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Fitness: A Combo of Health and Heart

by Heidi Lynn Russell, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: TSS Photography

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Widowed after her husband’s service-related death in Alaska and facing life ahead with two young sons, Rachael Hill found solace in physical fitness classes. Working through her grief as a fitness instructor helped her to see that she wanted that for other people, too.

“Teaching those classes in a lot of ways saved me after my husband’s death. It was that one hour where I could focus on class, surrounded by people. You release endorphins and you feel better,” says Hill, a former Air Force SSgt.

Today, Hill is working as a group fitness instructor at the Twin Cities YMCA in Minnesota while going back to school at Marian University for a Master’s in Thanatology, which is the study of death, dying and bereavement. Her sons are now ages 9 and 11.

Hill’s goal: To create a fitness business model for the bereaved.

”I want to combine those two things, to use fitness as a way to help people who are grieving and going through difficult experiences,” she says.

She has hit on a fundamental reason that a lot of people go into the fitness industry: compassion for others. While many people assume that fitness is all about achieving a master physique, Hill and others say it’s so much more than that - giving people the tools to have healthy lifestyles and cope with their life circumstances.

Sean Kershaw, a former Marine Cpl, today is the Compliance Officer for Fit Body Boot Camp and also is a fitness trainer on the side. Although his main job involves handling legal matters for the company, he, too, got into fitness for similar reasons as Hill.

“Compassion is more important than physical results,” he says. “A lot of people take exercise as more than getting in shape. This can be their outlet. They may have problems at home. This is their only get-away. When they come in, the trainer has to be somebody they can confide in, be a friend to. This place has nothing to do with their situation that they’re escaping for an hour. It matters more than the results. The results will come, because a good trainer will know how to get them. But the personal touch weighs more.”

If this sounds like a field for you, read on about how to discover the best employer who fits your personal fitness philosophy and how to best break in.

Fitness Industry Current Trends

‘Niche’ is the key word when thinking of future career trends in the fitness industry, says Bedros Keuilian, founder and CEO of the world’s fastest growing indoor fitness boot camp franchise, Fit Body Boot Camp.

“Everything in the fitness industry is moving towards more and more specific niches. Big box gyms aren’t going to suddenly disappear, but they aren’t exactly thriving, and the turbulence they’re going through tends to roll downhill onto their employees,” he says.

‘If you’re looking for stability, I recommend finding a company that has clearly identified and mastered their niche and joining up with them. Sure, there are plenty of niches left to be discovered, but the life of an entrepreneur is difficult and chaotic.”

Those who want to become full-time trainers should also know that an ever-growing trend is group training, not one-on-one training, says Mike Urti, VP of Personal Training Operations for Retro Fitness. “This means training with four to 10 people and guiding them through a workout, like a coach leading a practice,” he says. “There are different fitness goals in the class and tweaking for each person. For veterans who have been through boot camp, this is a nice niche.”

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