What first lead me towards training was a realization that nursing was not a career of healing, but of disease management. I did not attend nursing school, and evaluated how I might best help people’s health with a non-medical career: training. More prevention can keep people from going to the hospital in the first place. I took the certification to be a trainer under NASM, it was a real breeze because my favorite subject in pre-nursing was anatomy, and I also had taken a nutrition course, and biology, etc. Things were pretty smooth getting started.
My training certification book said that you should stabilize and correct movements before training with weight, and had a cute little diagram about it. It did not provide details, and my ability to appreciate it was limited at the time. I never had a trainer myself, and had some dysfunctions. I got a job at a little boutique training gym for several months, and then moved to Gold’s. I quickly found that training was about your connection with people, and their desire to continue seeing me. I put my heart in it and grew quickly, looking back I was working with very limited information. Some of my peers had less to offer than me, and they were still making a living too. A passionate, well meaning, enthused and uneducated trainer can do some real damage to person.
I didn’t really believe in stretching, and in no way did that stop me from selling a ton of training at the Gold’s and being a top-grossing trainer by my third month. I helped a sweet lady lose 20 lbs in 3 months, and then she sprained her ankle stepping off a curb. I worked with a guy who ripped both his biceps completely off 6 months prior. I worked with a young woman with a birth related arm injury and sewed together a fashionable grip for her arm so she could pull and push on cable machines to train her torso more. It was all about money, I didn’t like that.
After about 9 months as a trainer there I went back to school for the last 60 hours I needed to obtain a Kinesiology and Health Promotion degree. I worked in a fine dining restaurant part time for a few years during this period. During school I got in at a really nice gym called Spirit Fitness, and then started working at UT Rec Sports too. Of my peers in Kinesiology that did not have lofty goals of ‘Sports Management’, many wanted to be trainers and coaches. What seemed like most of them did not get training experience during college, which in what I observed really held them back. By the time I graduated I had nearly 2 and a half years of experience training. I felt like I knew a lot, and maybe I did; I have changed so much.
I worked in the Rec Sports Personal Training program at my university for three and a half years before, through, and after graduating which was great because you would work with people between 18-90+ with all kinds of sedentary issues, injuries, and compensations. I got to work with this 19 year old who was just released from care for his 4th reconstructive shoulder surgery, we saw each other 3 times a week for like 3 years and we also saw massive improvements. I inherited and taught a senior fitness class there for 2 years every Thursday for retired professors, it was really special and we did some things you wouldn’t see many 66-93 year olds doing. We listened to ballroom, and Helen would help me count. It was actually a really special experience, I can look back on it very fondly. The experiences I had with people taught me to be careful, and art of regression. I just turned 29 and time really flies.
I had been telling myself deep down I wanted to be an expert of the body and really help people. As soon as I graduated I got another training certification from ACE, got a Health Coach Certification, an ACE Movement Specialist cert, ViPR training, and 200 Hour Yoga. Some of that was useful, some wasn’t. I was thirsty to know more, and deliver the highest level of service and preventative health and movement. I realized that not all certifications are valuable and having many more of them won’t necessarily increase your value proportionately. With a few thousand hours under my belt, and some real experience working with injuries and disease complications, I was feeling pretty confident. I knew how to take care of muscles, I valued stretching, I was teaching toga. I was somewhat successful at finding and correcting dysfunction. I was getting a feel for the body and I had my fair share of experience with various tools of fitness. Spirit Fitness Closed in December of 2016 after I had been there for several years. Looking back, that place had so much to offer and offered me so much and I could have appreciated it a lot more. I carry that idea forward as I appreciate new and current places I spend my time more fully.
Post gym, I was a totally decent trainer, and okay yoga teacher at this time and a good handful of clients started seeing me other places, homes, parks, my apartment gym/yoga studio. Looking for a next big step I found a job at Egoscue, a posture therapy clinic. I had always had a knack for training people away from movement issues, and It really focused my thoughts on how I viewed movement and the body. Working full time in a clinic allowed me to really experience the power of posture as it relates to function and well being. Other bodies of knowledge had talked about stance, and form etc. I was pretty good at seeing it already, and this gave me the tools to identify and cut right into movement inefficiencies and correct them. Sometimes for performance, many times to improve or manage horribly painful chronic issues. During my time at the clinic I inherited a twice a week yoga class at my apartment community from the retiring teacher of 7 years. I worked a lot I got used to being around pain, I became less afraid of spine issues, degenerative joints and scary sounding problems like spondylolisthesis and joint surgery. I developed my understanding of anatomy and I learned to understand the reasons behind various adaptations to dysfunction like bunions. Still, there was and is plenty of room to grow and improve.
