Many industries that relied on personal contact have felt the powerful pinch of the pandemic.
By its very nature, the fitness profession has been among the hardest hit. But that hasn’t deterred the National Academy of Sports Medicine from doing what it has done since 1987.
Based in Gilbert, the academy has built an international reputation for its multitude of fitness certifications spanning the gamut from personal training and nutrition to an evolving selection of health and fitness specialties.
And when personal training and coaching came to an abrupt halt, the organization found creative new ways to serve its customers so they could continue to serve their own.
This involved rapidly shifting to virtual training and digital applications, developing hybrid models that would allow training to take place where people feel comfortable as well as other methods to maintain strong communication, a said CEO Laurie McCartney. Podcasts and other media were also used to help everyone give as much information as possible to the industry about this mysterious new virus that was dominating the world.
The goal: to empower professionals to grow their businesses so they can continue to help others positively transform their lives, McCartney said.
But McCartney has also seen non-pros seek to take their interest in fitness to a new level, whether for personal fulfillment, a desire to stay as healthy as possible or thinking about a new career.
“COVID was sending a signal that I needed to change my life. A lot of people who wouldn’t otherwise have come into the fold during COVID,” McCartney said.
Today, the academy offers a range of courses including dozens of options created to meet general health and wellness interests and needs. Many go beyond how to make people sweat in a gym. A new Certified Wellness Coach offering that features information on sleep, recovery, and even self-compassion is one of them.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine moved from California to Mesa in 2006, due to its former CEO Mike Clark’s position as physical trainer for the Phoenix Suns. The need for more office space sparked a move to Chandler a few years later and eventually to Gilbert in 2019.
“A bit tougher than most”
Over the past six years, cases have doubled, McCartney said. The academy has certified over one million people in 98 countries.
Personal trainer Russell Wynter and his wife Crystal Reeves are among them. They earned their master trainer certification about 12 years ago and today help people achieve their health and fitness goals with their MadSweat personal training center in Scottsdale.
Wynter has always been athletic but was working on his fitness in preparation for entering the police academy in particularly good shape. Along the way, others asked him what he did to get his physique and wanted his advice on working out.
Wynter decided that a career in personal training would be his way of helping others. NASM’s reputation for being the industry leader and the certification to have motivated him to enroll in the academy’s courses.
“Others are quick to get you certified. I think it’s a little more rigorous than most,” said Wynter, who liked the science program that moved at a gradual pace. “It wasn’t about only to throw people in a gymnasium and beat them relentlessly.”
Together, Wynter and Reeves have nearly 30 different certifications from the academy. In addition to personal training, these include corrective exercise, performance enhancement, weight loss, stretching, and female fitness.
This pleases Wynter and Reeves, who continue to earn college credit as part of their certification.
“You can always find a new avenue to do something,” Wynter said.
Wide offer for customers
When NASM started 35 years ago, it did so with personal training certifications as its foundation. Over the decades, McCartney said, it evolved to consider the whole human body and mind.
“It’s not just what you do in the gym,” she said. “What we really want to do is provide customers with the tools that will allow them to succeed in different ways.”
Traditionally, customers were mostly college graduates, college athletes or physiology majors, McCartney said. Currently around 40% are “prosumers” – fitness enthusiasts who don’t necessarily want to be a professional trainer but want to learn more for their family or themselves, or build their brand beyond training personal.
Specializations focused on youth exercise, women’s fitness, golf fitness, and MMA conditioning demonstrate the diversity of programming. There is also a Senior Fitness Specialization course designed for enthusiasts aged 65 and over.
Customers range in age from 18 to 65 and are about 50% female, McCartney said.
“We want to make our appeal as universal as possible,” she said. “If we can get people to get up and go, they will lead healthier lives.”
NASM is a powerful force in an industry that includes more than 125,506 certified personal trainers employed in the United States, according to employment resource Zippia. He will also play a role in an industry of fitness trainers and instructors that is expected to grow 39% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The continued expansion of course offerings to appeal to a wider audience is part of the future business model.
McCartney spoke of a paraplegic client who got certified and seniors who got into fitness late and then became coaches after getting their senior fitness certification.
“These are the heroes of NASM,” McCartney said. “Our fitness partners are passionate about what they do, helping people change lives.”
What: National Academy of Sports Medicine
Where: 355 E. Germann Road, Ste. 201 Gilbert
Factoid: Employment of fitness trainers and instructors is expected to increase 39% from 2020 to 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.