During the last 25 years, we’ve certified over 110,000 professionals. To celebrate our 25th year in business, we’re selecting 25 grads to showcase this year. Meet our next featured grad, Sara Haley, an AFPA Certified Prenatal and Postnatal Fitness Specialist.
How did your interest and passion for this field begin?
Prior to getting pregnant, I had a very general pre/postnatal certification. Looking back, compared to all the information I got when I took the AFPA Pre/Postnatal Exercise Specialist course, it was just the basics. Once I was pregnant and had an idea that pregnancy and postpartum could become a niche for me, I wanted something more—that’s when I went researching and found AFPA. I wanted to make sure I knew how to safely and effectively train during my own pregnancy as well as help other moms-to-be do the same—and not just WHAT to do but the WHY behind it. Once I became a mom and realized how much moms need other moms, I knew that I’d found my calling.
Was there some kind of life-changing event that directed you to start on the health and wellness path?
I wish I had a life-changing event to wow you with. The truth is I was a dancer most of my life and really can’t picture NOT moving my body. I fell into fitness while I was working as a professional dancer. In 2007, I was recruited by Reebok and Cirque du Soleil to be part of their partnership of uniting fitness with dance and theater, and it changed my career path.
Why did you choose AFPA as your certifying organization?
I liked that the course was thorough enough but wouldn’t take over my life. I also liked that I could work at my own pace.
What was the certification process like for you?
You just have to hunker down and do it! It was eight years ago, so the details are vague, but I remember just committing to it and getting it done!
What was your favorite part about the program? Why?
I liked the variety of materials. I also remember things better when I write them down, so I enjoyed the Q&A process.
What do you do now?
My life is quite different than it was a decade ago. I now live in Santa Monica, CA. My boys are eight and five years old, my daughter is two, and I’m due with final baby #4 around Halloween 2019. I’ve created an award-winning prenatal workout program, Expecting MORE; an award-winning postpartum workout program, The 4th Trimester Workout; and my most recent work from my pregnancy with my daughter, The Pregnancy Workout Essentials Collection, which is made up of twelve different workouts in all genres of fitness, but with safe and effective pregnancy modifications. I don’t teach live classes anymore, as I’m with my kids most of the time. Everything I do is virtual. I run FREE online workout challenges to grow my community and work with brands such as Kohl’s, Herbalife, Skechers, Hint water, and more—usually to develop content and share my fitness expertise with their audiences.
How did receiving your certification change your career?
It gave me credibility and education in niching down in a very saturated fitness industry. Becoming a pre/postnatal exercise specialist changed my career trajectory and ultimately helped me find purpose in my work. I often wonder if I would even still be in the fitness industry without it.
How are you implementing what you’ve learned in your life/career?
It’s the base of much of my programming and online content.
Is there a story or certain moment with a client that has stuck out in your memory as being impactful?
Yes, my first pregnant client, Melanie. I was a few years off from being pregnant myself. Not only did I train her during her pregnancy, but we became really good friends. Because I was the only trainer at the facility I worked at that was pre/postnatal certified, she had so much trust in me that I would keep her safe and strong. This relationship was unlike any I’d had with a client before that. I realized how much she really depended on me and my expertise—whether that was to tell her to stay home and take the day off from exercise (after she’d called to tell me she was vomiting from morning sickness) or to help cool her down when I thought she was getting too hot or to modify an exercise that was clearly uncomfortable for her. After Melanie, I really only worked with pregnant and new moms. I learned that this population really needed my guidance more than any other type of client that I’d ever worked with.
What do you like best about working in this industry?
What I like best about being a pre/postnatal exercise specialist is working with women who are going through what I’ve been through—we understand and relate to each other better. I’ve also found other pre/postnatal experts to be very kind and welcoming and willing to collaborate, which you sometimes don’t find in the fitness industry in general.
What are your career goals going forward?
The question of the day! It’s hard for me to wrap my head around anything really big yet since I’m still in the thick of it with my own kids. In the meantime, I hope to keep delivering content that is useful, interesting, and entertaining.
How has your experience been with the AFPA customer service team and education advisors?
It feels very personal. I never feel like I’m talking to a bot or a machine.
What does a typical day look like for you now?
Ha! A typical day? What’s that? I have almost four kids—there is no typical day.
Do you have any advice for other people considering making the leap into a health, fitness, or nutrition career?
Yes, the industry is huge, and you can get lost. Find a niche and make sure you love it. If you are passionate about what you do, it will rarely feel like work. Getting up excited to do your job is irreplaceable.
Do you have any advice for other people who are considering a certification and trying to decide which organization to get certified through?
Talk to other trainers that you look up to and respect. Most will be very honest with you about what has worked (or not worked) for them.