Does Experience Equal Wisdom?

When I’m at conferences, workshops, conversing or observing other trainers I hear them say “I’ve been training people for 20 years or I’ve got 20 years of experience.” Most often I’m impressed, but sometimes when I ask questions or observe them train, it seems obvious they don’t have a clue as to what they are doing. In fact, they probably have one year of experience and repeated that same year 10 or 20 times.

I have a company that certifies personal trainers and all my instructors have to pass an instructor exam. It surprises me when I see a person with MS or PH. D at the end of their name who can’t answer the questions for the exam. Is this a problem?

It seems the personal training industry is gearing towards accreditation from “higher education” or a college degree. However, once you obtain your degree, there is no requirement to maintain your knowledge as opposed to certifications which expire; therefore the person is required to continue their education to maintain their certification.

Since this industry is fairly new and information continues to change rapidly, colleges may be using text books or training manuals that aren’t up to date. In some cases I’ve seen information that is erroneous and in some case dangerous. Printing costs can run into the hundreds of thousands so many texts are not updated in a timely manner. In general most people who have college degrees are pretty competent, but I’ve also met some self-taught, not-degreed, non-certified trainers that are avid learners who are also very knowledgeable.

Don’t get me wrong. College and higher education is fantastic, however, like any other industry there can be “good doctors” and “bad doctors.”

My advice is to whomever you choose to hire or consult, make sure this person attends workshops, conferences or some additional education since they’ve obtained their degree or certification. Try and educate yourself as to what questions to ask. It’s no different than buying a new roof for your home. You’re ultimately responsible for who, or what you choose.

Take note of a trainer that has obtained all of their education from the same certification company. Most certification companies focus or emphasize a certain aspect of training. It’s important for a person to be exposed to other views from additional educational organizations. People are different and the human body is vast. No one will know it all and sometimes “20 years of experience” can actually be limiting.

The desire and passion to learn and the ability to change to keep up with the latest information and techniques are the most important aspects I look for when hiring a trainer or instructor. I would rather have a person with zero education and the desire to learn then a Ph.D. who thinks they know it all. Then again, at trainer with a burning desire and zero knowledge of joint structure and function could be helping you to contribute to the orthopedic surgeon BMW fund. J For me, empathy or the sincere desire to help someone is just as important as knowledge.

Every day is a new “experience.” Try and approach each day with an open mind. The one thing you can count on for sure, is change. My Mother used to tell me “your mind is like a parachute, if it doesn’t open it isn’t worth much.”

Now, that’s wisdom.

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