Your training can help take your clients to some amazing places. Meet trainers who work with oil-rig workers, elite combat units, and astronauts, and get their advice on building your career beyond the typical gym environment.
In middle school, Greg Schneider, NASM-CPT, CES, MMACS, wrote a paper on covert warfare as a means to stop terrorism. He went on to live in that world, as a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, an intelligence specialist, and an executive protection agent and team leader in Israel and his native United States.
“I needed to get my boots on the ground,” Schneider says. He spent eight years in Israel, including two stints on active duty and several years as a reserve, and he often participated in antiterrorism and executive protection missions. “Early on, my commander informally put me in charge of leading the unit’s fitness routines. We would do workouts in the morning before we went out, including intense unit military exercises, drills, and operations.”
Between deployments and engagements, Schneider became a personal trainer, starting with high school students looking to qualify for elite military units.
When he returned to the U.S. in 2003, he encountered a post–9/11 world with growing security budgets, and he started working as a security consultant and as a “tactical” personal trainer for first responders. Today, he straddles two careers in the San Francisco Bay Area: running his own security consulting firm, Schneider Protection Strategies, and training clients under the banner of Battle Tested Fitness, which focuses on clients preparing for or working in military, first responder, and security roles.
“It’s a great group to work with,” Schneider says. “They are elite, and every one of them has unique needs, depending on where they are physically and what they do.”
His past clients include individuals who are now in various special ops forces—Marines, Navy SEALs, and members of Army Special Forces, as well as comparable units in Israel, Denmark, and other countries. He’s helped prepare county sheriffs, officers on SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams, firefighters, and private security agents. He’s also worked with commanding officers and leaders in those fields to establish tactical fitness programs for their employees.
Working face-to-face or virtually—he’s devoting more and more time to program design and building his Web presence—Schneider assesses clients’ strengths and weaknesses, then helps them plan a route to tactical fitness, so they can do their jobs well, avoid injury, and live healthier lives.
The population requires a balance between “gym strength” and “job strength,” he says, including the flexibility—musculoskeletal and otherwise—to meet other challenges. Elite soldiers may spend hours on their feet in stressful situations or be required to run long distances in boots and gear; police, firefighters, and security professionals need to be able to go from “zero to hero,” springing into action after hours of inactivity.
“Our workouts are very high intensity, and we’re moving hard and moving fast,” Schneider says. “But at the same time, we don’t want everyone laying on the ground, exhausted, at the end. It’s about helping them improve their recovery times and making sure we don’t send them out the next morning with sore legs.”
Injury prevention is a huge part of Schneider’s work, as is customizing his coaching—from workouts to training solutions and nutritional strategies.
Five firefighters in a group class may have the same role, but one may have some lower back pain and another may have trapezoids that are often tight. Others may have cardiovascular work to do to prepare for difficult screening tests.
“I’ve been in their position,” Schneider says. “My background helps me know what they need and how to communicate it effectively.”
HIS ADVICE: “What is your passion, beyond fitness? That’s the question. Look to your environment, what you know, and what you see around you. Maybe it’s tactical fitness. Combine what you love with what you do, and you’ll be successful.”
Miles Out at Sea
The first time he visited an oil rig in the middle of the North Atlantic, Mike O’Neil, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, FNS, SNS, MMACS, saw what could become of the personal training business he and partner Mike Wahl started two years earlier in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
“It was a three-hour helicopter ride,” O’Neil says. “And as we touched down, I didn’t just see an oil rig. I saw the whole oil industry and the needs these companies have in terms of keeping their people healthy, safe, and fit. We saw the opportunity.”
That was 2005. Today, O’Neil and Wahl’s Definitions Fitness Company and Definitions Wellness Safety Services provide fitness training, injury prevention, and workplace safety services to more than 5,000 customers, including many of the world’s largest oil companies. They have 35-plus employees, with offices in St. John’s; Houston; and Aberdeen, Scotland.
The first oil-rig client, GlobalSantaFe, asked the Mikes to audit a rig and develop a plan to reduce illness and injury among the population, an aging mix of sedentary desk dwellers and manual laborers susceptible to overuse issues, working 12-hour shifts for weeks at a time.
“We helped them improve, and it just took off from there,” O’Neil says. “We saw a market with unmet needs, and there was no benchmark. We created it ourselves.”
In the beginning, O’Neil spent a lot of time out on the rigs. The work he and Wahl did cut down injuries and costly disability claims, reduced clients’ waistlines, and turned a high-risk workforce into a low-risk one. The pair attended industry conferences, showed off their numbers, and started adding clients, including many of the largest companies in the oil business.
Over time, they built a series of proprietary systems and worked with a software firm to develop an iPad program so that Definitions “coaches” can audit facilities and employees through surveys, then create custom ergonomic plans to help oil-rig and other industrial firms teach their employees to prevent injuries, raise health awareness, improve diets, learn more about their bodies, and achieve wellness goals.
