Shari Zisk B.A., Kinesiologist, Personal Trainer, Freelance Writer
How I started in the fitness industry.
I started weight training in the 9th grade on the old rusty Universal multi-station gym at my high school. In the 10th grade my parents gifted me a 3-month membership to the local fitness centre. Hanging out there I learned about the iron game from the local body builders. (I finally understood why bodybuilders always spoke about training with a fake Austrian accent...they were trying to be like Arnold). I started throwing issues of Shape magazine in the cart when I joined my mom at the grocery store. I continued to work out at the fitness centre regularly through the rest of my high school years. Fitness had become 'my thing'.
In '95 I went off to University to study business. I intended to become a marketing & advertising executive however I strangely found myself spending all of my spare time showing my roommates and friends around the weightroom. I developed training programs for them and guided them into the 'guys sections' of the campus gym. Through these unofficial training sessions I realized how much I enjoyed teaching and designing programs. I got a glimpse of the power I had to really impact people’s lives on many levels.
At the end of my first year of University I switched to the kinesiology program and for the next four years I lived and breathed human kinetics.
I graduated in 2000 and have spent the last 17 years changing people's lives as a personal trainer and through some of the many super cool projects I have been involved in.
Education & Credentials
B.A. Kinesiology (University of Victoria), 2000
BCRPA Certified Personal Trainer (past)
CPR, First Aid
IDEA Health & Fitness Association (2015)
BCRPA (British Columbia Parks & Recreation Association) (past)
Can-Fit-Pro (Canadian Fitness Professionals) (past)
NSCA (National Strength & Conditioning Association) (past)
BCAK (British Columbia Association of Kinesiologists (past)
Certifications and Courses
Certification: Trigger Point-Level 1, Foam Rolling: Principles and Practices (Jan 2018)
Reality of Strength Symposium (Derek Woodske) (May 2014)
Cybex Research Institute-YMCA/JCC Coach Training (June 2013)
Certification: MELT Method Hand and Foot Instructor Training (June 2013)
FitStart for teens, trainers workshop (Feb 2013)
A.I.R. Training- Simplified Myofascial Release
BCRPA I.C.E. Workshop
Dayan Physiotherapy-Demystifying Transversus Abdominis ultrasound workshop
Happy Hearts cardiac rehabilitation
Athletics & Wellness-Introduction to Kettlebell training
William Huhn- Understanding trigger point therapy to overcome pain
On the Edge Fitness Educators- Posture Assessment Course
On the Edge Fitness Educators-Flexibility Training Course
Yamuna Body Rolling for Fitness instructors
NRG Fitness-Introduction to Nordic Pole Walking
Certification: The Habitshift Institute- Building Client Committment Certification
Certification: YMCA of Victoria- Personal Trainer course
Certification: BCRPA-Fitness Theory & Weight Training instructor course
Certification: BC Women’s- Osteofit Instructor Course
Postpartum Health for Moms by Diane Lee, Reconnecting to the core workshop (Assistant instructor)
Certification: CSEP- Certified Fitness Consultant (CFC) Canadian Physical Activity, Fitness and Lifestyle Appraisal (CPAFLA)
Certification: Chek Institute-Scientific Back Training correspondence course
Certification: Twist Conditioning-Sports Strength Level 1
ARC Training-P’repair to perform, with Chad Benson
Certification: Sports Medicine Council of B.C.- Sports First Aid: Athletic taping levels I & II
Certification: Keiser Spinning instructor course
Cardiac Rehabilitation Workshop
Introduction to powerlifting
Introduction to PNF Stretching
Introduction to plyometrics
Fitness Conferences, Expos & Events
SCW Mania New York (New York, Jan 2018)
New York City Marathon 2017- Fitness Expo (New York, November 2017)
International Health & Racquet and Sporting goods Association (IHRSA) (Tradeshow: Los Angeles, March 2017)
IDEA World Fitness Convention-Fitness Fanatics Day, Expo (Los Angeles, July 2016)
IDEA World Fitness Convention (Los Angeles, July 2015)
IDEA Blogfest with Sweat Pink (Los Angeles, July 2015)
International Health & Racquet and Sporting goods Association (IHRSA) (Tradeshow: Los Angeles, March 2015)
Can-Fit-Pro (Vancouver, Dec 2013)
Cybex Research Institute Coach Training (Boston Ma, June 2013)
Precor Innovation Experience (Vancouver, June 20, 2013)
JCCA (Fitness Track) Professionals Conference (Orlando Fl, March 2013)
Fitness Industry Suppliers Association-West (FISA) (Palm Springs Ca, Feb 2013)
Can-Fit-Pro (Vancouver 2012)
The Seed Event (Vancouver 2012)
National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA), Personal Trainers Conference (Las Vegas 2012)
Healthy by Nature. A forum on the physical & mental health benefits of time spent in nature (Vancouver 2011)
Can-fit-pro (Vancouver 2011)
Fitness Industry Suppliers Association-East (FISA) (Orlando 2011)
Can-Fit-Pro (Vancouver 2010)
Anthony Robbins-Unleash the Power Within, (Vancouver 2008)
Family Passages to Wellness: Fitness, Fertility and Beyond Conference (Vancouver 2007)
Can-Fit-Pro (Toronto 2002, 2003)
Athletic Business (Orlando 2002, 2003, 2004)
IAHSA Wellness Pavilion (Nashville 2004)
ICAA Active Aging Conference (Orlando 2003, 2004)
International Health & Racquet and Sporting goods Association (IHRSA) (Las Vegas 2004, San-Francisco 2003)
Club Industry (Denver 2002)
In the field
18 years experience as a Personal Trainer (including venues such as a private studio, university fitness center, in-home, golf course country club, women-only fitness center, really big muscle guy gym, community center, Private business club, and corporate wellness center)
Creator and developer of FitStart for Teens. An award-winning (Kol Hakavod 2014) fitness mentorship program with a unique curriculum developed especially for inactive youth who do not participate in sports or dance.
