From barre classes to boxing, a good fitness instructor can make or break your experience at the gym. Expertise, enthusiasm and a supportive environment will encourage you to keep up your hard work while a poorly designed class with a so-so instructor could turn you off for good.
We wanted to find and recognize some of those outstanding fitness instructors and called for nominations from the metropolitan areas of Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. Close to 200 fitness instructors were nominated, showing incredible depth and expertise in the industry.
With so many fabulous instructors out there, it wasn’t easy to narrow down the nominations. To make the process fair and impartial, we ranked each entry on a series of criteria with a range of points given in categories such as years of experience, education and community involvement. Each entry was ranked anonymously to keep the process as unbiased as possible.
One of the things we noticed was how involved these individuals are in their local community.
These instructors don’t just stay in the gym, they volunteer to lead classes at schools, sit on fitness-related boards, adopt families at Christmas, volunteer to coach sports teams, contribute time to local fitness events and touch lives in countless other ways.
Most of our entrants work full-time in the fitness industry. Some switched careers after an epiphany moment while others pursued fitness from the start by obtaining formal education such as a kinesiology degree or a fitness diploma. Most teach at least seven classes per week and have worked in the industry for 15 or more years.
Each nominee also shared a success story and some of these were truly inspiring. One instructor helped a client recover from a severe ski accident, others helped people achieve their weight loss goals. In some cases, instructors were able to help clients dealing with serious health issues such as Parkinson’s disease and depression. These encounters brought our instructors huge satisfaction and, in many cases, was the reason they got into the business in the first place.
We also asked each entrant for their fitness mantra and instructors responded with motivating choices including “Fitness is a journey not a destination” from Deanna Bensler, Calgary, “Strive for progress not perfection” from Jeannette Kim, Surrey, “If you can believe it, you can achieve it” from Chantelle Erickson, Lethbridge and ‘One step at a time; Rome wasn’t built in a day,” from Wayne Bourque, Toronto.
So, after hours of tallying scores and sifting through nominations, here are the 2019 winners in Alberta!
Tish Duffy, 44
Spin & HIIT Instructor, Passage Studios – Calgary, AB
“Teaching classes is the part of my career I love the most,” says Tish Duffy. “It fills my bucket because you see immediate gratification and feel such positive energy from everyone. Motivating and inspiring people while also getting a sweat is the best part of my day!“ Duffy has been a fitness instructor for the past 15 years with experience in spin, Boxing and HIIT. One of her clients says “Tish has it all: high energy, expert knowledge and excellent coaching. I love training with her because she doesn’t shy away from telling you where you need to improve.”
Pete Estabrooks, 59
The Fitness Guy – Calgary, AB
Well-known in Calgary by countless clients, Pete says he started his fitness journey “… by working in trade for my membership at The National Fitness Centre Boxing Club.” Today he’s been part of the Calgary scene for 35 years, striving to share his joy of movement with everyone. Pete developed the TKO Sports Conditioning Program, a revolutionary circuit training class with a mix of exercises. “My favourite [success story] might be having created a TKO Sports Conditioning tribe that has been with me so long it’s not rare to have a couple of generations and members of the same family slugging, skipping and sweating together in a spectacular Saturday morning class.”
Deanna Bensler, 46
Head Coach, Orangetheory Fitness – Airdrie, AB
Deanna Bensler’s introduction to fitness started when she was an overweight teenager. “I struggled with my weight, and when I started working out and eating healthy, it was life changing,” Bensler says. “There was an instructor who really supported me and made a difference, and I wanted to give that same gift to someone else.” Turns out she has. One of her recent clients was severely depressed and Bensler took the time to encourage her, with wonderful results. The client lost 40 lbs in four months and is now running. “Seeing the changes she has made in her life and how much happier she is, has reminded me that to have this job is a blessing.”
Michelle Felzmann, 40
Bender Ball & TRX Master Trainer – Calgary, AB
“When I was 15 years old, I took a step class,” Felzmann recalls. “At the end of the class, the instructor told me I had a natural talent and asked if I wanted to teach. I’ve never done anything else! Fitness is not just about the physical, it’s about the mental challenge, the desire to be better, the will to achieve more and the commitment to be your best.” Michelle has 25 years of teaching experience and trains and coaches people in all areas of fitness.
Denise Beatty, 43
Instructor & Owner, The Fitness Fix – Calgary, AB
As an exercise physiologist with an extensive background in injury prevention and treatment, Beatty created fitness classes designed to resemble a high quality training session. “My goal is to help people get very consistent, detailed coaching,” she says. “I wanted to create an opportunity for people of all ages and abilities, people with injuries, youth and even cancer patients to optimize their health and fitness in a supportive environment.” With a mantra of ‘I want to, I can, I will,’ Beatty strives to create a facility where people want to train, realize they can join in and will get stronger and healthier. “I started with this dream fresh out of university over 20 years ago. Many people have been in my classes for over 15 years! It is a true family!“
Ryan Grant, 44
Owner & Instructor, Mojo Fitness – Calgary, AB
“Sports have always been my strength,” says Ryan Grant, fitness instructor, former high school phys ed teacher and current member of Team Canada’s long drive golf team. “Teaching and leading has always been part of who I am. I made the career switch to becoming a full time fitness instructor/trainer so I could assist people in making the right decisions to be the healthiest versions of themselves. It is a very rewarding profession to see adults of all age become something they never thought they could be.”