It was costly, but it’s scalable, efficient, and effective, O’Neil says. It ensures a high level of service across multiple facilities in multiple locations. And that, combined with the size of the industry and Definitions’ reputation as a leader, will keep the growth coming.
“We still think we’re only about 10% as big as we’re going to become,” O’Neil says.
HIS ADVICE: “Look beyond the traditional gym environment. Find an underserved population, such as 35-and-over folks, where you could improve range of motion, decrease injuries, and reduce pain. Find that niche, become an expert, and you’ll find that knowledge is power. Give someone a pain-free life, and you’ll have a client forever.”
The Final Frontier
When the final space shuttle flight landed in July 2011, Jamie Guined, NASM-PES, CSCS, FMS, was among the first to greet the astronauts. An exercise scientist with the University of Houston assigned to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, she traveled to Florida to assess the impact of the astronauts’ time in space on their bodies.
This opportunity was a thrill for Guined, who grew up riding a “moon buggy,” a four-wheel ATV, around southern Georgia, wearing a “space” helmet and “breathing apparatus” backpack.
“It was awesome,” she says, “Space is my passion. I’ve had a chance to hang out with astronauts, to help them. I’ve flown in parabolic, zero-gravity aircraft. It’s all a dream come true to work at NASA.”
Guined’s work supports research on the physiological effects of space travel and the creation of countermeasures and training programs to keep space travelers healthy. She helps astronauts prepare for flights, stay fit during long stretches at the International Space Station, and recover upon their return to earth.
Guined, who has several master’s degrees and is aiming for a PhD, has worked as a personal trainer since high school and loves exercise and helping others stay fit. She found a way to combine that with her passion for space, and now she’s developing programs for the next frontier: commercial space missions.
In 2012, Guined started LAUNCH Fitness & Human Performance, offering fitness coaching and consultations for prospective space travelers (and other clients). This year, she’s introducing a Spaceflight Fitness Specialist program to help other trainers prepare for the coming market.
Like astronauts, commercial space travelers face the g-forces of launch and reentry, as well as the impact of the zero-gravity environment of space on the body. Guined’s method is a general physical preparedness program that combines core strengthening with targeted weight training and breathing exercises to build and maintain the strength needed to perform during a spaceflight.
“You generally need to be pretty fit to have a successful mission,” she says. “There is a huge gap between the fitness industry and aerospace medicine. NASA spends a lot of time and money training astronauts, from mission prep to post-flight rehabilitation and reconditioning, and the commercial space industry doesn’t have that.
“I want to provide it,” she adds. “And I want to enable others to do it too. Commercial spaceflight is coming, and we’re going to be ready.”
Guined also wants to go into space. Last year, she was chosen as one of six candidates to train to become a commercial scientist astronaut, through the nonprofit Astronauts4Hire. She started training in early 2014 and hopes to fly as a research specialist on a commercial space flight.
“I can’t wait,” she says. “That little girl in me still wants to go up.”
HER ADVICE: “You have to follow your passion. If you’re into something and there’s a training angle to it, even if it doesn’t currently exist, that doesn’t mean it can’t. Do it!”
Boost Your Skills: The Benefits of CES Go Far
Jamie Guined, NASM-PES and CES candidate, works with astronauts and future commercial space travelers. Greg Schneider, NASM-CPT, CES, MMACS, has clients all over the world, working as emergency personnel. And Mike O’Neil, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, FNS, SNS, MMACS, has built a global business serving the people who work on oil rigs and other remote locations.
When it comes to NASM education, they have one thing in common: a belief that the Corrective Exercise Specialization (CES) is a very valuable part of their toolbox and their success. Here’s what they had to say.
• Guined’s day job includes working with volunteers who use long periods of bed rest to simulate life in zero-gravity conditions. She also helps develop fitness training programs for astronauts: “In both cases, we did a lot of movement screening and identified deficiencies, but it didn’t do a good job of correcting the issues. I used the CES knowledge base to create mobility exercises to address a wide array of problems. It’s been a big help for us.”
• “What we do in tactical fitness fits right in with CES, and the OPT™ model is hugely important,” Schneider says. “We work to establish that base level of stability and muscular endurance, then progress to strength and tolerance to prepare for extreme situations and to fit each individual’s needs. I love it.”
• O’Neil has a master’s in health education and is a PhD candidate, but he says that NASM credentials have helped him build a base of real-world, practical knowledge that reaches beyond his academic and scientific training. O’Neil believes certifications make you better and more valuable, and he requires each coach he hires to obtain the CES specialization within six months of servicing industrial clients. “The CES program has been huge for me,” he says. “It helps you put a body back together before you train it, and that’s so perfect for this population.”
To learn about CES, visit nasm.org/ces or call 800-460-6276
By Michael Woelflein /NASM The Training Edge, M/J14