This month, in honor of celebrating 10 years in full time practice and in preparation for my transition into fuller time missionary work, I wanted to share a few stories of miracle moments I’ve had over the course of my career. God has been so good and so gracious to me, and He has very clearly had His hand over my career ever since I began. This story will help illustrate that. This is the story of how I first met the man who got me started in the field. It’s a powerful story, but you’ll have to read until the very end to fully appreciate it.
For nearly two years leading up to graduating high school, I had been very diligently exercising and dieting so that I could lose weight and get in shape. I had done this while enduring leukemia and chemotherapy, and because of how fitness changed my life, I had a tremendous amount of passion for all things related to it. At the time, I also believed that my calling in life was to be a chef. I felt like if I became a chef and made healthy foods that people enjoyed, then one day I could open my own restaurant and I could serve food that helped people adhere to their diets. Although places like this exist now, in the year 2000 I was way ahead of the trend.
I got my first restaurant job at Heritage Oaks Country Club working as a line cook and pantry chef. Over the next four years, I bounced around through 4 other food service jobs and I came to the conclusion that I really didn’t like it that much.
I was 22 years old when my last restaurant job ended, and at that point I knew I didn’t want to go back to that industry. I also knew that if I didn’t set a good path for myself soon, I would be living with my parents for a very, very long time. On my first day of unemployment I decided to do something that I had contemplated for months but hadn’t had the guts to do- apply to be a personal trainer.
I went to my local gym and I asked the front desk girl for an application. I sat down to fill it out and then all of a sudden I got really anxious. I started thinking “they are never going to hire me. I don’t have any experience or formal exercise education, I just like to work out. This was such a dumb idea!”
No exaggeration, I was ready to jump up, leave, throw the application in the trash, and never entertain this “dumb” idea ever again. But, since I didn’t want the cute girl at the desk to think I was weird for not turning it in, I instead decided to fill it out quickly, turn it in and bolt. Once I got home, I started applying for other jobs and I ended up getting hired at Target.
About a week later as I was on my way to community college, I got a phone call. I answered, and the man said “This is Jay Weitzner, I’m the Personal Training Manager at Southside Athletic Club. You filled out an application with us right?”
I was stunned that he was calling me.
“Yes, I did” I said nervously.
His response to me is etched in my brain forever- he said very rudely, “I think you should come in and fill out a new one, because this one looks horrible..”
“What do you mean?” I asked him.
He proceeded to tell me that in several places it was illegible, and he made a special point to tell me that for my last salary I mistakenly wrote “9:00” instead of “9.00”. He basically said that I should be embarrassed by it.
After a few minutes of dogging me for my ugly application, he asked me what I knew about fitness. I told him that I had been working out for years and that I had transformed my body in a very dramatic way. Strangely though, he didn’t seem very impressed by that. He asked me what my actual education was, and when I told him that I had just read a few books and magazines and studied a lot online, he pretty much made fun of me for that too. Honestly, at one point during this 10 minute exchange, I seriously thought that he only called to tease me.
After biting my tongue through his very destructive criticism, he finally said “ok, well it seems like you’re motivated to learn more and become a trainer, so here’s what you have to do if you ever want a chance of working for me- you have to take the biomechanics course that we are hosting here in 4 months. Are you willing to do that?
“Absolutely”, I told him.
He gave me the details, we said goodbye, and soon after this call I went online and signed up for the class. For the next several months I was so excited (and nervous) about going to the class and finally getting a career going. When I showed up to the class that morning, I quickly discovered that I was the only person there without any professional experience. Everyone else had been doing personal training for years. This only added to my nervousness.
By the end of the weekend I felt like I had been hit with an intellectual truck. So many new words, so many new concepts, and so many moments where I felt like I would NEVER understand how to apply most of what I was learning.
The course had a lecture module and a practical module, and since the lecture module was so over my head I decided to purchase study tools that I could use in the month leading up to the practical. That entire month, I was filled with such unbridled motivation that I wanted to study all the time. Amazingly, not only did I really start to understand the information, but I actually started falling in love with learning it!
