Are private operators missing out to local authority gyms though lack of advanced PTs?

Jenny Patrickson is the Managing Director of Active IQ, the UK’s leading Ofqual-recognised Awarding Organisation for the Active Leisure, Learning and Wellbeing Sector. With over 550 approved centres across the UK and internally, Active IQ is committed to providing first class qualifications, services and resources which are valued by training providers, employers and students. It has just launched a Level 4 Certificate in Advanced Personal Training in answer to the changing needs of the industry.

We spoke with Jenny to learn about the current trends and how private operators should be responding.


How is the industry currently changing and how can clubs turn this to their advantage?

More and more people are being signposted by their GPs to their local leisure centre for health, weight loss, recovery from illness and active ageing. A boon for the local community, it makes perfect sense, yet it’s still very much the preserve of local authority facilities. Few privately owned gyms offer such services. I suspect they’re missing a trick for the sake of upskilling their trainers and adjusting their timetables.


Step One – Upskilling personal trainers to advanced level

Many people coming into leisure centres on their GP or health visitor’s advice are not already engaged in exercise and their start point, mindset and motivation are very different. Today’s PTs need to have advanced skills to address these people’s more complex needs and take a scientific, evidence-based approach to programming, training, monitoring and managing clients. Simply ‘adapting’ a gym routine or fitness class won’t work: this is whole new audience coming at exercise from a completely different start point.


Step Two – Adjusting your timetables

Special populations classes and one-to-one sessions can usually be accommodated at traditionally quieter times of the day. Many people who are elderly, infirm, recovering from illness or managing a health condition are not at work. Mid-morning and early afternoon sessions – when the traditional gym timetable is quiet – often work well. Not only does this help to fill the timetable at quieter times of day but is also allows a more leisurely approach to welcoming people, chatting before their programme, taking the time that’s needed for each person to gain the most benefit from the sessions and downtime afterwards.


Step Three – Make it social

Key to a successful interface with clients is the social side of exercise and wellness. Making the sessions sociable and friendly and setting aside time to talk over refreshments after the exercise session will make the whole experience more enjoyable for all concerned. PTs may need to refresh their interpersonal skills and brush up on behaviour management to fulfil this aspect. Advanced skills training will help PTs apply techniques to support, enhance and manage the client journey and progress clients towards successful achievement of their goals. All the while, remember these non-athlete-mindset members will probably enjoy the social side more than the exercise: a cup of tea served with a smile is a key retention tool!


Step Four – Call in expert help

A stumbling block for many PTs is how to keep on top of the rapid turnaround in medical and clinical learning and practice. The answer is don’t try too hard – instead sign up to an expert whose job it is to keep you abreast of the latest news/developments/thinking. Our Chief Medical Officer, Dr Dane Vishnubala, fulfils this vital role by presenting webinars and sending newsletter and email updates to keep our trainers up to speed with the medical world by presenting the key points in manageable chunks. Much attention has been placed recently on bridging the gap between GPs and PTs: it’s vital this two-way communication works well.


The more that can be done in gyms and clubs, the better for the NHS. But let’s not leave it to the local authority gyms. They do a fantastic job but shouldn’t shoulder the community healthcare alone: private operators can – and should – step up to the plate by upskilling their PTs to intervene and support members thus reducing the demand on GPs’ time and the burden on the NHS.


Posted in Interviews, Personal Trainers, The Fitness Network.