How I Became a Personal Trainer
Growing up I was always into sports, athletics and being physically active. You would regularly see me with a ball in my hands, between my feet or in my bed. I would be with a ball at all times. I was inseparable from sports, and in a broader sense, movement. My dream was to one day play in the NBA, a professional basketball league. I slept, ate and did everything basketball. Even though I kept getting injured I pushed forward in hopes of making it my career. Until one fall day, I sustained an injury that changed my path forever.
I severely sprained and partly tore multiple ligaments in my right ankle when someone from behind pushed me while trying to grab a rebound in warm-up before a big club game (I keep no ill harm to the player who pushed me) – Shout out to everyone on the team at High Park Warriors. We had a great run- Back to the story. That injury put me out for a long time. I had to learn how to walk once again after being put in a cast. My journey to recovery was slow and painful. But I was determined to once again play basketball at a high level (which at the time was a biased opinion; I wasn’t that good and I realistically didn’t have a chance to go pro).
Along the process of recovering, I started getting interested in how the body heals itself and the process it has to go through. I enjoyed taking care of my ankle and took a highly invested interest in making it better, better than it was before. This all was taking place while I was in Grade 11 (around the age of 15/16). I began thinking about my future not only personally but professionally. I knew I needed a career and basketball wasn’t really going to be an option anymore. I thought to myself what could I do. I still loved sports and I’m getting interested in injuries. I starting talking to people and doing research and found out that there might be a career out there for me. Athletic Therapy was possibly that career. I was super excited and committed to give it a try. I looked at my options at which universities or colleges could get me that career. Those options were University of Toronto, York University, Western University and Sheridan College. The latter had just developed a new program called Athletic Therapy, however, since it was fairly new at the time I didn’t feel drawn to it. At the time, colleges weren’t at the same standard compared to universities which I believed could provide a better, well rounded education and potentially connect me with more people. I ended up choosing to pursue a Bachelors in Physical Health and Education (BPHE) at the University of Toronto (UofT).
Change in Career Plans
All was going well until I had a career placement in my 3rd and 4th year as an athletic therapist (AT) on varsity sports teams. I was experiencing first hand what my potential career would feel and look like. I also connected and spoke with many full time AT’s. In doing so I realized that maybe this wasn’t the career I wanted. At the time, it was still a fairly new profession and sports in Canada wasn’t fully supported financially. If I really wanted an opportunity to have success, I would need to go to the states or overseas which I wasn’t really inclined to do, at that time. In addition, the job required a lot of traveling and time commitment (in person) which I felt wasn’t going to be possible if I one day wanted to start a family. Could you imagine, almost spending 4 years and then realizing that you want to change career paths. That was me.
Interest in Helping Others
However, I was fortunate enough to stay active, especially in the weight room and gym setting. I was always working out myself and with friends. I began getting interested in helping others work out and motivating them to get and stay active. At the time, I was also working as a staff supervisor at the main gym at UofT. I was always helping people with their exercises, providing insights, and answering questions whenever called upon. I really enjoyed the feeling and I thought I could provide insight since I was currently going through my own personal fitness journey.
Finding the Right Job Fit
When I graduated with a Bachelors in Physical Health and Education I was juggling 4 jobs. I worked as a staff supervisor at the UofT gym, a strength and conditioning coach for the UofTs varsity women’s field hockey team (see picture above) and an instructor for one of the practicum courses within the BPHE program. With all of that, I still wanted to get into personal training (PT) but at that time UofT didn’t have anything to offer. I needed to look elsewhere and that is where I applied and got hired at Goodlife.
The culture at Goodlife was very interesting. I knew it wasn’t going to be long term but I was invested in learning everything I could. I ended up working there for 8 month. I couldn’t sustain my position for long since they required us to work 30+ hours per week and the pay wasn’t great. Reflecting back at it now though, I truly felt it was a great experience, one where I learned a lot not only about personal training but all the behind the scenes work such as sales, marketing and client retention.