After that month of studying, the practical module felt like a piece of cake. Not only did I pass both exams with flying colors, but I was one of only two people that passed! The other guy had been consulting with Jay for 7 months leading up to the test and he only scored 7 points higher than me! (I got an 86 in case you’re wondering). When Jay found this out, no joke, he practically begged me to work for him. I felt so redeemed!
For the next several months Jay took me under his wing and I learned SO much from him. He is 10 years older than me, he had lots of experience and formal education, and even though he can be mean sometimes, he is one of the most brilliant men I’ve ever known. Jay told me exactly what to study to become really really good, and I can fully credit the path my career took to his mentorship.
Jay was also one of a tiny handful of people in the state of Florida that knew about Muscle Activation Techniques. At the time, there were only 7 people in the state who were certified and Jay only knew about it because a friend of his from Connecticut was certified. Because of him, I got into MAT when it was still very much in its infancy, and without that tool, I never would have had the success that I’ve had helping clients.
So here’s the coolest part of this story…
After a few months of working for Jay, he started to really respect me as a professional. He would often encourage me that I was getting good at understanding the sciences and making good training decisions, and that truly made me feel like I had arrived. After he shared some things like that with me one day at lunch, I said to him “I’m glad you feel that way now, because after we talked the first time I never thought you’d feel that way about me.”
“What do you mean?” he asked me.
I said, “do you remember the first time you called me? When you kept making fun of me for my ugly application and for not knowing more about exercise science?”
He seemed very puzzled so I explained the event in more detail. When he finally remembered, his eyes got big and he said “THAT WAS YOU!?” He had no idea that I was the same person.
He told me that he had tossed out my application after talking to me because he figured that if it looked that bad and if I was that inexperienced, then I probably wouldn’t end up coming to the course anyway. To say he was shocked would be an understatement.
After he picked his jaw up, I asked him “so tell me for real, did you call me that day just to tease me?
What he said still blows my mind.
He said, “Chris, not only did you have no education or experience, which would typically have made me not want to call you, but most people in my position wouldn’t have even read your application to find that out. They would have taken one look at all the scribbles and mistakes and thrown it out just based on how it’s looks.
“So why did you call me than?” I asked him.
“Chris, when I was growing up my mom was the manager of a department of a mid sized company and she was responsible for hiring people. She came home one day when I was 12 years old, and she told me that someone had turned in a resume that was printed on pink paper. She told me that she felt it was so unprofessional, that she threw it out without even reading it.”
“When she told me that Chris, I got really bothered. I thought to myself that maybe that person could have been the best employee my mom ever had, but they never got a chance to prove it because they were being prejudged. I made a decision that day that if I was ever in a management position, I would never throw out someone’s resume or application based on how it looked. When I saw your application and noticed all the mistakes, I was ready to throw it out. But…that memory came to mind so I decided to call you. And truthfully, if it hadn’t been so ugly, I probably wouldn’t have even called you at all.”
As you can imagine, I was pretty blown away by his testimony. To think that something that happened when this guy was 12 was the reason why he gave me shot. That it was the reason why I was able to start on this career path that I’ve been on ever since. It’s pretty amazing. I didn’t know Jesus back then, but I can see now how He was orchestrating that entire thing.
Within a year, I had started my MAT education, and my overall practice was booming. Later, I was also finally able to get married and support a place of my own. From that point on, I was on a very accelerated path towards education and skill acquisition, so I was able to very quickly make up for all that lost time. By the time I was 24 years old, some people almost saw me as a doctor because of the results I was seeing. It was a pretty far cry from that 22 year old who had no signs of a bright future.
Of course, ever since then my career has had its share of twists and turns. I’ve leased a small gym from someone, opened and closed one of my own, worked in numerous different other settings and have had my own practice at The Meadows Country Club for the past 10 years. All in all I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of clients and done thousands and thousands of sessions.
It’s crazy to think that it all started with a bunch of scribbles! God is good!
I hope you enjoyed this story. I’ll be back next time with another installment of “Miracles in the Practice”