After writing yesterday's post, I realized that I haven't written about finishing my Personal Fitness Trainer diploma at the end of June. It's probably because I had 5 finals in the space of 4 days – my brain was done by the time I finished my last final and I most likely didn't want to have to think about school at all at that point. So today I thought I've give a bit of an over view of the program at Mount Royal University as well as what my favorite parts of it were.
Overview of the diploma
The program takes two years to complete if you do it full time. If you decide to go the part time route, you have 5 or 6 years to finish. Full time is ten months per year, or three semesters – Fall (September to December), Winter (January to April), and Spring (May and June). I almost wish I could have taken an extra couple classes in the fall and winter semesters so that I wouldn't have to take classes in the spring semester. Only having two months off between the end of one year and the beginning of the next made it tough to find full time work for the summer.
The Personal Fitness Trainer diploma was offered through Mount Royal University's Continuing Education department. As a result, all of my classes were non-credit. It's not a big deal for me as I don't see myself going back to school again, but for those who may want to continue their education, it's unlikely that the classes in this diploma will transfer to other post secondary institutions.
Because this diploma takes two years to complete if you're going to full time route, it means that you're able to become certified with the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology. CSEP certification is a huge asset when it comes to job hunting. It shows that you have an in depth education in everything from anatomy and physiology to strength training and working with people who may require modifications. Those things aren't necessarily covered in online or weekend personal training certifications.
Being CSEP certified upon graduation was a huge factor in deciding to do the Personal Fitness Trainer diploma at MRU. I knew that it would look great on my resume and really make my application stand out from other people's.
What I liked
First and foremost, I loved that my profs had real world experience in the fitness industry. I think all but two were personal trainers or group fitness instructors. All of my profs also had masters degrees as a minimum, so their knowledge was grounded in science – which is such a good thing because there's so much misinformation in the fitness industry. The two that didn't come from the fitness industry were in the medical and athletic training fields, which was also great. Having a bit of a different background meant that they were able to come from a different, but super useful angle still. Obviously the medical and athletic training backgrounds were similar and adjacent fields, which were really useful for me to hear from as a personal trainer.
In addition, I loved the small class sizes. Since this program was through Continuing Education, our classes were significantly smaller than most university classes. We started out in September 2015 with about 25 people, and by the time graduation came in June 2017, I think 12 of us finished. There was plenty of time to cover things in class, plus take some time to talk about questions that we had as students. We were able to have discussions about the things that interested us most.
The Personal Fitness Trainer diploma has two internships – the first at the end of the first year, and the second in the middle of the second year. I was able to have input about the places that I wanted to do my internship. I knew I didn't want to be at a big box gym or work with athletes. Therefore I did mine at two community centers. I got to work with a huge variety of clients, from young people to older adults, from those just starting on their fitness journey to those who were training for triathlons and kickboxing competitions. I'm so glad that I got to experience that variety. It helped me learn that I wanted to work in a similar setting, where the gym population is quite diverse.
In just about every class, we spent time in the gym, actually doing what we were learning about in the classroom. Learning the science behind something, and then doing it in the gym the next class really helped me understand the different concepts. We also had quite a few assignments where we had to take a classmate through a mock personal training session. Creating that plan before hand, and then seeing how it went in the gym taught me so much that I couldn't have gotten from a book. Plus who would rather be sitting at a desk in a classroom when you can be in the gym working out?
My favorite Classes
- Strength Training 1 and Strength Training 2 // These two classes were probably my favorite out of my entire two years at Mount Royal. Going into the diploma, I hadn't spent much time in the weight room. It was an intimidating place for me that was mostly filled with men. I felt like everyone in the weight room knew what they were doing and that I didn't belong there. That all changed with these two classes though. I learned so much from proper form for strength training exercises (from barbell back squats to deadlifts) as well as the acute training variables to put together an effective workout for a client's particular goals. These two classes were also probably the two hardest. They were both taught by the same prof, and he wanted to make sure that we knew what we were doing by the time we were done the diploma. He was definitely the hardest marker, but now that I'm done I'm very grateful that he made us learn what we needed to know.
- Older Adults // Going into this class I was pretty sure that I wanted to work with older adults when I finished school. Helping someone make strides towards being more independent and being able to do more on their own as well as improving their quality of life was something that I was interested in. Taking this class solidified that feeling for me. I learned so much about how to modify exercises for those who may have injuries or limited balance/mobility. The prof we had for this class knew what she was talking about, so I was able to learn a lot from her.
- Special Populations //This was another favorite class of mine. We talked about working with people who have injuries or disabilities. The biggest thing I learned was that there's always a way to make exercise accessible. That might mean using straps with dumbbells or doing an exercise near a wall or railing for balance. We had several guest speakers come in to talk to us – everyone from people with a disability to people who ran organizations for people with disabilities to participate in physical activity.
Now that I've completed the Personal Fitness Trainer diploma I'm so glad I did it. While two years felt like a long time going into it, the time ended up flying by while I was actually doing it. I learned so much – not just about fitness, but also about myself. As much as I was there to learn about personal training, I grew and changed as I went through the program as well. If you're considering going through the diploma as well, I'd be more than willing to answer any questions you may have.