By Natalie Barahona Bruzon
Health and human performance majors learn life lessons by teaching the Lincoln community about fitness and wellness.
The pool and weight rooms at Larson Lifestyle Center provide a place for students to take a break from studies or get serious about fitness. Union’s fitness center also provides a significant connection to the community by providing swimming lessons to more than 3,000 kids and water fitness classes to more than 500 community residents each year.
For health and human performance graduate Spencer Curtis, the many community residents who use Larson Lifestyle Center provided an excellent opportunity to gain practical experience by helping clients learn to be physically fit.
Curtis, who worked as a personal trainer until he graduated in May 2015, said that one of the most important lessons he learned while working at Larson Lifestyle Center was how to treat each person who walked in the door as a valued individual.
“A professional skill I believe is very valuable was getting to know the community members on a first-name basis—showing them that you remember their name, talking to them and learning something about their life,” said Curtis. “Building rapport with people in any setting goes such a long way, and for some can be the difference between choosing to go to one facility over another. What stands out most is the look of surprise on peoples’ faces when you remember their name out of the hundreds of people who come through the center.”
Like Curtis, Devin Alexander, senior Fitness and Health studies major, said that connecting with people at Larson as a personal trainer and receptionist has been one of the highlights of his time studying at Union.
Alexander said the skills he has learned while working at Larson have played an invaluable role in helping him decide his career path.
“I learned to be appreciative of the time I have together with people,” Alexander said. “I try to be a friend to all who come into the building. I sometimes join the water aerobics class to have more time talking with them while exercising.”
Alexander’s zeal for fitness reaches beyond exercise science—he has developed a passion for the people he works with every day. During the time he has worked at Larson, Alexander has grown as a personal trainer, learning to love his clients and reach out to them in a personalized way.
“My time as a personal trainer at Larson has taught me that when I perform exercises alongside my clients, they know I’m not only telling them how things should be done, but I am willing to be on the same level,” Alexander said. “As a leader, no matter what field I go into, it is important for me to be right there along with everyone else so that they know I care.”
For both Curtis and Alexander, working at Larson helped shape them into professionals.
Following his graduation, Curtis became a personal trainer at a local YMCA.
“After I graduated, I worked at the Cooper YMCA in Lincoln for a few months before moving back to my hometown in Montana,” said Curtis. “I worked there as a personal trainer, so all of the practical skills I learned as a Union student student came into play—programming workouts, performing health assessments, teaching classes, stretching and providing wellness tips.”
Alexander will graduate in May 2018 and hopes to study pediatric occupational therapy.
“One of the most important things I have learned from working at Larson is to always have fun in everything you do,” he said. “Larson has meant more to me than I can put into words and I am grateful for the support that I have. It continues to motivate me to become the best I can be.”