Jennifer (Bruns) Myers
Year of Graduation: 2003
Current Position: Director of Healthy Living, YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN (Graduate Degree: Master's Degree in Sports Psychology, Minnesota State University, Mankato)
Please give a brief description of your current position:
As the Director of Healthy Living, I oversee the aquatics, personal training and group fitness departments at our local YMCA. I provide leadership, program development and implementation, and education on a variety of healthy living topics. I also provide 10 hours/week of hands-on service, including teaching fitness classes, personal training & lifeguarding.
What path did you follow to get to this point?
I took a sports psychology class my senior year at St. Ben's and LOVED the idea of working with people to help set goals for competition or just a healthier life in general. I obtained a graduate assistantship in the Campus Recreation department in Mankato (while working on my master's degree), where I had varied hands-on experiences with students, staff and athletes. Working with a college population helped me realize that many young adults have misconceptions about exercise and health, so I thrived on being able to educate and help them set their own goals for a realistic healthy lifestyle. I took a brief hiatus from the health and wellness field to work elsewhere at the university, but soon realized that I missed interacting with people who had goals to improve their life. When a career change for my husband had us relocating to the Twin Cities, I jumped at the chance to again work in the health field. I didn't know much about the YMCA (other than the infamous song!) before landing the position, but now I've come to realize it is a very strong organization with a clear mission and vision. Many people in the Twin Cities rely on the YMCA not only for exercise, but for a sense of community and social responsibility too.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
A graduate degree is almost a must, especially if you want to work in higher education (athletics, campus recreation, etc.). Having skills that cover more than one aspect of fitness/wellness are also beneficial. If you are certified as a personal trainer, also have a background in nutrition and skills in leading a class, that is going to set you apart from someone who has just one of these skills.
Also, be patient knowing that you'll most likely have to work your way up the ladder. Be professional with everyone you meet, because you never know who has connections somewhere you want to be. Don't be afraid to work more than one place at the same time so you can see the difference in environments/manager styles, etc. Chances are you may have to cobble together a few part time jobs until you earn a name for yourself in the fitness and recreation field. Finally, ask people in positions you are interested in about their typical day. You may find that some jobs have much more administrative work than you want - or, conversely, are almost all commission/sales based. Decide what you want your ideal work environment to look like and then strive to find a workplace that looks like that.
What skills are important in your field?
Besides the necessary skills/certifications to actually do the job, you need lots of energy. There can be long days with many people who need your attention and advice. I've found that a large percent of my job some days is just listening to people and how they've struggled to exercise, eat right, and find time to enjoy life. If you can't compartmentalize those frustrations of others, it can take over your life too! Perseverance is another skill important in the fitness field; you are working with people who cannot commit or have a hard time following through. When you can demonstrate that perseverance, that helps them see that you are someone to be trusted.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?
Helping people discover their own motivation. Many people say that fitness professionals "motivate" others, however people can only motivate themselves. I inspire people to make a change, then they find the motivation within themselves. I love showing YMCA members the different pieces of exercise equipment and seeing their faces light up when they realize they can operate the equipment and it wasn't as intimidating as they thought. I also like to be a resource for exercisers just starting their journey - it's rewarding to help them take those first steps and map out their fitness future.
Unfortunately some of the "logistics" get in the way of serving our members. I deal with complaints from members about a variety of topics (they don't like the TV channel in the fitness center, there was no parking in the parking lot, etc.). We constantly struggle to accommodate space needs with all our different user groups. There is also never enough time in the day to implement innovative programs when much of the day is taken up by putting out fires. However, I know I would be bored by a job that was predictable!
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
My experience on the track team at St. Ben's was helpful from a knowledge standpoint. I learned about the sport, the physical demands of exercise, and how to work with a team. My studies at St. Ben's also helped me realize the different learning styles of my classmates - those translate into different learning and communication styles with my coworkers and YMCA members now. I also studied abroad during my junior year and spent that time looking inward, recognizing the image I portray to others and how I can positively influence them to make healthy choices.