Personal Training and Information Literacy

Scholarship, Practice, and Leadership

Information literacy is extremely important in the health and wellness industry, more specifically in the personal training field. It takes a short amount of time and education to become a personal trainer, and the pay is relatively high for what a person needs accomplish to become certified. An abundance of personal trainers exists because of the high pay, the short amount of time it takes to become certified, and the growing need for society to improve their health. In order for a personal trainer to stand out and become sought-after for their repeated results and excellent workouts, the trainer must be an expert at researching information, comprehending new research, and applying both.

In the article How we Failed the Net Generation, Badke discusses the World Wide Web saying, “… few of us had any idea what it would become in less than 2 decades. Many of our students grew up with the web, so for them it is not a novelty. It’s mainstream. It’s embedded in their lives” (Badke, 2009, p. 47). Most personal trainers only have completed a certification, very limited in information about exercise science, and not a degree at a college or university. Because of their lack of education, the first place most trainers turn for their information is the World Wide Web and not scholarly, peer reviewed research studies. The Internet is not a credible source for information. Anyone can write a blog or post fitness workouts and nutrition information based solely on opinion, and not scientific studies. In order for a personal trainer to ensure they are providing safe and effective workouts to their clients, the trainer must be able not only to read and study research studies but also keep up with the changing information.

One topic not taught in a personal training certification is how to find and decipher sound fitness information. Pia Russell discusses how students are facing the same issues as personal trainers in their studies.

Students have difficulty evaluating the glut of information available, and to cope they frequently depend on quick but questionable sources, like Dictionary.com, which can result in a blind acceptance of advertising-based information, or sources that depend on a truth by consensus approach such as Wikipedia. (Russell, 2009, p. 92).

In order for a personal trainer to be an expert in their field, someone people will listen to, and follow, the trainer needs to stay up-to-date on current research. Personal trainers need to know how to search for information when they face questions they are unsure of. A personal trainer’s job is not only to provide an effective workout but also to educate their clients with researched based information.

Larissa Turusheva discusses the importance of information competence in lifelong learning and education. In Larissa’s study she states,

Information competence is a skill:

• to determine the size of the necessary information;

• to use the necessary information effectively;

• to evaluate the information and its sources critically;

• to develop own knowledge base with the information chosen;

• to effectively use the information for goal achievement;

• to use the information ethically (ACRL, 2000). (Turusheva, 2009, p. 2).

In the personal training field every skill involved in information competence is important. A personal trainer must determine which information is important and which information is not. The trainer needs to evaluate where the information is coming from and apply the necessary information to help the trainer’s clients reach his or her goals fast and effectively. The most important skill a trainer must apply in information competency is using the information ethically. It is unethical for a personal trainer who knows their client has a heart condition to instruct their client to do contraindicative exercises when the trainer knows those exercises put the client at risk. This situation could occur for many reasons. The trainer could be working with a group and does not want to give an alternate exercise or the trainer could want to push their client harder. Implementing ethical practices is part of information competence and extremely important in the personal training profession.

Leo Appleton conducted a study about the information competency skills of student midwives. In the study, the students were taught information research skills and the grading requirements became stricter to promote credible information sources. The results of Appleton’s study showed, “Students reported increased confidence in using library and information resources. Appropriate and timely information-skills training embedded into health-studies curricula can lead to students becoming independent and lifelong learners, as well as improving the standard of their academic work” (Appleton, 2005, p. 1). Not only were these students able to learn how to effectively search and decipher information during their schooling, but also, the training followed the students into their careers in the health field. Personal trainers who have information competency will be able to provide their clients with everything they need to be successful, long term.
Conclusion

Information literacy is vital in every profession and should be taught and enforced when students are in school. Students need to be taught the valuable skills needed to conduct quality research and decipher the material. Those skills will follow students into their careers, where they will be considered experts in their field and leaders. Even if the students are just trying to become certified in a certain field, those skills should be taught during the certification process. Most personal trainers receive only a certification and are never taught how to research accurate information. Because of this the trainers turn to the Internet for their answers. In turn, many personal trainers are making recommendations to their clients based on opinion and not research. This practice has serious implications for the health of their clients and the personal trainer’s credibility. Personal trainers must learn the skill of literacy competence.