Linda Dunn, MA, became a fitness professional by default. The Tuscaloosa, Alabama, resident couldn’t find a local group fitness class she liked after her regular teacher moved, so she decided to learn how to do it herself. More than 20 years later, and now retired from a job with the school system where she worked as a psychometrist and counselor, Dunn dedicates all of her time to fitness and wellness. One of Dunn’s strengths is her networking ability, which has opened many doors and given her unique opportunities to help others.
Dunn’s former job in the school system was the perfect adjunct to her growing fitness career. Since her job technically ended at 3:15 PM everyday, she had plenty of time to teach fitness classes and study for various certification tests over the years. Many of the same people who began taking her class in the 1980s are still loyal participants. “That has been very rewarding for me,” Dunn says about her client base. “I enjoy working with adults and children with special needs and challenges. That is my niche, versus teaching the conditioned athlete.”
Dunn says her job as a psychometrist—a person who deals with the design, administration and interpretation of quantitative tests for the measurement of psychological variables—helped her excel as a fitness professional. “The analytical skills I used in evaluating as a psychometrist have always transferred or crossed over to allow me to evaluate clients and groups I train or teach,” Dunn says. “I probably pick up on a person’s learning style (visual, auditory, kinesthetic), ability to progress from simple to complex, and capability to organize directionality (right, left, diagonal, reverse) better than most fitness trainers. My ‘soft’ evaluations give me insight [that helps me] be more successful with a person. The goal should be to help clients improve their health with positive encouragement and to help them become their personal best. As a counselor, I can actually use those skills in my fitness work and not overstep boundaries.”
Dunn has a successful track record working with the corporate world as well. Her foray into this aspect of training hinges on her customer service skills and networking abilities. One of her former students, who worked at the nearby Mercedes-Benz plant, recommended her when the company announced it was looking for a fitness professional. “Working for Mercedes-Benz was a great experience because I met so many people from Germany, Austria, Brazil, England and other countries,” Dunn says. “I had that contract for almost 3 years, until the company built their own fitness center. Years later, I ended up as a personal trainer for the wife of the head of human resources.”
Dunn got the chance to build on her corporate training experience when she received a call from Randall-Reilly Publishing company, again by referral. “They asked me if I would teach yoga at noon 2 days a week,” Dunn recalls. “I agreed to do it if they would commit to at least 8 weeks so employees would really get a chance to see results. I am still there; it seems they like the results. Always give super attention and service to your customers because you never know where it may lead.”
The connections continued until Dunn got yet another chance to Inspire the World to Fitness in a unique way. One of the vice presidents at Randall-Reilly Publishing, a yoga student of Dunn’s, asked if Dunn would be interested in participating in a program the company was sponsoring called Fit for the Road (www.fit4theroad.com).
Fit for the Road follows five overweight truck drivers who were chosen to participate in a yearlong weight loss and fitness program. A dietitian and a medical doctor developed individual programs for each trucker. Truckers News, a magazine for over-the-road truckers, has been tracking participants’ success since January. Dunn was chosen to help design an effective exercise program for the finalists. She was delighted to take on this new opportunity and immediately began developing a game plan. “Their biggest challenge was learning how to eat better on the road and at home,” Dunn says (this was left to a dietitian). “Also, they needed to move their bodies more. Getting fitter could make their jobs easier and improve their quality of life. Time was a big problem because they are on the road so much.”
The magazine scheduled an appointment for the participants, and Dunn designed programs. Luckily, companies donated an elliptical trainer for one participant,Nancy Younger (to put in the back of her truck), and a folding bicycle for another, John Shook (to ride at truck stops). “I taught them both some basic exercises with resistance tubing. I also showed them stretches to maintain flexibility, and I set up a blog to help encourage adherence. Both of them are very motivated and very inspired to help other overweight truckers.”
Dunn says her experience with the truckers has kept her motivated and inspired, as well. “My recommendation for other fitness professionals is to be more aware of the impact they have on everyone they touch,” she says. “Many of my job opportunities were referrals from others I had taught, trained or worked for. I truly believe in trying to do as much as I can to impact the health and well-being of other people. Also, it is important to be involved in your professional associations and to seek out continuing education that will enhance your knowledge and work potential. I never feel like I know enough.”
Joy Keller is a senior editor of IDEA Fitness Journal.