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Feel The Burn While You Learn

Sydney Morning Herald

Saturday January 10, 2009

Owen Thomson

For a fortysomething fitness freak, the work is never done. Owen Thomson reports.

JAMES RAFTOS doesn't believe in resting on his laurels.

A certified personal trainer for the past nine years, the 42-year-old is upgrading his skills base by studying for a diploma in fitness qualification. While mature-age study doesn't appeal to everyone, Raftos says it's a small burden to bear in the quest to stay relevant.

"You want to say, 'Well I've done my study now, I just want to get on with work' but in most fields these days there's always the next qualification, the next area that you want to get into, and our industry's the same," he says.

"It's the next step that anyone should take if they're going to take their job further and more seriously."

Also working in the role of assistant lecturer with the Fitness Institute of Australia, Raftos says a diploma qualification will open the door to the possibility of a senior lecturing role. Not that there's any shortage of possibilities in the fitness industry where the right qualifications are concerned.

"You have different specialists in the field," he explains. "You might have a core-conditioning specialist, you might have a strength and conditioning coach.

"You can even get to the point where you've got doctors and medical centres referring patients and clients to you for rehab purposes.

"And insurance companies would definitely take your opinions and fees more seriously than someone's who just got a Certificate Four."

A fitness and exercise fanatic since the age of 11, Raftos says his job provides ample rewards.

"It's the satisfaction of watching people improve their quality of life, plus I like inflicting my powers of motivation on people," he says. "Also you can choose your own hours. You can also get out and about. In a week or two I won't be going into a gym. I'll be taking my clients out kayaking and mountain biking for fun."

Raftos isn't the only one advocating the need to keep learning. Dennis Hosking, managing director of Healthy People, a national agency catering to health and fitness professionals, says constant upgrading of skills is vital for those looking to advance in their careers.

Hosking says there are thousands of personal trainers with basic Certificate Four qualifications competing for jobs.

"The way to really distinguish yourself from the masses is to have a few extra things in there, whether it's group exercise or boxing certifications or whether you want to move into aquatics or anything like that," he says.

"Perceptions of what's the best way to train tend to shift and you really need to be abreast of what's going on in these areas. To be the best you can, you do need to further your education in these different areas."

For those willing to adequately equip themselves, Hosking says employment opportunities definitely exist.

"For trainers that are enthusiastic and interested in furthering themselves, there are always going to be opportunities," he says. "There's always going to be plenty of opportunities in the larger clubs, which are always looking for good staff members to join the team. There are also opportunities with small studios and boutique studios.

Hosking says the industry is now in as good a state as it has ever been.

"My discussions with facility managers and studio owners indicate that they're quite confident that things will continue as they have been."

© 2009 Sydney Morning Herald

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