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 Ontario!
Jamie Bell, 29
Owner & Instructor, YogAthletix – Toronto, ON
“Involvement in physical activity has sustained and healed me through many difficult times in my life, and I wanted to be able to offer that same support to others,” says Bell. “I wanted to share my passion and belief that happiness is attainable, with as many students as I could. The YOGAthletix studio and community is the realization of that dream.” Bell teaches all types of classes and strives to make them fun and accessible. Her positivity, motivational energy, and enthusiastic spirit are a major ingredient in all of her classes. “Being part of a community centred on movement is something I have valued for as long as I can remember.”
Rosalie Brown, 56
Fitness Instructor, Total Gym & PT Fitness Workout Videos – Toronto, ON
Online fitness trainer Rosalie Brown helps keep people fit all over the world through her successful series of personal training videos with the goal of making fitness fun, exciting and affordable. “I love what I do because I want people to feel their best.” Rosalie says. “The stronger you are, the more fun you have, especially as you age!” She began as a fitness class instructor and personal trainer while studying at the University of Waterloo. She went on to own and operate three successful fitness clubs and today is an influential trainer. She currently teaches group fitness classes in her home gym when she’s not travelling.
Greg Hetherington, 35
Founder & Trainer, Fuel Training Club – Toronto, ON
Greg Hetherington says fitness has always been a passion, and once he realized it could also be a career, he hasn’t looked back. “I love helping people be better,” says the former CFL football player. Hetherington’s three clubs offer small group strength and athletic HIIT classes limited to 12 participants to emphasize technique. “My philosophy is ‘Train smart, train hard, train to be better,’ says Hetherington. “Greg is an enthusiast and master motivator who puts an emphasis on developing form and technique,” said one client. “His slogan ‘Be Better’ describes his impact on the people who train there. He makes them want to be the best version of themselves.”
David Ayres, 42
Instructor, CrossFit 6S – Toronto, ON
“I was not born with natural athletic ability!” says David Ayers. “Fortunately I was blessed with single-minded determination and that’s helped me overcome my shortcomings with pure hard work.” Ayres developed an interest in fitness while serving in the Parachute Regiment of the British Army. “I really enjoyed that experience and upon leaving the army I began studying further,” Ayres says. Today, he is a CrossFit trainer. CrossFit isn’t for the faint of heart, which is reflected in Ayres’ mantra, borrowed from runner Steve Prefontaine: “Don’t let fatigue make a coward of you!”
Allison Kares, 48
Owner & Pilates Instructor, Movement Unlimited Inc. – Fonthill, ON
“I love to see the excitement in my clients when they have less pain, notice their improvement and have achieved their goals,” says Allison Kares, a certified Pilates instructor. “When you work with people who are injured or in pain, it’s the little daily wins that stick out. I love when a client says “I wasn’t sure that I wanted to come in today because I hurt so much, but now that I’m finished I’m so glad I did because I feel better.” She has always been curious about efficient and effective movement and says “Young or mature, fit or injured, we have a program that will improve how you move.” Her pilates classes inspire clients and translate to improved health and fitness.
Andy Drakopoulos, 44
Instructor, Legacy Indoor Cycling – Toronto, ON
Andy Drakopoulos is an instructor teaching spin and fitness classes at Legacy Indoor Cycling, a new exercise space that was recently voted ‘Top Spin ‘by BlogTO, and Now Toronto magazine. “Everyone has that thing that makes their heart sing, that thing that makes them come alive – mine is fitness,” says Andy. “I love helping people realize they are capable of anything they set their minds to but mostly it’s that moment when my members see what they are capable of, smile with pride, and start feeling better about their bodies. It’s more fulfilling than you could ever imagine.” Drakopoulos has certified over 1,500 Instructors since 2009 and has hosted 100+ sold-out training sessions. His fitness philosophy is ‘Have fun, do it daily, and smile – Live – love – laugh.’
Congratulations to the other 2019 Ontario Finalists:
Hanna Abergel, Julia Bayne, Alison Beder Solway, Gillian Blackett, Wayne Bourque, Anne Burns, Kristin Jeffery, Julie Harrish, Anita Ivic, Nichelle Laus, Adam Lloyd, Sarah Lord, Shakera Martin, Lara Marquez, Emma-Kate Millar, Alexandra Philips, Trisha Sammons, Jessica Sennet, Matthew Taub, Lisa Walker, Jonathan Wiseman
Special thanks to our sponsors:
Nutracleanse, SierraSil, Human Kinetics Publishing