Group Fitness instructor: Bootcamp, Indoor cycling (sorry, no choreography)
2 years Fitness Director at a community center.
1 year Personal Training Supervisor and Fitness Centre Manager at a vibrant community centre.
31/2 years as Manager of Operations at a high-end private training studio
3 years as Director of Member Services with the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA)
2 years retail and commercial fitness equipment sales
20 years challenging my body and my mind everyday in and out of the gym. I know every exercise I teach because I have done each one hundreds of times. I know how it feels during, after, and 2 days later.
Freelance health & fitness writer
Published in print and online publications across North America (Alive Magazine, Impact Magazine, Athletic Business Magazine, Journal on Active Aging, Canadian Fitness Business, Canadian Health and Fitness Magazine)
The long, wordy, cheeky version of my fitness biography
Becoming a Master Personal Trainer, The fitness biography of Shari Zisk
We hear of mastery often these days where the internet bombards us with experts vending their expertise in the form of a “workbook and 2 DVD’s”, “Order today for your free bonus gift…!” There are sure a lot of experts out there. Or are they? Who decides if you are an expert or master or not?
The ‘decade factor’ for mastery is being recognized in athletic pursuits, in business and in pie-making**. Does it really take 10 years to become a master at something? Can some people spend years dedicated to mastering their field yet never ever become a master? While I don’t have the answers to these questions, I can tell you how I became a master personal trainer.
What does ‘mastery’ for a personal trainer look like?
More than 14 years of passionate dedication to this field is a definition that hardly skims the surface of revealing what ‘my’ mastery as a personal trainer entails. Kinesiology degree aside (UVic Alumni 2000), personal training certifications too (BCRPA). Weekend workshops; too many to count. Shelves full of books, blah blah. Videos on VHS, then DVD, and now webinars. Subscriptions and memberships to fitness publications galore. My education is not lacking.
I must say that 2 years of selling home and commercial fitness equipment has come in useful over the years…helping clients outfit their homes with the right equipment, changing the odd treadmill fuse. And a good explanation for why I have actually used Dr. Ho’s abdominal stimulating machine.
Working at a good sampling of fitness venues has taught me alot too. The university weightroom fitness center (Uvic) where the athletes gripped dumbbells by day and beer cans by night. A ladies only fitness centerwhere I got great practice breaking up catfights over elliptical trainers and explaining why panty hose are not great workout attire. There was a golf course, community center, personal training studio, and more living rooms and basements than I can recall. Yes, the Joe Weider bench and plastic barbell set lives on in many basements. Oh, and let’s not forget the classic chalky air gym full of grunting muscle-heads. I learned a lot of protein shake recipes there. Tuna and orange juice shake anyone?
Assisting with the publishing of an international fitness and wellness magazine garnered some new skills. Writing, publishing, editing, design, layout, marketing, advertising, and distribution skills have come in handy over the years. As have writing press releases, proposals, and interviewing North America’s leading health & fitness leaders. Creating, planning and hosting a 5000 attendee fitness, athletic, & wellness conference three years in a row secured my logistics know-how. (Ship your event literature well in advance…Brown let us down)
Seeing how they do it in the big leagues taught me a thing or two about running large scale national health promotion initiatives. A quick trip to Capital Hill in Washington DC to see how the President’s Council on Activity does it was a highlight as I learned first hand about how one of my fitness heros Governor Schwarzeneggar served his country when he was ambassador for the council. And of course there was the visit to the National Parks and Recreation office and a stop at the Department of Health and Human Services to chat with the Administration on Aging.
But does all this make me a fitness expert or master personal trainer? Sure it helps, but there is an indescribable skill set that comes with over 10,000 hours of one-on-one private instruction. I cannot think of a term or phrase to define the skills gained after hundreds of hours of observing untrained muscles sense, learn and adapt to stimulus.
There is no text book to catalogue the many variations of pulls, presses, bends and twists I have explained to strong bodies and to frail bodies. To the driven, the confident, the proud, the stubborn, the fearful and the self-loathing. To politicians, bankers, teachers, doctors, artists and actors. To accountants and to lawyers (these two never miscount a rep). To new moms and old moms. To kiddies and to grannies. To broken bones, broken hearts, big bellies, hungry/skinny girls, crooked spines, tingly feet, crackly knees and ever-winded lungs.
And what about the endless hours of study of the muscles we never actually exercise. They are the muscles we use to grimace, to wince, to grit our teeth, to squint, to scrunch, to exhale and to smile when it is all done. I couldn’t name a single one of those muscles yet they are the ones that actually gauge the workout.
I still can’t read minds, don’t think I’ll ever be able to but I can sure read eyes. There are the eyes that ask “how many more reps?” or “don’t you dare make me do that again”. They are the eyes that say “ I hate you but will like you again when this rep is over”. Eyes that say “ hey, I can’t believe I actually did that” or “My butt is really starting to look awesome”
They don’t teach these things at personal trainer school. They are not learned in a university or a weekend workshop. They are the skills of a master. Attainable, but unteachable.
Come train with me!