Home Posts tagged "Exercise Science"

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/7/16

Happy Monday, folks. I hope everyone had a great weekend. We brought our twin daughters to their first MLB game yesterday, and they did surprisingly well, behaving through all nine innings! Hopefully, this momentum carries over into the rest of the week. Here's some good strength and conditioning reading to get the ball rolling: 

How to Prepare to Avoid Early Season Pitching Injuries - I was interviewed for this article by Dan Weigel for Sporting News. The second half of the article ran a few days later: The Dangers of Spring Training

Pump the Brakes on Bashing Higher Education for Fitness Professionals - My business partner, Pete, did a solid job of outlining another perspective on the topic of college education in the fitness industry. These come as follow-ups to my popular articles, Is An Exercise Science Degree Worth It - Part 1 and Part 2

7 Truths About Strength Training - This was an excellent post from Jim Wendler for T-Nation. He hit a lot of nails on the head.

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Smart Things We Did With Starting a Fitness Business: Part 1

This blog is a unique blend of fitness advice, baseball training discussion, nutritional information, and a host of other health and human performance concepts.  That said, while I never really set out to do so, as Cressey Sports Performance has grown year after year, this website has also become a business development resource for those in the fitness industry who would ultimately like to have their own training facilities.  So, that's the direction that today's post (and the follow-up) will take.

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Typically, when a writer covers "lessons learned," it's based entirely on mistakes one has made - and we've certainly had our fair share of business blunders that become "teachable moments" at Cressey Sports Performance.  However, I thought I'd use this two-part article to highlight a few things we've actually done correctly over the years. I think you'll be surprised to find that none of these points have anything to do with training; they are actually largely applicable to just about any business, regardless of industry.

I should preface these points with the note that I'll discuss my financial situation in a small amount of detail. I do this only to illustrate the importance of understanding opportunity cost and long-term financial planning, not to toot my own horn. When you start talking money, things always get awkward, and I don't want to come across that way.  I'm not looking for applause by talking about myself; I'm just utilizing my own experiences to make some very important points.

1. I made sure I didn't get buried under student loans and other debt.

I've spoken a bit in the past about how I actually started out at a business-oriented university with the intention of becoming an accountant.  After two years there, it was clear to me that my passion was actually in the fitness industry, and I wanted to shift my business credits into a Sports Management program while double majoring in Exercise Science. While there were several options available to me, I opted to attend the University of New England.  It was a program that had grown by leaps and bounds, but perhaps the biggest appeal to me was that my total tuition and fees bill would be about $15,000 lower each year - and I could live at home and commute to campus. Just as importantly, I could work to make money and gain experience (I worked at a gym) all through my last two years of undergraduate education.  I had a full-time summer job all four years, and never spent a penny on alcohol in my undergraduate career.  Very simply, I knew what I wanted - and over the course of the four years, these collective decisions probably amounted to a $60,000 "swing" in the direction of not beind buried in debt.

I opted to go to the University of Connecticut for graduate school thereafter, and there was not graduate assistant funding available for me in the first year.  As such, I paid out-of-state tuition and got my own room and board for the first year.  To cancel it out, I worked as a personal trainer and bartender on nights and weekends - all while volunteering in the human performance laboratory and in varsity strength and conditioning while taking a full course load. My hard work was rewarded with a graduate assistantship in year 2, and that included a tuition waiver and stipend for the year. I dropped the personal training, but continued to bartend. This two-year period was also the time where my writing career took off. When all was said and done, I left graduate school with more in the bank than when I arrived - and had a Master's Degree and countless valuable experiences under my belt, too. Had I not worked like I did, it would have been another $60,000 swing toward debt.

In spite of this apparent $120,000 swing, I still finished graduate school with student loans waiting for me - a lot of them.  Where I think I'm different than a lot of kids nowadays (besides the fact that the cost of college have skyrocketed since 1999-2005) is that I worked hard to minimize the accumulation of loans and had a firm plan of attack for how to address them. 

If you're going to take on a quarter-million dollars in student loans, you better be damn sure that the education you receive gives you a competitive advantage in the workforce. I've written about this at length in Is an Exercise Science Degree Really Worth It - Part 1 and Part 2.

