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Employee Advances from Part-Time Instructor to Multi-Tasking Manager

Brenda Steger has grown from a part-time instructor into a multi-tasking manager.

Some people work in their chosen fields to realize lifelong dreams. Others are inspired by high-achieving role models. But Brenda Steger owes her career to something unique: a flaky friend. "My official transition into the profession was when my friend talked me into auditioning for a group fitness instructor position because she was too shy to do it by herself," Steger says. "Well, I showed up to audition, and she didn't. That was 15 years ago, and here I am. I am so grateful to her."

Steger started her professional journey supporting someone else, and she hasn't stopped since. Teaching about the importance and benefits of exercise is a natural extension of her desire to help others, and stems from a difficult personal experience. "Although I've always been active, I think the defining moment that moved me into the health field happened during my first year of college," she says. "It was such a change for me that I went into a mild depression, and used exercise instead of medicine to relieve the symptoms - and to eventually cure myself. (I have not experienced any depression symptoms since then.) It was from then on that exercise was put in the forefront of my life."

Steger wanted to share her passion for fitness. "I began teaching group fitness classes while in college, ... and have taught through all of my jobs and schooling since," she says. "I learned a lot from the process of learning how to instruct a class: the importance of communication, motivation, eye contact, name recognition and time management," says Steger. "The instructor has a strong and important influence on the class, and needs to be able to cue effectively."

Brenda Steger

Group Fitness Coordinator/Assistant Manager
Total Fitness Center General Mills World Headquarters, Golden Valley, Minn.

Years at facility: Five

Education: Associate of Arts degree, Anoka Ramsey, Minn.; cosmetology degree, Aveda Institute, Minneapolis, Minn.; currently pursuing a B.S. in kinesiology at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.

Certifications: NETA Group Fitness and Personal Training Certifications, YogaFit Yoga Certification

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Though she's earned certifications in group fitness, personal training and yoga, Steger has learned a great deal from fellow fitness professionals. "The group fitness coordinator who hired me after my first audition personally trained me to teach step aerobics, hi/low impact and muscle toning class," she says. "I taught classes [as] community service to sharpen my skills, and, after that happened, I was given my first class on the fitness club schedule."

In her current positions as group fitness coordinator and assistant manager, Steger manages her staff with courtesy, empowerment and an emphasis on communication. "I ask for their feedback and opinions on most issues, and we always try to work out situations with the best solution," she says.

Identifying her staff's strengths and weaknesses is another key to Steger's management style. "Our staff works really well together, and I empower them to work with their strengths and their weaknesses so that they can continue to grow," she explains. "If someone is weak in an area, we work on it and see what we can do to strengthen it. We do many different types of events, so I always either ask who would like to facilitate a particular event, or if it's a good learning opportunity, I may ask a particular person if they would like to do it. I also know everyone's strengths, and use that information to our company's benefit."

For Steger, her job at Total Fitness Center means more than a steady paycheck. "I have realized how vital the role of the fitness professional is, and believe we need to keep our standards high," she says. "I decided to go back to school for my bachelor's degree in kinesiology. I think that our role as fitness coaches is extremely important in a society where obesity rates have skyrocketed (in addition to many other diseases related to a lack of physical fitness)."

Steger would like to take this responsibility one step further, and has big dreams for the future. "I would either like to own my own health and wellness spa one day, or be the manager of one," she says. "I would like to combine my experience from the salon/spa industry with fitness and wellness."
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