I had some clients that wanted to stay with me so I took my services elsewhere and reconnected with a former teacher and colleague of mine who owned a small studio where he and others trained their clients. With my knowledge and experience, I was able to take on fewer clients and charge my own hourly rate. It was a win-win situation. There was no more middle man taking more than half my pay rate. I was better able to focus my efforts on my clients as well as my other 3 jobs. However, I still was not satisfied as to what my professional career might look like.
I again went back to the drawing board and began researching and talking to as many people as I could. I slowly began eliminating the jobs I had that I felt couldn’t provide and support the lifestyle I wanted. I quit my staff supervisor position since I knew I could make more money per hour working as a personal trainer. I also realized that being a strength and conditioning coach would be a huge commitment with lots of traveling, odd hours of training and a lack of personal flexibility in scheduling. In addition, severely underpaid and under supported in Canada. I even decided to stop teaching since I felt it took a lot of my time and I wasn’t further developing myself as a person.
I ended up with one job. Personal Training. In doing so, I was lazer focused and driven to succeed and make this my career. I began reading literature, experimenting with many different forms of movement, and trying to not only improve my clients health but mine as well. It was another win-win scenario. It was going to be a career in which I believed (and still believe) to be a critical aspect of everyone’s life on a daily basis. People will always need and want to move better, eat good, sleep well, and think positively. These components of our lives are very important for long term health and happiness and I could potentially be at the forefront helping people prevent the onset of illness, pain, depression, and other numerous health related concerns. Even just making others smile and be a little happier was a success.
Initially I was only focused on getting my clients better physically through movement. I solely focused on strength, endurance, hypertrophy (increasing muscle) development. I felt that was a good starting point since that is what I experienced myself.
Most trainers tend to train their clients using their personal experience and knowledge. They don’t really think about the clients needs and wants and just push their philosophies and training methods onto their clients without really explaining the purpose behind it. They just say this is the best way to get the results you want. But what they are really saying is, this is the way I got my results and by doing what I did, you should get the same or similar results. It is that easy. Which in theory isn’t wrong. However, in reality it is not that simple since everyone is unique and needs to be treated and approached differently (I will dwell further into this in a future blog post).
Back to my story. After a couple of years of just training clients, I realized that seeing clients face to face takes up lots of time and can become very inconsistent with clients canceling for whatever reason. You are constantly working week to week and are never sure how many hours you would work per week and per month. One month could be 60 hours and another could be 80 hours. Very inconsistent. Not good if you have to one day pay for a mortgage, support a family while still enjoying day to day aspects of life. Back to drawing board I went once again. Needed to restructure my approach.
I knew I still wanted to train clients and help them with their journeys. That was my passion. However, I needed to figure out a better approach. I needed something that was more consistent but not rigid where I lost all my flexibility. I wanted a balance to support the lifestyle I was living which included traveling every 5-6 months for 3-6 weeks time frames. That is when I return to UofT and applied to teach once again within the Kinesiology faculty. The program I taught before was in the midst of a change and I was willing to support it since I believed in its purpose and approach. In addition, they provided me with a recurring, monthly income which supported a part of the lifestyle I wanted. It was flexible hours where I could still maintain training my clients. I was beginning to find the balance I needed.
Where I am Today
Fast forward to today and I’m currently working 2 part-time jobs. As a lifestyle and movement coach at UofT and my own business, Ivan Miskiv Fitness and as a sessional lecturer for the Kinesiology faculty at UofT. It is not perfect by any means, but it currently supports the lifestyle I’m living and I’m very happy to be able to do the things I want to do while living a very active, positive, and rewarding life helping myself and others.
My Mission as a Coach
My purpose now is to use movement as my vehicle to empower others to live their lives doing what they want to do by educating them on how to move better, eat well, and think differently so they can live a healthier and happier life. I see myself now as a coach in that I want to be their for others initially but ultimately empower them to do the things I mentioned above on their own, building from the inside out and developing a sense of motivation and determination from within. I want my clients to begin to take on more responsibility in the choices they make on a daily basis and believe in themselves a little more. Small changes can make a big difference. Start today!