sergeants or freelance jocks for the pampered wealthy.
But as the American waistline expands, the preemptive value of personal trainers is increasingly recognized and rewarded. For those with a sincere interest in exercise physiology, wellness, athletics, and above all, people, Mercer County Community College offers its Personal Training Certification course. This six-session, noncredit course begins on Sunday, July 10, and runs for six Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the West Windsor campus. Cost: $499. Register at www.mccc.edu/programs.
The course, taught by a representative of the World Instructor Training Schools, prepares students for and includes the national exam. It also includes opportunities for a local internship, which may lead to permanent placement.
Jay DelVecchio, overseer and founder of the World Instructor Training Schools, claims “I was a total jock all through school, but only in the very nicest possible way.” DelVecchio grew up in Ridley, Pennsylvania, with a father who encouraged his son’s natural athletic bent and a math teacher mother who brought home the value of proper instruction and learning. Upon graduating from Old Dominion University in 1981 with a bachelor’s in physical education and health, DelVecchio worked at the Holiday Health and Fitness gym for a few years, learning the trade.
Seeking more fitness-conscious environs, he moved to Virginia Beach and founded his own gym, SF & Wellness Inc. “We began hiring our own trainers,” says DelVecchio, “and about 50 percent were totally great, while the rest were absolutely worthless — regardless of their training.” This led to his launching World Instructor Training Schools, which provide more than four times the average number of training hours, along with the national exam certification prep. At age 53, DelVecchio still may be found exuberantly leaping around the volleyball court and playing flag football in the east coast league he started.
“We run our personal trainer programs through colleges primarily because I like the academic atmosphere,” says DelVecchio. “Students can expect to do two hours of reading at home for every hour in the class room.”
#b#Training then and now#/b#. When they first made their appearance at the end of the 1970s many personal trainers resembled “the beast of the health spa” who glowered over submissive clients, growling out counts for their own favorite exercises. But the fitness world has grown more competitive and clients increasingly have their own goals. Nationally, personal trainers earn $25 an hour for their instruction, but in New Jersey, pulling down $35 to $50 an hour is more the norm. For that kind of money, the sweat and suffering had better lead somewhere, quickly and visibly.
Today’s trainer processes a host of information before lining up a single program. He listens to the individual’s goals, then factors in his exercise and medical histories, his overall body strength and capabilities. How strong is this client’s heart? And what kind of dedication and time can he reasonably expect from his client?
“A good physical trainer is a chameleon,” says DelVecchio. “Some clients thrive on information, others need to be entertained.” Individual goals vary greatly, from simple incremental weight loss, to training for complex sports such as downhill skiing or getting a seat on the varsity crew. To be competitive in a market with such broad range of activity goals, trainers are finding the need not only for study, but cross-sport experience. The average student taking DelVecchio’s courses is 33 years old.
#b#The rewards of buff#/b#. Those rare and blessed personal trainers who ascend into the Olympian heights of sculpting celebrities, such as Gunnar Peterson (J-Lo, Sly Stalone) or Tracy Anderson (Madonna), may expect $300-plus per hour for their labors. For the rest, where they fall within the $25 to $50 hourly range depends on the location and type of gym to which they become attached.
Increasingly, gyms view good trainers the way established law firms eye new attorneys. A good personal trainer may bring an additional $4,000 a year in membership fees alone. For that reason, gyms are now seeking out top trainer talent. “Between gym and trainer, it used to be a 60/40 or 50/50 split of the client’s fee,” says DelVecchio. “Now, gyms are vying to hire good trainers on as employees, giving them benefits, and 401(k)s.”
Also, like law firms, the partner track is held out to entry-level personal trainers who show promise and strong customer magnetism.
To those seeking to select a good personal trainer, DelVecchio suggests first making clear your goals in your own mind. Know precisely what you seek and how much time you have to devote. If you want only to bulk up muscle mass, it is silly to purchase a frills-plus training package with yoga and spiritual development.
Further, when checking out the certification of a prospect, find out how many hours of study his exam preparation entails. Sixty hours is good, but some squeak by with only 12. Finally, warns DelVecchio, if a personal trainer offers you more than just basic nutritional advice, walk away quickly. “A trainer should be teaming up with a professional dietary specialist, not claiming he can supplant him,” he says.
It is unlikely that our nation’s living and work routines will alter any time soon to have our food intake burned up by normal daily activities. So to keep ourselves safe, alive, and happy, most of us will have to develop some fun alternative of sport and fitness programs into our day. When you consider it, it’s really not such a bad fate to have a surplus of food and a surplus of time to enjoyably burn off the tallow it creates.