As part of our 60th Anniversary edition, the BCRPA sat down with Andre Potvin, a pioneer in the fitness industry, to take a look back on his journey to fitness, the evolution of the fitness industry, and the role the BCRPA has played along the way.
How did you get your start as a fitness leader?
My fitness career started in Montreal in 1984. I was a physical education teacher in the private school system from 1983-85. I taught for two years and then realized it just wasn’t for me. I decided to try this emerging fitness industry thing so I opened the yellow pages (yes it was a book back then) and looked for the biggest fitness gym advertisements. I figured if they can pay for large ads, then they probably could pay to hire me. So, I visited the first gym and got an interview with the owner. He was very impressed with my resume (I had a Bachelor of Education and half of a Master’s degree completed), so I thought I was a shoe-in. But then he asked me if I could teach fitness classes. I said no, and explained that I could still do all these other great things for him. He politely thanked me for applying and sent me on my way.
Forty minutes later, I have another interview with another gym owner. Once again, he was impressed with my resume, and again he asked if I had any fitness class experience. “Oh yes!” I replied; he hired me on the spot. That was the start of my fitness career.
How did it feel to start working in the fitness industry for the first time?
Once I got started I realized I loved everything about the fitness industry; it was an exciting, happy and healthy environment. I quickly became addicted to fitness. I did every conceivable job there was available. I taught high-low impact classes and aquafit; I was an on-floor weight room service instructor (back then there was no such thing as a certified personal trainer). I did membership sales and I was a fitness director. I approached the fitness industry from a beginner’s mind. I wanted to learn everything there was to learn about the industry – diversification was the key. I wanted to be the best fitness leader I could be and a valuable asset to any gym that would hire me.
Where did your career take you?
I traveled for two years teaching fitness classes in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Australia. I wanted to learn what the industry was like throughout Canada and the world. In 1988, I taught my first train-the-trainer workshop in Sydney, Australia. I loved it and found my calling. I was going to be a “trainer of trainers”. So, I settled down in Vancouver in 1989 and started my “train the trainer” career. I started teaching instructor certification courses for a company called The Total \Training Centre (TTC), run by an industry visionary called Margaret Hewitt-Zaitlin. She was an inspiring mentor. After four years of teaching for the TTC, I branched out and started my own school training and certifying fitness professionals, I named it INFOFIT Educators.
What role did the BCRPA end up playing in your career?
In 1989, I became a registered Trainer of Fitness Leaders (TFL) with the BCRPA. At that time, there was no formal testing system in place for certifying weight room instructors. So, I volunteered to create a committee responsible for developing an Instructor Competency Evaluation (ICE) for weight room instructors. The first ICE’s were done in 1992.
In the 90s, gym owners started requiring instructors to be registered with BCRPA with a weight room specialty, so aspiring instructors started filling our programs so they could work in both public and private gyms. Since then, I have trained thousands of weight room instructors all across BC and will continue to do so for many years to come.
Today, the BCRPA Fitness Program is the main driving force for creating many different registration specialty modules in BC as a way to accommodate a quickly expanding and diversifying fitness industry.
Thanks to the BCRPA, I have also been able to fulfill my career mission of enhancing the quality of leadership in the fitness industry, one instructor at a time.
Founder and President, Infofit
Andre Noel Potvin is a fitness educator and rehabilitation exercise specialist with 28 years of leadership experience and 18 years of specialization in clinical exercise and post-injury rehabilitation. André holds a M.Sc. in cardiac rehabilitation from the University of British Columbia, where he served for 4 years on the teaching faculty of the School of Human Kinetics . Andre is a past recipient of BCRPA Educator of the Year and BCRPA Program Director of the Year.