Picture it. It’s January 2007. The holidays have just ended, and like everyone else, I’ve made some New Year’s resolutions that I am keen to conquer. My first move was to walk into the Fitness World facility a block away from where I worked and sign up for a membership. And that is exactly what I did.
For the first month, I basically did my own thing at the gym. I ran on the treadmill. I climbed the StairMaster. But soon I found myself bored and stuck in the same routine. I needed it to be fun. I needed to switch things up, but I wasn’t sure how.
One day after work, I stopped in at the gym. I jumped onto a StairMaster where I could see people in the group fitness studio working out. That’s when I witnessed my very first live, cardio kickboxing class. I was definitely intrigued. I had regularly worked out to Billy Blank’s TAE-BO video at home, so I was curious about what a live cardio kickboxing class would be like.
The following day I decided to take the plunge and attend my very first group fitness class. I immediately fell in love. The motivation, the environment, the ENERGY! It was simply electrifying and I could not get enough. I LOVED IT! My next goal was to try as many different classes as I could to get a feel for the different formats. And just like that, I become the super-enthusiastic “regular” who took every class.
I am a naturally competitive person, so my goal each class was to match, or at least keep up with, the instructor’s intensity. So, when the instructor would walk around to check the room, they would often tell the class to follow me! This basically made me the teacher’s pet, but it was all in good fun.
One day, my favorite Step Aerobics instructor, Nika, approached me and encouraged me to consider becoming a fitness leader myself. Nika recommended BC Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) Fitness Program as the first place to start.
It wouldn’t be until many years later – 2012 to be exact – before I took my next leap of faith and truly considered this path for my life. Coincidentally at the time, Fitness World was looking for highly energetic, enthusiastic fitness instructors to join their team. Was this a sign? I decided it was.
Right around the same time a group fitness manager at Fitness World approached me, sharing that he had seen me participate in classes and would like to hire me as part of the team. With approval from their Director, Fitness World would help finance my education to become a fitness leader! And thus, my incredibly fulfilling fitness journey began.
I completed my education at Infofit, where they provided us with many options to certify or register. I knew BCRPA was exactly where I wanted to go. I loved the fact that they are a not-for-profit organization that enriches the lives of communities across the province, allowing fitness professionals like myself to motivate and inspire through the power of recreation and parks.
In March of 2013, Fitness World hired me as an official instructor. I had no problem adapting to the environment, as I had received tremendous support from the Fitness World community. Because I had been a participant for many years, everyone knew me and was eager to start coming to my classes.
My goal had always been to teach people the way I wanted to be taught, so I ensured that my classes exemplified that. Must haves: good music, a variety of different exercises, lots of dancing, lots of cheering, lots of fun, and lots of support…..and did I mention, LOTS of dancing?!
Becoming an instructor changed my life in such a positive way that I became more passionate about motivating others to conquer their goals and I loved it. When you love what you do, it reaps even more rewards. From the beginning of my career, up until March of 2020, I had become a staple fitness instructor with Steve Nash Fitness World and the Robert Lee YMCA, volunteering at community and fundraising events, teaching in elementary schools and corporate fitness team buildings, leading workshops for fellow instructors, all while teaching an average of 9 classes per week, with my Zumba classes averaging near 125 participants per session.
This momentum also led me to win the Steve Nash Fitness World True2Form area award in 2018 and then their coveted Instructor of the Year award in 2019. When 2020 arrived, I had so many more plans, but then, the inevitable happened.
During the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of being outdoors, staying active, and maintaining balance and mental health, was essential to the well-being of everyone I knew. In the beginning, when restrictions were enforced and gym facilities were required to close down many people were worried about what would happen to their fitness game.
As a registered fitness leader with BCRPA, I was able to offer the community complimentary virtual and outdoor sessions by teaching from home or using our outdoor parks as nature’s fitness studio. We would regularly gather at various locations to enjoy a sweat session together, socially distanced. I was so grateful for that.
Through word of mouth, my sessions became quite popular, and I was able to rebuild the same energetic atmosphere I had initially created in the fitness studio, despite not having the four walls of the facility. In creating this “new normal” community, I was honored to receive accolades as BCRPA’s 2021 Fitness Professional of the Year and was named one of Impact Magazine’s Top Fitness Instructors of 2021.
Being a fitness leader has truly enriched and changed my life. Throughout my career as a fitness leader, I’ve been blessed with many incredible experiences, exciting opportunities, humbling recognitions, but most importantly, amazing relationships that will last a lifetime.
I see this profession not as a job, but instead almost more like life coaching. Fitness plays the main role, but my passion stems from helping people realize, nurture, and conquer their goals. It’s about creating a welcoming environment and providing participants with a fun experience, from start to finish.
About the Author:
Andrew Alcalde is BCRPA Certified in Fitness Theory and Group Fitness. He teaches a variety of classes that range from hardcore bootcamps, old-school step aerobics and power abdominals, to grueling cardio kickbox sessions. He is also certified in Zumba (ZIN) and Poundfit. In 2021, Andrew was awarded BCRPA’s Fitness Professional of the Year and named IMPACT Magazine’s Top Fitness Instructors in Canada. You can find out how to reach Andrew, follow him on social media, and sign up for his classes by checking out his profile on The Registry® of Fitness Professionals.
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