Working in Fitness

Whenever someone finds out what I do, they always seem to have a lot of questions.  I’m not sure why it seems fascinating to some, but it seems to bring up a discussion, that is for sure! I think some people assume you can’t do much in the fitness field for whatever reason, but to me, the possibilities are endless and fun!

I thought I’d share a bit more about what I do and how I discovered my passion for the field of health and wellness. This is a Health and Fitness Blog after all! 🙂

What I Do

Currently I am a Fitness Specialist for a Federal Government organization.  I work for a company that contracts with the organization to run the Fitness Center for their employees.

My co-workers and I

My company is not only comprised of Fitness Staff, but also medical staffing, as we have an on site medical center available to employees. I work full time at the Fitness Center, Monday through Friday.

Fitness Center where I work

The employees can work out for free at the Fitness Center, which is great!  We offer classes, personal training, fitness assessments, and incentive programs year round.  Since we are a medically based facility, each member must get basic blood work completed (cholesterol and glucose) and must fill out a health history questionnaire before joining.  We screen each applicant and depending on their medical history, they may need a doctor’s clearance to join.  Being medically based is the real difference between our gym and say, a YMCA or Gold’s Gym.

Cardio Center

Once member’s join they are highly encouraged to get a basic fitness assessment, which is comprised of a cardiovascular test (done on a bike), strength and endurance testing (push ups and curl ups), and flexibility testing.  We also check their blood pressure, height, weight, and do a body fat analysis via skin calipers.  Once testing is complete, we discuss their goals and develop a workout plan for them.   We don’t discuss nutrition in depth, as we also have a dietitian on staff for them to see for free.

How I got into Fitness

I became interested in fitness when I was around 17.  My family had joined a local YMCA and I began to take group fitness classes in the evenings after school with a friend.  I became instantly hooked!  I was not big into sports (actually, I was quite terrible!), so I felt as though I had found my niche with exercise.  To this day I always encourage people to find an activity that they enjoy, not what everyone else is doing.  It’s the only way, in my opinion, to stick to exercise long term.  Since I began exercising consistently at 17, I have not stopped.  I’m 26 now, so it’s been almost a decade and it’s still my favorite hobby and a big part of my life.

Once I began college, I kept up my workouts at the student recreation center and also became a Group Exercise Instructor.  This really changed everything for me.  My boss, who was the Fitness Director, was amazing and I learned so much from her.  I was actually a Social Work major at the time, but was not completely sure it was for me.  Seeing my boss at her job daily made me think that perhaps I could do that one day!  It was really a moment in time where things just clicked for me and I realized I wanted to do something in fitness full time.  I changed my major from Social Work to Health Promotion and continued on in my  journey.

Instructors

My goal was to become a Fitness Director at a University, so I made sure to take the necessary steps to get there.  First, I asked my boss how she got to where she was at and what it took to get her job.  And from there, I followed that plan myself.  Here’s what it took:

  • Graduate with a degree in a health related field: I have my Bachelor’s in Health Promotion.
  • Internship Experience: I interned at the student recreation center where I went to school and also did another internship at another university.
  • Graduate School: Fitness Director jobs for Universities most often require another degree in Health or Exercise.  I chose to get my Master’s in Exercise Physiology.
  • Graduate Assistant Position: During my 2 years in school I was the Fitness and Wellness Graduate Assistant at the rec center where I was attending school.  I gained tons of hands on experience working under the Fitness Director for 2 years.
  • MORE Interning: Best advice I can give anyone, in any field, is to get hands on experience.  All of my internships were unpaid, but provided the best experience and have allowed me to get to where I am.  School will teach you a lot, but actually doing things in your field teaches you a lot more.

After Graduate School in spring of 2009 I did accept a job as a Fitness Director for a college in Georgia.  I worked there for a year, but realized that being close to Andy and my family was more important.  So I came home.  I also realized that being a Fitness Director was not the only job I could do in the field.  Now I work in corporate wellness and I really, really love it!  They are both very different environments, yet both are just as enjoyable and rewarding.

A Typical Day

Really, there is no ‘typical’ day at my current job as a Fitness Specialist.  We do different things daily, which is nice.  But here is an example of some things I do day to day:

  • Fitness Assessment appointments: These take roughly 45-minutes and I probably do 2-3 a week.  Today I have one.
  • Personal Training: We take new members through new workout plans and we also update existing members’ workout plans.  I have one appointment today.  Typically I’ll do 2-3 a week.
  • Program Implementation: I’m the contest director of our big weight management program and we’re currently planning for the rewards luncheon.  This program pretty much goes all year round, so I do some form of work for it daily.
  • Teaching: I teach at least once per day and on Mondays and Wednesdays I teach twice.  See my current schedule here!  I love teaching!
  • Planning: I actually sit at a desk the majority of the day, which people don’t expect.  I think when people find out I work in fitness they assume I work out all day.  I don’t.  I do a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ work, including working on fitness class schedules, planning programs, etc.
  • Getting to know others: This is a fun part of the job, just chatting with the members daily and getting to know them.  It’s a fun place to be!