The University of New England gave me a competitive advantage because I wanted a school that offered gross anatomy in its curriculum, was close to my home, enabled me to double major at very limited added costs, and put me in a position to work during my undergraduate career. I'd also had some health problems around this time, and wanted to be closer to some of the professionals to whom I'd become accustomed over the previous years. The University of Connecticut also gave me a competitive advantage because I had exposure to high level athletes, great coaches, cutting-edge research, and professors with tremendous expertise and professional networks - as well as the opportunity to receive a graduate assistantship.

If you can't name the competitive advantage your school provides, then you need to think long and hard about why you're there.  And, even if you can find the competitive advantage, with today's college costs, you better make like Cressey and start personal training and mixing up Cosmopolitans at the bar so that you're not buried under student loans in a few years.

2. I got out of debt early.

Here's a quick and dirty lesson on debt: there is good debt and bad debt.

Mortgages can be good debt (if you can afford to pay them) because of the mortgage interest tax deduction, and the fact that if it's at a low enough rate, you can get a greater return on investing your money, as opposed to paying down the mortgage.  Don't worry about that; you're looking to start a fitness business, not buy a house.

Credit card debt is bad.  If you're not paying them off in full each month, it's a pretty good indicator that you're spending money you don't have - and paying super high interest rates on that amount.  Taking it a step further, the interest isn't tax deductible.

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Somewhere in the middle is student loan interest. You can write it off if you earn below a certain amount, so that's good.  However, a lot of people exceed that income threshold quickly (sorry, doctors and lawyers), so it can also be bad debt that you want to pay down quickly, especially nowadays, with the rates being super high.

What does all this have to do with starting a fitness business? Two things:

a. I always tell people that if you're going to start a fitness business, you should have three months operating expenses handy in cash.  Alwyn Cosgrove taught me this, and I remember him being really surprised when I told him I had it kicking around.  Apparently, very few fitness professionals he'd encountered to that point had any savings - so they were a long ways from being in a position to start a gym up.

b. If you're carrying student loans - and certainly credit card debt - it's going to be virtually impossible to get a business loan.  Banks aren't loaning money as easily as they used to do so; lots of financially stable folks with good credit scores get turned down for mortgages every single day in light of our current economic climate.  So, if you think you're going to get a $50,000 bank loan when you're showing a balance sheet with $100,000 in student loans and $10,000 credit card debt - and no assets to back the loan - you'd probably be better off going back to school to sit in on some finance courses. Or, you'll need to have that awkward conversation with a spouse or other family member about putting your house up as collateral for the loan.

I was lucky to have approximately 5,897 accountants in my immediate family.  Seriously, at our family reunions, they play cornhole with calculators instead of beanbags, and my first toy was an abacus.  Those are mild exaggerations, but it would be an understatement to say that I had excellent financial advice handy whenever I needed it. I learned about good vs. bad debt at a young age, and resigned myself to getting rid of all of it as soon as possible. 

In the year that followed graduate school, I worked absurd hours, had no social life, and lived well below my means.  It was worth it, though, as on my 25th birthday, I wrote a check to clear my student loans - roughly one year after I'd finished graduate school.  That was May 20, 2006.  Cressey Sports Performance was founded on July 13, 2007. In those 419 days, I trained athletes over 70 hours per week, published my first book, co-created a DVD set with Mike Robertson, and continued to save - which was easy, since all I did was work. And, as a single guy, I really didn't have any major expenses.

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What did this mean?  When the time came to open Cressey Sports Performance... 

3. I didn't have take out any loans.

This is a huge deal.  Historically, when fitness professionals want to start gym and don't have the capital to do so, they do one of three things:

a. Try to get a business loan (generally problematic for the reasons above)

b. Ask family members for money (this couldn't possibly go wrong, right?)

c. Get supportive personal training clients to invest

I had the capital handy to start our gym because I knew this day would come at some point and therefore had years of financial preparation under my belt.  That said, it didn't prevent five separate clients from approaching me about investing in me (which is a variation of "c"). It was absolutely flattering, as these were very business-savvy people who were effectively saying that they trusted in me as a fitness professional, business owner, and person.  I politely declined in all five cases, though, for three primary reasons.

First, you never want to give away equity in your business unless you absolutely have to do so. It always muddies the water long-term, particularly in the case of a silent partner.  It's easy to forget the initial financial risk an individual put forth when you may be cutting him/her a check 4-5 years later for double or triple what that initial investment was, so resentment can build. Plus, the more you dilute the ownership, the less long-term profitability you have the potential to attain. You never want to kill your upside entirely just to protect against the downside.

