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 Fitness Information Center: Professional Ethics - The choices we make will determine the success of our industry  
 
Gregory Welch L. MS, ATC ©

4. Foster commitment to fitness and health as a life long goal.

    a. Encourage participants to follow regular exercise programs. b. Track the progress of participants. c. Educate participants about the benefits of exercise and healthful lifestyles.

5. Show respect for participants and fellow professionals. a. Promote the exchange of knowledge and experience with other professionals for the benefit of all participants. b. Never publicly discredit or lower the dignity of individuals, organizations or facilities through conduct or comment. c. Never discriminate based on race, creed, color, sex, age, physical handicap or nationality.

    6. Promote honesty in all business practices. a. Maintain fair pricing. b. Do not employ misleading advertising. c. Maintain sufficient insurance coverage. d. Use clear, simple language in all contracts. e. Abide by contracts with clients and other professionals.

7. Uphold a professional image through conduct and appearance.

    a. Refrain from unhealthy practices, such as smoking and substance abuse.

Behaving Appropriately
Nothing is perceived as more unethical than inappropriate behavior in a professional setting. While the term inappropriate behavior can cover a wide range of problems, two areas are frequently encountered in training situations.

The first area involves the powerful impression we trainers create by how we dress when working with clients. A professional and modest appearance sends the right message. When working with clients, we should change or cover our own workout clothes to show we've changed our role in the gym. This message will help clients see that our focus is-as it should be-on them and not ourselves. We can also instill a more positive body image in our clients when we eliminate the comparison issue.

The second area addresses interpersonal relationships. The relationship between trainer and client often travels a healthy course of friendship and mutual respect when both people maintain ethical standards. However, if the relationship becomes too relaxed and professionalism is compromised, the trainer can send mixed signals that make the client feel confused and uneasy and eventually part company with the trainer. We must take steps to instill confidence and respect in our clients at the onset of the working relationship.

We should eliminate all conversation of a sexual nature from our dialogue with clients. A flirtatious comment here and there can be harmless-and is sometimes even returned by the client. However, we have to control the atmosphere and keep this type of banter from escalating. In fact, it's best not to initiate it in the first place.

While concerns exist regardless of the trainer's gender, I'd like to take a minute to speak to male trainers who work with female clients.

Many men may not realize the subtle impact of their words and actions. A female client may read messages into a trainer's comments. These unintentional messages may make the client feel defensive. Her ability to be comfortable may diminish, and she may feel forced to choose her own words more carefully. Ultimately, she may project her negative perception from one trainer to all male trainers. Women are relative newcomers to the strength gym, and we need to be extremely professional to encourage them along their way instead of standing in their way.

Body contact spotting can be another danger zone for personal trainers. Touching the client is at times necessary and even beneficial. Manual resistance, certain spotting techniques and even an occasional therapeutic hug can be safe and appropriate as long as the trainer's intent does not exceed professional boundaries.

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