High impact: How this alum found his calling in coaching and personal training
By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations
For alum Aaron Chew, becoming a personal trainer and strength coach was in the cards.
Growing up, Aaron played basketball, football and volleyball, but it wasn’t until he was in university pursuing his Criminology degree that he became more interested in general fitness and bodybuilding during his free time.
The more he learned through his own fitness journey, the more he started considering pursuing personal training professionally.
“Originally I thought personal training would be something I did as a side gig to a career in law,” says Aaron. “But as I started to get more involved in the industry and started learning the intricacies of training athletes, I was fortunate that a lot of opportunities started to come my way. It was something I was passionate about, so it made sense to continue pursuing this path.”
And his willingness to pursue his passion paid off. Over his career, Aaron has worked as a strength coach, manual therapist and clinician with clients like the BC Lions, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Kori Hol from the Team Canada Bobsleigh team and Basketball BC’s 2017 Canada Summer Games team.
Journey to coaching
Knowing he wanted to explore the possibility of becoming a personal trainer, Aaron turned to Douglas’s A to Z: How to Become a Personal Trainer.
For Aaron, the program was a great way to build on the knowledge he’d already gained through his own fitness journey. A to Z’s three modules – fitness theory, weight training and personal training – equip students with the knowledge they need to succeed in the industry, while preparing them for the BCRPA Fitness Theory Exam, recognized as one of the leading qualifiers for fitness professionals in British Columbia.
“There aren’t many places that offer this type of program,” Aaron says. “There are a few private organizations, sure, but I appreciated that this type of program was being offered by a recognized, college-level institution. It prepared me to work in the industry in six months.”
After completing the program, Aaron worked with athletes at SFU, UBC and the University of Washington. To build on his knowledge and experience, Aaron went on to earn his Master’s in Kinesiology at UBC and his Massage Therapy diploma at Ontario College of Health and Technology.
“Strength and conditioning is kind of the ultimate jack of all trades profession. You have to be pretty good at everything in order to succeed,” Aaron says. “I like to vary and broaden my experience and my skillset to make me a better coach and educator.”
While Aaron’s academic and professional journey has taken him across North America, he recently returned to Douglas – this time, as an instructor of the very program where he got his start.
“It’s full circle, in a way,” Aaron says. “I’ve had the benefit of having a lot of great teachers, instructors and coaches over the years who have inspired me. One of my goals is to give back and pass on knowledge like they did for me.”
And with his wealth of experience, he has a lot to offer.
“The coaching and personal training industry is extremely competitive and volatile in terms of trainers trying to fight for their own space. So sometimes trainers can become super specialized in order to one-up or outdo each other,” explains Aaron. “The biggest thing I try to impart on my students is to not pigeonhole themselves into that narrow way of thinking or practice because it can get you into trouble in the long run in terms of your own development.”
Aaron continues to take his own advice. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has pivoted to offer his services – everything from coaching, to sports nutrition, to lecturing – entirely online.
“Coaching online has been a challenge, that’s for sure,” says Aaron, who is still coaching his existing and long-term clients like Kori Hol online. “But it’s allowed me to continue to learn new ways of providing real-time feedback in a way that continues to resonate with the athlete.”
Want to connect and network with people like Aaron in the Douglas community? Join Douglas College Café, an exclusive mentoring and networking program. Learn more on the Douglas College website.