Want to work as a fitness professional? An interview with Brendan Hackett of Motions

By Anne Sexton - Last update

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If anybody knows a thing or two about working as a professional fitness expert, it’s Brendan Hackett of Motions Health and Fitness Training.

Brendan Hackett set up Motions over 30 years ago. He had just graduated from college and his enthusiasm for sport and fitness was his driving force. Motions offers a university qualification in health fitness. We chatted to Brendan about their courses, as well as working in the industry.

Tell us a little about the Higher Certificate in Exercise and Health Fitness?

This is a two year full time undergraduate course offering the opportunity to gain a university accredited professional qualification as a specialist fitness professional. The course is for people who wish to work as fitness coaches, personal trainers, gym-instructors and studio teachers.

The University of Limerick accredits and awards the HCEHF. That means that all our students are UL students. The HCEHF is a Level 6 major qualification on the Irish National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). This Framework provides a way to compare qualifications and to ensure that they are quality assured and recognised at home and abroad. It is also on the European Qualifications Framework and it is an EQF Level 5.

In addition to the educational recognition, Europe Active recognises this qualification as the highest Industry standard award. Europe Active represents the European Health & Fitness sector in Brussels. Europe Active is also a standards setting body for the health and fitness industry and promotes best practice in instruction and training. The HCEHF is on the Europe Active Sectoral Qualification Framework (SQF) at Level 5. This is the highest award of any Irish fitness qualification.

What kind of qualifications or experience do you need to do the course?

The course is open to anybody with an enthusiasm and interest in health, fitness and physical activity and a desire to promote and teach this to others. Usually a leaving cert with five passes is the educational requirement but we have had many students who left school before doing their leaving cert successfully complete the course.

How fit should you be?

The emphasis on the course is learning to become an instructor. So the focus is on developing teaching and coaching skills. It is important to have an interest in fitness and it really helps if students enjoy their own training.

What do students find most challenging about the course?

Many students are surprised at the level of knowledge you need to be a good fitness coach or trainer. You need to know about the body as well as health and well-being. The challenge is to be able to impart this knowledge to clients, plus exercise programs and classes for a diverse range of people.

What do most students generally enjoy the most during the course?

The friendships that they build with like-minded people and the confidence that they develop as they begin to teach others. We have a slogan “Work at what you love”, and students on the course are doing what they enjoy every day on the course

There’s also a Certificate in Exercise and Health Fitness. How does it differ from the Higher Certificate?

The first year of the Higher Certificate is the same syllabus as the Certificate course. So the Certificate course is the primary qualification for fitness professional. Students can teach classes and work one to one with clients. This can entail carrying out fitness assessments and designing personal programs for a variety of clients. The Higher Certificate is the next step on a unique educational pathway developed through the University of Limerick. It builds on existing qualifications and offers the chance to become a specialist in by taking advanced modules in areas such as pilates, strength and conditioning, spinning and fitness for specialist populations.

Tell us a bit about the teachers and instructors you have?

All of the tutors are fitness professionals. They have established careers in the fitness industry. The started out as students on the Certificate course and all of them have at least degree qualifications now. Most of them have worked for Motions for over 10 years. There are a minimum of 5 different tutors on each course.

How many students does a class typically have?

There are on average 20 students in each of the classes. So it is a small enough group to get the kind of personal attention that a student needs to develop thoroughly. With a small class tutors know each student and this allows for individual attention especially if a student has any difficulty with any aspect of the course.

What kind of students do the courses attract?

The Higher Certificate is suitable for full time students. Many of these will be school leavers or students who wish to transfer from another college course. The Certificate course is part time and has attracted a wide range of ages. Our youngest graduate is 18 and our oldest graduate is 72.

What job opportunities are available for graduates?

There a variety of roads a graduate with a good fitness qualification can take. The most obvious is to work in a fitness or leisure facility as an instructor teaching classes and designing programs for members. Many graduates branch out and set up their own businesses offering personal training, specialised classes or bootcamps. A number of our graduates have emigrated and have told us that the university accredited qualification was vital to them in securing recognition abroad. Some have been fortunate to work on cruise ships. There are a number of opportunities down the line to manage facilities.

You also do a certificate course in Sports Massage Therapy. How does sports massage differ from regular massage?

Sports massage is for the treatment and prevention of sports injuries as well as an aid to enhanced performance.It is usedto prepare the body for athletic activity and maintain it in optimal condition, and to help athletes recover from workouts and injuries. Muscles that are free from tension and aches work more smoothly and contribute to better performance. This is what every sports person is searching for. This is the domain of sports massage therapy. A sports massage therapist trains first in general massage and then develops specialised techniques for their work with sportspeople.

Do you need a certain level of strength to do be a sport massage therapist?

Massage is the manipulation of soft tissue for therapeutic effect. So technique is much more important than strength. Good therapists are said to have sensitive hands rather than strong hands. They can recognise what is the best treatment to use.

Anne Sexton

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