5 lessons from 26 years working in health and fitness

During my senior year of high school, I moved to Norway as a foreign exchange student. My new home was known for its ski center, so I was immersed in a culture of people who love to move. Unfortunately, it’s also an environment where injuries are common.

Spending that year in such an active community filled with athletes — and seeing their sheer determination to return to a sport they loved so much — drew me to sports medicine.

In 1990, I completed my bachelor’s degree in athletic training for sports medicine at The University of Akron in Ohio, which involved supporting several sports teams and completing an internship at the local hospital’s sports medicine center. I was then accepted into the graduate program for exercise science at Cleveland State University and secured a position as a teaching assistant in the exercise science department, helping teach physical activity classes to undergrads. I also worked an internship at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, assisting players from the Cleveland Cavaliers with hydrostatic weighing and other performance metrics.

I believe you have to actively create opportunities for yourself. Don’t wait for others to present them to you.

After graduation, I was offered a position as health promotion manager with the Department of the Army out of the V Corps headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. This was after the fall of the Berlin Wall and as conflicts in Bosnia were escalating. My job was to manage the Army’s Fit to Win program, helping soldiers to maximize readiness for combat as well as helping civilians employed by the Army and their families enhance their quality of life.

The skills gained during this time are some that I still apply today. I couldn’t imagine having a stronger foundation for my career. I had to swiftly learn how to gain approvals through every level of the chain of command and get comfortable behind the microphone as a regular guest on the Armed Forces radio network talking about health and wellness.

Rather than being drained by challenges or avoiding them altogether, let them invigorate you.

I was also privileged to be put in charge of managing the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award, a prestigious award that recognizes officers for their leadership in the field. I’ll never forget interacting with the generals as they weighed the merits of each soldier. The deep conversation, considerations, and decisions that ensued are something I often reflect on. While that was many years ago, I vividly remember meeting the soldiers and their family members at the awards ceremony, seeing and feeling the pride that filled the room.

After that, my husband and I moved back to the states. I supported employee and community health promotion at a hospital in South Carolina. A couple years later, I landed a job at EXOS as a program manager. Over the past 23 years, I worked my way up to a regional account director and then to senior vice president of account development, overseeing the expansion of health and wellness services in the corporate wellness space. Throughout my career, I’ve been able to work with athletes, soldiers, community members, and workers who want to reduce injury risk from simply trying to make a living.

Every day brings new opportunities and challenges to explore, but here’s what I know for sure, and what I hope you can apply to your own career:

1. Be growth oriented.

When you encounter a challenge, pause and consider what you’ve learned. Rather than being drained by challenges or avoiding them altogether, let them invigorate you. This is relevant to your personal and professional life. Saying yes to new challenges not only enhanced my professional development but also resulted in a number of personal adventures that I’ll never forget — paddle boarding on the Grand Canal in Venice, snowmobiling on a glacier in Iceland, caving in Belize. These experiences have fostered my appreciation for what the human body is capable of. It drives me to help others exercise their right to move as well.

2. Own your future.

I was fortunate to be raised in a household with strong role models. My mother completed her bachelor’s degree while raising two kids with my father. She achieved something that no other female in her family had done, and I keenly remember the sense of pride we all felt when she walked across the stage to pick up her diploma. Because of her, I believe you have to actively create opportunities for yourself. Don’t wait for others to present them to you.

3. Diversify your experiences.

Diversification is a good thing, and side endeavors are a necessary part of growing. Actively seek ways to contribute to your company, but at the same time, look for ways to deepen your well of experience outside of your nine-to-five. While working at EXOS, I’ve also served on the board of directors for the Health Enhancement Research Organization and the International Association for Worksite Health Promotion. It was fulfilling to contribute my ideas and skills beyond the walls of my organization while learning from others.

4. Live your passion.

When you live your passion, work isn’t something that you do — it's part of who you are. Always remember that you have a personal choice to change course when things no longer align. When a job stops challenging you or it challenges you in the wrong ways, reassess its role in your journey. Every day is an opportunity to live your dream. You just have to keep pursuing it and stay true to it.

5. Help others succeed, and you’ll ensure your own success.

My husband’s grandfather was a fighter pilot and served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. While flying over New Guinea, he was shot down and MIA for 13 days. He’d often say, “Every day that I wake up is a good day.” What I’ve personally carried from his sentiment is to actively be thankful for what I have, don’t take what I care about for granted, and find simple reasons to celebrate and give back. You find success by doing your best, but it’s more valuable if you’re able to use what you’ve learned to help others. That’s what I’ve set out to do, and you can too.

Interested in a career with EXOS? Here’s what you need to know.

About the Author

Kristine Holbrook

Kristine Holbrook is the senior vice president of account development at EXOS. With a master's degree in exercise science and a bachelor’s degree in athletic training for sports medicine, she’s also passionate about helping those new to the industry.

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