In some ways, becoming certified as a personal trainer was more difficult than getting my RD certification. At the time, it seemed like a natural progression of my skills. I’d always been active and knew I wanted to work with people trying to improve their lifestyles. So a year after obtaining my RD certification, I accepted a job at a major gym. My employment was contingent on getting my personal trainer certification.
When I actually sat down to study, I realized how different exercise and nutrition really were. When I read nutrition studies, books, articles, etc, I’m super interested and can’t get enough. Upon sitting down to study for my personal trainer certification, I immediately remembered how despite achieving a 4.0 GPA in graduate school, I struggled to get a B in both the lecture and lab of the community college anatomy classes I took as prerequisites. It just didn’t stick with me like nutrition did. By sheer willpower and many espressos, I got through the test and added CPT (certified personal trainer) to my credentials.
I’ve maintained my certification for two years, and looking back, I think it was some of the most beneficial training I received beyond my RD certification. When I worked at the gym, I used the certification all the time as a personal trainer and to teach exercise classes. However, now that I’m in private practice, I use it even more. Often, I have clients who want to begin improving their lifestyle by changing what they eat. This gives them more energy and provides the motivation to begin an exercise routine. For these beginner clients, I can safely recommend exercises and workouts for them to begin incorporating into their daily life.
When athletes come to me for nutrition advice, we also discuss their exercise routine. I can work with them to ensure they’re using proper fueling strategies because I understand their workout needs. Sometimes I can spot overtraining, which increases cortisol and limits a person’s ability to recover, repair, or lose weight (if that’s the goal.) Similarly, when clients are working with personal trainers, I can determine what training phase they’re in, and then I can discuss how that might affect their nutrition needs and hunger levels. I’ve even spoken with their trainers to better understand their programming and make appropriate recommendations. I discuss the importance of a varied exercise routine, rest days, and using a foam roller with all my clients.
As dietitians, we know how important it is to consume the right fuel, but we also know it isn’t the only piece of the health equation. Eventually, I discuss nutrition, sleep, stress, mindset, and movement with all my clients. Having the personal trainer certification not only ensures I’m qualified but also helps me provide the best information. Lastly, I’ve developed relationships with many personal trainers who refer their clients to me for nutrition advice. They do so because they know I understand their programming goals and trust me to support the client with the right advice.
Obtaining a personal trainer certification takes care of all your credits needed for recertification except ethics. Here are a few options:
- National Academy of Sports Medicine: heavy emphasis on programming;
- American College of Sports Medicine: heavy emphasis on anatomy and physiology;
- American Council on Exercise: widely accepted, a wide range of training and information; and
- International Sports Sciences Association: heavy emphasis on sports training.
— Kelli Shalall, MPH, RD, CPT, CLT, is an accomplished business owner, public speaker, and nutrition communications specialist based in the Phoenix area. She provides local and virtual personalized nutrition counseling using a functional and integrative whole health approach and frequently appears in the media.