My first co-op term was spent at Thompson Community Centre, a publicly owned community centre in Richmond. It is a well-equipped facility and is the go-to gym for many. This environment is very goal driven. Personal trainers here are knowledgeable, experienced, and eager to expand their arsenal. I had the privilege to learn from various mentors of different teaching styles, and I have been able to develop my own unique style as a fitness professional.
This co-op experience opened my eyes to a new perspective of the fitness world and I have learned a lot in four months. At the beginning of my co-op term, I set learning objectives or goals for what I would like to accomplish. I kept this in the back of my mind, and I had some surprising and valuable learning experiences throughout my co-op term.
More Than What Meets the Eye
My first learning objective was to familiarize myself in the fitness and wellness sector at various community centers. To my surprise, the operations of a fitness centre are much more extensive than I could have ever imagined. Equipment needs to be constantly cleaned, maintained and restored, cleaning supplies need to always be stocked, and group fitness classes always need to be set up on time. Many people rely on these jobs to be done, so they can get their own job done. Working in an environment like this made me realize the importance of teamwork in a community setting. Everyone needs to be on the ball in order for the centre to run smoothly.
Knowledge and Communication
My second goal was to improve my communication skills by interacting with various patrons and providing fitness and health knowledge to the best of my ability. In the work place, the most important skill to have is being able to communicate effectively. I believe that by being able communicate facts and have the experience to back it up, I will ultimately be able to better help people.
The BCRPA (BC Recreation and Parks Association) Weight Training certification is a requirement to be a fitness centre attendant and to complete my Kinesiology requirements. I thought that my BCRPA certification would give me an edge because of the knowledge that I was able to learn to become certified. To my surprise, the first couple times I gave fitness advice to patrons, I sounded like a babbling buffoon. I now realize that knowledge needs to be selectively given and that is the key to good communication. After some practice, I have gotten better. I have learned to look for non-verbal cues like body language. For instance, when I speak to a patron I can usually tell if they are listening when they are asking questions and nodding in confirmation of their understanding. As well, they make an effort to change and follow-up with me with any problems that may arise. I am getting better at selecting which patrons would appreciate the advice I am giving and not be offended or annoyed. Generally, I have been getting fairly good responses.
I also have the responsibility of giving orientation to new members. The orientation consists of a tour of the gym, centre rules and regulations, and a walk through of a general training program. I also get to teach and go through cardio machines and basic resistance training machines with beginners of all ages. The topics I talk about include body response of different training zones, importance of a warm up, and resistance training benefits. I am sure this experience will greatly benefit me through my journey as a Personal Trainer.
Helping Others and Growing as a Professional
Lastly, my third learning objective was to gain experience in personal training and facilitating the growth and development of different clients. I was able to complete my Personal Training certificate with BCRPA during my co-op placement. With business cards made and biography page up to market myself, I was able to start taking clients. I thought I was well prepared to pursue my goal of taking on clients because of my experience running orientations, working with patrons to set fitness goals, and teaching new exercises. My interest was to train the aging baby boomer population because they are in their retirement years and will be long-term clients.
I approached many people at first, but I always felt uneasy about promoting my services after giving fitness advice. I was quick to give out my business card and people did not react as well to this as I would have liked. I learned and I stopped using this method of self-promotion. For now, I am still trying to find the right amount of “pushy-ness” in my advertising. Recently, I have had some success and I got my first client through an orientation. Although this experience will be new to me, I am glad I have many mentors in this environment to help prepare me for what is to come.
This experience with Thompson Community centre has been an eye-opener. I was able to observe first-hand how a fitness centre runs its operations. I learned to speak knowledgeably in my field and observe patrons who will appreciate suggestions given. I landed my first client in this gym because of these experiences. Lastly, I understand the teamwork required for a community centre to run smoothly, and ultimately giving everyone the fun and welcoming environment this place offers. With the skills I acquired from this experience, I am sure it will help with my ultimate goal of becoming a physiotherapist.