Second, when someone has an equity stake, he/she will obviously have suggestions on your business. You need to be prepared for the relationship to go from client to adviser - and an established friendship can often be a complex part of that interaction.  Nobody will ever understand your business as well as you do, so it can be difficult to take outside perspectives from those who weren't there putting in the long hours from Day 1.

Third, as I noted, I didn't need the funding. You might not be in this situation, but there is still an important lesson to learn: only borrow as much as you need, not as much as you want.

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Part 1 Wrap-up

Now that you've finished reading this piece, I'll clue you in on something: none of this is information that is "exclusive" to starting a fitness business.  This is just 100% solid business advice that should demonstrate for you that being financially responsible and independent is of paramount importance to starting any successful business - and that includes one in the fitness industry.  It doesn't matter how good a trainer or strength coach you are; if you don't have your financial ducks in a row, you're playing from behind the 8-ball from the start. 

Sadly, very few fitness professionals who approach me for business advice have put themselves in this position and are therefore much further away from their dream facilities than they realize. It's unfortunately quite the coincidence, as fitness professionals are constantly working to make clients aware of how each and every choice they make in terms of training, nutrition, sleep, and other factors impacts their fitness progress.  Meanwhile, they may be overlooking the fact that their own short-sighted financial decisions and inability to manage debt and save money effectively are taking away from the long-term success of their fitness businesses.

I'm incredibly proud of what we've been able to accomplish at Cressey Sports Performance, with substantial growth that was undoubtedly fueled in large part by our training expertise and the culture and environment we've created.  However, I'm also very proud of the fiscal responsibility, hard work, patience, and focus that my business partners and I demonstrated in the initial planning stages in 2007.

With all that said, I apologize for rambling on with stories about myself.  I hope that it came across not as narcissistic, but rather as a case study you can use to help guide your path to fitness business success. In part 2, I'll discuss some of the more fitness-oriented topics we managed well during the start-up period.

In the meantime, if you'd like to learn more about starting a fitness business, I'd encourage you to consider attending our April 7 Business Building Mentorship at our Jupiter, FL location. You can learn more HERE.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/3/13

It's time for this week's installment of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Half of College Grads Are Working Jobs That Don't Require A Degree - This article ran at Forbes.com the other day, and while it doesn't speak directly to the fitness industry, I thought it drew some interesting parallels to this old two-part series of mine:

----> Is An Exercise Science Degree Really Worth It? - Part 1
----> Is An Exercise Science Degree Really Worth It? - Part 2

Functional outcomes following revision ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction in Major League Baseball pitchers - It's well documented that UCL reconstructions (Tommy John surgeries) have a very high success rate when it comes to returning to previous (or better) levels of competition.  However, they've been around long enough that surgeons are sometimes seeing the same throwers back again for a second UCL reconstruction on the same elbow. Guys like Joakim Soria and Brian Wilson are the most recognized examples of late. As would be expected, the results aren't quite as good the second time around, but there is still a solid success rate, and it's better among relief pitchers than starters.

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(if you're interested in learning more about the injury mechanisms for UCL tears as well as my experiences working with post-op Tommy John cases, be sure to check out my Everything Elbow in-service)

Rack Hip Thrusts - This was a short, but very useful article by Ben Bruno over at T-Nation.  If you've ever had problems with the set-up on barbell hip thrusts, it's a must-read.  Plus, I found it wildly entertaining that Ben referred to the male reproductive anatomy as "tackle."

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What the Strength and Conditioning Textbook Never Taught You: The World Isn’t All Concentric

As a continuation of this week’s series on things you didn’t learn from a textbook, today I’ll be talking about how we’ve misunderstood muscle actions. As we go through anatomy and kinesiology in the typical exercise science degree, we memorize muscle actions.

The quadriceps extend the knee. The biceps flex the elbow. The teres minor and infraspinatus externally rotate the humerus. You get the point.

The point that many folks don’t get is that this is simply a practice of memorizing concentric muscle actions, and the truth is that this is really only one-third of the picture when it comes to how we move. You see, these muscles are also acting isometrically and eccentrically; sometimes the primary goal is not to shorten, but preserve muscle length, or prevent uncontrolled lengthening. This is a crucial understanding for one to acquire, as poor isometric and eccentric control are the culprits in an overwhelming majority of non-contact athletic injuries.

Our shoulder barks at us because our scapular stabilizers and rotator cuff don’t function correctly to prevent, slow, or limit inappropriate movement. An ACL goes because glutes and hamstrings couldn’t control unrestrained knee hyperextension and hip adduction and internal rotation.

