You Don’t Need More Fitness Certifications, You Need Money

It may be hard to imagine someone saying, “You have enough education,” but that’s exactly what I’m telling you. Fitness professionals have a thirst for knowledge that transcends logic sometimes.

Here I’ll explain why your fitness knowledge may be sufficient, and why instead of getting a new certification, you should be investing in your business.

Why Fitness Certifications Exist

I know exactly why fitness certifications exist. While they are created to spread knowledge, they are also a revenue stream. While spreading helpful information may be more altruistic than some other ventures, education is a business just like any other. Organizations make money from customers, then pay their employees and distribute profits. There is nothing wrong with this, especially if the information they teach is useful to the greater population.

I Founded Onnit Academy

I founded Onnit Academy. Onnit Labs purchased my business, My Mad Methods Magazine, for the specific reason of creating a fitness certification. I incorporated all of the past My Mad Methods articles into a new section of their website, then began working for them as their first-ever Chief Fitness Officer.

I then hired John Wolf to help me write the Onnit Academy Level 1 Certification. Many of the Onnit Academy educators, like Marcus Martinez and Aaron Guyett, were direct referrals from me. I personally created the organizational structure (Level 1, Level 2, Level 3) to do two things: provide a continuous course of education in each fitness method to encourage ongoing involvement from trainers and to eventually provide a revenue source for the trainers themselves (that’s what Level 3 is all about).


I was looking to create an organization that not only spread information about unconventional training methods, but also provided a lasting financial benefit to certified trainers (and make Onnit money, of course).

The Problem with Fitness Certifications

I saw the faults in other fitness organizations within the “underground” realm. Namely, other kettlebell organizations tended to manufacture competitors. The process went like this:

  1. Guru trainer teaches early-adopter trainers
  2. Early-adopter trainers start helping with the guru’s certification
  3. Early-adopters start becoming frustrated with a lack of money/fame/progress
  4. Guru starts feeling threatened by the demands of the early adopters
  5. Early-adopters leave to form new organizations or get kicked out by guru

The process doesn’t always go like this, but I know of several situations where it went EXACTLY like this. The issue all comes down to money as I see it. Fitness professionals are extremely dedicated to their profession, but no one wants to work their ass off just to scratch by.

Fitness certifications usually offer benefits related to knowledge. Come to THIS fitness certification and learn how to get your clients quicker results. Come to THIS fitness certification and make your offering more unique. Come to THIS fitness certification and you’ll be able to train post-surgery baby boomer clients.

These all seem to have a potential financial benefits to trainers (and sometimes do), but the problem is that each individual trainer can only learn so much that can be applied within their personal fitness systems. If you have attended over five fitness certifications, how much knowledge from them are you directly applying on a daily basis? If you are able to actually do that, chances are that your system can’t be explained in a single sentence (something you need to be able to do from a marketing perspective).

How much do you spend on each specialty fitness certification? It’s not just the cost of the certification itself (which could range from $200 to $5,000). Think about the time (opportunity cost), airplane tickets, food, and lodging that goes into each event. Then think about the little “extras” like t-shirts, equipment, education materials, and other items you bought from the organization that certified you. Over the years, an average trainer has probably sunk $10,000+ into knowledge.

What You Should Be Spending Money On

I hate to see extremely educated and innovative trainers leave the business because they can’t make a living. It’s like watching the death of your favorite character on a long-term tv series. They had so much more to give! Why did they have to go!

Trainers leave because they need to put food on the table! Sure, scraping by is okay when you’re in your twenties, but what happens when you get married and have kids? What if you want a house to put all that fitness equipment in? Who doesn’t want to continue to increase their income over the years? You have more experience and knowledge, shouldn’t more money come along with that? Remember that story about how to manufacture competitors? Those early adopters realized that they couldn’t make more money doing what they were doing.

You need to start thinking about your business in terms of things that can directly contribute to your future wealth. All your education doesn’t really matter if no one knows about it, or if the information gained isn’t being used to create new products and services. Are you advertising your business, or someone else’s?

I’ve spoken with thousands of trainers, and I’m always shocked to find out how much time and money they spent on their education. Then I’m further shocked to find out that they don’t have a WEBSITE, PRODUCT, OR GYM. Think of the most popular, successful trainers out there right now. Are they the most educated? Are they creative? Are their methods really that effective? Probably not.

It’s the classic McDonald’s paradox. Does McDonald’s have the best burgers? Of course not. Do they make the most money? Hell yes they do. Their success has nothing to do with the quality of their product, it has to do with an effective business strategy.

The good news is that you can provide people with both. You can offer effective services and products to the masses AND make lots of money doing it.

Invest in YOUR Fitness Business

Rather than investing in more fitness information, why not spend that money on a business course (or at least a marketing book). Start to think for the long term. Do you want to be teaching boot camps in the park when you turn 65? Or do you want to be collecting checks from things you created 20 years ago? If you did that, you could have both if you want!

So, to get things moving, think about investing in the following components of your business:

  • An attractive website
  • Facebook advertising to increase fanpage likes
  • Camera equipment (especially audio mics) to improve your vids
  • Computer equipment to increase productivity
  • A professional logo and video logo sting
  • Creating an online information product

Each one of these has a list of explanations that I’ll get into in the future, but the important part is that you start thinking about directly enhancing your business, not just your fitness knowledge.

Are Fitness Certifications Bad?

Unconventional Marketing for Fitness eBookFitness certifications are not bad. When you are getting started as a trainer, THEY ARE ENTIRELY NECESSARY. You shouldn’t even start training people until you have one. The really question is, how many fitness certifications do you NEED?

I think you need as many as it takes to help you create your own fitness system, unless you plan on working for another organization for the rest of your life (something I am personally incapable of doing). You need enough information to create a logical and effective system to create useful, effective, and profitable products and services.

After you start making more money, expanding your knowledge through additional fitness certifications will start making sense again (it’ll be fun!).

certs, fit biz, fitness business, fitness certifications

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