In October, we were proud to announce the 2019 PFP Trainer of the Year award winner, Andrea Leonard. Selected from among a stellar group of industry colleagues, Andrea leads through her tireless passion and unwavering perseverance. When she humbly describes the adversity she has overcome, it leaves no question why she is so fiercely committed to the mission of her company, Cancer Exercise Training Institute – to train and empower fitness professionals to have real impact and influence in the recovery process for cancer survivors. Andrea has worked tirelessly for more than 20 years focused on this mission and is now one of the most respected professionals in cancer prevention and recovery through exercise.
As is fitting with our 20-year anniversary issue, Andrea shares her journey to success and how it has evolved over her last 20 years of service.
Lindsay Vastola: If you were starting your fitness career today, would you approach your career differently than you did 20 years ago?
Andrea Leonard: I believe that I would have done everything the way I have. I followed my heart and my passion, and I truly think that that is what makes someone successful. If you are only in it for the money, people see right through you. If you truly desire to help people, and make a difference in their lives, the money will follow. Call it karma. The only thing that I would have done differently, if I hadn’t been a single mom, is spend more on my education. I would have like to have been called Dr. Leonard!
LV: How would you describe the role of education for today’s fitness professional versus 20 years ago?
AL: There is so much more competition now than there ever was before. Most reputable establishments require a degree and/or nationally accredited certification. Back in the ’80s, if you worked out yourself, people wanted to hire you based on the way you looked. Now they want a pedigree. Not only are people navigating the internet to determine what to look for in a trainer, there is more information than ever on medical fitness and the role it plays in disease prevention, management, and recovery. The baby boomers, who just happen to make up the majority of the US population, are the ones that are eagerly looking for qualified trainers (and they are the ones with the money to pay for the services)!
LV: What do you see as the greatest opportunity for fitness professionals today?
AL: Without sounding like a broken record, medical fitness. With our aging population, rising cost of insurance premiums, and rising number of disease diagnoses, there is a critical need for well-trained and educated fitness professionals. At the Cancer Exercise Training Institute, it is our belief that handing graduates a certificate is not enough. We provide them with free, ongoing training and education that includes business-building and marketing. We want them to get the greatest return on their investment. This is rare in such a competitive industry. By doing so, we have a group of loyal and dedicated Cancer Exercise Specialists who strive to further their education and master the subject matter.
LV: What do you believe are the typical blind spots that hinder fitness professionals? How do you suggest they get past them?
AL: I think that people are lured into the industry thinking that they are going to be surrounded by beautiful people, become a trainer to the stars, and make tons of money. Wrong! That would be like heading off to Hollywood to become an actor/actress – good luck, maybe you will win the lottery, too. You must pick an area to specialize in, get as much training as possible, take courses on business-building, and provide exceptional service and results. It is your clients’ referrals that may have the biggest impact on your success. They will sing your praises to their friends, colleagues, and better yet, their medical professionals. Be patient, do great work, and always say thank you for the referral.
LV: At what point did you realize that you wanted to shift your focus to creating education programs?
AL: When I realized that there were millions of cancer patients worldwide that needed my assistance, and I was limited by both time and geography. The next logical step was to create an “army” of Cancer Exercise Specialists that could share my knowledge on the subject matter and change lives in every corner of the world. It was also the next step in the evolution of my career.
LV: If there is one thing you believe could improve the fitness industry and/or the careers of fitness professionals and outcomes for clients – what would that be?
AL: I think that there is too much of a monopoly currently. There are some amazing educators that are pushed to the back because they don’t have the fat wallets that large corporations do. Because they can’t afford high-priced accreditation, many of the programs/training are not accepted by large facilities. I am not suggesting that there should not be a certain standard and expectation of quality coursework, but making accreditation affordable to all would even out the playing field and allow for a more robust selection of education choices.
LV: What are your predictions for the next 20 years of fitness?
AL: That’s a tough question. I think that medical fitness will become a college degree and that it will be required for anyone wanting to work with special populations. I think that training protocol will change to include more mind-body and alternative training practices to preserve function and prevent injury.
Congratulations Andrea, for earning the title of 2019 PFP Trainer of the Year and for your continued success!