To that end, while you might memorize a muscle’s concentric action first, it’s important to infer from that understanding that it has more implications above and below the joint it crosses. At the subtalar joint, pronation kicks off tibial and femoral internal rotation each time we land from taking a step. The gluteus maximus – as a hip external rotator, abductor, and extensor – plays a crucial role in decelerating this internal rotation and the accompanying hip flexion. In other words, your butt is an anti-pronator! Just watch what happens on the way down in a bowler squat and you’ll appreciate pick up what I’m putting down:

When you start looking at all movement like this, it will have a powerful influence on your ability to help people move more efficiently. With that in mind, I’d encourage you to look over the last strength and conditioning program you wrote and try to consider how the exercises you programmed help to prevent or control unrestrained movement, rather than creating movement. My prediction is that you’ll notice several exercises in there that you might not have included if you’d thought about this beforehand.

For more lessons like this, be sure to check out the Building the Efficient Athlete DVD set, on sale for 25% off through this Saturday at midnight.


 

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What the Strength and Conditioning Textbook Never Taught You: Fascia Exists

It's not uncommon at all to hear recent college graduates in the strength and conditioning field talk about how they encounter a number of things in the "real world" that were never even considered in an exercise science curriculum.  And, while I've previously shared my thoughts on this topic in Is an Exercise Science Degree Worth It? - Part 1 and Part 2, the focus of today's post won't be debating the merits of this degree. Instead, it'll be outlining some of the holes in a typical exercise science curriculum and learning accordingly.  With that in mind, here is my first point that rarely gets consideration in strength and conditioning textbooks:

Fascia actually exists.

Amazingly, I went through an entire undergraduate education of anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and biomechanics without the word "fascia" being mentioned a single time.  In fact, we didn't even discuss it when I had gross anatomy; the med students cut it away so that we could look at what was deemed "important" stuff: muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments, and organs.  And, when I got to graduate school, fascia really wasn't discussed much in my endocrine-heavy kinesiology curriculum or the graduate level physical therapy courses I took for my electives.

Now, think about why so many personal trainers have never used a foam roller with their clients, or why a physical therapist or doctor might not appreciate how manual therapy could help with everything from anterior knee pain, to hamstrings strains, to ulnar collateral ligament tears.  It's a school of thought on which they may have never been schooled.

Needless to say, "fascial fitness" is extremely important, and you need to understand why as well as how you can achieve it as you identify movement inefficiencies in your clients or athletes.  To that end, here are some recommended reads on this front:

8 Steps to Achieving Fascial Fitness - This was my write-up of a presentation from bodywork expert Thomas Myers back in 2010.

Anatomy Trains - This is Myers' famous book on the topic. 

Muscle Imbalances Revealed - Lower Body - Dean Somerset's presentation on fascia alone was worth the entire price of the product, but you also get the benefit of a bunch of other contributors' information.

I'll be back soon with more lessons the college textbooks never taught you, but in the meantime, get to reading on this topic and you'll quickly separate yourself in the strength and conditioning field - and make a lot of clients and athletes happy with their results in the meantime. 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/17/12

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

The Coming Meltdown in College Education and Why the Economy Won't Get Better Anytime Soon - I stay away from politics with this blog, but this post from Mark Cuban was too good to resist - particularly because it was a great follow-up to my series, Is an Exercise Science Degree Really Worth It? In case you missed my previous articles, be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.  I think it's a really important consideration in our field, where the average personal trainer makes less than $30,000, yet an exercise science degree can cost well over $200,000 even before student loan interest is included. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Advanced Rotary Stability Plank Progressions - Be sure to check out this post from Mike Reinold, where he outlines some great core stability exercise progressions, many of which can be found in our Functional Stability Training DVD set.

The 10 Things Fitness Magazines Won't Tell You - I have gotten to work with Adam Bornstein quite a bit through both Men's Health and LiveStrong, and I like doing so because he isn't just a bright guy, but also a straight-shooter.  This article demonstrates both!

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The Best of 2011: Features

I love writing multi-part features because it really affords me more time to dig deep into a topic of interest to both my readers and me.  In many ways, it’s a challenge on par with writing a short book, whereas individual blogs tend to be quick bullet points. That said,  here were five noteworthy features from 2011 at EricCressey.com: How to Deadlift: Which Deadlift Variation is Right for You? - Part 1 (Conventional Deadlift) - This kicked off a three-part series on why certain deadlift variations may be more appropriate than others for certain lifters.  Be sure to read installments 2 and 3: the Sumo Deadlift and the Trap Bar Deadlift.

