Fitness can be hard, and for those whose main form of exercise is sitting up five times to hit the snooze button, getting in shape can seem downright impossible. But whether it’s to follow through on New Year’s resolutions, reach a goal weight or even just to improve overall health, the Campus Recreation Center at the College of William and Mary is home to an entire host of personal trainers who are there to help.
Although students may know the Rec’s personal trainers for their exercise knowledge, some may not know that that many trainers are students themselves.
In order to become personal trainers, the students participate in a rigorous, 12-week program hosted by the College to prepare them for the American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer Exam. In doing so, trainers become acquainted with basic principles of anatomy, physiology and kinesiology.
Assistant Director of Fitness and Wellness at the Rec Jennifer Fisher said that students with a particular exercise niche are particularly desirable as trainers.
“It’s important for the trainers to want to teach others and be willing to put the work in,” Fisher said. “Depending on whether or not they are kinesiology majors, they may have to study more on their own to learn about exercise science.”
The aid that the student trainers give to their clients is highly personalized, with routines and workout plans centered around each client’s fitness assessment data.
Personal training requires a lot of knowledge about exercise science and human physiology, but what makes this job special are the clients
“I’ve always loved working out and challenging myself physically, and that obsession really took off when I came to college and had access to an amazing (free) gym and fun classes!” Christina Alcorta ’16 said in an email of her inspiration to become a personal trainer. “I knew another girl in my sorority was a personal trainer and she seemed like she loved it, so that really piqued my interest.”
Mitchell Polizzi ’16, who serves as both personal trainer and personal training supervisor, is the first point of contact for new clients, matching each with a trainer based on his or her individual goals.
“Personal training requires a lot of knowledge about exercise science and human physiology, but what makes this job special are the clients,” Polizzi said in an email. “Throughout my time I have built lasting relationships with many of my clients. We also have the awesome opportunity to work with the professional staff and graduate assistants that are so often underappreciated because they are working behind the scenes to make everything run so smoothly at the Campus Recreation Center.”
Beyond helping clients — the ranks of whom range from peers to professors — the trainers often help each other.
“Working with the other student trainers has been such a blessing and a ton of fun. I’ve learned so much from them because we all bring something very unique to the table,” Alcorta said in an email. “I’ve learned a lot more about lifting and HIIT [High Intensity Interval Training] workouts from my coworkers in the past two years and it is so rewarding to be able to put this newfound knowledge into practice. We all work so well together, and everyone is so motivated that it really doesn’t feel like a job.”
Regardless of background, the trainers’ favorite part of the job is the meaningful experiences they get to have with their clients. They said watching people with all levels of fitness make progress and overcome personal challenges is extremely rewarding for them
Working with the other student trainers has been such a blessing and a ton of fun. I’ve learned so much from them because we all bring something very unique to the table
According to Alcorta, one of the most memorable experiences in her career as a trainer came during her first semester teaching the Zero to 5k Small Group Training Program. Halfway through the four-week program, Alcorta took participants for the longest run they had attempted, almost the full 3.12 miles.
“We were nearing the end of our run and I could tell they were all getting super tired, but they didn’t give up and walk, even up a long hill,” Alcorta said. “They ran all the way back to the Rec, and I could have cried, I was so proud of them. A few weeks later I watched them all run their first 5k and I was ecstatic for them, and in disbelief at how far they had come in just four weeks.”
In spite of experiences like these, Polizzi said the job of the personal trainer is not without its own inherent challenges.
“I love having my clients box and I always hold the target pads, but on one occasion my client actually missed the target and hit me right in the shoulder,” Polizzi said. “I was perfectly fine, but she was horrified and couldn’t stop apologizing.”
So should you ever find yourself in the position of wondering if your trainer is actually trying to kill you, keep in mind that the trainers very often put their own lives on the line to help people attain the fitness level of their dreams.