From Coach to Student of Physical Therapy


As a coach or personal trainer, you are limited by your knowledge and skillset. Therefore, certifications are suitable; however, one could become too heavy-handed and lose sight of their focus.

The purpose of this article is to give insight into why I chose to go into physical therapy in contrast to obtaining more certifications

A Moment of Enlightenment 

As a personal trainer at Retro Fitness Park Slope South, I worked with clients who:

  1. Had sustained previous injuries

  2. Wanted to function more athletically

  3. Wanted to change their lifestyle and aesthetics 

Fortunately, with a corrective exercise certification and serving as a New York State EMT-P for Richmond County Ambulance, I understood the physiological effects of exercise and its role in rehabilitation and injury prevention.

Most importantly, as I worked with my clients, they learned about their bodies and the impact that knowledge had on the quality of their life.

However, there were a few moments that illuminated the importance of learning more. 

I had a client M, 49 years old, who had suffered a bicep tendon detachment and fractured tibia. He was cleared for personal training, and we worked together six days a week, and within three to six months, he was: 

  • Benching 300 lbs
  • Squatting 315 lbs
  • Curling 50s
  • And having the time of his life 

He felt like he was 20 again.

However, he had persistent leg pain after a life event, and I was at a crossroads. As a trainer, we refer out as it’s not in our scope to treat or diagnose. But, while in school as a kinesiology major, that inability to diagnose and treat was the spark that goaded me towards physical therapy. 

Internships Versus Certifications 

I volunteered at Evolve Physical Therapy under Dr.Eric Wolf and saw the level of care and knowledge. I conversed with a good colleague Omid Rahmat regarding obtaining more certifications, and bluntly, he said, “What purpose would it serve you?”

I sat down with my resume and a client who recently competed in USA weightlifting and took Omid’s words to heart.

Having a CPT, EMT-P, USAW, CES (I can recite the alphabet), but how did this help clients like M or another client N who had bilateral Total Knee Arthroscopy (TKA)? 

I returned to the internship at Evolve Physical Therapy, and I learned far more volunteering there than I did working as a personal trainer.

I Chose Specific, Guided Education

Dr. Wolf goaded me to apply to physical therapy school, and once accepted into Tufts School of Medicine; I saw there was more value in specific guided education.

Some certifications are easier to obtain at their inception and thus don’t allow for in-depth knowledge and progression in skillset.

When choosing to return to school, the goal was to be more than a coach.

It was to become a practitioner who can evaluate, diagnose and treat using movement as medicine

This isn’t to say one must go back to school to be an educated coach. However, certifications have their limits depending on the population you want to serve.

School, from my experience, provides that which a few dozen certifications could provide. It allows me to help more people regain their activity level, even to return to sports.

I urge a professional to understand that having a million certifications makes you a more qualified trainer. Certifications allow you to learn more about your clients and serve them more thoroughly. 

However, an education in your passion is priceless

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