Is an Exercise Science Degree Really Worth It? - Part 1 - I expected this series to be far more controversial than it was, but to be honest, most people simply agreed with me, so it was popular for a different reason!  Check out Part 2 as well.

Coffee Consumption and Health: The Final Word - Part 1 - As I noted the other day, one of the biggest surprises for me in 2011 was that my readers were psyched to get nutrition content at EricCressey.com, and Brian St. Pierre's guest blog on coffee consumption and health was one such example.  Be sure to check out Part 2 as well.

How to Fit Core Stability Exercises into Strength and Conditioning Programs - Part 1 - This two-part feature was published late in the year, but that didn't stop it from receiving enough traffic to rank in the top five at year-end.  It was a follow-up to the Functional Stability Training seminar that Mike Reinold and I presented at Cressey Performance in November.  Click here for part 2. Is Dairy Healthy? The Whole Story - Part 1 - This three-part feature was another great guest submission from Brian St. Pierre on a hotly debated topic in the nutrition world.  Check out Part 2 and Part 3 as well. Speaking of features, that wraps up this third installment of the "Best of 2011" series; I'll be back soon with the top videos of 2011. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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Is an Exercise Science Degree Really Worth It? – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed how an undergraduate degree in exercise science really isn't much of a competitive advantage at all in today's fitness industry because of the low barriers to entry in the field, high cost of college education, and shortcomings of most exercise science curricula themselves.  I concluded by referring to the three options you have available to you for distinguishing yourself in this field - and that's where we'll pick up today.

Option 1: Go to graduate school.

I know what you're thinking: "He just got done bashing an undergraduate exercise science program, yet he's going to encourage me to sign up for two more years and another $50-$100K in student loans?"

Yes, I'll encourage some of you to go that route.  First, though, you need to appreciate that graduate school is markedly different than the undergraduate experience.  There are more opportunities for hands-on learning, more direct communication between students and faculty, smaller faculty-to-student ratios, and much more self-selected study.  In other words, you have a much better opportunity to dictate your own educational path.

I went to graduate school not really sure what I wanted to do.  I could have been a researcher, trainer, clinical exercise physiologist, or strength and conditioning coach.  It was only after my experiences during that graduate experience that I realized that I loved coaching and wanted to make a career out of it.

Taking it a step further in this regard, you simply won't be hired to work in college strength and conditioning if you don't at least have an undergraduate degree, and the truth is that most employers "strongly prefer" master's degrees.  It isn't just the "minimum academic requirement" that they're after; rather, it's that a master's degree means that you have spent at least two years in the trenches (usually at a D1 program) working with athletes as a graduate assistant or volunteer, so there will be fewer "kinks" to work out in a new strength and conditioning position.

Additionally, graduate programs are far more challenging academically.  I had to work twice as hard to get a GPA 0.3 points lower in graduate school than in my undergraduate degree.  It was challenging because the admission requirements were so high; in fact, all of my classmates are now college professors, D1 strength and conditioning coaches, and exercise physiologists for NASA and the US Army.

I can look back extremely fondly on my graduate experience at the University of Connecticut because it made me much more versatile.  A given day might have me working with a seven-foot tall NBA-bound center and an untrained five-foot tall female study subject - with everything from exercise endocrinology, to phlebotomy, to research methods, to understanding environment stress thrown in my classroom experience the same day.  Nothing was typical, and opportunities were endless; it was like "life."

As an added bonus, many times, graduate students have opportunities to work as graduate assistants or teaching assistants to receive a tuition waiver and/or stipend.  So, you can come out "even" financially when your graduate experience is over - and earn a degree and build your network in the process.

Graduate school isn't for everyone, but I wouldn't trade my experience for the world.

Option 2: Choose a different undergraduate course of study.

I think one of the reasons an exercise science degree has been devalued is that it doesn't allow you to do anything someone in any other profession can't do.  A truck driver who decides to apply to his local gym to be a trainer immediately has the same legal scope of practice of a certified trainer with an exercise science degree.

