Why I Became a Personal Trainer (Sam)

Samantha Pollack, Holistic Health Coach & owner of InsiderWellness.comSome people know what they want to do at age 18.

I was not one of those people.

When I was 18, my number one interest was Getting As Far Away from My Parents as Possible. But you can’t major in that, so I ended up at Boston University with a major in Art History – Greek pottery, ancient cave paintings, Van Gogh. I’m a delightful museum companion.

To pay my way (and because I didn’t know what I wanted to do) I worked in the service industry. I’ve done it all – Starbucks barista, all-you-can-eat fajitas, cocktail waitress, bartender, and semi-fine-dining. I stayed in the industry for over ten years.

Fitness was always a part of my life. I played high school sports, and ran trails in the woods near my house. In college I hit the gym regularly. During my restaurant years, I enjoyed luxuriously long workouts before my 4pm dinner shifts.

As the service industry started to wear and tear on my body, I looked for exercises that could help. How could I strengthen my wrists and forearms so I wouldn’t get tendonitis or carpal tunnel like my coworkers? And did all that running around and heavy lifting actually count toward my overall fitness?

I couldn’t really find any answers, and this frustrated me.

Around this time, I started freaking out about what I was doing with my life. I didn’t want to wait tables forever, but I didn’t really know what else to do. I flirted with becoming a personal trainer for months. I knew if I studied, I could figure out ways to support the demands of my restaurant job (and help my friends do the same).

(This is the catch-22 of the restaurant business: All the “real jobs” have 9-5 schedules and pay a lot less. It’s a tough pay cut to swallow. After ten years, you start to doubt your ability to do anything else – you feel stuck. Breaking out of the business was the scariest, most awesome thing I ever did. But it took a looong time.)

In the midst of all this, I hopped on the yoga explosion of the mid-2000’s, and forgive the cliché, but it changed my life. I had such a positive, transformational experience, I wanted to share it with others.

So all this was brewing for about a year. Wanna know what pushed me to take the leap?

I’m not ashamed to tell you. It was an ex-boyfriend.

It was THE ex-boyfriend. You know, the one who shatters your heart, steals your ability to trust ever again, but still somehow manages to lure you back EVERY TIME? Yeah, that guy. He’d moved to San Francisco (not far enough), but in November 2004, I found out he was coming back for a visit.

The idea that two years after our breakup, I’d still be doing the exact same thing I was doing when he left? Unacceptable. The day I found out he was coming to town, I signed up for an online personal training course.

That turned out to be a pretty crappy course, but it got me a certificate. I got hired at Boston Sports Club (BSC) in Spring 2005. At that time, BSC paid for their trainers to get certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Score!

That first job was like most first jobs. It got my feet wet, gave me a resumé builder, and illustrated all the things I didn’t want. It was too “corporate,” all sales and numbers. (Also, it was kinda dirty.) 

Eventually I ended up at the Shangri-La of fitness centers: Healthworks Fitness Centers for Women, in the Back Bay area of Boston. Healthworks hires experienced, high-level trainers, and is always on the up-and-up with the latest fitness trends. In this environment, I was held to a pretty high standard, pushed to consistently improve. But I was also encouraged to learn and explore, and to nurture my unique perspective and style.

I got to work with some of the best people in the field. I developed a specialty improving posture and core strength (especially in women). And I met the people who would eventually refer me to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where I studied to become a Health Coach.

This coming Spring will mark my tenth year of working in the fitness industry. When I was approached to join the crew at Asheville Family Fitness, it was a perfect fit – their holistic way of looking at fitness, plus the influence of physical therapy, was right up my alley.

You can find me at AFF on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and the rest of the time, I’ll be in cyberspace, over at InsiderWellness.com – my brand new website that provides healthy, easy meal planning for families of one and two.

See you in the gym!



Written by Damon

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