Tell us how you got your start in the fitness industry.
I was always into fitness as long as I can remember, participating in dance, track, and cheerleading during my early years. After graduating high school I took my first Jazzercise class, and I was hooked on group fitness! Shortly after, I attended a fitness conference in Atlanta , and obtained my group aerobics certification through Athletic Fitness Association of America. After becoming certified I began teaching for the YMCA as an aerobics group fitness instructor, and continue to teach for YMCA to this day. Over the years I have obtained other certifications including personal training and Zumba, among others.
How did your position as Fitness Specialist Coordinator at TTC originate?
It was a bit of an unusual journey. I worked as an aerobics instructor while pursuing my degree in dental hygiene at TTC. After graduating from the dental hygiene program, I completed my undergraduate degree from the Medical University of South Carolina. While completing my degree I began teaching as adjunct faculty in the TTC Dental Clinic. I decided to pursue my graduate degree in public health. As part of my capstone course I was required to complete a 240-hour internship. My background in fitness allowed me the opportunity to complete my internship hours building what we now call the InterTech Group Wellness Center, and Fitness Specialist program. This year marks the fifth year of the Fitness Specialist program.
There are many fitness courses available to interested enthusiast with online leading the way. What do you see as the main benefits of completing the Fitness Specialist Certification course at TTC?
In my opinion, the hands-on experience that complements the didactic learning and the 126-hour internship experience is what makes the Fitness Specialist program standout. In addition, we have partnered with the American Council on Exercise, which allows our students to take the certified personal trainer exam for half the price. We also offer a group aerobics certification near the conclusion of the aerobics instructor training course during the fall semester. We host this certification on campus through Interactive Fitness Trainers of America for a discounted student rate. The student’s ability to walk into their internship with the two certifications and the fitness specialist courses, make our students more appealing and employable when compared to someone who may have completed an online certification.
Can you tell us about positions in the fitness industry some of your graduates have been able to secure?
We are very proud of our graduates. Many of our graduates are offered jobs during their internship prior to graduation. Some of these sites include MUSC, Bishop Gadsden, Chucktown Fitness, O2 Fitness, the YMCA and even TTC. We have had graduates come back to teach exercise classes and currently we have one of our Fitness Specialist graduates serving as a personal trainer in the Intertech Group Wellness Center. In addition to job placements, we have had several of our graduates pursue advanced degrees in exercise science, physical therapy and athletic training.
How important do you see being a graduate of your program will be in the future of the ever-changing fitness industry?
I believe being a graduate of the program will be significantly important. Tt will continue to be important to understand not only the how, but the why. What I mean by that is understanding the science behind the exercise and the rationale for doing a specific exercise. The very first semester in the Fitness Specialist program we cover the FMS (functional movement screening). The students gain an understanding of how the body compensates to achieve a desired movement. These compensations, if not corrected, can result in injury and delayed ability to achieve one’s desired fitness goals. This is one of the aspects that we focus on with the ACE curriculum that is dovetailed throughout the program, which focuses on each person’s individual fitness level and goals. Once this information is gathered, we can develop a safe and effective program that meets each person at their current fitness level.
When will new sessions begin at TTC and what are the sign-up deadlines?
The next session will begin May 29, 2018. The program has a suggested sequence of courses with students beginning in the summer and graduating the following spring. Should you miss the beginning of the semester, there are a few courses that may be taken out of sequence. We also now offer a Fitness Specialist associate degree. This program allows the student an opportunity to obtain an associate’s degree by completing two additional semesters.
What are some of the ways your Fitness Specialist program has collaborated within your own college and with other colleges and universities in the area?
We have a unique opportunity here at TTC to advocate for an interdisciplinary approach to total health among health sciences professionals. The fitness specialist students are required to complete several projects throughout the year. The fitness students created a workout plan for the dental hygiene students and the hygiene students provided dental health education to the fitness students. The culinary students, as part of their sports nutrition course, had to create a meal plan for an aerobics or anaerobic athlete, and the fitness students as part of their exercise physiology course had to create an exercise program for the culinary students. In both situations all of the students involved came away with a greater appreciation of the other’s discipline and discovered the unique opportunities that exist for collaboration between disciplines.
We have also had the pleasure to work with area colleges and universities. Several of our students have decided to pursue advanced degrees at the College of Charleston, Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina and The Citadel. The Fitness Specialist program at TTC provides a stepping stone to continue an education in the field of athletic training, exercise science, massage therapy and physical therapy among others.
Two of our Fitness Specialist graduates were able to step into positions as fitness leaders at the College of Charleston earning money teaching fitness classes while they completed their degree.
In closing, how do you envision the Fitness Specialist growing in the future?
We rely heavily on the SFT Advisory Committee and internship sites to provide insight as to the current needs of the fitness industry. This information enables us to grow and adapt to the ever-changing fitness industry. With a diverse population, aging and otherwise, I see competent titness specialists to continue to be in high demand. Just this past week I received calls from three separate fitness facilities that were interested in hiring certified trainers from our program. Knowledgeable certified titness specialists have and will continue to have job security.
If you have any questions or are interested in the Fitness Specialist program at TTC, email Suzie.Presley@tridenttech.edu