If that trainer, however, had done an undergraduate degree in athletic training and become an ATC, he could also do traditional "rehabilitation" approaches like manual therapy, Kinesio Taping, nerve flossing, and a host of other approaches.  Athletic trainers essentially serve as physical therapists in the college sector, and in many professional sports setting.  Had that trainer done a degree in physical therapy and become licensed, he could still do all of that, but also bill insurance for it.  And, they can still serve as strength coaches or personal trainers on top of their normal responsibilities.  In other words, having an ATC or PT after your name increases your scope of practice dramatically.

Using myself as an example, I manage over 70 baseball arms every single day of the week - which is more than some athletic trainers and physical therapists see in an entire career.  I've seen everything under the sun when it comes to shoulder and elbow issues, yet the initials after my name (which are a function of my degree) dictate what I can and can't do to help someone, even if I'm 100% sure I know the right approach for that individual.  I refer out quite a bit for this reason (and because there is no way I could work on absolutely everybody even if I wanted to), but it would be nice to know that I could manage things in-house more conveniently for everyone.

To that end, if there is one thing I would have done differently, it would have been to do a physical therapy degree (or at least an athletic training one) in my undergraduate education, even if it meant going an extra year or two.  Many of the classes are the same as you'd get with exercise science, which could be a perfectly acceptable minor.

Worthy of noting here is that one can also pursue a massage therapy license to open up some windows in the context of manual therapy, so it's never too late.  Chris Howard has made himself a more versatile strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Performance by adding this to his arsenal, for instance.

Option 3: Reinvest your financial resources appropriately.

I can't imagine dropping $250,000+ on a college education...in any discipline.  Let's forget about that for now, though, and say that you've got that $250,000 saved up and you want to know the opportunity cost of devoting those financial resources to college.

Do you realize how far $250,000 can go? Let's say that you spend $100/day on "survival" stuff like food, shelter, clothing, and the like.  Over the course of four years, that is $146,000 in living expenses.  That gives you $104,000 to spend on books, DVDs, seminars, mentorships, independent study courses, and the travels that they'd mandate.  As a frame of reference, for under $1,000, you could buy all of the following from my resources page (and still have a few bucks to spare):

Precision Nutrition

Building the Efficient Athlete DVD Set

Anatomy Trains

Muscles: Testing and Function with Posture and Pain, 5th Ed.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes

Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance

Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD Set

Assess and Correct DVD Set

Movement

Supertraining

Basic Biomechanics

Then, skip one meal of eating out a month and devote a few bucks to joining Elite Training Mentorship for continuing education, and you're in a great position to not just get to the front of the industry, but stay there, too.

Finally, take another $1,000 and devote it to business resources, and I'd guarantee that this $2,000 would put you light years ahead of any college course you could take - yet the college course would likely cost more.  Books, DVDs, seminars, webinars, and internships will always be a far more affordable and effective way to learn; you just need to be willing to put in the time and energy to benefit from them.  The same could be said of college, but the price point is considerably higher and the distractions more prominent.  And, student loan interest isn't always tax deductible, but these purchases could be considered tax deductible if the individual in question is earning income in the fitness industry simultaneously, as they'd be continuing education expenses.

When you pay for college with student loans, there is undoubtedly less "incentive" to put your money to good work by paying close attention and working hard; that money is never in your hands to feel and appreciate.  You only appreciate it later when you're paying off the principal and interest for years to come.  However, when you pay for a plane ticket, hotel, and seminar seat, you're making that purchase with your credit card and immediately appreciating that you're being separated from your money - and that you better make it worthwhile.

Of course, not many 18-year-olds have the discipline to plan out their educational destiny like this, and many don't even know what career path they'd like to pursue, anyway.  So, this is probably a moot point for the overwhelming majority of kids out there who may wind up in the fitness industry someday.  If you're in your 40s and considering a career change to the fitness industry, though, I think you'd be crazy to start an undergraduate degree in exercise science from scratch.  Different strokes for different folks.

Wrap-up

Part 1 of this series drew some fantastic comments, and I expect that this second installment will do the same.  So, I'll initiate the discussion with a few questions:

1. What other ways do you feel fitness professionals can distinguish themselves in a competitive industry with a low barrier to entry?  Obviously, results matter, but rookie trainers don't have that luxury upon which to fall back.

2. Have other educational paths served you well?  In what ways?

3. In a few decades, when college is even more insanely expensive than it is now, what will universities have to do to "justify" their role in the educational process at such a high price point?

I look forward to your responses in the comments section.

