CrossFit, Trainer Groups Disagree on DC Personal Trainer Regulations

Forthcoming regulations for personal trainers in the District of Columbia have many in the industry—particularly those affiliated with CrossFit—concerned about the long-term effects of the new rules. But a coalition of trainer groups is supporting the regulations.

In the nation’s capital, a set of potential regulations could shake up the personal training industry—and one popular firm in the space wants to ensure it doesn’t get muscled out.

That company, CrossFit, is one of the fastest growing firms in the exercise industry, thanks to aggressive franchising and a well-nurtured online community. CrossFit has been particularly successful in the Washington, DC, region, where more than 100 CrossFit training facilities are located.

CrossFit’s success comes at a time when pressure is growing to regulate personal training for the first time, driven in part by provisions in the Affordable Care Act that call for more emphasis on wellness and nutrition programs. As those programs grow, so do proposals to regulate the companies that provide those services—and last year, the District of Columbia became the first jurisdiction to pass a law calling for such rules to be created.

As DC’s Board of Physical Therapy attempts to finalize the rules, CrossFit and other fitness companies are threatening legal action to stop them, according to The Washington Post. Part of the issue, critics say, is that personal training is not a one-size-fits-all field.

“This will affect everyone because ‘fitness’ is a nebulous term. That’s why we have so many pathways to achieve it … we all respond differently to exercise and we all have different factors in our lives that come into play in trying to attain it,” said Philip Godfrey, a medical exercise specialist quoted by the Post.

CrossFit’s Challengers

But some organizations in the sports and fitness space say regulations are needed to create uniform standards for the profession and protect consumers.

The Coalition for the Registration of Exercise Professionals (CREP)—which includes the American Council on Exercise, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the American College of Sports Medicine, and a number of other industry groups—is arguing in favor of uniform standards for exercise professionals. The group, which launched last year, already maintains the U.S. Registry of Exercise Professionals (USREPS) and has worked closely with the DC government on the bill.

The group says the regulations “will provide an appropriate level of consumer protection while preserving access to exercise programming, enhance the level of professionalism for the personal fitness trainer, containing costs and assisting consumers in differentiating between the personal fitness, athletic training, and physical therapy professions.”

In comments to the Post, CREP board president Graham Melstrand emphasized that “the purpose of the law is to enhance consumer protection for the residents of the District of Columbia.”

But critics, including those associated with CrossFit, see things differently. The company’s blog, The Russells, has closely followed the case and at times has questioned the industry groups’ motives. And Nicole Carroll, CrossFit’s director of certification and training, wrote a letter to the Post, implying that the more traditional industry is attempting to push up-and-comers out.

“For those in the Exercise Industrial Complex, the fear of disruptive competition explains why they want to make the District the first jurisdiction in the nation to regulate fitness programs, promoting a solution in search of a problem,” she wrote.

The DC Board of Physical Therapy is expected to release the rules next month.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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