An Update on Fitness Licensure
It’s time to update the CrossFit affiliate community on the ACSM, NSCA and USREPS’ schemes. This year the Russells’ Blog exposed an international conspiracy to defame, extort and criminalize CrossFit affiliates. Domestically, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) intend to criminalize the CrossFit affiliate model.
This scheme is called licensure. ACSM and NSCA have joined the US Registry of Exercise Professionals (USREPS) to promote licensure.
CrossFit Inc.’s competitors are lobbying the government to criminalize all fitness trainers who don’t acquire certifications from ACSM, NSCA or other similar organizations. If these bills are implemented, the police will charge a CrossFit L1 trainer who teaches his client to squat with a “misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.”
It’s not a coincidence that the organizations making the most noise about fake CrossFit injuries are the same ones lobbying for government favors. The CrossFit injury myths are a way for ACSM and NSCA to justify their pleas for licensure.
The media has missed this story. Washington, D.C. has passed the nation’s first fitness licensure bill, yet even D.C.’s local press failed to notice.
Since our announcement, CrossFit has taken steps towards ending this threat. We’ve also made some important discoveries that reveal USREPS’ true aims. They plan to force every CrossFit trainer to either take their certifications or go to jail. Peaceful coexistence between CrossFit Inc. and USREPS is thus impossible.
ACSM and NSCA Collude through USREPS
ACSM, NSCA, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and other CrossFit competitors are colluding through the US Registry of Exercise Professionals (USREPS) and its advocacy arm, the Coalition for the Registration of Exercise Professionals (CREP).
Below is USREPS’ strategy and history.
USREPS and its related organizations are the principal forces lobbying to criminalize CrossFit affiliates. And USREPS’ lobbyists don’t just influence bills – they sometimes write the bills themselves. For example, USREPS sends its “Sample Legislation” to state legislators. A Georgia state congressman submitted the USREPS’ drafted bill verbatim in 2014. The bill didn’t pass, but USREPS is still trying to curry favor with politicians to pass its sample legislation.
In any polity where fitness licensure is under consideration, USREPS and/or its members have influenced the local politicians. In 2015, the two licensure threats to CrossFit affiliates are taking place in Washington D.C. and Massachusetts. We’ve found USREPS’ fingerprints on both bills.
Washington, D.C. Update
Washington D.C. passed the nation’s first fitness licensure bill, The Omnibus Health Regulation Amendment Act of 2013.
Current USREPS members ACSM and the National Council on Strength and Fitness met with the D.C. government as early as 2008 to influence this legislation.
The USREPS graphic also states that on August 14th, 2014, USREPS flew out to D.C. to meet with the D.C. government. Check out the meeting’s minutes here.
The D.C. city government was unable to implement this bill. This June, the D.C. City Council will revise the bill and release a “technical bill.”
Return to the USREPS graphic and refer to the “Milestone Prior to Incorporation” section. It states that ACE, ACSM, NSCA and NCSF representatives met with a Massachusetts politician to discuss House Bill 1005.
HB 1005 was the 2010 version of this year’s Massachusetts House Bill 185. And this year’s HB 185 is nearly identical to HB 1005, the 2010 bill that ACSM and NSCA influenced. HB 185 requires either an educational degree in an exercise-related field, or an NCCA-accredited certification. NCCA-accredited certifications include those of USREPS members ACSM, NSCA and ACE, but not the CrossFit L1 course, which is ANSI-accredited.
Representatives Robert Fennell (D) and Louis Kafka (D) introduced HB 185 in January 2015, but the bill hasn’t progressed since then. If it does, we’ll let the CrossFit community know.
USREPS Writes its Owns Legislation
CrossFit has acquired the sample legislation that USREPS wrote and sent to politicians. You can review it here. While this sample legislation isn’t currently under consideration anywhere, it indicates USREPS’ aspirations. USREPS met with D.C. and Massachusetts politicians; this bill indicates what they aimed to achieve in those meetings.
Note the criminal punishment section:
Any person who violates Code Section 43-XX-7 shall be guilty of practicing as a personal fitness trainer without a current registration and shall be punished as for a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature by the imposition of a fine not to exceed $XX, or confinement for not more than XX months, or both.
In Georgia, the state that introduced this USREPS bill last year, a “misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature” is punished by up to 12 months in jail. A trainer convicted of teaching air squats without an ACSM, NSCA or other similar certification will also pay up to $5,000 in fines.
Also note that USREPS’ legislation is carefully designed to include group CrossFit classes as “personal” training. It defines a “personal fitness trainer” as someone who,
… develops and implements an individualized approach to exercise using premeditated, non- choreographed exercise programs, utilizing collaborative goal-setting, behavioral coaching techniques, and other strategies to increase self-efficacy, motivation, self-regulation, overcoming barriers to change and technical coaching and instruction in physical fitness and conditioning for an individual client, or organized groups of clients, who require pre-participation evaluation or instruction prior to engaging in the exercise regimen.