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Distance Education: Kinesiology Master’s Degree

What is your opinion of online or distance education masters degrees in human kinetics/kinesiology? Do you know of any good distance education programs? I want to further my education, but I already have a good full time training job and client base that I don't want to leave to do a master’s degree at one of the local universities.
To be honest, I'm not too fond of the online master's degrees in THIS field. Exercise Science really is a hands-on discipline; a large portion of the master's degree should be about experiencing things. When I look back at my time at the University of Connecticut, I'd say that about 90% of what I took away (which was a lot) was experience-based between strength and conditioning and the human performance laboratory – not to mention just interacting with labmates, fellow coaches, and the faculty – while only about 10% was classroom-based. Are you close enough to any universities to go part-time over an extended period of time? You have to look at this as an INVESTMENT, not an expense. With all that said, there are a lot of great coaches out there who don’t have Master’s degrees – but they’ve picked up the slack with tons of reading, building huge networks, and interning under other coaches who have gone before them. So, at the very least, put yourself on academic quarantine as often as possible to get some reading done, and seek out those who are doing what you’d like to do – and doing it well. Eric Cressey Why the general off-season is the "meat and potatoes" of the training year, and how to make the most of it.
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An Appropriate Outlook on Continuing Education

I’m positive that my outlook on continuing education has played a huge role in getting me to where I am today. If you ask most trainers to spend $199 to attend a seminar, they say that it’s too expensive. However, if you asked them to put $199 into the stock market with a guarantee that it would increase their income, they’re call it a wise investment. Does anyone see where I’m going with this? Apparently, going to training and nutrition seminars in order to become a better training isn’t a wise investment; it’s just an “expense.” Last time I checked, when all things are held equal, good trainers make more money than bad trainers. In fact, I can speak from experience as someone who specializes in corrective training; I spend a lot of time fixing the damage some other trainers have done. I get the clients’ referrals, and the “other guy” gets all the public criticisms. Are those seminars, books, DVDs, and CDs still “expenses?” And, these same people don’t seem to think that business education for trainers is a worthwhile investment. I can say without wavering that this couldn’t be more off the mark. Before I got into the fitness industry, I thought I wanted to be an accountant – so I spent two years at Babson College, the best entrepreneurial school in the country according to Business Weekly. They taught me a lot about how great companies like Dell and GE operate – but they never talked about the fitness industry. As much as I learned about business in a general sense in those two years, I can honestly say that VERY little of it applies to what I do on a daily basis now. Our industry is entirely unique, and that’s why products from guys like Ryan Lee and Thomas Plummer are paying themselves off hundreds of times over. I’d call that an investment – not an expense. People also need to remember that a lot of these expenses can be written off at year-end. If you’re incurring income as a result of these expenditures, they’re business expenses (although you should still view them as investments). I never lost all the accountant in me – especially since I’ve got three CPAs in my family. Brian Tracy has said that reinvesting 3% in your continuing education is one of the most valuable career moves you can make. That’s only $1,500 for a trainer earning $50K, but it would give you any of the following (or a combination of several): · 6-7 two day seminars · 10-15 one day seminars · 15 manuals · 30 DVDs · 40-80 books Think about what happens with a seminar, DVD, book, manual, or any other information product. A qualified professional devotes hundreds and possibly even thousands of hours to pulling together loads of information in an organized format – and then sells it to you for a tiny fraction of the costs he incurred to gain this knowledge. You don’t have to devote nearly as much time to acquire the information, either. Seminars in particular are a fantastic expenditure not only because of the information presented, but also because of the networking opportunities. To be honest, at this point, I look forward more to talking shop with colleagues in the audience than I do to the presentations! At the LA Strength Seminar last September, for instance, I chatted at length with: * John Berardi * Alwyn Cosgrove * Dan John * Mike Robertson * Julia Ladewski * Jesse Burdick * Scot Prohaska * Nate Green * Carter Schoffer * The UCLA Strength and Conditioning Crew (who graciously hooked us up with a place to train while there) Factor in that I also presented to 65-70 seminar attendees on Saturday and Sunday, and then to another group of high school athletes and parents Monday night, and you’ll realize that I had the opportunity to interact with a ton of avid trainees. You never know what training secrets they’ll bring to the table, or how they’ll add to the frame of reference you possess as a coach. I’d also like to add that I saw Jessica Simpson at the airport – but I’m still convinced that the paparazzi were just there to see me! Eric Cressey Experience the Event that took 30 Trainers, Coaches, and Athletes to the Next Level
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