Read on to learn how these two local instructors got started in the fitness community and what inspired them go full-time.
Justine’s life now is not exactly what she had planned when she graduated, but she feels she is doing exactly what she was meant to do. She was a cheerleader throughout college, and continued to stay involved with athletes throughout school and after graduation. She studied physical therapy, but found herself wanting to be on the other side of that industry.
“I wanted to be a part of the injury prevention rather than rehabilitation,” said Justine. So, she began working as a strength and conditioning coach at a local high school, training and developing athletes to their peak performing shape.
That role taught her something surprising about what she really wanted to be doing. “I realized that I wanted to train people who actually wanted to work," said Justine. "Not that athletes don’t want to work hard, because most of them do. I just found a connection with non-athletes who have a genuine passion and motivation to exercise.”
“I kept looking at all of the instructors and personal trainers thinking, ‘I just want to get to that side of the business,’” said Justine. She had began a small in-home personal training business on the side to feel like she was teaching classes, but it just wasn’t enough.
“I kept seeing Camp Gladiator everywhere on social media for months, and then I found a job posting for a Camp Gladiator Trainer on Indeed,” said Justine. She went to a workout, and then a month later, she scheduled an information session.
“I sat down with one of the directors and talked her through what I wanted out of my career, and I ended up auditioning the same day," Justine said. "The director said that she knew I got the job after my first five words.”
When Justine taught her first beer fitness bootcamp with Work For Your Beer, "Sip & Sweat," she packed the house.
“It was so much fun,” said Justine. “There’s no comparison for the energy you feel teaching 80 people. This is what really sparked my interest in running full bootcamps.”
In the year since, Justine has become a staple member of the Charlotte fitness community. Justine said that Camp Gladiator provides a sense of independence while still making her feel supported by her colleagues. The structure is entrepreneurial-minded, giving each trainer the opportunity to create a following and build a community within a specific neighborhood in their city.
“It’s really the people and the connection I make with my campers,” said Justine. “I was new to the city, so I was able to meet a lot of great people. It’s those people who kept me coming back.”
Justine said that the success stories that make it all worthwhile. “I truly am able to impact their lives," she said. "I’m here for them. Everyone has a story, and I have the ability to connect with people on a deeper level through this job.”
Tiffany Sneed is a yoga instructor at CorePower Yoga, NCYogaBar, and The Charlotte Athletic Club. And while she may have began her fitness journey a bit differently than Justine, they both started out with the same sense of uncertainty.
Tiffany worked as a bartender for nearly 12 years before her sister dragged her to a yoga class, insisting that she would like it. Tiffany had been a dancer her entire life, so flexibility wasn't going to be a challenge, but her sister realized she needed a creative outlet for her body that resembled dance.
After her first yoga class, Tiffany attended one class a week for about a year. By then, she was hooked. It became a part of her daily routine, and she desperately wanted to learn how to share this incredible feeling with other people.
“If I felt this good just moving my body and breathing, other people can feel this good moving their body and breathing,” said Tiffany.
“We trained for eight months,” said Tiffany. “We met one weekend each month. It was emotionally draining and emotionally amazing. I truly was letting go of everything I didn’t need.”
She spent the months of her training finding her own way, and the day before she received her first yoga certification, she left her bartending job for good.
Tiffany taught yoga with her friends, went to new studios, and tried out new styles of yoga to keep herself engaged, learning, and growing in her own practice.
Throughout the process, she discovered that she loved aerial yoga. You may recognize it from Instagrams posts of people hanging from ceilings on silk ribbons or metal hoops, looking like they’re a part of Cirque du Soleil. Tiffany had a thirst for creativity, and aerial yoga helped her quench that thirst.
After that, she began "intensives" at CorePower Yoga, where she endured multiple weekends of training, memorizing sequences, learning the language, and pushing herself to her physical and mental limits. After finishing her intensives, she still had to audition to teach at least four classes a week to make ends meet. She spent the other days of the week working in a deli nearby.
Tiffany then began teaching with NC Yoga Bar. When she met owner Ali Washburn, Ali loved Tiffany's energy so much that she gave her a class on the spot. Any time there is a permanent class available, Ali reaches out to Tiffany—not only because she teaches great classes, but because she makes it a priority to connect deeply with the people in those classes.
“I need to get to really know my students,” said Tiffany. “I want to ask you how your family is, ask you how your dinner was last night. I need that deep connection with them.”
Tiffany now teaches 13 classes a week, and she treats each class like it’s the only one she has. When asked how much time she spent planning classes, her answer was “probably too much time.” She’s always working and thinking about how she can improve.
“My husband was making fun of me the other day because I was curling my biceps to a song that was playing in Starbucks,” laughed Tiffany. “But, it’s not work when you make it your lifestyle. I have to feel it in my body before I make someone else feel it in theirs.”
“It is a very cool thing to teach someone to teach someone else how to feel amazing,” said Tiffany. “I get to set them up for success in their own careers. To see others grow and teach their own classes just makes my heart soar.”
Justine and Tiffany both exemplify what it means to train others--both mind and body. “It’s not your practice anymore. It’s theirs,” said Tiffany.
Fitness instructors like Justine and Tiffany are there to guide us to becoming the best versions of ourselves—and for that, we are eternally grateful.
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