A New Opportunity
As a fitness coordinator in Devils Lake, Tammy Riggin noticed a demand for qualified personal trainers in the area. “There is a definite demand for trainers nationally as well as locally,” she said.
It is a well-known fact that our country is facing an obesity epidemic, and that drives the need for trainers. “But on top of that, people want to know how to exercise safely and how to achieve their own personal goals, whether it is weight loss, performance, or toning,” Riggin said.
As a result, Riggin reasoned that an academic program that prepared certified fitness trainers for the workforce, and that had a great handle on proper exercise and nutrition, would help fill an employment void for businesses and also create entrepreneur options.
“If an individual studied certain core areas, quality trainer numbers would increase, which would help alleviate concern about the quality training being offered. Too many easy ways to become certified through certificate mill companies exist,” she said.
“It is important to have qualified trainers. Employers and consumers are becoming aware of the necessity for personal trainers to be well trained. I would only hire those people who held the top certifications in training, like American College of Sports Medicine or National Strength and Conditioning Association.”
Riggin’s instinct about the need for qualified, certified trainers spurred her to see if Lake Region State College in Devils Lake would consider offering such a program.
“I was already teaching online psychology for LRSC at the time, so I brought the program idea up to Doug Darling, vice president of instructional services.”
The college pursued the idea. A team of instructors and staff researched employment needs and trends, certifications, accreditation, and other factors that would substantiate offering such a program.
After going through various stages of approval, the Fitness Trainer Technician program was officially approved by the State Board of Higher Education earlier this year.
Riggin serves as the program coordinator and faculty for the program. She is joined by Jenny Steinhaus, who is also a faculty member in the program.
Tammy Riggin brings 10 years of experience working as a fitness trainer to the new program. She has been teaching part time at LRSC for the past four years. She earned a Master’s degree in Health and Human Performance from the University of Montana and earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of North Dakota.
Jenny Steinhaus holds an M.S. in Health, Nutrition, and Exercise Science from NDSU and a B.S. in Community Nutrition from UND. She has developed a nutrition program called Nutrition in Action, a curricula that addresses health education. It is a “grab and go” curriculum that offers educational materials for teachers regarding healthy eating and physical activity through music.
Other classes will be taught by full-time and part-time LRSC instructors. Students can begin registering for the program now; the first classes will be offered in fall, 2011.
Filling the Need
“More and more North Dakotans are jumping on the fitness bandwagon and want the expertise and one-on-one attention of a fitness trainer,” Riggin said.
The growth in the fitness trainer industry has skyrocketed in recent years for many reasons:
•Baby Boomers are becoming more fit as they enter retirement age
•Increased diagnoses of diabetes and other weight-related illness is spurring individuals to become healthier
•Businesses are urging their employees to become more physically fit and many create incentives for healthy living
•The U.S. population is increasingly becoming more overweight and doctors are encouraging their patients to become healthier or risk facing major health issues in the future
Jenny Steinhaus mentioned that according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “meaningful health reform will require a comprehensive approach to expand coverage, improve quality, and emphasize prevention.”
“The Fitness Trainer Technician graduates at Lake Region State College will help to achieve this by entering the workforce with a degree that addresses the current needs of our population,” Steinhaus said.
Riggin agrees. “This program is top notch. We are working on accreditation, we are preparing our students to pass the ASCM Certified Personal Trainer exam, and we are offering the best classes in both nutrition and fitness.“