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#TDT Justin Cascarina…A day in the life of a Fitness Coach

 Favorite Quote: 

“Physical strength is the most important thing in life. This is true
whether we want it to be or not.”- Mark Rippetoe, Starting Strength

1. What is your current job title and how did you decide on this career choice?Justin

Justin Cascarina
Co-owner and Coach
Balance Point Fitness & Athletics

I have been in the fitness/strength and conditioning industry now for
fourteen years. My very first job was as a front desk staff member at the
YMCA, where I, for the first time, had access to strength training
equipment and began to learn about lifting weights. Once I was working in
a fitness facility it didn’t take long for me to realize that I wanted to
be a personal trainer/strength and conditioning coach.

My passion for training primarily came as a result from my desire to take
my athletic abilities to the furthest level possible. As I progressed in
sports it became obvious that to be successful at each level there was
another level of commitment that was required and strength and
conditioning was one of the main inputs that would help me reach my goals.
I learned everything I could about training by reading books, searching
the Internet, resourcing coaches and teachers, as well as by trial and
error. Unfortunately there weren’t any decent trainers/strength and
conditioning coaches in Redding when I was going through school and
playing sports locally so I didn’t have any professional experts to learn
from. This is what piqued my interest in becoming a trainer/strength and
conditioning coach and a major factor of why I provide the services I do
for the community today.

Initially, my excitement for training was focused on athletes and sports.
My original goal was to become a Division-I strength and conditioning
coach for a major college program. As is true with almost any industry
however, I wasn’t able to get my personal training certification and
immediately have athletes knocking on my door to work out with me. I had
to “learn the ropes” first and master my craft. I started by getting a
personal training job at regular gyms that have lots of machines, like the
YMCA, but soon realized that these types of workout facilities are very
poor for athletes looking to improve their abilities. So I sought out
several different internships all over California that were well known for
training professional and college athletes. These internships provided
invaluable experience and helped shape my training philosophy but also
opened my eyes to, what I consider, a greater picture.

These facilities understood that the demands of athletes, military,
firefighters, police officers, kids, adults, elderly, handicapped,
stay-at-home moms, etc. were, generally speaking, similar in nature and
only varied subtly. The premise behind this philosophy is that,
Physiologically speaking, there are some unbreakable laws of nature that
are constant for all humans and therefore, the nucleus fundamental
training stimuli are also constant. Because of this I realized that I
could train anyone like an athlete and help them progress to their fullest
potential better than using any other method of training.

As I took this information back to my general public (non-athlete) clients
at the regular gyms I began putting my theory the test. Making sure that I
didn’t push anyone too far beyond what they were capable of I, over the
course of time and after helping hundreds of non-athletes achieve goals
that improved the quality of their life, began to realize that the
greatest reward for me was serving the general population not the

Always wanting to deliver the best results for my clients led me to search
outside of regular gyms to find what would be the best type of training
facility for both athletes and non-athletes. My search led me to the type
of facility that I now own at Balance Point Fitness & Athletics and that
is a “functional training facility”.

2. What types of qualities are important for this career choice? 

First and foremost, a fitness professional should truly care about helping
improve the quality of others’ lives and be personable. As with many
services the client needs to feel comfortable when they are with you and
trust that you always have their best interests in mind. Without a
positive and caring attitude a trainer will find it extremely difficult to
not only retain clients but get them in the first place.