I went on to work as a private health coordinator and vegan chef for about a year, I learned many things. I realized I hated cooking. I now pay to have all my food prepared. I moved on to be a PE coach at a wonderful school and that is where I am now. I see it as a great opportunity to learn and work with a segment of life that I haven’t been with very much, youth. I’ve been studying posture and movement with fair intensity. I have always kept some training clients, taught yoga, and performed posture therapy for those in need that are referred to me or seek me out. I’ve seen some amazing things happen, and I feel seated in my ability to approach many dysfunctions and chronic pain issues. This month I am working on PYCC (Professional Youth Coach Certification) by Brand X, and Movnat 1 and 2. I also have a large stack of books to read this summer that I am thrilled about. Next year, I’ll be ready to go deep on training efficient humans for life and PE coaching will be a tiny bit less of a growing experience. In the future I can look forward to a straight forward learning and growing experience, as I’ve designed a comfortable lifestyle. I look forward to corporate wellness work, I’m doing some part time already, and possibly owning a business and/or going remote.
Looking back on 7 years of training, if there’s anything I would do differently it would be gain a greater understanding earlier on and hire a trainer myself for me going into it. I’ve kicked myself a lot for not reading some of the more renowned books earlier, like Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starret, The 4 hour body by Tim Ferris, and being less judgemental about up and coming information on things like Paleo, Keto, and Gluten. A friend of mine was losing weight on keto in 2012 and I was like I don’t even want to train you, I don’t understand how that’s good for you. Today there is a ton of research on it, and I eat in ways I wouldn’t have dreamed of at that point.
Lots of people are out there try to educate you, and anybody they can; there are a lot of people and organizations that really have something to offer practitioners and clients alike. Even in this last 6 months, picking my head up from some intense posture research on children I am seeing experts who’ve been preaching what I’ve worked to realize for years. Even at my level of understanding, there are other people out there thinking and doing much of the same stuff or more. Embracing that earlier may have really served me, though I am proud of and happy with my journey thus far and what I know of what’s ahead of me.
Another thing that I’ve really changed my views on is how I interact with my clients. Your clients will probably listen to your problems and enjoy your personal stories for a while, but that is not what they are paying for. You should not assume that your clients want to hear all about your personal life, talk about them instead. I took over a class at my apartments for a woman a year ago largely because she used the residents as a soundboard for her man problems and treated their workout experience like a side item. At a low end this might work for you, and people may be attracted to your personality and enjoy listening to you or hearing the scoop. In the long run, these people probably aren’t there for your expertise, they just like to gossip. When you are providing therapy or training for 100-200+$ an hour, your clients are paying for you to focus on them. Their goals, their progress, their health, their fitness. The deeper I have gotten the less it is about me, and I’ve worked in some places that actually required this, I have also seen the benefits in practice. It is always a fine line, it is impossible to perfect, and it is still fun to share. Balance is key. One of my mottos, and it’s written on one of the large chalk boards in my room “Always be professional”.
I should have thought about more is the value of teaching self care to people, and valuing stretching and being able to create a good movement before loading it with weight. A saying that has stuck with me, is don’t add weight to dysfunction. If someone can’t do something correctly with their body, they should not be doing it, not with less weight, not in a ‘safer’ machine for the same action. They should be breaking down the movements and teaching their body before doing it correctly and then taking responsibility for that action. Focus on what your client ‘can’ do, and make a session out of that. If they ‘just want to’ (insert time related item or goal here) you might push through a dysfunction and get where you’re going in the short term but the problems created within the body as a result will likely take much more effort and time to correct and may be partially debilitating. For long term success, adopt long term approaches, and empower your client to make decisions and take on personal responsibilities that will empower them. I always check the function of certain muscles, initially and ongoing, build strong basics and address pain and dysfunction first. It is essential to treat the body as a whole at all times. If you are doing isolated upper body movements with wacked out foot placement and misaligned resistance to gravity the body will be growing that way.
I’ve probably worked on a few thousand people over the last 7 years, it has been such a fabulous journey that is not even close to over yet. I have no plans to stop, and a ton of plans to keep growing and expanding what I can deliver. It is a very fulfilling thing to pursue for me. I hope you picked up something valuable for you from reading this, maybe it will prevent you from being one of the clients or trainers that it hurt my heart to observe at gyms everywhere I go. The biggest most important thing is to empower people to take confident responsibility for their body and health.
PS. You might be wondering why there is a picture of a dog on this article. Funny sad story, I didn’t post this for quite a while because I could never decide on a picture (blog articles are supposed to do better with pictures, right?). Well, my sweet Jake died in an untimely tragedy. I can’t think of any picture of anything that would sum up my experience as a fitness professional better. For one, Jake was around 100% of that time, he used to go to the gym with me every saturday and train 2-10 hours. My career so far has been a lot like a really happy, unsuppressable, unstoppable dog. He was really the best dog. RIP Jake, I love you so much!