Kelly (Rogers) Schwab
Year of Graduation: 2000
Current Position: Wellness Center Assistant Supervisor, Travelers Insurance
Please give a brief description of your current position:
I am the assistant supervisor of the Travelers Insurance Company on-site corporate fitness center in downtown St Paul. In this role, I help oversee our 15,000 square foot fitness center and manage our day to day operations for our members who are employees of Travelers Insurance. I lead several group exercise classes throughout the week while also providing one on one personal training with clients. As a staff of four, we plan our corporate health fair, research health and wellness topics and publish information monthly for Travelers employees. We also create different exercise/health promotions to encourage our employees to be more active and healthy.
Customer service is a big part of my job. To assist clients, I do fitness assessments, consultations and orientations as well as spend time at the front desk greeting people as they come and go. I also have managerial duties such as maintaining invoices, payroll and other income/monthly expenses. My day is filled with fun variety which is one of many reasons I love my job and have been doing it for 13 years...time flies when you do what you love!
What path did you follow to get to this point?
I graduated from St Ben's with a degree in Psychology in 2000. To augment my Psychology major, I took classes such as human biology, exercise physiology and a lot of nutrition courses which basically allowed me to make up a 'minor' for health and wellness. I was an RA for 2 years and was offered the Lead CA position but turned it down so I could work as a Health Advocate knowing it was the field I wanted to go into. I worked with Health Advocates for health and wellness experience and I also taught aerobics at St. Ben's.
In the summer of 1999 I did an internship in the fitness field and my first job (after volunteering on organic farms for 2 years) in the industry was as a Membership Consultant at a private club to gain more experience in the fitness industry. Within a year, a good friend of mine who worked at Travelers told me about the Wellness Center in St Paul. I sent a letter of inquiry to Travelers and was later hired as a Fitness Specialist. In less than a year I was promoted to Assistant Supervisor. My supervisor and I have been in our positions for over 13 years; I feel so blessed to have gotten in when I did as there is minimal turnover in corporate fitness. I have earned and maintained many certifications through the years including CPR/First AID, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NDEITA Aerobics, YogaFit, Jumpforce Trainer/Instructor and have attended various classes to keep my certifications current.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
My biggest piece of advice to get into corporate fitness is to set yourself apart in some way from other people graduating with a degree in exercise science, health promotion or the various other majors that are now available. For example, teach! By this I mean gain experience leading group exercise classes. Additionally, do an internship at different health/wellness facilities to see what may be a good match. Private gyms, cardiac rehab/hospital settings, corporate fitness or even owning your own business are some of the possibilities to gain industry experience. The sky is the limit in fitness, you just have to be willing to put in the time folding towels, wiping down machines or selling fitness memberships before you land that dream job. Lastly, personality is a big part of getting into the fitness industry. Developing rapport with people, good customer service and the willingness to be someone's 'friend' and 'coach' for the time they are with you can't be faked. Being authentic and honestly passionate about health and wellness is key and these are things that cannot be taught.
What skills are important in your field?
A drive to work hard and motivate others to do the same. Organization and the ability to see the big picture. Running a gym requires a lot of busy work and one can get easily side tracked. Keeping up with day to day operations and always wanting to stay current on trends can be overwhelming at times. Customer service is probably the most important. Making people feel welcome, encouraged, motivated and special is a skill that sets one apart from others that may just go through the motions.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?
There are too many rewarding things to list! During the week I get to work out with people to help them become better versions of themselves! In corporate fitness, I don't have pressure to 'sell' like some private clubs do. I know my class participants and clients well; often times a personal training session can turn into a therapy session for some that need a listening ear. A lot of our members say the best part of their workday is coming to The Wellness Center and that's where I spend my entire day! It truly is a job with so much satisfaction because people appreciate the time and energy you put into planning their workouts. My coworkers are all amazing people so going to work is like hanging out with friends every day.
Thankfully we are only open on weekdays from 5am-7pm, so no weekends for me. In the fitness industry, the work hours can be a disadvantage as many clubs have weekend/evening staff needs. The only other disadvantage I can think of is on those days you don't 'feel' like being motivating or you don't 'want' to work out because you are sore and tired. On these days you have no choice, it's your job and you do it.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
I am so thankful CSB had their aerobic studio and hired students to lead classes. Some of my best memories are teaching and taking some top notch classes from peers! I also think gaining leadership skills and confidence as an RA and CA in the campus apartments helped me find my passion to assist others become the best versions of themselves. The creativity that went into my bulletin boards in the residence areas is revisited every month while constructing bulletin boards in the gym on current health and wellness topics. Also my decision to leave residence life and work for health advocates was a huge resume builder for me. Promoting wellness on campus to students/faculty helped set me apart from others applying for jobs in corporate wellness. Looking back, St Ben's was a great stepping stone for me. My education and degree are wonderful but the experience I gained on campus in various positions were truly key to where I am today.