When I began personal training, like most trainers, I thought about what my niche should be. I had just retired as a professional football player and I was burnt out from training at such an intense level. I wasn’t sure where I would end up, but I knew that I didn’t want to train athletes or work at a high intensity.

With a university degree in health promotion, I decided to focus on corporate fitness, wellness and rehabilitation. After weeks of researching, phone calling, letter writing (this was before email) and knocking on doors, I was able to find positions with two organizations. One specialized in corporate fitness services and the other, a clinic for performing artists, was called The Centre for Human Performance and Health Promotion. I was thrilled that I would actually be working in the field for which I had studied for four years (sadly, this is rare these days). It goes without saying that neither of these positions involved working with athletes or at a high performance level.

I had found my niche! The clients and patients that I worked with were struggling with things like repetitive strain injuries, back pain, arthritis and fibromyalgia, among other “conditions.” The focus of their programming was about improving “daily living” and getting back to work. For the performing artists, it was about performing better, without pain.

I earned my certificate as a Medical Exercise Specialist, and things were great! I learned how to work around injuries in a way that would not cause further pain. Meeting with doctors and insurance companies became a big part of my job, and my skills in planning, designing and reporting improved dramatically. I even created and taught a government-funded program called “Meeting the Physical Demands of Work.” Not bad for an ex-jock.

What happened next surprised me. I was working with a drummer that was suffering from repetitive injuries. He was extremely motivated to get better and was driven to succeed. He trained as hard as any athlete I had worked with and was all about intensity and performance. Having been away from this type of work for a few years, I found his approach and attitude to be like a breath of fresh air. What a rush!

Like a light bulb going off, the thought occurred to me that in creating my niche, I had put up barriers between the different kinds of people I could work with. Rather than walls, I should have been building bridges. I started to apply some of the things I had learned as an athlete, and people responded in a great way. I then started to attract a more motivated, goal-oriented clientele of all kinds. I met an Olympian that had suffered a traumatic car accident who wanted to compete again. I worked with a 60-year-old executive with plantar fasciitis that wanted to run 10k races. Finally, I was asked to work with the pro football team that I had once played for. It was as if I had come full circle.

I was back where I began, but I was also a new person armed with knowledge and experience to find the common links between the most disparate groups.

Find your niche, but, don’t let it close you off to other possibilities or opportunities. Use it as a way to find the commonality between all groups of people, no matter how different. After all, people are just people.

Ernie Schramayr is an ACE-Certified Personal Trainer and the owner of All Canadian Fitness, a private training studio in Hamilton, Ontario (www.allcanadianfitness.com).


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