From art director ambitions to life as a health and fitness specialist

When I first got to college, my heart was set on becoming an art director. My life revolved around art and design, and fitness was just a hobby. But one day I was at the gym working out when someone tapped me on the shoulder and wanted to know more about my routine.

He was a curious beginner in the gym, and I was happy to give him some advice. It felt great using my knowledge and experience to affect his life in such a positive way.

After this impromptu meeting and a few conversations with fitness professionals at events on campus, I realized what I truly wanted to do with my life: help people reach their health and fitness goals. So I switched my major from communication design to health promotion. College-freshman-me would never have guessed that I’d totally change my life’s focus from art to fitness, but I’m glad I did.

Now as a senior health and fitness specialist, I get to have fun helping clients reach their health and fitness goals, teaching group fitness classes, and implementing marketing campaigns and health promotion programs for the fitness center.

Are you getting started in your own fitness career? Here are five things I’ve learned so far.

1. Give yourself a head start on your goals.

Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. After changing my major, I did some research and learned that it’s a tremendous benefit to get certified as a health professional. So I pursued a personal trainer certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, an NCCA-accredited fitness institution. Now I maintain that momentum by adding to my educational resume with EXOS courses like the performance specialist and fitness specialist certifications.

Another great way to get ahead: Find an internship early. The longer you wait, the more stressed you’ll be. I remember the stress being unbearable at one point because I had to find an internship that would be flexible with my work schedule.

I learned that it’s a tremendous benefit to get certified as a health professional. Even if your degree is fitness related, get certified.

2. Manage your time to do more of what you love.

When I was in college, balancing my internship, work, friends, family, and working out was tough. My day planner is the only thing that saved me. Now I apply the same time-budgeting principles in my current life to make sure I stay on track with my career while also fitting in time for my personal goals. When you prioritize your time, you can focus on joining more organizations, attending more events, and networking with as many people as you possibly can — while still having fun.

Trained professionals use their understanding of members to determine the value of a new offering, and then promote it, ensuring it’s a worthwhile investment.

3. Learn as much as possible. Ask questions.

As an EXOS intern, I learned everything I could about the day-to-day operations of a fitness center. From membership software and health promotion programming, to teaching group fitness classes, budgeting, equipment repair schedules, gym marketing, and management duties, I tried to learn it all. This experience paid off, and now I use those lessons to continue my career path and every day in my current role.

When you prioritize your time, you can focus on joining more organizations, attending more events, and networking with as many people as you possibly can — while still having fun.

4. Be patient with your journey.

I worked as a substitute health and fitness specialist, a part-time ninja warrior coach, an Uber driver, and a trainer before finding my full-time position as a health and fitness specialist with EXOS.

I’m happy to say that all that patience paid off. I work with fun people, I love my fitness community, and I look forward to coming to work every day. You might not be in the right place at first, but if you stay dedicated and patient, you’ll find something that makes you realize that all that hard work was worth it.

5. Push yourself to do more.

It’s easy to get in a rhythm and just coast. But there’s always a way to make yourself better at work, no matter what kind of day it is. I’ve found that challenging myself in some way every single day gives me satisfaction at the end of the day.

A typical day at my site includes teaching classes, training clients, and day-to-day gym operations. But I’m always looking for ways to enhance my experience. Some days include bettering myself through continuing education, social media marketing, creating fitness video tutorials for members, brainstorming ideas for a health fair, or designing client health enhancement programming.

Ready to start on the path to a fulfilling career in the health and fitness industry? Check out our internship openings.

About the Author

Aqil Mohdzahir

Aqil Mohdzahir is a senior health and fitness specialist at EXOS. He provides personal training to a wide demographic of clients, instructs group fitness classes, and implements health promotion programs.

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