It is one thing to decide to join a gym and to start working out and quite another to change one's entire career focus based on an interest in the fitness industry.
David Menhennett, fitness training manager, the Pure Group, made this switch after 17 years in the hospitality industry in Australia.
"I have worked in almost every sector of hospitality," says Mr Menhennett. "Then my brother encouraged me to explore the fitness industry and I enrolled in a basic personal trainer (PT) programme."
The first stint Mr Menhennett took up in his new career was as a freelance personal trainer and group exercise instructor for kickboxing and Tae Bo, a fitness routine combining various martial art and boxing techniques. He also worked at the reception desk of a fitness facility.
He then worked as a personal trainer at a five-star resort in Phuket for a season. At the end of the contract, he moved to Hong Kong and joined the Pure Group. After a year as a personal trainer, he was promoted to fitness supervisor, followed by training manager a year later.
Body and soul
A training manager is expected to possess substantial fitness knowledge and the ability to deal with many other issues and administrative tasks. "I'm responsible for teaching four classes a week as well as providing training to all 60 of our personal trainers across three centres," he says.
His workday usually begins at 7:15am with a cycling class. He then returns to the company's head office to handle paperwork, answer emails and perhaps attend a meeting or two.
Since he still offers personal training services to a number of clients, he often has training sessions around 11am. Most of the training with the company's personal trainers and sales teams takes place after 2pm, as this is their quietest time of the day. He returns to his computer at 5pm to finish any pressing work.
"The best part of my job is to help our trainers and gym customers to discover the true benefits of health and fitness. Keeping more than 60 trainers in top shape is both rewarding and challenging," he notes.
"We're going back to the basics as we learn more about our bodies"
Gym membership is now the biggest organised fitness activity worldwide, attracting people from all backgrounds and age groups. Trends in Asia tend to follow those in the West.
"I see fitness facilities coming full circle, as we realise that the human body is best exercised in the ways that our grandfathers and great-grandfathers used to do them. This translates into fewer weight machines in our fitness facilities, more free weights and the space to use them. We're going back to the basics as we learn more about our bodies," Mr Menhennett remarks.
Fitness facilities must be equipped not only with the right tools but also qualified personnel to dispense advice, especially in terms of quality personal training.
As such, personal trainers must have an internationally recognised PT qualification, Mr Menhennett notes. They must constantly update their knowledge and skills, as basic PT qualifications expire after two years.
While it helps to have a sport or gym background, trainers should be excellent communicators and motivators who are genuinely interested in personal wellness.
The industry is a viable option for university graduates, particularly for those who have studied sports science or human movement-based courses, Mr Menhennett says, adding that an internship or work experience with a fitness facility is also an excellent starting point. "This way, the individuals can understand the industry and see clearly if it matches their aspirations," he explains.
Fitness professionals need perseverance as well as the necessary expertise, stresses Mr Menhennett. "I would highly recommend the CPT (certified personal trainer) course offered by the US-based National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) as a starting point for a superior education."
The Pure Group is planning some exciting developments for 2009, so for now Mr Menhennett is staying put. "My biggest dream has always been to open my own PT studio and to start a franchise," he concedes.