Every year I attend two or three large fitness-related conferences to further my education, network with other professionals, and to recharge my batteries by getting away from the daily grind of training my clients for a little while.

One of my favorite things about these big conferences is the vendor's social. I enjoy going from booth to booth hearing their marketing pitches and seeing how their "new product" is going to change the industry forever. At the last conference I attended, while walking the exhibit hall, I started up a conversation with another fitness professional regarding the process of developing other trainers. During our conversation this individual stated that he encourages his trainers to earn as many certifications in as many diverse backgrounds as possible. The idea being that a trainer who is a "jack-of-all-trades" in our industry can be more useful to a fitness facility if they can instruct or teach many different courses or groups of clientele.

This got me thinking, why do we pursue so many different certifications? Does a small alphabet of letters after our name earn a certain level of respect or trust from our clients and peers? Would being certified in many different fitness-related fields provide me more opportunities or less?

I have been in the fitness industry since 1999 and during that time I have seen many individuals build their resume with massive amounts of certifications and be very successful. I have also witnessed individuals with one basic certification experience success, as well.

In some cases it depends on what type of gym you are working at, the demographic of participants in that facility and the type of exercise you provide. For the majority, I suggest earning one major high-quality (big name) certification. Pick one that is well respected among your peers, study hard for it and be proud that you earned those initials after your name. You are now officially certified with a quality organization, you have earned some respect from your peers and your clients have faith that you know the basics. Now, it's time to focus your energies on improving the quality of the product you deliver to your clients. The question is, what product?

I believe in being the specialist in your area of exercise interest. Every fitness facility has general certified personal trainers (CPTs) however many of them do not have a specialist❠in a specific area or emphasis. What sparks your interest the most? Kettlebell training, yoga, strength and conditioning, spin, high intensity training, all-body weight-all-the-time, Olympic lifting, fat loss, athletics, core training; whatever the area you are most passionate about should become your specialty.

When it's time to add initials after your name, make them count. Always think of it as an opportunity to improve yourself as an investment,❠not a cost. If you are truly passionate about this area of exercise you owe it to yourself to go and learn from the best. Do some research and find the most elite certification and teachers who specialize in your specific area of focus in the industry. Learn all you can from them, study for that certification and be proud of those initials when you earn them.

The alphabet has grown and now it's time to focus all your efforts on this one area and become the best trainer in your facility at that one thing. Follow that by becoming the best in your city, then in your state and then, maybe the country! Being mediocre at many things helps you blend in to the crowd where being the specialist❠of your area brings the focus directly on you. This will assist you in being sought-after by many individuals who want to learn what you have to teach. Who better to learn from than the specialist?

Announce the good news of your new certification to current and potential clients and educate them on how you are now the specialist❠in this area. Your goal is to make your name come about in a conversation whenever someone is talking about that specific area of focus. When you hear Jell-O Pudding you think Bill Cosby, right? The same thing should go for you when someone says kettlebell training or fat loss. Market yourself by using all the tools at your disposal: mass emails, newsletters, social media, word of mouth and websites. This shows your current and potential clientele that you are committed to improving yourself and the quality of the product you provide.

Establish credibility with your peers by earning a well-known and respected certification. Gain the trust of your clients by demonstrating that you are passionate and dedicated to improving yourself. Become the specialist❠in your area of focus and make yourself a household name (at least in your city). Continue to invest❠in yourself and stay on top of an ever-growing and ever-changing profession. Strive to maintain your specialist❠status, as those who become complacent are the ones who let the industry pass them by.

Robert Linkul MS CSCS-CPT D* is the NSCA's Southwest Regional Coordinator and trains over 100 clients a week in his personal training studio. Linkul has his master's degree in personal training, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and a certified personal trainer with distinction.