A good trainer will develop a “fitness philosophy” (what benefits will
your clientele see from your method/style of training and why?) that
guides the style of their training and the people they can best serve.
Once the philosophy is established a trainer will need to create and
continually build a “toolbox”. This toolbox is a representational symbol
for the combination of the movements you will use, the types of workouts
you will perform, and the skill sets that you will deliver to the client
to ensure they are constantly progressing within your philosophy and
toward their goals. Essentially, your toolbox is your knowledge and
understanding of how to apply that knowledge to the benefit of your

Responsibility and commitment are musts. A trainer will oftentimes be
required to put in very long or strange hours, keep their own schedule,
track their own finances, and generate their own clients, among other

Furthermore, trainers must be patient. Finding clients and retaining
clients is not easy. Again, you won’t just get your certification and be
in top demand. You will have to prove yourself as a trainer, both to
bosses, clients, and yes, even yourself, before you will really find true
success. Additionally, Everyone wants to look good and be healthy and
everyone talks about looking good and being healthy but very few people
will actually put in the time and effort to actually do what it takes to
back that up. Based on my experience trainers oftentimes find another
career because they don’t understand the psychology behind what it takes
to get someone to commit to their own health and wellbeing and,
ultimately, give up. I don’t look down on or blame those who’ve quit
personal training because, even after doing this for fourteen years, I
still constantly feel like I want to see people improve more than they
want it for themselves and I still feel hopeless and like giving up at

Lastly on my list, a trainer needs to be flexible. No, not physically.
Trainers are constantly faced with different challenges each and every
day. You may be faced with clients who have limitations that prevent them
from doing certain things and you will be forced to work around those
limitations. You may find yourself working with large groups one minute
and an individual client the next. You may have to make the best out of
less than ideal situations. This is where your toolbox comes in handy.

3. What is a typical day or week in your position like? What exactly
 do you do?

As an owner of a fitness facility I work six or seven days a week for an
average of about thirteen hours per day.

My responsibilities include training group classes and personal training
clients as well as all aspects of business operations (marketing,
meetings, website maintenance, membership collections, scheduling,
cleaning the gym, PR, social media, etc.). There is always more to be

As for a trainer who is not an owner, work hours vary greatly. Oftentimes,
trainers will find that they work either early in the mornings before
people go to their jobs or late into the evenings after people get off
work, or both. This leaves a big gap in the middle of the day for a number
of trainers, especially in the beginning. Furthermore, most gyms will be
flexible about what hours a trainer will work which makes personal
training a great option for college students or part-time workers. Again,
the hard part can be finding clients so a trainer can always be working to
find new clients and promote/market themselves even when they are not
physically training someone.

There are other trainers and gym owners who work less and are just as, if
not more successful than I am, but I am still figuring out the perfect
balance. I truly love my business, my job, and helping people so working
hard does not seem like a sacrifice to me right now.

4. What areas of study would you suggest for kids interested in your
 field? What path would you suggest?

Even though the field of personal training is lacking regulation I truly
believe that personal trainers have the ability to drastically improve the
quality of someone’s life, even more so than doctors, physical therapists,
and other medical or health care professionals at times. On the reverse
side of this, I also understand that trainers have the ability to severely
decrease the quality of someone’s life if the trainer is unknowledgeable
or negligent and, to this end, I believe that an academic personal
training degree (at least a masters degree) should be a minimum for our
field. This is not currently the case though things are moving in that
direction however.

Academic areas of study that will serve an aspiring trainer/strength and
conditioning coach include:
• Kinesiology
• Exercise Science
• Biomechanics
• Psychology
• Anatomy
• Exercise Physiology
• Pathopysiology
• Nutrition

Many trainers get some of the most useful information outside of academia
however, through seminars and supplementary certification courses. These
are invaluable considering the fact that much of what is taught in school
courses is outdated.

5. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone interested in
 your field?

I will give a couple pieces of advice…

Understand that there is no substitute for experience. I highly suggest
that an aspiring trainer experience multiple different trainers,
philosophies, methods/styles, etc. Most trainers will not have a problem
with being interviewed or shadowed during work. At Balance Point Fitness &
Athletics we are always open to questions and allowing observations.

Be patient and understand that success may take time – more time than you
may realize or be comfortable with.

ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS KEEP YOUR MIND OPEN! Don’t think that just because
you’ve been doing something a certain way for a period of time that it is
the best way. If you truly want to be the best trainer you will always be
looking for ways to expand what you do and improve upon what you already

6.What is one myth buster you would like to share about your field?

