BCPTI is proud to be a hub for passionate people. While our CPT program is an accelerated 7-week experience, we make meaningful connections with our students, instructors and community partners because we come together over a passion for fitness, learning and making a positive impact in the lives of those we serve. So we’re happy to connect you with the passion project of Josh Russell – The Lifestyle Collective Blog! Here’s a sample post from the Collective. Congratulations on this awesome platform Josh!
– Logan, BCPTI Director
How I Became a Successful Trainer
My Lifestyle Philosophy is always changing, and that is its most important quality. As humans, we go through life never knowing what is coming around the next corner, forced to only act in the present, to regret or cherish the past, and to wish for luck in our coming days.
However grim or exciting this sounds to you, the present is preparation for the future. In other words, what we do prepares us for tomorrow, and in many other words expressed more eloquently than I could ever do.
My Mission is to provide my first-hand experience and time tested tactics that will strengthen you for tomorrow. There is no singular approach to accomplishing this objective, just as there is no singular experience in life. Robin Sharma outlines it best in his book “The 5 AM Club” when describing his “4 Empires.” Sharma describes the 4 interior empires as “the smartest, and sometimes the most difficult, work you will ever do in your life… Cultivating the four central inner arenas… It won’t be easy… But it will totally be worth it.” The 4 empires described are the mindset (psychology), the heart set (emotionality), the health set (physicality), and the soul set (spirituality).
By “cultivating the four central arenas,” you take responsibility for your life and control your success. If that sounds like something you are interested in, make the first step and subscribe to my email list to get immediate updates when new posts drop. If you’re still not convinced, continue reading so you can get to know me better!
I have been an athlete since the age of 4 (if you can even call a 4-year old an athlete) and was hyper active before then. As a kid, my idea of a good time was running around in the back yard, shooting hoops, climbing trees, and riding bikes. I played every sport under the sun, starting with soccer and baseball, and, as I got older, graduated to lacrosse (my favourite) and football (my most regretted).
When I entered High School, I was still playing football 3 to 4 times a week and thought it would be a good idea to add rugby into the mix. Why not, right? I was burning tons of calories through a combined 5 practices a week and 2 games. Not to mention in Grade 9, I started working as a grocery clerk, on my feet hustling through the store, essentially being everybody’s errand boy. I was in the best shape of my young adult life. I worked at that grocery store for 7 years, but I stopped sports altogether in grade 10, but I didn’t stop eating like an athlete, conditioned behavior can be a runaway train sometimes.
I dropped out of second-year University after waffling between departments, never finding an educational pathway that would hold my attention or move me to action. At this point, I had grown out of shape, depressed with no future, and annoyed with my redundant job (although looking back now, that job was a ton of fun).
In the spring of 2013, I had the rock bottom moment where, after gaining 30 lbs in too short a time, I decided that “enough was enough.” I was working the overnight shift at the grocery store at this point, so I was still hustling and burning calories for 8 hours a day, but I also decided to stop eating garbage. Legit, garbage. I lost the 30 lbs in about 3 months and started feeling much better. I hadn’t figured out the career thing, but I tried going to the gym. 2 weeks into my gym experience, I somehow hurt my shoulder in an overhead press. I had no idea what I was doing (I couldn’t even put the weights back on the rack without pinching a finger or two).
It was in the Summer of 2013, July, specifically, where I found my motivation. Her name was Ashley.
The Beginning of my Personal Training Career
A friend of mine (his name was Shion) had been attending a personal training program at one of the local colleges, and he needed a participant as part of his practical homework. I jumped at the opportunity, having already lost 30 lbs, been an athlete most of my life, and looking for the next physical fix. I had tried on my own, but I had failed. So naturally, what do 2 young men work on at the gym together? Chest and arms. Chest. Arms. Biceps, triceps, delts. Arms… and then some chest.
I had so much fun working out with, not only a friend, but someone who also knew what they were doing, and was able to teach it to me. It was the fix I was looking for.
The workouts were great, and my friend, Shion, would continue to workout with me for the rest of the summer. But he did something else too, something I have never properly thanked him for, so hopefully, this does the job. He introduced me to Ashley, the woman who, after nearly 7 years, became my wife. After meeting Ashley, my exercise frequency jumped from 3 times a week to 9 times a week. For anyone who knows her, my wife is always exercising! Weight lifting, running, walking, biking, group training, spin classes, the works. EVERYTHING! During that summer, any time I wanted to hang out with her (nearly every day), she mentioned she had to go to the gym first. So naturally, I played it cool (yea, right) and told her I’d meet her at the gym. Both Shion and Ashley changed my life. Shion ignited the fire, and Ashley fueled it, she still does.
