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Ten Things I Learned Throughout The Internship Experience

By Justin Russ, CPT

This past May, I packed my belongings into the trunk of my compact car and set out on a cross-country road trip to San Diego to complete a 3 month long internship at Fitness Quest 10. I had been looking forward to this for over a year—leaving Buffalo to learn from one of the fitness industry greats, at one of the nation’s top 10 gyms, for the entire summer. It was a dream come true.

Now that the internship has drawn to its end, I can reflect on the experience of working full-time at Fitness Quest 10, alongside world-class athletes and coaches. Here are ten things that I’ve learned throughout the course of this experience. Enjoy.

10. Athletes are Humans Too

Once you get over the initial feeling of being star-struck in the presence of a professional athlete, you come to realize that they’re pretty normal (and pretty cool) guys. They talk about the same stuff as my friends and I back home. Their work habits are the same as any other group of athletes you’d find at any level. Most guys come in, work hard, and do extra, while others skip out on reps or sets. The only differences between them and the rest of us are their size, natural athletic ability, and maybe the amount of zeros at the end of their paycheck.

On one particular occasion, one of the athletes texted me and told me to meet him in the downstairs facility. I walked over, and couldn’t find him in the weight room, but rather in a stall in the men’s bathroom. It just goes to show you that we all “do #2” the same way, athlete or Average Joe.

9. Preparation


“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

The “P” in the IMPACT acronym stands for preparation. I learned the importance of preparation early on in the experience, when I signed up to teach the first “Internal Quest” Sunday class with one of my fellow interns. The theme of the class was “HardCORE,” and the class went great: high energy, a large group of people, and lots of smiles all around. However, after the class, Todd pulled my partner and I aside and made us realize just how unprepared we actually were. We planned for too few class participants, did not have clearly established coaching roles, and even forgot to have those who were new to the facility sign a waiver! Todd’s coaching that day opened my eyes to the importance of careful preparation and the attention to every last detail, and it’s a lesson that I won’t soon forget.

8. Broad Jump & Grip Strength

It was a typical Thursday afternoon. I was observing a session in which a father & son were exercising together, when out of nowhere the trainer asked them quizzically, “Hey guys, can you name two predictors of driving distance in golf?” The two clients simply stood there for a moment with puzzled looks on their faces. “The answers,” the trainer continued,  “are broad jump ability and grip strength!” Thank you, Ryan Rogers, for this wonderfully obscure bit of information that I will never soon forget.

7. The YouTube Video Creation Process

Before I left for the internship, my clients back home were wondering what to do for workouts in my absence. I have a great group of clients and couldn’t just leave them in the dust. I came up with a fantastic idea: the Workout of the Week Series. Simply put, my clients receive a new workout at the beginning of each week with a corresponding video so that they can perform the exercises correctly.

Since then, I’ve learned a ton about marketing and the video creation/editing process. I recently learned how to edit videos on my own, but they come out much better when Carlee & Ashley do them for me (wink). Thank you guys again.

6. Boot Camp Football & The Rebounder Game

Oh, the joy of competition. The value of competition during exercise cannot be stressed enough. It takes the mind off of exercise, builds camaraderie, and is simply fun all around. I’ve grown to enjoy two of the center’s most popular pastimes: Boot Camp Football, and the Rebounder Game.

Boot Camp Football: Basically ultimate Frisbee with a tennis ball. If you run with the ball and are tagged, it results in a turnover, and a female must touch the ball before the team can score (cough, Jeff King). These games get extremely competitive, but nonetheless, Boot Camp football is a blast, and something I look forward to on Saturday mornings.

The Rebounder Game: Two people throw a reaction ball against an angled trampoline. You must catch the ball with one hand and throw it with the same hand. Points are earned when the other person drops the ball.  It’s a great way to end a session, or even warm up before a workout. All right Jeff, I’ll give you this one, you’ve got some skills at Rebounder.

5. How to Cook

Living an active lifestyle that includes habitual exercise, combined with a grueling work schedule of always being on-your-feet, can really teach someone a lot about proper nutrition.  Throughout the course of this experience, I’ve probably scarfed down more lean fish and whole grains (stuff that Brett Klika would approve of) than at any other point in my life. And it’s paid off! I’ve had more energy, my workouts have been great, and I have generally felt better than ever.

Ladies, I also make a fantastic blackened mahi-mahi with grilled vegetables. If you’re interested, let me know.

4. The Upstairs Fitness Center

Why I never discovered the beauty of the upstairs fitness center sooner baffles me on a daily basis. It’s quiet, and the dumbbells only go up to 50 pounds, which make upstairs a less appealing workout area. But the office across the hall from Kyle’s has become one of my favorite places in the facility. Why? Because it’s the polar opposite of the constant energy that is found downstairs. I bring my laptop, sit down, take off my shoes, and I’m constantly productive: videos are made, articles are written, and I gain some valuable “me” time.

3. The Importance of a Thank You

“I appreciate you.” In my opinion, this is the most under-used phrase in the English language. Throughout the course of my time spent at Fitness Quest 10, I’ve learned the power of a simple “thank you,” and just how empowering these words can be. Todd and the rest of the staff make it a priority to say thank you, regardless of how small the favor. Whether I’m folding towels, cleaning up around the center, or helping with a pro athlete’s session, a simple “thank you, Justin,” always follows, and it’s genuine. Try it. Make it a priority to show appreciation to those in your life and see how it affects them in a positive manner.

2. Balance

I was riding with Todd on the way back from fieldwork one afternoon when I asked him how I was doing thus far in the internship. He responded that I was doing well, and then went on to explain that in order to become a great fitness professional, one must first find balance in their own life. This will then enable them to connect with clients and regular people alike on a higher level.

Todd stresses the importance of overall balance in life, between the physical, mental, and spiritual, as well as relationships between family, friends, and work. The concept is reinforced when you see him practicing what he preaches. The lesson of balance is a valuable one to me, and one I’m constantly trying to work on.

1. Self-Growth

Throughout this experience, I’ve not only learned a ton of information about exercise, business, and coaching, but I’ve also learned a lot about myself as a person. Before I took my cross-country road trip in late May, life was as perfect as it’s ever been. I excelled in school, my relationships with others thrived, I was generating good income, and I was spending time with my family.

I left all of that in Buffalo to pursue what I knew was my purpose, my calling in life. I’ve known for a long time that fitness was my future, but after spending time at Fitness Quest 10, I realized that there was more to my goal than simply being a trainer and strength coach. I was made to inspire others in a positive way.

— Intern Justin, Fitness Quest 10

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