Group exercise instructors are exempt from the legislation, but USREPS also uses a peculiar definition of group exercise that excludes CrossFit classes. Its sample legislation states that,
‘Group Exercise Instructor’ means a person with specific qualifications, who receives compensation, to provide choreographed exercise leadership to music, with or without modifications for participants, using varied pieces of equipment to groups of people.
USREPS carefully drafted this sample legislation to impose itself on CrossFit trainers. This bill forces all CrossFit L1 trainers to choose between paying for a useless certifications and risking a prison term and thousands of dollars of fines.
USREPS must think most CrossFit trainers will only pay for ACSM or NSCA certifications if the sole alternative is jail time.
ACSM and NSCA Aren’t Qualified to Help CrossFit
Dr. Adam Schulte studied the conjecture that ACSM, NSCA, and similar certifications make CrossFit training safer. He found no support for it.
After surveying 569 CrossFit affiliate members, Dr. Schulte found “there was no significant association between the level of certification and self-reported injury.” In other words, taking classes from trainers with certifications from companies such as ACSM and NSCA made no significant difference on injury outcomes.
Schulte’s study is called Level of Coaching Certification as a Determinant of Self-Reported Injury in CrossFit Athletes.
Is this surprising? In order for NSCA and ACSM to improve CrossFit training, they’d first have to learn basic facts such as what the word “parallel” means.
The NSCA’s third edition of Essentials of Strength and Conditioning presents the following as the “Lowest squat position” and claims that it places the “thighs…parallel to the floor” (p.350-351).
We will get into further detail on this topic in later blog posts and Journal articles, but let’s briefly consider USREPS’ grand strategy. For USREPS, fitness licensure is step one. Their long term goal is to insert all fitness training into the health care system.
ACE states that USREPS/CREP is,
established to secure recognition of registered exercise professionals as qualified to deliver physical activity programming as a preventive service within the healthcare system.
Before USREPS existed, Coca-Cola and the ACSM began this initiative with the “Exercise is Medicine” campaign. See page 26 here to examine Coca-Cola’s introduction to the ACSM program.
Coca-Cola, ACSM and USREPS share the same goal: to make gyms more like doctors’ offices. Under the Coca-Cola/USREPS plan, doctors will refer their clients to fitness trainers and health care coverage will pay for the fitness training. The government will only allow trainers with ACSM, NSCA and other similar certifications to practice in this scenario.
CrossFit Inc. Protects its Affiliates from USREPS
CrossFit’s counter-attack is occurring at multiple levels. Above USREPS is the International Confederation of Registries for Exercise Professionals. In 2014, ICREPS’ chairman Richard Beddie falsely accused CrossFit of killing six people and leaving an Australian man paralyzed. Beddie then contacted CrossFit affiliates and let them know he could help them with their bad publicity if they partnered with ICREPS. CrossFit sued Beddie for this extortion attempt.
CrossFit Inc. recently added ICREPS as a defendant to its lawsuit against Beddie. Since then, Stuart Turner has replaced Beddie as ICREPS chairman. It’s not clear yet if Chairman Turner will continue Beddie’s extortion strategy.
How can floundering fitness certifiers such as ACSM and NSCA afford a nation-wide lobbying strategy? The most obvious funding sources for the anti-CrossFit campaign are Coca-Cola and Pepsico. Coca-Cola has supported ACSM’s advocacy efforts for at least eight years. Pepsico is the largest sponsor of NSCA and ACSM through its subsidiary Gatorade. In fact, Gatorade advertiser Michael Bergeron was the lead author of the first baseless ACSM attack on CrossFit.
A rash of deaths from over-hydration has forced Gatorade to back down from its extreme hydration guidelines. How useful will ACSM be to Gatorade now that it can’t tell athletes to drink “as much as tolerable” to prevent heat illness and cramps?
As 60 Minutes covered this Sunday, CrossFit Inc. sued the NSCA for knowingly publishing fraudulent injury claims about a CrossFit affiliate. This suit met considerable success and no meaningful opposition. All relevant subjects from the study have sworn to federal court that the NSCA study’s injury claims are false.
As long as USREPS pursues this strategy it can not coexist with CrossFit Inc. The two organizations conflict at a fundamental level. CrossFit Inc. will not let USREPS turn its affiliates into criminals for making their clients healthier. And CrossFit Inc. will not let USREPS members publish fabricated claims about injuries to justify government favors. CrossFit Inc. has hired “one of the most powerful” lobbying firms to end USREPS’ threat to its affiliates. Stay tuned.