Clients say Ryan is ‘motivating, always creative, innovative and down to earth.’
Katelynn Van Engelen, 28
Fitness Instructor, Square One Fitness – Calgary, AB
“Fitness has always been a part of my life,” says Van Engelen. As a child she played both team and individual sports. This led her to a career in fitness. One of her favourite successes was working with a client who had multiple sclerosis. “I was able to modify all her workouts so she was able to train to her comfort level and work on her balance. After four months the client was much improved and working out has been a huge component of her recovery.”
Martine Yzerman, 46
Owner, Instructor Peloton Cycling – Calgary, AB
“Fitness is so much more than the incredible physical results we experience,” says Martine Yzerman. “Being active allows our emotional and intellectual levels to be elevated as well.” Over the past 23 years, she has taught deep-water workouts, spin, body pump and boot camp classes. Clients describe Martine as “friendly, super energetic, dynamic, caring, hardworking and knowledgeable.” One of her recent successes was with a man who came to the gym without any cycling experience. He decided to join a three-day cycle tour from London to Paris with Martine and others. “We rode 175 km a day and he successfully completed the journey,” Yzerman says. “It was a such an accomplishment.”
Naomi Keane, 33
Fitness Instructor, Oranj Fitness – Airdrie, AB
“I first fell in love with group fitness when I was 14 and attended my first Hi Lo class,” Keane says. “I was instantly hooked! Later that year, my grandma began training to become a fitness instructor and I was inspired. I knew if she could do it, so could I! I am a born teacher through and through; whether it is motivating my participants to step outside their comfort zones, mentoring and developing my new teachers, or leading a memorable class. I believe that movement must be fun, accessible, and transformational. One of her clients said “Naomi is elevating this world from mediocrity to greatness with every beat of music in her classes. She is truly exceptional.”
Ron McPhee, 47
Fitness Consultant, OnCueFitness; Instructor at World Health & Servus Place – Edmonton, AB & St. Albert, AB
“I started working in a gym as receptionist,” says Ron McPhee. “And I noticed that people were flocking to the group exercise room and having fun. I attended a few classes taught by one of the popular step instructors and I fell in love with it.” Ron has been in the industry since 1992 and is dedicated to helping the people who attend his classes and lending a hand in the community by volunteering at local walks/runs. “What I love about this job is that I get to spend my days helping others,” says McPhee. “Whether it is teaching a fitness class and trying to inspire members, facilitating one of the canfitpro certification courses or mentoring a new fitness leaders, I get to help others. “My main club is World Health Edmonton, but I also teach at Servus Place in St Albert, UofA and the City of Edmonton.”
Maeghen Cotterill, 38
Owner & Head Instructor, 5 Elements Martial Arts – Calgary, AB
Maeghen Cotterill is an 11-time World Champion in martial arts, and holds black belts in four different styles. Her goal as a fitness instructor is “to help people achieve their dreams and goals” through her martial arts classes. “I use martial arts and fitness training as a form of healing, confidence building and measure of strength for every individual I am lucky enough to coach and also for my own healing,” says Cotterill. One of her clients told us, “Maeghen has created a safe space for people from all walks of life to come and train and be part of something wonderful.”
Melissa Rowe, 49
Fitness Instructor, Calgary Winter Club – Calgary, AB
Melissa has been in the fitness industry for over 21 years with experience instructing yoga, barre, fitness and spin classes. She has a degree in physical education and is an exercise physiologist and personal trainer. “My philosophy is ‘Becoming is better than being, so keep struggling and keep challenging yourself to be better than you were yesterday!’” One of her favourite success stories was working with a client diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. With Rowe’s help and expertise, the client was able to get out of her wheelchair, stand again and regain her strength.
Congratulations to the other 2019 Alberta Finalists:
Nathan Bodewitz, Deb Boris, Francis Coetzer, Clint Cupido, Brooke Einarson-Schabb, Zita Dube-Lockhart, Tammara Francis, Rachel Hall, Deanne Keller, Sharon Lamb, Jess LeBlanc, Lesley Oliphant, Lauren Pryor, Judy Robertshaw, Carson Sander, Emily Slaneff, Colette Strain, Tessa VanDerVeeken, Monica Zambori, Amber Zenith
Special thanks to our sponsors:
Nutracleanse, SierraSil, Human Kinetics Publishing