Doing 'active sampling'...we're good actors, no? 😉

Fitness Q & A 

Below are some questions I’ve received about fitness as a career:

Do I ever get sick of fitness because I am around it all of the time?

I was asked this recently, if I get burnt out or sick of fitness. And the answer is yes, sometimes. Just like anyone else who enjoys working out, I get stuck in a rut and get burnt out.

Unfortunately, it’s my job to teach and I can’t always take a day off when I want to.   Usually when I feel like I don’t want to teach I’ll find my groove as soon as I begin to teach a class.  I get insane energy from the participants and I literally morph into someone else.  Heck, I can’t even motivate myself the way I motivate others during a class.  I get such an adrenalin kick when I teach that any thoughts of not wanting to exercise go away.

Getting ready to motivate!

Teaching Group Fitness has become so routine for me that I hardly give it a second thought.  And the majority of the time, I don’t get burnt out.  Now I do literally get sick and have to take time off, but that’s a whole other situation. With proper rest, good eating habits, and just taking care of my body, I am able to handle the teaching load plus do some of my own workouts each week.

Does working in a fitness environment hinder my own fitness goals?

Yes, absolutely it does.  At my current job I teach 7 classes a week and that doesn’t leave me much time for myself.  I teach 5 cardio classes and so my cardio quota is almost full.   Training for a marathon is not first on my agenda at this point in time (or even 10th for that matter!).

I teach one strength class and one Pilates class each week, which I consider ‘easier’ classes to teach, as I can walk around more and ‘coach’.  On these days I do my own workout in the mornings before work or in the evening after work. Lately it’s been running with my dogs. With the cardio classes, however,  I do the whole thing since it’s choreographed.  I consider those my workout and typically don’t do anything else that day except walk my dogs.

I also will do my own thing on the weekend, which is typically running or walking.  One thing that I notice working in fitness is that I don’t like being in a gym on weekends! I need a break, so my workouts are usually outdoors and quite leisurely.

Basically at this point in time my goal is to simply be active most days of the week and I don’t have plans for any long distance races, competitions, or any lofty strength goals.  I’m at a maintenance phase I guess! If I do have any goals in mind down the road, it just takes some extra planning around my teaching schedule.

Do you feel like you have to portray a certain look because you work in fitness?

Back in the day, I used to be more image obsessed and thought I  had to look a certain way because I worked in the fitness field. I thought I should have perfect muscles and a six pack at any given moment in time. This was around the time when I ventured with Figure Competitions.  Since that time though (and a lot of self reflection), I don’t put any pressure on myself to have a certain look and to do certain workouts (think body building type workouts). My goal is to simply be healthy and treat my body with respect and inspire others to do so as well.

I have a much more balanced approach to fitness and I’m all about doing what I enjoy.  I’ve come to realize that it was not others expecting me to have a certain look, but it was my own self criticism telling me I was not ‘perfect’.  I’m so over all that negative crap! I don’t feel guilty for not being the perfect picture of health because there is no such thing. I do the best I can with eating well and exercising without getting obsessive.

Conclusion

To wrap this discussion up, I really enjoy working in fitness.  Like any job, it can get tedious, but ultimately I enjoy what I do.  I like going to work every day and even look forward to it.  If you can say that about your job (whatever the field you are in) then I think you are on the right path!

If you’re thinking about a career in health and fitness and have any questions don’t hesitate to ask! I’d be happy to try and answer to the best of my ability.

Have a great weekend!!

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10 responses to “Working in Fitness

  1. I loved this! I can see how working in a gym all day during the week would make you want to ge somewhere else on the weekends. I also love you balanced approach to exercise. I think that is a valuable lesson that so many people miss completely. And (last one I promise) I loved how you said you encourage people to find exercise they love. You are a lot more likely to stick with something if you like it.

  2. You must workout a lot, considering you have several classes a day to run. I wish I enjoyed my workouts. I only do them to stay in shape.

  3. Great post. My company has a gym that employees can use for free. They have some classes, but wow, nothing like that gym you’re at. So cool. I wish more companies took a greater interest in their employees physical well-being.

  4. Oh my goodness oh my GOODNESS! I just found your blog thru Lisa I’m An Okie’s blogroll… and I feel like I am your mini-me, only a few steps behind you! I have a BS in Health & Exercise Science, just got accepted to graduate school to obtain my MPH, and am currently a health educator at my local YMCA (in fact, a lot of the stuff you described in your current role is stuff I do in my job!). You, my dear, have found yourself a new follower! I can’t wait to check out more of your blog! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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