“Let Your Fitness Work For You.”
It was the advice of his mentor, and today it is the challenge Brent Elder puts forward to the future generations of fitness professionals.
Brent entered the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force in 1996 and quickly rose up the ranks as a Physical Training Instructor with responsibility for screening, training and teaching military populations.
“I fell in love with Premier’s standard, their way of teaching, and the quality of service,” says Brent, who was featured on Premier’s website as a success story from the Caribbean.
“Premier was a real eye-opener as to what tertiary education in the field is supposed to be — from the foundation of the rights and responsibilities of you as a fitness trainer, right up to the business of the career,” Brent says. “For the first time, I saw what I wanted T&T to become.”
His vision for Trinidad and Tobago is simple: a young person should be able to ‘jump’ straight into fitness from secondary school.
“Right now fitness is still an afterthought,” he adds.
“What we are really lacking here in Trinidad and Tobago is the acceptance of fitness as a viable career.”
A Career in Fitness
Long before it became his career, fitness was the backbone of Brent’s development.
As a young child, he grew up in the rural community of Matura and spent his days on the beach, climbing trees and playing football. He was the captain of his school’s football team, and also gained titles in cross-country running among other sports.
The military was a natural progression, and later on the Personal Training Diploma.
Since this first Diploma, Brent has returned to the U.K. several times to continue his education in fitness, training, nutrition and exercise.
Today, he is a Level 3 Registered Exercise Professional with the public register of regulations of the United Kingdom (REPS), and has attained many qualifications including:
- Level 3 Certificate in Sports Massage Therapy
- Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training
- Level 3 Advanced Instructor
- Certificate in Myofascial Taping (a tape used for therapeutic relief of injuries)
- Certificate in Basic Emergency First Aid
- OCR Level 2 Certificate in Teaching Exercise and Fitness with the following components:
- Demonstrate knowledge of anatomy and physiology
- Promote healthy living
- Demonstrating knowledge of the exercise and fitness work environment
- Plan and teach and exercise to music session
- Fitness Trainer Award including:
- Nutrition for Health & Fitness
He has mentored and trained many individuals, teams and organisations over the years, both locally and internationally.
Brent has worked at Fédération Internationale de Football Association [English: International Federation of Association Football] (FIFA) as one of the three-person team of support staff for the Women’s World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago, and at the Finals was given lead responsibility for match officials’ therapy needs. He has travelled abroad with national sports teams including our triathlon team and dragon-boat team as part of the staff, and was even one of the three therapists for Nigeria at the World Championships in Athletics in Berlin, Germany.
He hopes that the depth and variety of his career will serve as an inspiration for others in the field.
Fitness Industry in T&T
It is particularly deplorable in Tobago, where there are only a handful of qualified instructors, and a great need for health and fitness intervention for the population.
Locally, there is no monitoring of what qualification is needed for a ‘fitness instructor’ and many who purport to be one may not be qualified.
Another problem, he says, is the quality and standard of those who are qualified.
“Some get a qualification from abroad — usually ISSA or AFAA (International Sports Sciences Association or Aerobics & Fitness Association of America) — and then that’s it; learning is finished and they do not renew their qualifications or continue their education in the field, as it is not a strict requirement to do so for local work,” Brent explains.
As he is qualified with REPS, he has a responsibility to log his career progression, lest the UK registrar notify him that he is falling behind. As a result, he is never stagnant but always learning or doing something new.
Another of Brent’s concerns is the impact that the lack of regulation in the industry has on the professionals working in it.
“Qualified persons can ignore some of the things they learnt since it is not strictly regulated here — for example, data protection of clients is very serious in the UK,” he adds. “And although my clients may not even be concerned with it, I still follow the standards I learnt and play by the rules while I am working here.”
The Business of Fitness
“I am not afraid to call a price I deserve,” he says. “I am not just a fitness instructor — I am an International Master Trainer. If a corporate client chooses to go for a cheaper instructor, that is their choice; I will not devalue myself to get a job. And, at the end of the day, the client will notice the difference.”
Brent strongly believes in maintaining this high standard, and encourages others in the industry to do the same.
“The only way to expand that ‘bucket’ — to create a space for the fitness industry to rise up — is for us to stand together,” he adds.
“There is too much competition among the professionals in the field — one will say something bad about the other, or act like he/she is better than another, and so on. Some will bite off more than they can chew, just because they don’t want to refer someone to a colleague, and miss out on potential income.”
Fitness and Beyond
He also thinks it is important for instructors to think beyond just the ‘bucket of fitness’. He himself has developed a name for himself as an announcer at many local events and also abroad at the Toronto International Games.
“Not every instructor can interact well with a microphone and ‘hype up’ a crowd, so it is a good skill to learn,” he says. “It’s important to not think on the local scale but international — if there aren’t always events here, there may be something regional or international.”
Beyond developing additional skills that can complement those of a fitness trainer, there are other avenues beyond ‘fitness instructor’ that many may not consider — for example, a sports psychologist, or kinesiologist specialising in the study of human movement.
Brent will retire from the Defense Force in 2017, and is looking forward to continuing his career in the fitness industry both in terms of developing himself and others through opening his own company.
“This battery ain’t gonna stop,” he laughs. “But I have to be able to hand over the reins. I was the catalyst — I broke open the door, and it is for all the others to come running through.
Through my own career, I want the other fitness people out there to realise all the possibilities, all the avenues, out there for them, if they want it. The opportunities are limitless — once the passion and the imagination are there.”