In January of 2015, I enrolled in Hilltop Academy’s “Fitness Leadership” diploma program, 4 months, 340 hours of nothing but fitness. After the first week of classes, the hooks pierced deeper. I found even the simplest of anatomical science fascinating, and getting into the gyms for the workouts was incredible. Not to mention the fantastic group of students I was able to have the experience with.
I graduated the program with Honours recognition and took the magnificent leap into the next chapter; Steve Nash Fitness World and Sports Clubs.
My Experience at Steve Nash
First of all, the experience I had at SNFC was nothing but positive and enjoyable. 2015 to 2020 have easily been the best years of my life, and I spent most of that time at work.
I could immediately tell that I was in a place that prioritized a high standard of service. Ultimately, it would take a total of 5 interviews over about 10 days to finally get the job. I wanted to hand in my resume in person so that I could make a first impression and meet the manager. The first impression could have been better, I’ll be honest. Picture a 20-year old “kid” wearing skate shoes, torn up jeans, a Metallica shirt, and a skateboard under my arm. Needless to say, I didn’t get an interview on my first attempt. Instead, I was given a “7-day pass” to work out at the gym by the Fitness Manager. Not the intended outcome, but I got “in.”
I came back later that day with Ashley and my brother Jake. I set up in front of the Personal Trainer’s desk and put them both through a workout. I had my own music, my own program card, I worked out alongside them, giving instruction when needed, and making a lot of noise. By the end of the workout, the Fitness Manager came over and said, “okay, you can have an interview.” Perfect.
I will NEVER forget my first interview. The Fitness Manager who hired me, Teresa, took me through the usual “20 Questions” get to know each other process, but that was the only “normal” part of the interview. Before I knew it, she was introducing me to everyone on the team, putting me on the spot, asking the hardest questions that I never had once thought of. I remember she timed me for 15 seconds as I tried to answer the question “what is your training philosophy” for the first time ever. The hardest question was, “what is something funny about you?” To this day, I still don’t have an answer.
Then it was on to the practical interview. Teresa set me up with one of her most knowledgeable trainers at the time, and my objective was to take them through a workout. Sounds pretty easy, I had been preparing for something like this to show up. But the trainer that I would take through the training was also an Educator, so he would be asking me questions along the way like “why did you pick this exercise,” or “how would you cue me to activate my core.” When I couldn’t answer, or hesitated, instead of taking the time to chastise and shame me for not knowing, he taught me. It was at that moment that I realized that this gym, Steve Nash, prioritized education and teamwork as part of their team dynamics, another extremely enticing quality.
Next, I would have a floor interview. In this interview, I would be tasked with walking the floor and engaging with the members. The question looking to be answered was, “can you interact with our members?” The short answer, no. I was so nervous about interrupting people who were working out because I didn’t have the confidence to do so. In this case, “exposure therapy” was the most effective tactic to overcome that challenge. Initially, I didn’t believe in what I had to offer them, a feeling I know many trainers have had in the past. So, I found my challenge.
Coming out of that interview process, I was so excited because the company fulfilled 3 criteria: they wanted to be the best, they valued team working and learning, and I found a challenge that I could work toward mastering.
The Ascent to Management
The first 90 days are always a test for new trainers, my experience was no different. I kept my focus on adding tools to my toolbox by taking classes through Nash’s internal education platform, NashFit. I received promotions about every 3 or 4 months due to my client’s success and desire to continue my education at an exceptional rate. At this rate, it took about a year to become an Assistant Fitness Manager. Being a Personal Trainer was easy once I got the hang of it, and I never got tired of my job because I always had new things to learn and new people to work with. Management, however, was an entirely different beast.
Even looking back now, there was, and may still not be, any type of “textbook” on being an effective Manager. Therefore, I was continuing my usual routine of going into the fog, exploring territory that was foreign to me, baring my teeth as I moved forward. As an Assistant Fitness Manager, I was exposed to more business based responsibility, which I found fascinating, and leadership responsibilities, which would pique my interest in education later on.
The greatest challenge that I had as Assistant Fitness Manager came in the middle of one of our 8-week fitness challenges, where there were several informational seminars available to participants. I was delegated to run the first one, which was on the subject of nutrition. Public speaking was something that I had never done before, but I always tried to keep an open mind.
Teresa sat with me for a couple hours before the seminar began and ran through the content with me. The content was easy enough, I understood it, and oftentimes shared the exact same messaging with my clients and co-workers many times before. But what Teresa taught me was beyond the content. It was on HOW to present the information. As a point of reference, Teresa was an incredible public speaker. Her team meetings were something that I would honestly look forward to. She had the power to turn a slow and boring morning shift into a dynamic and exciting afternoon shift by energizing the team at noon. So Teresa would share the secrets of public speaking with me just hours before the presentation. Although I was incredibly nervous, I loved every moment of the presentation, because she taught me how to connect with my audience.
