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Spotlight: Freshman becomes youngest personal trainer at rec center

BY NICK SZAFRANSKI | MARCH 31, 2011 7:20 AM

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“Gym rat” — a phrase used to describe a person who spends umpteen hours a week lifting weights in a gym with a goal in mind.

But what do you call someone who spends a majority of his time in the gym, but instead of focusing on his own fitness goals, he’s maintaining other people’s workouts?

The answer: a personal trainer.

At the age of 19, UI freshman Anthony DiFiglio has earned his National Academy of Sports and Medicine certificate.In other words, he became a certified personal trainer.

DiFiglio was hired in December as a personal trainer at the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center, joining the staff as the youngest in this role since the facility opened.

And Anthony contends his age is only an advantage.

“Some people don’t see me as knowledgeable compared with other people,” said DiFiglio, who isn’t physically imposing, standing at 5-9 and 165 pounds, but is distinguishable because of a big smile and dark, slicked-back hair. “I may have an upper hand because it is easier to interact with people our age.

“I feel like I can reach everyone. It’s obviously a younger atmosphere here, which is good for me.”

DiFiglio works with clients ranging from teenagers to people in their 40s. His clients come to him to improve on a variety of fitness areas; weight, flexibility, strength, appearance, and endurance.

However, many people are surprised to see a trainer that is so young. Sarah Brown, one of DiFiglio’s seven current clients, began working with DiFiglio two months ago.

“I have to admit at first impression; that was what stood out to me,” Brown said. “But his professionalism and supportive nature quickly overturned any reservation I may have had. I was almost immediately comfortable with Anthony. He never judges and asks many open-ended questions that lead to a natural conversation.”

Angela Charsha, the assistant director of personal training at the new rec center, jumped at the opportunity to hire a freshman personal trainer because it is rare that a person that age is fully certified. Freshmen such as DiFiglio are coveted, because they will be able to work for a full four years.

“It is nice that the students have someone their age who is nationally certified and who is on the right track for a career in personal training,” Charsha said. “It is nice that they have someone they trust. A lot of the time people are afraid of working with a student because they are not experienced.”

DiFiglio lifted weights on a daily basis throughout high school, and over time, he developed strong relationships with personal trainers at his hometown gym in Darien, Ill. The connection he built there put him on track to becoming a fully certified personal trainer.

“I thought being a personal trainer would be a good job,” he said. “I talked to a ton of personal trainers back at home, and I figured out it was something I have to do.”

Helping people who need direction has long been something that DiFiglio felt was important. Combining helping people and fitness naturally led him to interest in becoming a personal trainer.

During the latter portion of his senior year in high school, he began studying for the certification test. Juggling schoolwork with weeks of studying the certification book and taking several workshop classes, he officially became eligible to take the test on his 18th birthday.

Now, he’s able to put what he learned into action.

“Getting to the goals that people want and seeing them happy about it [is what made me want to become a personal trainer],” DiFiglio said. “If people need help, I’m going to help them and do my best.

“Seeing them get motivated and seeing that they can actually do it makes you feel good about yourself.”


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