Myth: “A trainer’s main focus is to train clients to reach their goals.”

Actually: While a trainer’s ultimate goal is to help a client reach their
own goals the time actually spent training the client is only a small part
of what it takes to get them there.

When I landed my first training job I thought I would just show up to the
gym and start training people. Boy was I wrong! I had to get clients
first. This required selling people on what I could do for them and why
they should train with me. So, actually, I was a salesman first and then I
got to train people (Don’t worry, if you are truly passionate about
helping people you won’t have to sell anyone about anything). And that’s
not the whole truth either…

Unfortunately, I realized that once I got good at selling people to try me
out as their trainer they were only staying around for an average of three
sessions. I needed to figure out how to keep them around so I didn’t have
to keep selling my services every day to new people. This meant I had to
be a salesman first and then I had to motivate, inspire, challenge, and
incentivize them to keep coming back. I’ve found there are many different
ways to do this but two of the most important ways are by creating
personal relationships with the clients and creating external motivators,
like partnering them with another client so they are accountable to
someone other than just themselves. I also realized that trying to
demonstrate all of my knowledge in one session was too much. I had to keep
impressing them with new and different pieces of information or techniques
that would help keep them interested to learn more next time.

In all honesty training a client is the final product of accomplishing all
of the other things first.

7. Did you take a linear path to get here? If not, what were some
 pivotal points that changed your direction? 

Undoubtedly, there are many different paths to becoming a personal
trainer. You will have to find the path that is best for you and getting
as much experience around different trainers and different styles as
possible will help to do that. Even though my philosophy and training
style has changed multiple times over the years I still see my path as
being somewhat linear. At a relatively early age I knew that I wanted to
be a personal trainer/strength and conditioning coach so I did what I
thought was best at that time to be one. I went from learning as much as I
could from the people I thought would know best, to getting my personal
training certification, to being an intern, to being a better trainer, to
being a manager of personal trainers, and now to being a gym owner.

8. What personal qualities have helped you succeed in your career?

The biggest personal qualities that have helped me are:
• Personality (positive and encouraging)
• Commitment
• Responsibility
• Trustworthy
• Truly caring about others
• Patience
• Always trying to do what is right
• Just being a good person

 9. What do you most enjoy about your career?

I am truly rewarded by the relationships I have developed over the years
with my clients. Many of my clients, both current and former, are some of
my best friends. Also I most enjoy being able to positively help people
lead better lives and witness the quality of their lives improve. It’s not
uncommon that I have clients come up and tell me that they are able to do
something they never thought they would be able to do again or that I have
literally saved their life!

 10. What kind of work experience as a student would be the most beneficial for this career?

Just being in a gym where you get to interact with trainers and fitness
professionals. For those who are past high school and in college, actually
working as a trainer part-time is a great way to help work your way
through school and gain experience simultaneously. That is the way I did
it. Again, this is not the only path to becoming a trainer but definitely
a popular option among many trainers.

 11. What education or training is required, if any, to reach your position?

On the business side I have my bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State
University in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management.

On the personal training side, I am certified through several different
certification agencies for various things:
• ISSA Certified Personal Trainer
• CrossFit Certified Personal Trainer
• CSCS Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach
• Pose Running Method Certified
• Nutrition Certified
• Paleo Nutrition Certified
• CrossFit Football Certified
• CPR/AED Certified

Additionally, I have participated in countless personal training/nutrition
seminars and courses as well as have taken classes related to physical
therapy that have enhanced my personal training abilities.

Holistic Health
Kinesiology – Peak Performance
Eastern and Western Health Perspectives

 12. If you weren’t in this career field, what other career would you be
interested in? and why?

I am actually in the process of obtaining my teaching credentials for elementary school and physical education. This stems from my love and
passion for wanting to positively help others and make an influential
impact in their lives.

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