Public speaking would become a new and exciting skill I couldn’t wait to develop. A few months after this experience, I was asked to be the Manager at the Delta Fitness World location.
Management and Education
In August of 2017, I walked into the Fitness World at Delta to basically start from scratch. A few of my clients came to workout with me there, which was great; it helped make the new club feel like home. The team was a group of strong, independent, fun-loving individuals who really loved their members and co-workers. I learned a lot from that team, and I still do.
I don’t want to talk too much about my experience as a Manager, because it’s still a massive blur, and I haven’t completely figured it out. But what I can definitely say is that it was a high-speed crash course in extreme responsibility, self-discipline, empathy, and grit. An experience that ground me down and dramatically shifted who I was and how I acted. I lasted for 14 months before going back to my home club as a trainer again.
To be extremely clear, this was not a bad experience. More accurately, it was the most challenging experience I have had in my career, and there is, still (once I figure it out completely), a great learning opportunity to accompany it. Another “diamond in the rough” during my time at Delta was the invitation to join the Education Team at BCPTI, the British Columbia Personal Training Institute.
Being an educator was, by far, my favourite role that I played. I essentially stood in front of class, and talked about the exercise science, shared my experience in real client scenarios, took a bunch of highly motivated students through workouts, and made some great connections along the way. It forced me to stay sharp and continuously adapt.
In the summer of 2019, I was promoted to “Lead Educator,” where I would assume a responsibility that would put me in front of the public. I would, for lack of a better term, recruit individuals who shared a passion for exercise and wanted to begin their careers as personal trainers. In fact, I sharpened a lot of the tools that I am using to bring you this blog on the tasks and responsibilities that came with being the Lead Educator.
The greatest lesson learned before COVID-19 shut down our regular way of life, came from my Director of Education, Logan. Logan and I worked closely together to expand the reach of BCPTI and would meet every week. On the one hand, to hold each other accountable and plan our next steps, while also exploring different ways to personally develop. The most resounding lesson I learned from Logan was that “experience is the greatest mentor if you have the wisdom to be taught.” A lot of the work that I did as Lead Educator was free form, and hadn’t been done before. So Logan and I agreed that we would put forth measured tactics, analyze their performance, and make adjustments based on the outcome. Very “Scientific Method,” which Galileo and Copernicus trusted back in the 1500s, so it has clearly stood the test of time.
Having experience with a free form position that was granted me with the Lead Educator role would pay its dividends very quickly. When the World shut down in March of 2020 in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic, many of the lessons I learned while working with Logan were immediately put to the test. From independent time management to creating comfort outside of the box, and having an earnest desire to be relentless in the pursuit of success were a few of the many tools that Logan helped me develop on Wednesday afternoons after class. These were the most recent motivational sessions that gave me the chance to thrive under these socially crippling times.
On March 14th, 2020, Ashley and I had our wedding; it was a beautiful weekend. Unfortunately, we had to cancel our honeymoon to France and Italy, but, as Marcus Aurelius recorded in his Meditations: “all’s right that happens in the world … I do not mean ‘right’ simply in the context of cause and effect, but in the sense of ‘just.'” If we had gone to Europe and this Coronavirus hadn’t quarantined millions of people, I wouldn’t have been able to have this massive reflection on my life. I may have never attempted more entrepreneurial activities or started this blog.
As I’m writing this on May 21st, 2020, most of the World is still in quarantine, or just beginning to ease the quarantine restrictions. So, naturally, Steve Nash terminated all of its employees, including BCPTI (owned by the same company) which left me, and many others, with a lot of free time. The terminations, believe what you will, were totally rational, and expected. I don’t hold anything against the company, because everyone is working through the unique challenges that quarantine has presented, and even companies bleed.
Today, and over the last 5 years as a Personal Trainer, I still think back on all of these lessons that my mentors have taught me, because they don’t apply to one single experience. Public speaking is a skill of courage, not just vocabulary or understanding content. Exercise makes you look and feel good, but it is also a practice of self-discipline and learning. As an overarching theme, one that I hope to bring to your life today or tomorrow, “experience is the greatest mentor if you have the wisdom to be taught.”
Which brings me to the future. Today, I read, I worked out, I wrote, I shared time with clients, I walked my dog, I had an amazing dinner with my wife, and we went to bed early. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I will seize control, pick my own challenges that I prepare for (as opposed to ones that I don’t chose that I’m not prepared for) and I will win tomorrow.
If you are still reading this, WOW, thank you so much for reading my story. If you are feeling motivated, and you want to read more of my articles, subscribe to my blog to get more updates. I look forward to serving you all through education and motivation!
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And for more from Josh, check out the BCPTI Web Chat Series #15!